Digital diplomacy a key to foreign affairs

 

The closed doors to the diplomatic world is opening up. The Internet provides new opportunities for diplomats to influence and affect and make their views on different subjects. The Internet also make it possible for non-diplomats to pursue a sort of diplomacy. That is the prerequisite for the international meeting Stockholm Initiative for Digital Diplomacy, on January 16th to 17th.

carlbildtSharon

Non-diplomats significance for relations between countries and foreign affairs is one of the key issues during the meeting, organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm. One of the sessions is entitled ”Everyone is a diplomat” and addresses the consequences that may arise as more becomes digitally empowered and stepping forward with the aspiration of being their own diplomat. An other question that will be addressed is what methods do diplomats use when acting on the cross-border open arena that the Internet offers?

One of the attendees during the meeting will Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who in many ways is at the forefront when it comes to using the web as a channel for opinion. His Twitter account is followed by more than 250.000 followers that several times a day via Twitter posts have direct insight on what the Foreign Minister is up to and even more what he thinks of the current situation in world politics.

Much of Carl Bildt’s work is, of course, not viewable of the public and his followers on Twitter can only expect to get smaller pieces of his work. But by tweeting to a quarter of a million followers Carl Bildt influences opinion, raise questions and steer interest to the direction he thinks is important.

Sometimes it results in debate and controversy as when Carl Bildt, after Ariel Sharon’s death tweet: ” Ariel Sharon was a great leader of Israel. A brilliant military commander, but also a wise statesman seeing the necessity of peace.”

 

It is a statement that attracts attention among many of his Twitter followers and he gets both support and criticism for his positive words one former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. Nasser H Al- Khalifa , former Qatari diplomat in Washington, tweet as an answer, ”He was war criminal and a butcher!”, while Caroline Lagerfelt , Swedish actress active in the United States and the daughter of former Swedish ambassador in Austria, tweet ” Your statement makes me embarrassed to be #Swedish”.

When discussions like these are opened up in public arenas on the Internet it obviously affects the diplomatic corps and this is precisely what the upcoming meeting on digital diplomacy is addressing.

Beside discussing non-diplomats importance on foreign relations the meeting also holds the session ”Creative Diplomacy”, to discuss how diplomats and embassies can find new ways to collaborate and learn from each other on developing and improving digital diplomacy.