Diplomacy & Technology, with Dr. Jovan Kurbalija | "Diplomacy, light" podcast, Episode #001

Diplomacy & Technology, with Dr. Jovan Kurbalija |

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A warm welcome to all viewers and listeners  to the first "Diplomacy light" podcast.   This series will try to unbundle key concepts  and dynamics -- past, present, and future -- of   diplomacy. In this first podcast, with our  guest Dr. Jovan Kurbalija, we'll reflect in   broad strokes on the interplay between diplomacy  and technology. We will start by considering the  

historical interweaving between something that  is a constant of diplomacy, the peaceful conduct   of foreign affairs, with something that is fluid,  technological innovations that affect diplomacy.   In this sense, it is not only technologies that  enable better communication, like the telegraph   or the internet, but also technologies that stem  from security considerations that have an impact.   We will seek the wisdom of the past  of what has worked towards peace,   and what has not.The Internet is a major  technological milestone affecting all   aspects of societies; as such it has impacted  diplomacy, not least through bringing in new   powerful actors, or stakeholders. This is  why we will consider how the relationship   between all stakeholders in the age of  the Internet is shaping up in modern times   and the role diplomacy can play. The concluding  end offers three main takeaways exactly on this  

potential role for diplomacy, brought forward from  Dr. Kurbalija's recently concluded Master Class.   Before we start, a few words about our guest,  with the full bio available in the summary below.   Dr. Jovan Kurbalija is the Executive Director of  Diplo Foundation and Head of the Geneva Internet   Platform. He has been involved directly in key  milestones that have shaped the digital agenda   over the past two decades, including being a  member of the UN Working Group (WGIG) that defined   what Internet Governance means, and most recently  as the Co-Director of the UN's High-Level Panel on   Digital Cooperation. A former diplomat, Jovan  has a professional and academic background in  

international law, diplomacy, and information  technology. His book, "An Introduction to   Internet Governance," has been translated  in nine languages and is used as a textbook   for academic courses worldwide. He lectures  in several prominent academic institutions,   including the Diplomatic Academy  of Vienna, the College of Europe,   The University of St. Gallen, and  the University of Southern California.

A pleasure to start this podcast series with a dear friend, a colleague, and a mentor, whom I have known almost 20 years now and who has really spent his professional life   on thinking about the topic that we can discuss  here, and that is this combination of diplomacy and   technology. Jovan, you've really been,  since I know you and much before that, these   are the issues that that you have focused your mind  to, try to find solutions to,... most precisely in the   Internet Governance debates, but not only. The whole  combination of how diplomacy is being impacted and   changed at this moment by current technologies  is something that you have focused over the years.  But technologies have really been around for a  very long time. They have, in each different epochs ...  different technologies have had an impact on  diplomacy. Can you perhaps just briefly fly us  

through some of the main ones that have impacted,  and what has changed over over this period and  what has stayed the same? Ljupčo, congratulations for the  for the start of your podcast. And, I think it's   a good moment to have a start with the reflection  about the evolution of technology and diplomacy.   And, if you go carefully through the history  of humanity, you can see this interplay dating back,  definitely to Mesopotamia, or the ancient Egypt. But, probably even before that, to the point  

where our far, far predecessors realized that  it was better to "hear the message than to eat the messenger" (Hamilton and Langhorne).    It was a point when diplomacy  started. and when technology added to diplomacy with the invention of writing   -- we always forget that writing is a technology -- invention of writing and different way of  conveying a message, in addition to the direct contact and direct exchanges. Now if you move throughout the history you definitely have the   ancient egypt the Pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV), with the first diplomatic archive in   El Amarna, then moving through the  very busy diplomatic period of the   uh ancient history, via Persia coming to  Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Renaissance diplomacy   and modernity and you have always this  interplay, interplay between on one side uh   innovation, innovation in how people communicate. Then we head back in the history, after  writing we had the smoke signals, we have different   pigeon uses, animals as conveyors of the message,  and fast forward, uh telegraph, and railway and  different messaging systems... ... that was innovation  and we have now innovations in the way  we communicate and then you have something which  we can call tradition or a constant in diplomacy.

and this constant has been uh drive and  aim of humans to solve their conflicts through peaceful means   Unfortunately, this constant had many interludes with wars, and unfortunately history is not, in that sense,  ending in our era, as we are witnessing today.  Quite a few wars and conflicts,  where basically military means were  managed to win over diplomacy, negotiation, and engagement. Therefore, this is this interplay:   continuity of our constant drive to try to  solve the conflicts peacefully through negotiation,   and innovation on the other side in the ways how we communicate, engage, represent, negotiate. These technologies, uh, we can  think of really positive ones: Gutenberg's printing press, and the telegraph, the telephone, the radio,... But, really, there is another aspect of   technology, um and that is the ones used for war, and for really the conflict that you mentioned   Perhaps we have become spoiled in a way that  we've had a long period of relative calm of course without a major war between major powers -- and this is the the key thing -- uh but this   interplay of technologies being used for military  means uh is also a part of technology, is it not?  Yeah, definitely, I mean, always, drive for innovation  didn't come from diplomacy.   

It always comes from either security field, military field, or  economic field. i would say internet had that   I would say that the Internet had that interplay with some security concerns after the Sputnik moment, when the Soviets launched   Sputnik on 4th of October 1957, and then  the reaction of the United States driven by   fear that they were losing uh scientific and  technological competition, which with   this perspective wasn't the case. But that  was a moment where NASA was established   where DARPANET, predecessor of the Internet,  was established. Therefore, yes, military reasoning and security reasoning has been always  an important driver of technological innovation.   In very early days of the mechanic  telegraph, Napoleon realized that   it had a use for military operations. Therefore  one of the first mechanical telegraph lines were   used .. during Napoleonic wars. ...and  you have many examples with telegraph, telephone, and later all those inventions.

So, if we go back you, know in in your Master  Class and we can put the link here to  your great Master class, in which you go   over the history of this interplay between  diplomacy and technology, what the Golden Age, as you say, of Diplomacy, has been really the period between the Napoleonic Wars, about   this century between 1814 and  the beginning of World War I, 1914, and,   if one looks at that period, it's,... it may  be successful diplomacy, but it's really   Great Power diplomacy. There's not much room for  diplomacy for smaller powers. Perhaps they   can align themselves with a Major Power and find  a way in that regard,... but, are we coming back,   perhaps, to this Great Power competition that we  had gotten accustomed to, first in a Bipolar   world where this Strategic Stability uh perhaps  provided some possibilities of progress   but also of, as i said, avoidance of a major war.  Now, we're in the midst of, really a major war in  

in Europe with a nuclear-powered country,... Are  we going back to this, and if so,   does that mean that diplomacy will  again be a major power diplomacy? Well, uh Ljupčo, this is a really old discussion  between so-called Realist and let's say   Institutionalists in International  Relations Theory, dating back to Hans   Morgenthau, and definitely Kissinger, who wrote his  "Diplomacy" book and his Doctoral Thesis exactly   about this period after the Vienna congress 1814-1815 until the start of the First World War and uh   That will be an ongoing debate, I would say, Kissinger and his thinking and that type of uh   school was based on on power concern that and the  basic assumption that individuals like states tend   to increase, are driven, by the need to increase  their power -- economic, political, social, cultural   power. Therefore, their thinking, and it was a thinking of the negotiators in Vienna, uh   in 1814, was, "Okay, let's start from that, power-driven uh motivation and see how we can   arrange it through negotiation, through mechanisms,  to control the power .. through balance of power,   of which Kissinger was a big proponent.   

That debate will continue. After the Second World War, there was a slight push towards the idea that  we can move beyond power and aim for the public good, develop institutions,   and benefit more from the cooperation than through that "Realpolitik" competition. That debate uh will  continue, but just a quick reflection on on this "Golden Age" of both diplomacy and technology -- this was interesting that it was a period without   with absence of the major conflicts -- you had  Crimea war, you had 1848, you had the unification   of Germany, unification of Italy, then quite a few  uh regional wars. And somebody can argue that   it wasn't as peaceful period as it is [portrayed]; but there  was absence of a major conflict for two reasons.  Because, in Vienna, Big Powers, mainly monarchies,  made some compact that they agreed that they   should preserve status quo and their power within  their countries: Russia before the establishment  of germany; Russia, [England] and the other actors. That was the first point. The second point  

is that they created carefully balanced mechanisms, and Vienna Congress was very interesting event   where they spent one year basically having, first  a lot of fun, many parties, they spend a lot of   lot of money for entertainment, and it is an  interesting lesson because then Versailles   peace negotiation 100 years later was more  scientific negotiation, where you calculate   reparation of germany, when you calculate the peace,  and then as you know it lasted only two decades   but they created that carefully balanced mechanism.  In parallel to that, let me bring then technology.   Exactly in this period you had the  telegraph, first mechanic then electronic;   you had a telephone, you had radio communication  closer to the first world war, and that   interplay, I think, diplomacy and technology, had  a really reinforcing some sort of public good,   which was absence of major conflict and  absence of war, and i think that period   is still under research, especially Vienna congress, 1814-1815. We have Kisssinger's book, but it's   still uh i don't think that the messages from  that period are internalized among policy makers   who are making decisions today,  let's say in managing Ukraine crisis.   So in the period that we have just mentioned, ... the one century between 1814 and  

1914, perhaps there was diplomacy and perhaps  there was an avoidance of Major Power war   it is again this kind of interplay   of tension which is there, and the balance that you   mention is at the same time with the tension. I think that many people forget that when   we're thinking of this balance of power, this  this Congress of Vienna 19th century peace   and even obviously the period after World War II there is this tension. But, as you say,   it is diplomacy that jumps in through different  means and tries to find ways of bridging   different interests. Is this still in the  making, do you think? and please, I mean, if you want  

to focus on that period, but as well today because  we can learn from this, to get insights from it. Ljupčo, one point is extremely important. When the Vienna Congress started   in 1814, France was defeated but France was brought into negotiation through Talleyrand.   Talleyrand and Metternich were the key  sort of architects of the Vienna Congress.   Therefore, they were not humiliated. they  were not punished; they were brought back   into negotiation; and for any balance of power and  any lasting peace you need to get back the   side which lost the war. Well I'm referring to  almost any war, but in particular even if it is not  

not a military conflict, but also a loss  in economic and other wars.   If you compare with Versailles Peace  Treaty, that was a basically a typical humiliation   peace treaty, where Germany was forced  to pay huge reparation and it was treated as   losing power from winning powers, mainly UK, France, uh to some extent United States and other. That is a crucial point. You have to make sure that there  is a face-saving option for all sides.   

Obviously, somebody will have upper hand, because of military  superiority or economic superiority. But respect   for people, respect for their dignity, for the whole  countries is extremely important. It existed in   Vienna Congress and it contributed to lasting  peace. It didn't exist in Versailles and it brought,   well within less than two decades, the next  conflict. And it existed as well after World War II, with Germany and Japan, so, exactly, you're absolutely on-point. We sometimes underestimate emotions.

We easily calculate number of tanks, GDP, number of people, number of missiles, or whatever... it is  important. But emotions are important to motivate   people and to avoid humiliation. And humiliation ultimately doesn't help anyone because   victorious power can be tomorrow losing power, and that's one wisdom which unfortunately   humanity has not gathered from history  and in particular from the Vienna Congress  period. And if we fly to the present  time, there is, obviously, one of the biggest   revolutions, not just of this past century,  but really in the history of   humanity, is the invention of the Internet.  You have spent, as i said, a lot of time in thinking   about how to really protect this great resource. You're one of the world's foremost authorities   on Internet Governance; you were involved in the  World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva   and onward, a member of the Working Group that  defined what it is, and one thing that is   interesting, aside from the technology, is the new  actors that have come in. Even this concept  

of multi-stakeholderism really comes from  from these debates on on Internet Governance,   to a point where really the word "Multilateral" became a dirty one, almost. How has   this trust or distrust dynamic been evolving over the past let's say 20 years, or has it at all? ...between the stakeholder groups? Probably ... while  you were asking this question, I was thinking   what contributed to real good developments,  but also misinterpretation? ...and probably one  

should come to the social/cultural context in  which the Internet was invented. It was driven   by Sputnik moment, therefore military consideration  the way how internet was developed uh was related   more to social and cultural context of, mainly US universities, uh especially on the west coast, in the 1960s.    It was a time of the well flourishing of  rock, freedom, emancipation, and the idea of  inclusion. And the Internet came with a quite a strong social cultural undertones, as a tool for inclusion, for empowerment, for strengthening public good, for  sharing. And when we fast forward from the   this time 1960s-70s, when this idea was shaped,  including TCP/IP standard, then the internet   was in that initial phase, in that element of empowerment. And that was, among other things, which  

excited me in 1980s, when i got my first PC, to start  experimenting. It was something that can overcome   your limitations, physical; get to the other continents, other people; engaged through, at that   time, simple email, later on websites in 1990s. Now fast-forward, that idea of inclusion, which is   behind the multi-stakeholder approach was suddenly  transferred into a different type of Internet,   which still had this undertone of empowerment  but became also a space for economic,   political, and military power.   

Therefore, you had that line of inclusion and "multistakeholderism" that's, let's say, even, to some extent, utopian. And then you have now power again i mean power   And then you have now power again. I mean, power is real power. Let's say "Apple" has market  capitalization of three trillion US dollars   and the GDP of the African continent is 2.6 trillion USD. We're speaking about real power.   Economic one, social one over data, and cultural one. Now you ask yourself: Can multi-stakeholder model, in  that initial philosophy, survive?   And here the situation is becoming much  more complex and I would say that here   we need to brush the dust over the multi - lateral and bring it back in interplay   with multi - stakeholder, because governments and  states and countries are ultimately responsible   for the public good. They have a social contract  with their citizens to deliver to them security, food  

good political system, respect for human rights,... Can  they deliver can african continent deliver but it   Can they deliver? Can African continent deliver, when it has less power than some companies? this is a real  question. And this is a question when, i would say,   multi-stakeholder approach in its initial  format is losing a bit of traction   and multilateral is gaining. Now, interplay will be important, especially on the issues of   legitimacy, because multi-stakeholder approach  doesn't have traditional legitimacy.    Well, let's see, if I go as "Diplo" to a meeting, I represent "Diplo," and how i can negotiate with   somebody representing India, 1.5 billion people? I may have legitimacy because of my expertise, but   this is different issue. Now we have  to get back to basics, whom you represent and  

how you contribute ultimately to the public good?  And i would say that "multi-" in multilateral will   become bigger and bigger and "multi-" in multi-stakeholder will become  slightly smaller. But multilateralism really presumes a state actor. ...and, wither the  State? At approximately the same time just as an  illustration a bit over a year ago uh we saw how   Twitter and other social media deleted the account  of an outgoing president uh its country,   while on the other side of the world, the opposite  happened. Alibaba, or Jack Ma specifically,   were if not deleted, with significantly  clipped wings. So with this enormous power  

that tech companies are having, and if  we're saying that multilateralism is a way to   address it, how can states, which are becoming relatively weaker in power -- and power is always  relative -- with these new entities that are  entering the international system, how can   they cope. I mean perhaps even the European Union  finds it hard, though it has done quite a bit...   My country, a small one; other small countries, by  themselves, don't have the possibilities of   really of negotiating. They're not at the  table even.   It is definitely a huge discrepancy in power.    We mentioned some numbers on Apple and others.

But I would just correct your observation with  one development which happened during the COVID crisis.   governments are getting back, because they have to deliver on the public good, on global health.   Therefore companies were a bit less, although tech companies got relevance because of   remote work, zoom, and the other things, but governments were deciding the rules of the game.

They were deciding about public health; they were voting for the huge economic incentive programs;   they were deciding,... they are still deciding ... where you  can travel, with what type of certificate of the  Covid pass, or other things. Therefore governments got some sort of power on the very common-sense   approach: they have a social contract with citizens, to protect their health, and companies cannot do   they can contribute to that, but they cannot do that. And we are getting here back to the core issue: can companies deliver on the social contract?  to provide security to their citizens. I mean security for the physical well-being, but also  health security... Can they provide a functional economic system? To a large extent: not. This is the role of governments.

I would argue that governments will be regaining power, in different ways -- you mentioned example of   United States, China, EU -- depending on their political system, but you have a general   tendency, I would say, in US congress, definitely in Brussels, in Beijing, to name just a few capitals   as governments are trained trying to say, "hey we  have to deliver on social contract to our citizens   and we cannot do it because we do not have any  more means since they're controlled by tech  companies." Therefore, that interplay will  be much more complex. My guess is that governments   will be regaining more power, but, we should ask a really basic common sense   question: if not governments... uh i know it is very provocative ... but maybe tech companies can   I'm not arguing for that  and I'm very critical on that point, but somebody   has to provide security, fix roads, ensure that the  economy functions,... maybe companies will  be new candidates it will be a rather Orwellian future, but we have to have a clarity of discussion: What is the purpose of governing and what are the  respective roles of all of these actors? For me, government should ensure the public order, public  good; companies should provide some services, contribute   with the goods, with agility, with innovation; civil  society, academia should ensure that all of major   actors, meaning governments and businesses, are  kept in control through some sort of   feedback, writing, activities, civil  society activities and other issues.

And the internet is a good medium for that, and it has really, on the one hand served that   purpose, it has provided and facilitated a lot  of these possibilities of .. health services   being brought online etc. But there's always  been this fear, especially among those   who are specialist in it, of this possibility  of what is called "Splinternet." Since the beginning   of the Internet Governance debate, we've seen a lot of discussions, "well what if, at that time the   US, which had its Department of Commerce was in charge of the top-level domains   takes off another country's top-level  domain and just takes [that country] off the internet.  

We had a call, just a week ago i think,  by Ukraine to do that with Russia and  luckily this was not adhered to by by ICANN but Russia itself is considering taking itself off the  internet. Are we witnessing the fear that many have  anticipated: a splinternet a splintered internet? Yeah, definitely, there is a huge risk and i  think Ukraine war could be a point where we may   face this as one sort of collateral  damages, that term is not very nice to   use but collateral damage could be the end of the internet as we know it. I hope it won't happen   but it is important to keep in mind that United States has been a benevolent protector of the   Internet, even at the time when u.s had a direct  control over the ICANN and the domain name system  

it never removed a country from the from the  internet. Even in the case when there was a legal   basis because the chapter 7 of the un charter  provides possibility to cut telecommunication   links in the case of the sanctions imposed by the UN, mainly Security Council, and it happened in   the case of Iraq War, ex-yougoslavia, Somalia ... there  were quite a few UN-driven sanctions which gave   United States possibility to cut the  Internet from the to cut the country   from the Internet, basically to delete domain name, technically speaking. There was even a court case   when the Iranian expat community requested the  seizure of the Iranian domain by ICANN and it   was refused by a Californian court. Therefore, US -- the political US, economic US, juridical US --    has been always benevolent guardian of the internet. It is now tested and so far ICANN  

made the right decision not to remove Russia from the internet; but, as you indicated,   Russia may decide itself, and it started already by Instagram and few other services ... I'm afraid that it will get  worse before it gets better. My only hope is that decision makers worldwide will make a careful calculation of trade-offs   what they are gaining from integrated internet, in economic terms, in terms of keeping their, let's say broader society together. We live on the time of migrants. Many families are kept together via the Internet. China has diaspora of more than 80 million people. Therefore, the Chinese  

government has to make a careful calculation for  any move over disintegrated internet   I won't speak about supply  chains, about the economy, about issues now   that's a delicate decision which has to be made  with a clear calculation of benefits   and losses and trade-offs and I guess that many  societies worldwide, including societies which   are now in the conflict, Russia, Ukraine, but also  other societies, will have to see what   they will gain or lose with the possibility of   disintegrated internet. I think the losses  will be many; they may not be seen currently   but that has to be an informed decision. I don't  think that it should be put under the carpet   that should be informed decision of society  and their representatives, governments and  other actors. Through proper debate. To conclude,   uh and i will let me just play a short clip from   To conclude, let me just play a short clip from your master class lecture at the end where you  talk about three takeaways let me just play that:  "Our generation should pass to the next a rich  heritage that we receive from previous generations   and future generations need to be able to  make decisions that are informed by their   time and interests. Passing our shared heritage  to the next epoch is the public responsibility  

of us and our generation this includes preventing  the privatization of our common knowledge   through for example AI-driven codification made  by leading tech companies. There will be need   for much more effective diplomacy and in  policy-making along three main aspects:   First, we will need more diplomacy than ever  before since in a highly interdependent world,   military solutions could be very damaging for all  involved, including those who may have a stronger   military power. Thus diplomacy as a way of solving  conflicts by using peaceful means is becoming more  important than ever in human history. But, second  point diplomacy will be performed differently But, second point, diplomacy will be performed differently. It will require much more bottom-up  approach, [with] information and involvement  of new actors...

... and, third point, are new actors. New  actors from businesses, civil society governments,   religious community will have to be involved more  in policy making and modern diplomacy.    It will make modern diplomacy not only more inclusive  but more informed and ultimately more impactful   because agreements and deals that are made  will be owned by wider community than just   let's say diplomatic services and member states.  Therefore, these are three aspects of the major   impact of the current developments and future diplomacy: (1) interdependence and diplomacy is a key   tool for dealing with interdependence; (2) new  ways of doing diplomacy; and (3) new actors, which   should join diplomatic negotiation and overall  processes. It is important to highlight that as we  

are shifting in that era, there should be utmost  clarity of the roles and responsibilities of each   actors including their legitimacy and including  their relevance to the global public good and  global public interest. So how do we pass onto  the next generations our shared heritage   and protect it from being privatized,  and what is the role of diplomacy in this?   Yeah, this is our responsibility not towards only  each other or people who live currently on this   rock in the Milky Way, but it is a responsibility  also to future generations as we get from the   previous generation more or less civilization in  a relatively good shape: culturally, economically, politically.    The question is what we are going to  pass to the next generation? I won't speak about   climate change, about conflicts, but about  the Internet: are we going to pass to them   a rich heritage that we we got which is a public good from Aristotle to Tolstoy to Shakespeare ..

and others, to wisdom of the ordinary people? Or, is it going to be captured by the Artificial   Intelligence patents, for which there is a huge risk. We often focus on data in current   discussion but what is really important is who  is going to own and how the patterns of human   creativity, inventions, and reflections. My deep conviction is that it should remain public good, as it has been for centuries, and we should deliver it  to the future generations and give them a chance   to create their own world, hopefully better and  peaceful than our world especially these days. Thank you very much. On that note, let me thank you once again for coming to   this podcast, for sharing your knowledge and really a great discussion. Always invited back.

But, to continue a tradition that  you started on your master class   let me raise a toast, and, as you say, "To Peace and Prosperity! Cheers!" prosperity cheers To Peace and Prosperity!

2022-06-14 14:36

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