Saturday, August 30, 2014

Modern diplomacy: what has changed?

One of many things that have changed in diplomacy is that it is not related to an office anymore. It doesn’t matter where you are, diplomacy is somehow there. It follows you. A diplomat doesn’t “go to his job”. He rather makes sure that the job gets done, whether it’s on Monday morning in the office or on Sunday afternoon from his suburban little patio. Instead of being related to a place you can leave behind, modern diplomacy sticks to the diplomat like wifi, internet, mobile devices and even to his way of thinking and acting. Diplomacy penetrates those who exercise it.

This penetration is not so frightening as it sounds. ‘Professor’, ‘ICT programmer’ and ‘salesperson’ are also more than jobs too. They are people, (funny) attitudes, values and sometimes very peculiar ways of connecting to people. That’s why you recognize them so easily wherever you meet them. Would you want an artist not to be artistic in his way of being outside his atelier? I hope not!  

Jobs have always rubbed off on people. What has changed about diplomacy however is the revolutionary influence of social media. Twitter and Facebook have taken away a large and unnecessary part of the secrecy that surrounded and covered diplomacy for so long. That made my job twice as inspiring as it already was. Because besides the opening of doors between my country and other nations, I can now also (try to) use my creativity to open doors to society. Any idea what UNESCO’s Executive Board documents are about? I hope you do after reading my tweets. And if you think “Hey, I can actually use this”, you really make my day.

Pictures are also of great help here: they tell more than a thousand words. They add the kind of detail that makes diplomacy concrete, real, maybe intriguing and hopefully interesting. But it’s more than that. Social media even allow society to get involved directly in the relations my colleagues and I are spinning with other countries at UNESCO in the field of Culture, Education, Science, Communication and Information. If someone refers me to a relevant document via twitter I will surely take it into account if I can and feel I need to. That's the huge efficiency gain twitter offers: I could never read what my followers know, read and think is relevant for me. But what motivates me most is simply this: sharing the fun doubles the fun!

Twitter: @Oosterenvan

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