Enhancing digital diplomacy activities in the Western Balkan and Eastern European countries
The Internet has undoubtedly altered the international community today. Together with social media it has become an undeniable channel for diplomatic communication and has transformed the practice of diplomacy. Foreign ministries and embassies have become a part of numerous social networks in which information is disseminated, gathered and analysed. The use of social media by diplomats has unlocked communication between policymakers and citizens. These tools, especially Facebook and Twitter, enable diplomatic missions to directly access their citizens, both inside and outside of their countries. This communication often bypasses state and media filters, potentially enabling countries to more effectively influence foreign audiences and achieve diplomatic objectives.
PHASE 1: DIGITAL DIPLOMACY BOOTCAMP, Bled, Slovenia, 28 – 30 November 2017
Digital diplomats, PR representatives, digital media editors and other digital devotees gathered in Bled, Slovenia this week for the training course “Enhancing Digital Diplomacy in the Western Balkans and Eastern European Countries”. The training took place between 28 and 30 November and attracted over 70 participants from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Ukraine and Slovenia. Through a training, covering a range of topics from theory of public relations and public diplomacy to specific use of digital tools and practical examples of digital campaigning, high-ranking officials from nine participating countries boosted their communication skills and established a network of digital diplomacy professionals.
A three-day intensive training strengthened capacities of listed countries in designing, coordinating, and launching intragovernmental-managed digital campaigns and helped them to become strong and credible messaging allies. Training empowered them to counter threats in the information space, and bolstered their ability to engage with their own citizens, assisting region-wide efforts for governments to focus on accountability and transparency. Finally, it helped foster regional coordination and cooperation and explore partnership opportunities for messaging campaigns on mutual policy priorities.
PHASE 2: 2nd DIGITAL DIPLOMACY BOOTCAMP, Bled & Ljubljana, Slovenia, 10 – 13 April 2018
Over 70 PR representatives, communication officers and digital diplomats from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine and Slovenia
A more structured and future oriented approach was needed as the project is proceeding in terms of members, cooperating countries and experts from the field of Digital Diplomacy. A four day event therefore focused mainly on developing ideas from all the participants in order to form a strong network and fruitful future for the project. The event was also organised as a synergy between the Bled Strategic Forum and the Young Bled Strategic Forum, cooperating in workshops and panel discussions.
Digital diplomacy experts from 16 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine participated in activities where everyone could share their best practices, ideas and experience. They gained training on social media practices, data and analytics implementation in research, best practices on how to counter Digital Disinformation and many other skills. Although this event chartered the end to a years’ worth of activities, it is only the start of a new and improved project in the year 2018/19.
The project is organised in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State and is also a part of the CEP program activities financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia in the scope of international development cooperation.
IN COOPERATION WITH