The time has come to consider the Internet as a full fledged Diplomatic Track. It is uniquely different than the Media/News Track and it has a growing significance in Citizen to Citizen diplomacy
The Internet is not new to the diplomatic world. It has been used very effectively in many global situations.
ConflictNet, one of the earliest online ADR communities was developed under the organizational umbrella of the Institute for Global Communications (IGC). PeaceNet and EcoNet were the first focus communities of IGC and ConflictNet came along to be the third. WomensNet, and LaborNet were developed soon after. This was in the late 1980’s. This amazing IGC began working with other countries to develop similar configurations. The U.K., Canadian, and Australian groups were contacted and they shared “know how” and often the technology to develop a node which could share email and a Newsgroup, which was a form of Text only Forum.
To avoid becoming Network emperialists, IGC joined with it’s partners to form the Association For Progressive Communications. You can still find addresses of @igc.apc.org , and @green.apc.org (U.K.)and @web.apc.org and @pegasus.apc.org. The APC soon developed Glasnet (glas.apc.net) This was during Glasnost and GlasNet seemed right.
The APC was very actively communicating on a person to person channel during various coups and uprisings. The technical, administrative, and communication staffs of these nodes were forming a powerful network, building communities and moving information and opinions. When other Tracks were stuck, we were communicating. It’s size and impact are dwarfed in the current Internet world, but The APC took a place in world affairs.
With the rise of interest in creating online communities it seems that with appropriate care and some effective process management we could create global discussion groups; a new form of Citizen diplomacy. Acknowledging that only a small portion of the global population is online and that it is in no way representative, there is still an opportunity to expand the dialogue. We can reach out and invite an ever widening group of people to engage in dialogue and develop community.
Facilitation is key! As conflict resolution practitioners we can begin the process by learning to more effectively facilitate online discussions. Are we the most effective communicators online?
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