21st century statecraft

Current challenges

To meet the challenges of the 21st century, the approach to public diplomacy will increasingly focus on smart networks of influencers who can convene, connect and mobilize communities. This collaborative approach will support and aggregate the impact of smart, committed individuals around the world.

All the panelists repeated the mantra at least once or twice each time they spoke: “social media is a TOOL.” Nevertheless, the very first question from the audience was a not so much a question but a statement about the failings of social medial as a substitute for personal contact in diplomacy.

At first glance, there seems to be little in common between the digital and diplomatic worlds. Digital industries dot Silicon Valley. Diplomats inhabit "Foggy Bottom," the swampland that's home to the U.S. State Department. Tech titans wear hoodies. Ambassadors are part of the "striped-pants" set. Digital innovators embrace virtual reality. Diplomats? Realpolitik.

In short, diplomacy is changing, or perhaps expanding. “The power shift is from control of government to smaller institutions and groups of individuals,” Scott said. “We have lost control of our information system — and we won’t get it back.”

The innovation team is using technology in support of an agenda Clinton calls 21st Century Statecraft. When Clinton arrived at the State Department in 2009, Scott recently told members of the Association of Opinion Journalists, she asked her staff two questions: “How is the Internet changing … international relations and the conduct of foreign policy? … More importantly, what are we doing about it?”

“New media and connective technologies enhance our ability to listen…Social media provides new ways for us to keep our ear to the ground,” said McHale. “Of course, we are not interested in developing social media platforms for the sake of having them. We are interested in applying social media to promote our strategic objectives in the Americas.”

In terms of creating a cohesive policy around freedom of expression, communicating that policy and incorporating that policy into meaningful activities, the State Department has been coordinated and thorough in it’s design and development of a public diplomacy strategy.

Whether one supports or finds fault with current (and envisioned) U.S. diplomacy and international development processes and practices, most foreign policy analysts and academics will recognize the first Quadrennial Diplomatic and Development Review (QDDR) as a landmark document.