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Virtual Diplomacy Initiative

About the Initiative

The mission of the Virtual Diplomacy Initiative is to explore the role of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in the conduct of diplomacy, particularly their effect upon international conflict management and resolution. The Initiative's practical objective is to extract lessons and insights for future training of international affairs specialists, whether in government, international organizations, or the private sector. The Institute will accomplish this by:

  • Analyzing how the information revolution is transforming international relations and conflict and impacting the institutional structures and operational effectiveness of groups engaged in crisis and conflict management;

  • Identifying ways that ICTs can aid in preventing, managing, and resolving international conflict; and

  • Fostering cooperation among crisis management groups using ICTs; encouraging partnerships and resource sharing; and attracting support for collaborative enterprises from business, industry, and philanthropic circles.

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The Virtual Diplomacy Initiative encompasses five thematic tracks:

  1. The "Revolution in Diplomatic Affairs" (RDA) track considers the effects and implications of an increasingly interdependent environment, influenced by the worldwide diffusion of revolutionary information and communications technologies, on the content, structure, and practice of diplomacy.

  2. The "Netpolitik" track examines the emergence, reconfiguration, and redistribution of political influence on the basis of global connectivity, as information mobilizers compete and cooperate in pursuit of their interests.

  3. The "Media and Conflict" track focuses on global "mediazation"—including the ascent of global and real-time media vehicles and formats, the competition for attention from both local and global audiences, and issues of accuracy, credibility, and transparency during periods leading up to, during, and after a crisis or conflict.

  4. The "Good Practices Project" explores the role of information sharing within the humanitarian community and between it and military entities during complex emergencies.

  5. The "Open Eyes" track encompasses the uses of remote-sensing technologies and geographic information systems in international conflict prevention, management, and resolution.

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Lessons from the Institute's 10th anniversary conference, "Managing Chaos" guided the establishment of the Virtual Diplomacy initiative. Conference participants recognized the pivotal role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as new conflict managers in international conflict resolution and the need for improved coordination of effort, both within the NGO community and with government and international agencies, in providing services in the field. They pointed to the support for cooperation promised by emerging information technologies and the challenges faced by groups actively involved in conflict resolution in employing these tools effectively.

The Institute conceived the Virtual Diplomacy Initiative to help practitioners and scholars to understand and apply such technologies in preventing, managing, and resolving international conflict, and to explore the long-term impact of ICTs on the character of international relations.

In 1997, the Institute's Board of Directors added the Virtual Diplomacy Initiative to its mission, in recognition of the strategic importance of emerging technologies in shaping the nature of international conflict and diplomacy. Responding to the information age requirements for an organization working on international conflict prevention, management, and resolution, the Institute has integrated ICTs to meet the challenge of fulfilling its mission in the changing international landscape.

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What Is Virtual Diplomacy

At its broadest, the term "virtual diplomacy" signifies the altered diplomacy associated with the emergence of a networked globe. At its narrowest, the term encompasses the decision-making, coordination, communication, and practice of international relations as they are conducted with the aid of information and communications technologies. Above all, the Virtual Diplomacy Initiative encourages the critical examination of an expanded and amplified diplomatic practice that includes anyone anywhere affected or plugged into any and all information and communications media.

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The Institute seeks the views of civilian and military government agencies, international governmental bodies, non-governmental organizations, researchers and analysts, and the news media to assess the challenges and opportunities posed by ICTs to policy formation and implementation, coordination and collaboration, and information exchange and resource sharing. The Institute solicits the participation of business and R&D communities to understand, develop, and apply ICTs; and invites funders to provide guidance on the availability and acquisition of resources to enhance global interaction.

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Advisory Board

The Advisory Board of the Virtual Diplomacy Initiative was inaugurated in 1997 with the participation of prominent collaborators and supporters of the Virtual Diplomacy conference, including the late Mark Weiser of Xerox PARC. Its current membership is listed below.

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Join the "Virtual Diplomacy" Electronic Discussion Group

The Institute has created a moderated e-mail forum (or listserv) for exchanging ideas and announcements relating to issues addressed by the Virtual Diplomacy Initiative.

Join the Virtual Diplomacy Listserv.

For More Information

To learn more about the work of the Virtual Diplomacy Initiative, please contact Virtual Diplomacy director Sheryl Brown.


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