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Robert Onley

The socially networked future of international diplomacy

In a world enveloped by unsolvable crises, national leaders of the Boomer Generation continue to practice politics and diplomacy using methods little changed over the centuries.Responding to their paralysis, a flock of twentysomething student leaders—the “Facebook Generation”—are spearheading efforts that will forever reshape the dynamics of international diplomacy and global governance. This transformation was on display at the 2011 G8 & G20 Youth Summit, held in Paris,  France in early June.Gathering in the gated courtyard of the École Suprieure de Commerce de Paris on day one of the Youth Summit, 160 graduate students and young professionals representing the entire G20 met each other before listening to an opening address delivered by Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s newly-appointed Managing Director.Organized by the French non-profit initiative aptly named “Youth Diplomacy,” the fifth annual Youth Summit was sponsored by the Office of French President Nicholas Sarkozy as part of the United Nations International Year of Youth 2011.While the Arab Spring will be remembered for the organizing power of social networks in bringing down dictators, the young leaders participating in the Youth Summit fundamentally understand that lasting change can only be implemented with the decision-making authority of political office. The ongoing deadlock in Egypt and Tunisia today emphasizes this prerequisite.To this end, a diplomatic sea change is underway—one which will have deep ramifications for the future global order.Foremost, wholly unlike the upbringings of their boomer forebears, the Facebook generation is digitally connected, instantaneously communicating, and constantly updating each other on their personal, political, and educational progress with Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.While some boomer leaders today use social networks to spread political messages, tomorrow’s world leaders have used the networks to establish permanent online communities of the most engaged and driven student leaders from across the G20. These young minds are exchanging ideas,… Read More