David Lang writes:
September in New York saw Australia take a ring-side seat under Per Krohg’s phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes mural in the UN Security Council. Nick Bryant’s verdict: the Aussies performed their procedural role with confidence in what was a productive and busy month. On the ediplomacy front, however, things were quieter. While @AustraliaUN was tweeting, the effort failed to enhance the story of our UN Security Council presidency or spur notable collaboration between Australia and other nations.
The #AusPrez Twitter hashtag was not widely embraced. While there were retweets and well wishes, there was little legitimate engagement with other states to advance the case that Australia was prosecuting at the UNSC. Use of the Americanised #AusPrez was a curious decision when #AusPres would have been entirely appropriate – a lack of independence and confidence highlighted in absentia. After all, the Brits had used #UKPres just three months prior. The Twitter handle @AustraliaUN might at first blush have followers believing that the account tweets on all Australia-UN issues. This of course leaves the Geneva Mission out in the cold as it tweets on a breadth of important human rights and disarmament issues over at @AustraliaUN_GVA. To bring precision to these minor elements is essential.
Not yet half way into our two-year UNSC term, there remain many opportunities for Australia to build a digital presence.
Ambassador Quinlan might do a post-presidency Q&A session on Twitter, just as the UK Ambassador did back in June at the beginning of the UK's UNSC presidency. Perhaps the Australian Mission can curate a Storify page on our presidency, as the US did when its July presidential term came to an end. Beefing up our representation across various platforms and sites beyond the quiet website and solitary Twitter feed is essential, with the UK providing an incredible example of the possibilities. While the UK and the US are undeniably the ediplomacy giants, there is no reason why Australia cannot, with assiduous effort, appear on a future edition of Colum Lynch’s Who To Follow On Twitter During UNGA Week hit list.
The UNSC term offers a high-profile proving ground for DFAT to engage with and through these new mediums. There is little doubt that the Department must be ambitious in modernising its statecraft through ediplomacy. With Hillary Clinton, the anointed Godmother of 21st Century Statecraft, likely gearing up for a 2016 run at the White House, DFAT should not miss the opportunity to wargame her possible win. Should Clinton continue her embrace of ediplomacy at a presidential level while shepherding the US deeper into the Asian century, DFAT and indeed the Australian Government must be digitally fluent or else risk restricting engagement with our allies and neighbours alike.
Significant time, money and effort was expended on Australia’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, so it is unfortunate that our impact, influence and voice are being somewhat lost by way of a failure to maximise outreach through digital channels. Let us hope that it is not 27 years until Australia again has an opportunity to leverage the tools of ediplomacy in concert with traditional diplomatic methods during a UNSC presidency.