HOW HAVE THE CHANGES IN INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY AFFECTED THE ROLE OF THE MODERN DIPLOMAT?
It is no longer news that the revolution of Information and Communication technologies (ICTs) has revised the practice of conventional diplomacy. Lees evident, however, is the extent of the impact of revolutionized ICT on the role of modern diplomats, and how this will either aid diplomatic roles or augment them. In addition, ICT has contributed immensely towards two important elements in the conduct of diplomacy; namely space and time. Communication tools and environments have paved way towards the compression of space and time in the international political environment. For example, the attack of the twin towers in New York in September 2011 was transmitted around the world instantaneously; however, “the transmission of the news of the independence of America in (1776) to Southern America, took about the same time it took to reach England by ship”( Abeyaoonasekera and Ransinghe, 2012 p.2 ) This is the ability of ICT to narrow space and time differences between states.
This essay aims to illuminate this narrative by examining the revolution of ICT in the 21st century focusing on aspects that concern modern diplomats in their functional and strategic roles. Whilst evaluating the role of revolutionized ICT in contemporary diplomacy, this essay specifically discusses the utilisation of ICT as a positive too, in diplomats achieving international relations objectives. ICT has not only created equality between players in the international political environment but it has also brought awareness to the general public.
In the end, I will highlight the enormous opportunities available to diplomats and their representing countries on capitalizing on ICT.
THE ICT REVOLUTION
The end of the cold war brought a pragmatic restructuring and advent of two important factors: the increase in the size of the members in the state centric world system and the astronomical development in science and technology. Development in science and technology have become drivers in the international political system and knowledge of such trend in major field has become an essential prerequisite to effective international negotiation and conduct of relations by diplomats. As a result, ICT is now an unavoidable part of everyday life as well as integral element to large scale economic, social and political restructuring.
Nevertheless, strategic advancement in ICT has changed the communication environment. Ranging from the first satellite, Anik 1, a Canadian satellite evolved in 1972 (Pierre, C. 2003), to internet (Formerly known as ARPANET) in 1983 and then the establishment of the World Wide Web in 1991. It has evolved to the point where instant messaging has become the norm. However, the Global system for Mobile Communication (GSM) has provided a new platform to effective and efficient communication.
In addition, the World wide web, has replaced radios, telephones and televisions and has compelled them to include themselves in making the world wide web the primary source of information and communication in the world. File sharing; video conferencing, audio and visual streaming have transformed the simple presentation of information to be more complex but yet interactive, efficient and speedy.
The technologized world of today has empowered citizens to constantly evaluate, and upgrade their socio, political and economic bonds. However, business communications and transactions are largely conducted using ICT. This is an era where digital signatures are gradually replacing conventional ones; where paper documentation has also taken precedence over traditional filing. Governments are catching up to the ‘digital frenzy by including information in the public domain, allowing citizens to obtain public services on line.
THE EFFECTS OF ICT ON TRADITIONAL DIPLOMACY
A year after the transatlantic war was over in 1886 with the completion of the transatlantic cable between the United States of America and Europe, the United States formed a telegraph office to deal with the new method f communication such as telegraph in international affairs. This development in communication, accelerated diplomacy and restraine the independence excersied by diplomats, thereby centralising foreign plicy. Treaties and gareements were no longer formulated across green tables amngst diplomats with surplus tim (Gottemoelle, R. 2012).
As at today, diplomats are still in the ‘catch up’ phase, whilst citizens have embraced the new technologically advanced environment. Nevertheless, the world wide web, the internet, digital imagery have changed the environment in which diplomacy operates. The three factors that enhanced the transformation of the environment in which diplomacy operates are : shrinking costs, increase in capacity, speed of application ( Grant, R. 2004).
Advancements in ICT has revised conventional diplomacy, so much that the new diplomacy is known as ‘Public Diplomacy; has been pushed forward as a useful business tool in the international arena connecting diplomats not only with their counterparts but also extending to new activists such as citizens, NGOs, Journalists, etc directly communicating with them in a more sophisticated manne using tools such as image building, reputation management and multiparty dialogue to meet their foregin policy ends which may or may nt result into a compromise.
Nevertheless, there is the certainty that the advent of 21st century ICT has reconstructed access to information which has automatically compelled foreign missions and diplomats to adapt to the new system and its practices, in order to protect their national interest.
Conventionally, diplomats have been forced to explore methods beyond those encoded in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Missions 1961. Diplomats ae constantly trying to deal with the consequences of the development of ICT, forcefully changing their method of diplomatic conduct to adapt to the fast rising media and non-state actors who have complicated the diplomatic profession, which is now operating in a multi polar international system. Whilst citizens and the corporate world at large, have several primary roles such as collecting information, representing their home country…etc.
THE EFFECT OF ICT ON THE ROLE OF MODERN DIPLOMATS
THE POSITIVE EFFECTS OF ICT ON THE ROLE OF MODERN DIPLOMATS
Being one of the earliest forms of international relations in the state, diplomats play the following roles; negotiator, mediator, information manageing, and messenger. In addition, diplomats also act in recncialiation, conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy. This section of the essay, examines these roles in details and how ICT has either contributed or augmented the service delivery.
Information is an essential aspect of diplomacy. Most if not all actions in iplomacy are taken based on information. Information dealt with by diplomats is highly sensitive and confidential. As a result, diplomats have the responsibility to negotiate with the sensitivity and confidentiality of information. However, ICT plays a vital role provides necessary tools to ensure efficient management.
The economic, political, and social conditions and giving feedback to the headquarters remains a key role and function of a diplomat. However, this has transformed in the technologized age. Prior to this, diplomats, had the responsibility of collecting newspapers and transporting them to the foreign missions. But the information age has enabled diplomats to adopt sensitivity to local and cultural relations to provide analytics of crucial information filtered out of media and other important actors such as NGOs an the public at large byy fllowing online information dissemination and social media tols. Fact finding is no longer as tedious and difficult as it use to be. Information on demographics, is available at the beck and call of a diplomat through internet services such as goggle scholar, Wikipedia, CIA WORLD FACT Book etc.
The traditional ‘diplomatic bag’ has been replaced by the use of the ‘intranet’ which can be customized to suit the extreme confidentiality levels necessary in diplomatic communications with access limitations for different level of the heierarchy. Collecting information and data from various sources via the internet and distributing and disseminating it through a structured intranet has and will compress the time and the cost factors that are involved with diplomatic information management.
In circumstances, where a face to face dialogue will not be condiuuycive, ICT can help by not only saving time but costs and lives in most cases. Computer led communications can create a safer and non-cnfrontatinal channel of dialogue between groups. An example of this is when the Unite States institute of peace mediated an ICT led peace intitative to put a halt to a 14 year civil war in Liberia enaging Gyude Bryant, the leader of the National Transitinal Goovernment of Liberia in a virtual town hall meeting with Liberian Diaspora on the prospects of peace for the country (Radunovic, 2010).
Negotiation is an essential role of a diplomat. Bilateral and multilateral negotiaations have gained insight from ICT advancements reaping benefits from the time, space and even cost compressions that have taken place. In a post-recession era where overheads of ministries have dwindled and budgets have been e-concentrated on militarization, ICT has and will be tremendously helpful in the negotiation process.
Before the actual negotiation, ICT can play a major role in re negotiation and preparation by creating new channels of information both internal and external that helps There are many situations that take place before actual negotiation between two or more parties, and the use of ICT has made each phase of the prcess mre productive.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION, PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY AND RECONCILITION
Effective information sharing acts as the key to conflict resolution, reconciliation and preventive diplomacy. ICT through main stream media platforms and new media can play a big role in supporting diplomats in conflict resolution, reconcialiation and revention efforts. Most especially in situations where engagement of international actors, local activists, citizens and diaspora is necessary for the efforts to succeed, ICT can be used to create awareness and publicity for policy initiatives adpted to address core issues, to create open discussions and receive feedback on ‘state thinking’ amongst non-state actors.
The Si Lankan government’s intiative through the Ministry of external Affairs is a good example where e-diplomacy has been employed to educate the Diaspora and the international community on efforts taken in reconciliation and prevention of the re-escalation of the armed conflict which ravaged the country for over thurty years.
ICT AS A BOOSTER OF SOFT POWER IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Cyber pwer can be used to produce preferred outcomes within cyberspace or it can use cyber instruments to poduce preferred outcomes in other domains outside cyberspace (Nye, J, S. 2012).
An enormous number of people are beginning to rely on ICT fr information ad communication. The diplomat’s audience is no longer confined to his external counterparts and internal cllegues. He is force to interact with ndviduals supplying their own souces a blogs to terrorists producing and web publishing graphic videos of killings ( Grant, R. 2004).
The following are situations where ICT can be sed in achieveing two major elements of Public diplomacy
RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT AMONGST KEY DIPLOMACY PLAYERS
A diplomats relationship is no longer exclusive. Diplomacy has lost its exclusivity and ability to operate in insular, protected circles. Influence is no longer in a single direction i.e from diplomats to citizens. Diplomacy has become more democratized (Grant,R. 2004). Therefore, diplmats should embrace this democratization and expand their utreach and use ICT tools to manage the ld and new players in the system. Virtual deks and netwoks connecting key players such as the academia, NGOs, corporate, citizens and the Diaspora, active participation/interactions in the ‘blogsphere’ and social media can induce confidence and trust and credibility amongst the new players such as NGOs, corporate, citizens and the Diaspora, active participartin/interactions in the ‘blogsphere’ and social media can induce confidence and trust and credibility amongst the new players such as NGs and citizens wh have immense mobiliing power in the public domain.
ADVANCEMENTS OF POLICY GOALS
ICT has been used for advocacy amngst players such as NGOSs, interest groups etc. It is a well knwn fact that the ‘Arab springs’ which took overthrew regimes and the policy fabric of the Middle Eastern world was ably supported by new media tools. Similarly, foreign policy gals cn be lobbied by government through the use of ICT tools. The ‘CNN EFFECT’ which became popular during the Gulf war era has been put forward as an example where media has been the driver of foreign policy of one major state (Piers, R.. 2010) . ICT can be used not onlyl as a river, but also as a ‘producer’ of consent aimed at achieving policy goals of a government. (Saddiki, S. 2006) .
Evolution of ICT’s poses fundamental challenges to conventional diplomacy such as breaching confidentiality, promoting openness and transparency, and reducing hierarchy. Despite this, the business case for ‘virtuality’ in diplomacy and diplomatic relations is compelling in that it is more efficient and acts as a leveraging tool. The use of ICT in international relations is especially beneficial to developing countries and countires that are in post conflict resurgence situatins.
Furthermore, GSM phones to satellite televisions, emails to the Wi-Fi(internet), to voice and video conferencing over skype have not only revised the way and manner diplomats view the world around them and redefined the manner in which the international environment is being conducted, there has also been an astronomical shift in the international environment. This shift has not only affected the conduct of diplomacy, but also the context in which diplomats carry out their roles. Primarily, an increase in the number of non-state actors, the involvement of citizens in both foreign and domestic foreign policy making all have an effect on the traditional state as it reduces the power of autocratic states. Notwithstanding, modern diplomats are advised to adapt quickly to the new hi-tech communication environment.
Furthermore countries such as Nepal an Sri Lanka can use ICT to attract and build networks with Diaspora who have immigrated to other countries due to the country situation and encourage returnees and build broken bonds with them. Moreover, news can be presented in a more authenthic fashion with the se f new media platforms rather than the run of the mill press conferences and statements ssued in connection. ICT can not only be used for its functional benefits but also strategically as an advertisement platform of a ountry;s competencies, socio political and economic ideals and realities As mentioned earlier, diplomacy has been democratized by the onslaught of technological advancements . This democratization should be seen as an advantage and not otherwise.
In essence, democratization coupled with the decentralization of information has helped forecast events in the international sector gearing diplomats to formulate responses beforehand rather than ‘fire fighting’ during and in the aftermath of an event.
Considering all this determinant factors and obvious changes, it is important that diplomats take note of the technological developments and get in to line with the information environment created y them to prevent redundancy in the ICT age. Developing countries, ought to take a step and reassess and analyse the training programmes made available for diplomats in ICTS. In addition, developing states such as Sudan, ought to see ICT should be seen as ‘a blessing in disguise’ that will strengthen their diplomats to overcome either socioeconomic or political challnges that are thrown their way in the path of development.