Kinsman: Are diplomats needed in the digital age?

By: /
October 17, 2011
Jeremy Kinsman
Former ambassador to the European Union and high commissioner to Britain

Of course – as are butchers, priests, surgeons, and artists. The enduring need to be confidential adviser, interpreter, and strategist is more critical than ever in a competitive, deconstructed and still dangerous world, and to provide meaning over ubiquitous white noise of twittered sound-bites signifying nothing. 

But diplomacy is transforming to suit an open and globally networked landscape, where success belongs to the best-connected. This means reaching way beyond private communications on behalf of official circles at home to foreign ministries and local elites. Today’s successful diplomat is an extroverted entrepreneur practising public diplomacy, accredited virtually to all of local civil society and representing Canadian civil society as well as government. Diplomats from democracies need to meet expectations they will extend solidarity and support to human rights defenders and aspiring democrats instead of situating our interests in the field in the false security of aligning with the authoritarian status quo.