Digitalization Of Diplomacy
In the international system, there have been several incidents that affected the system from time to time such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the end of the cold war, the destruction of the twin towers located in the United States of America by the terror attacks in 2001 and Arap Spring. These incidents are called “systemic earthquakes” in Ahmet Davutoğlu’s book Systemic Earthquake and the Struggle For World Order. The first earthquake is a geopolitical earthquake that occurred when the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact collapsed in 1991, geopolitical shifts occurred throughout Euro-Asia. The second earthquake is a security earthquake that occurred with twins’ towers collapsed as a result of terror attacks in 2001. The psychology of the world has shifted from democracy to security and the concept of international law has been interpreted based on national security concerns after the 9/11 attacks. Geopolitical and security shifts have deteriorated with the global economic crisis which occurred in 2008. The economic crisis has created political issues in many countries. The other earthquake is Arap spring which emerged in 20111.
Many nation-states had faced structural problems after the Arap Spring occurred. The institutions of the states have collapsed and territorial control of the states has changed. In that sense, several authorities have emerged in the same country. All of these earthquakes have brought new accumulation to international order. However, many of the incidents were limited by certain regions or sectors. But recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of the world rather than regions or sectors. It has become a new earthquake on the world’s system. All the states on earth have started to decide to implement restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19. One of the most important restrictions has become to stop human mobility. That means is diplomatic activities have started to reduce. But at the same time, technological ways have begun to be used to sustain diplomatic relations among states, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, or institutions. For example, the Ambassadors conference which is held by the ministry of foreign affairs of Turkey every year, due to the covid-19 pandemic, this year’s conference was held in a hybrid format; the ambassadors abroad attending online2.
In that sense, technological accumulation has broken out. All the people have begun to work at home by technology because of a pandemic. In that sense, states, and people have started to use more technology to interact with each other than before. So, technology has started to determine the flow of history.
Political scientist Francis Fukuyama has claimed that “Victory of Liberalism and West” with his book The End of History and the Last Man which was published after the cold war era. But the history has started to flow much faster than before because of technological advances. Because the technological developments have been seen in the last thirty years, have not been seen in any period of history. Because even small states have started to take an important role in diplomatic activities thanks to technology. In that sense, the implementation of diplomacy has started to take a new shape on digitalization. Therefore, the concept of digital diplomacy has emerged.
Digital diplomacy is the transfer of diplomatic activities to the digital platform such as holding diplomatic negotiations and making agreements using some digital platforms such as zoom meetings. Especially, the most important reason why preferring the digital way is cheaper than other ways. That means is diplomats need to get training on how to conduct the meetings and represent their state on digital platforms. Because there is no rule of the book on this situation. Even though there is no rule of the book on digital diplomacy, the United States of America has opened a virtual embassy in Iran for Iranian people to get information directly from US Government about U.S. policy and American values and culture.3 But at the same time, the virtual embassy can be used as a propaganda tool. On the other hand, the people whose states have no diplomatic ties can communicate with each other. Thanks to digital platforms, the communication speed of individuals has exceeded the speed of diplomatic communication of states.
• Davutoğlu, Ahmet, Sistemik Deprem ve Dunya Duzeni, Istanbul, Kure Yayınlari, 2020
• 12th Ambassadors Conference, 9-10 November 2020, http://www.mfa.gov.tr/onikincibuyukelciler-konferansi-10-11-2020.en.mfa
• Why Virtual Embassy? https://ir.usembassy.gov/tehran/