I am not certain that these innovations have been instrumental in "speeding up the decision making process", however, but that might just be growing pains as officers less inclined to use new technology retire and are replaced with officers for whom e-mail is the staff of life. The author also discusses the benefits of hyperlinks and web-sites, and I find him to be spot on in his anticipation of the best possible use of these resources, especially when he says:
Web-sites assume an important function in the "representation" of a country, one of the traditional functions of diplomacy. Web-sites need to be professionally developed and maintained. There has to be close co-ordination of the ministry's central web-site and those of missions abroad to prevent contradictions and in order to demonstrate corporate identity
I think the author may have seriously misjudged the current potential for IT, however, in the area of "Negotiating per Internet." He lists advantages ( and I agree with all of them: concentration on content, clarity, lucidity of formulation, less misunderstandings, transparency, easy to maintain record of proposals , etc) and preconditions, but does not really examine the likelihood of these conditions being met. His first two pre-conditions alone are the death knell of this idea:
"partners must share a common view on the purpose of the negotiations and the time frame; [and] ground-rules need to be established (who are the active negotiating partners? with whom can you share the text? who establishes the final text?)"
So where am I going with this? Back to my current favorite topic: Public Diplomacy. The referenced paper is much more wide ranging than I have alluded to. But it all comes down to this for me (emphasis added):
Many of the above mentioned developments (the nexus between diplomacy and internal politics, the broadening of issues to be dealt with by diplomats, the communication revolution and others) have helped to give prominence to a rather new concept in foreign relations: public diplomacy. The diplomat today is above all a communicator and mediator of positions of his/her own country vis-à-vis all sections of the politically informed public in the host country. The main business is no longer discreet and confidential dealings with the foreign ministry of the host country but public diplomacy aimed at explaining and canvassing support for positions among government circles, parliament, the political parties, the business community, the social partners, the media and representatives of academic and cultural life. For this the diplomat must build up and cultivate a dense and stable network of contacts in all areas of society with a view to becoming actively involved in shaping public opinion in the host country.
I know that some of our readers have their doubts about the efficacy of Public Diplomacy. I see it as the best and brightest hope for American diplomacy. While I am not convinced that PD in it's current form works as well as it could, I do know that there are officers out there in some of the smaller consulates, who are doing amazing things. They are addressing small groups, exposing the host country population to living, breathing representatives of the United States. These officers are what the military calls "force multipliers." They require little in the way of resources and achieve tremendous "bang for the buck." As I have said in previous posts, I think we should all have an aspect of PD in our jobs.
The question is how do we get there? I was somewhat surprised when I reached the end of the report to find that I could not agree more with the author when he asked "What qualifications does the 21st century diplomat need?" and answered himself as follows:
· a pluridisciplinary education;
· linguistic skills;
· patience to listen and observe;
· proficiency in intercultural communication;
· sensitivity to socio-cultural differences;
· feeling comfortable with the latest communications technologies;
· ability to perform at ease in public;
· free of elitism;
· service orientation;
· a high level of tolerance;
· neither a "softie" nor the "elbow type";
· readiness for life-long learning, mid career training;
· stress resistance, coolness in crises;
· management skills;
· ability to work in teams; collaborator instead of competitor;
· a keen interest in global issues.
The future is now, and as the dinosaurs of American diplomacy retire the younger generations of officers and staff are going to have to make their voices heard. We need to take a good hard look at the tools we have at our disposal, and out failure to get our message heard. If Euorozone diplomatic recruiting and training is moving in this direction this might be one area where we can learn from our European colleagues.