… to 140 characters, that is. Sorry, cannot pass up on The World Today’s title.
Tom Fletcher CMG, the British Ambassador in Beirut since August 2011 has an interesting piece in the Dec/Jan issue of The Today’s World. An iPad rather than letters of credence? A digital demarche? The need to interact, not just transmit? Are you ready to abandon the banquet in favor of the smart phone? Excerpt below:
via Chatham House’s The World Today, Volume 68, Number 11 (pdf):
When people ask me whether at 37 I am too young to be an ambassador, I sometimes wonder if perhaps I am too old. I worked in No 10 for the last ‘pen’ PM, Tony Blair; for the first ‘email’ PM, Gordon Brown; and for the first ‘iPad’ PM, David Cameron. Delivery of government services by social media is being transformed.
Diplomacy has always been Darwinian: we have to evolve or die, just as diplomats did when sea routes opened up or the telephone was invented. Someone once said that you could replace the Foreign Office with a fax. We saw off the fax, and – only this year – the telegram. Now we have to show that you cannot replace us with Wikipedia and Skype.
Social media are now indispensable to our core tasks: information harvesting; analysis; influence; promotion of English as the code for cyberspace; crisis management; commercial work. Imagine a reception at which all your key contacts were interacting. You would not stand in the corner silently or shouting platitudes, nor delegate the event.
In this brave new digital world, the most effective diplomats will carry an iPad rather than letters of credence; a digital demarche will be more powerful than a diplomatic one; and the setpiece international conference of the 20th century will be replaced by more fluid, open interaction with the people whose interests we represent. For the first time ever, diplomats can engage directly on a meaningful scale with the countries we live in. We no longer have to focus solely on elites to make our case.
This is exciting, challenging and subversive. Getting it wrong could start a war: imagine if a diplomat misguidedly tweeted a link to the offensive anti-Islam film which provoked riots across the Muslim world. Getting it right has the potential to rewrite the diplomatic rulebook.
The digital revolution has opened up a new frontier. Equipped with the right kit and the right courage, diplomats should – as ever – be among its pioneers. Diplomacy not just for diplomats; but not diplomacy without diplomats. Jamie Oliver pioneered the idea of ‘The Naked Chef’ – pared back, simplified, focused on the essential essence of the job. The Naked Diplomat needs a smartphone and those oldest of diplomatic attributes – thick skin and an open mind.
Continue reading, Our man in Beirut strips down to 140 characters.
The State Department has Alex Ross upfront on the digital frontier. There is also career diplomat, Richard Boly of eDiplomacy. And we have several American ambassadors populating Twitter. But we don’t know that we have any of the our credentialed ambassadors openly talk about their thoughts and their work on how they bridge the digital world in diplomacy. If anyone has talked about this inside the building and we missed it, zap me a note.
- French diplomats best, says UK (bbc.co.uk)
- Tweet Me to Your Leader: How the World’s Big Shots Use Social Media (theatlantic.com)
- ‘Twiplomacy’ for the Naked Diplomat (standard.co.uk)
- Anna Wintour as US ambassador is a step too far | Catherine Bennett (guardian.co.uk)