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Consular and Public Diplomacies
Consular and Public Diplomacies
“Governments and international organisations are now realising that social media is also a potential game changer for how international relations can be pursued.”[i]
In this post, I will talk about Digital Diplomacy, even if it is not the central theme of the blog.
Today, diplomats using digital instruments is critical for any foreign ministry, particularly in Public Diplomacy campaigns and initiatives. Digital technology, mainly social media, is used to implement many Gastrodiplomacy and Consular Diplomacy initiatives.
Changes in technology have always impacted diplomacy, from the development of the clipper sailing ships to the arrival of the airplanes and from the telegraph[i] to Twitter and Zoom.
The way diplomacy is carried out was affected by these innovations. Instead of waiting for months to receive instructions from the capital, ambassadors and consuls could connect immediately to inform the situation in the host country and receive instructions. Of course, these changes also transformed international affairs, trade, and the use of force.
With the arrival of the internet, the development of the Web 2.0 that focused on interactivity that resulted in the creation of multiple social media outlets[ii], and smartphones, the so-called 3rd industrial revolution arrived: the digital world.
As in previous innovation waves, foreign ministries and diplomats have to adjust and adapt. For some activities, such as Public and Consular Diplomacies, digital technology has been a great addition to engage with foreign citizens in addition to their nationals abroad.
But a question still lingers, is “Digital Diplomacy” a new way of excising foreign policy, or is it just a tool to achieve these goals?
Digital Diplomacy is one of the areas of the new diplomacy that has had the most development as a field of study. A lot has been written about the topic from many different perspectives. A quick query on Google Scholar for 2020 comes up with 5,820 results.[iii]
But what is Digital Diplomacy exactly?
Corneliu Bjola is an Oxford scholar that has become a renowned researcher of digital diplomacy.[iv] He conceptualizes it “as the use of social media for diplomatic purposes.”[v] It is also viewed in “a broader perspective of the role of digital technology in diplomacy, not only as an instrument or medium of communication but also as a different mode of thinking about and practicing diplomacy.”[vi]
From Bjola´s perspective, the digitalization of diplomacy is more than just the inner works of the ministry of foreign affairs, including the struggle between early-adopters and old-school ´mandarins´. It also includes the government’s foreign policy objectives, the adoption of technological innovations, and the existence of a digital “dark side,” such as misinformation, propaganda, and infowar tactics.[vii]
So, Digital Diplomacy is not only Twiplomacy [viii] or the current COVID-19´s Zoom diplomacy[ix] but much more.
Ministries of foreign affairs need to speed up their creative power, capabilities, and abilities to be at the forefront, which in turn can bring more significant influence, thus Soft Power to the country.[x]
As many of the topics discussed in this blog, there is greater room for debate about the definition of Digital Diplomacy, as well as its reach. However, for now, I recommend having a look at Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior (Mexico´s foreign policy magazine) issue 113 titled Public Diplomacy in the Digital Era, which has articles in English from top scholars.
[i] The International Telegraph Union was the first international organization created in 1865 to work on the creation of international standard for telegraphs.
[ii] Most of them are based on the creation of content by the users rather than from the company itself. Well-know platforms that reach billions of people are Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, as well as nowadays Snapchat, Instagram and Tik Tok.
[iii] You can also see Center for Public Diplomacy at University of Southern California comprehensive “Digital Diplomacy Bibliography” and Ilan Manor´s blog “Exploring Digital Diplomacy”
[iv] He established the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group (DigDiploRox) . Other specialist on Digital Diplomacy are Ilan Manor, Juan Luis Manfredi Sánchez and Alejandro Ramos Cardoso.
[v] Bjola, Corneliu “Introduction: Making Sense of Digital Diplomacy” in Digital Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, Corneliu Bjola and Marcus Holmes (eds), Routledgde, 2015 p. 6. For a in-depth but brief summary of different definitions and the evolution and risks of digital diplomacy see Adesina, Olubukola, “Foreign policy in an era of digital diplomacy” in Cogent Social Science, Vol 3, Numb. 1, 2017.
[vi] Bjola, Corneliu, .“Digital Diplomacy 2.0: Trends and Counter-Trends” in Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, Num. 113, May-August 2018, p. 2. Interesting enough, this magazine’s issue, was the first ever to be published in English, as well as Spanish.
[vii] Bjola, “Digital Diplomacy 2.0: Trends and Counter-Trends” p. 10
[viii] For a relatively new study of Twitter see Chhabra, Radhika, “Twitter Diplomacy: A Brief Analysis”, ORF Issue Brief No 335, January 2020.
[ix] For more examples see: Gotev, Georgie, “The Brief – Zoom diplomacy” in Euroactiv.com, April 24, 2020; “Diplomacy in the Zoom era” in Meridian, July 2020; Heath, Ryan, “For global diplomats, Zoom is not like being in the room” in Politico, April 16, 2020; and Aina, Dolapo, “Digital diplomacy in the era of coronavirus pandemic” in The Guardian, July 20, 2020.
[x] Bjola, “Digital Diplomacy 2.0: Trends and Counter-Trends” p. 5
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed on this blog are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of any other authority, agency, organization, employer or company.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.