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Author: Jovan Kurbalija

Knowledge and Diplomacy – Preface


The book covers a wide range of topics - beginning with a general introduction to the concept of knowledge management, the interplay between development and diplomacy, the importance of institutional memory of diplomatic services for diplomatic activities, practical examples of knowledge management in international organisations and the use of language in international relations.

Knowledge management is a new concept in the business sector. Recognising the importance of knowledge as a key resource, many companies have started implementing knowledge management policies. Knowledge is even more central in diplomacy than in the business sector. Diplomats operate in a highly fluctuating and flexible environment both on the international and local scene. Lacking clearly definable structures and a predictable operational context, diplomats rely on knowledge in all its variety as their ultimate resource.

While the importance of knowledge can easily be observed, it is difficult to describe let alone analyse the influence of knowledge in diplomacy. Through the activities associated with our DiploKnowledge project, we have investigated the role of knowledge in diplomacy in several ways: through research, publications, software development and training courses. The following have been our main areas of focus in the last few years:

Academic research initiated several years ago led to the first International Conference on Knowledge and Diplomacy, held in Malta (29 – 31 January, 1999). The conference gathered leading scholars and practitioners from various areas who contributed expertise from their particular fields towards building the initial mosaic of the concept of knowledge management in diplomacy. Most of the papers in this publication were presented at the conference.

Software development complements our academic research. By developing and testing practical tools we are in the optimal position to verify our research: an effective way to merge theory and practice, keeping in mind that practice should determine the validity of theory. The latest application developed in this process is the knowledge and information management system “DiploWizard”.

As important aspect of our project is training. In this field we have tried to introduce knowledge management through extending our training to the transfer not only of the explicit (formalized) knowledge contained in books but also tacit knowledge based on experience and intuition. Tacit knowledge is often crucial for the success of diplomatic activities. Some of our online learning applications such as DiploAnayltica, a module for the dissection of diplomatic documents, are designed to facilitate the transfer of tacit knowledge.

The innovative contributions presented in this book should provide impetus for the continuous development of knowledge management in all three of the above mentioned directions. The variety of backgrounds, academic interests and orientations represented by the authors of the various papers in this book accurately reflects the multidisciplinary character of knowledge management.

The book covers a wide range of topics, beginning with a general introduction to the concept of knowledge management by Jovan Kurbalija. Ambassador Walter Fust focuses on the support knowledge management offers to development programs, and the interplay between development and diplomacy. Professor Richard Falk provides a general approach to the influence of IT, including knowledge, on international relations.

After this general introduction, Colin Jennings, Director of Wilton Park, contributes with a description of how the knowledge management institution Wilton Park provides a framework for the exchange of knowledge on international relations and diplomacy. Dr. Keith Hamilton’s paper highlights the importance of institutional memory of diplomatic services for diplomatic activities. Along the same lines of discussion, J. Thomas Converse addresses the question of archives in the modern age. The part of our book dealing with organisational memory concludes with Professor Robin Alston’s paper on libraries and preserving memory of institutions.

The next section of the volume is dedicated to practical examples of knowledge management in international organisations. Dr. John Pace provides an interesting case study of knowledge management in the UN High Commission for Human Rights. This is followed by a paper by Dr. John Harper and Jennifer Cassingena Harper on knowledge management in international organisations.

The educational section starts with Professor Dietrich Kappeler’s paper on diplomatic training and knowledge management. Next is Dr. Alex Sceberras Trigona’s contribution on a practical method of diplomatic training: the dissection of diplomatic documents.

Ambassador Gaetan Naudi describes the experiences of the Maltese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the field of development of information systems, with special emphasis on knowledge management.

The final contribution is a paper written by Drazen Pehar on language use in international relations. We feel that language is one of the key elements for future research in knowledge management and diplomacy; our upcoming activities will therefore focus on the language of diplomacy and diplomatic documents.

The volume ends with a short note by Ivo Andric, which we came across during our research activities. It is a refreshing, although realistic and at time cynical, reflection on diplomacy and the role of diplomats provided by an author who spent part of his life in diplomatic services. We hope that this paper will encourage further research on writers in diplomacy and their reflections about diplomatic work. Special appreciation goes to the Andric Foundation for giving us permission to translate and publish Andric’s note on diplomacy.

This volume would not have been possible without the team work and dedication of the members of the DiploTeam. In particular, Hannah Slavik contributed throughout the production, helping with organizing the conference, transcribing several articles, taking care of linguistic preparation, and finally, supervising production of the book. Dalibor Milenkovic contributed through transcribing and preparing two articles; those of Professor Alston and Ambassador Naudi. Special thanks go to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for their support of DiploProjects in general and the publication of this book in particular.

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