Promoting multilateralism with political new media.
The global rise of right-wing populism and its repeated renunciation of multilateral agreements pose the greatest threat to our diplomatic world order after the end of the Second World War. It is increasingly being countered by voices demanding left-wing or liberal populism. Yet these demands harbour the risk of still further misinformation and social division. A modern communication strategy based on partnership could combat this problem in a more pluralistic and sustainable way. Media partnerships aimed at recruiting multilateral players to extend their communi- cation impact have the potential to create informed voting behaviour which promotes multilateralism.
There already exists a good deal of first-rate journalism which conveys complex problems in a structured way and unfiltered first-hand information is also frequently available to the public. Regrettably, however, many people opt for one-sided and thus far simpler solutions to complex questions. As a result, many people believe in a kind of “secret diplomacy”. Only recently, Peter Ramsauer, chairman of the Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development, used this term when speaking of the UN migration pact. This type of view allows populists to deliberately misinterpret current developments within international politics. Unfortunately, this provides fertile ground for political power being given to those who seek to reverse years of progressive work in international cooperation.
A key role in this process could be played by Social media stars, also known as “influencers”. In fact, there are a number of different ways to involve them. One option would be to implement quotas for bloggers and influencers at events typically reserved exclusively for decision-makers. Being close to the source of information would make it possible for these influencers to counter incorrect information online. Another conceivable option would be to collaborate directly with companies like YouTube, Netflix and Facebook. Social media communication errors made by political players are generally the work of non-specialists. Fictional projects present another opportunity to promote multilateralism, alongside documentaries and interviews. A beautifully produced series on the workings, influence and impact of the United Nations, for instance, has the potential to draw attention to the significance of international organisations. By tapping into the media consumed by non-political people on a daily basis, it becomes possible to arouse their interest. This may, in turn, lead them to become actively involved in the future.
New media shapes the opinions of both current and future voters and cannot be left to one-sided or incorrect information. However, rather than focussing on quantity, initiatives aimed at changing this must distinguish themselves through quality. It is therefore important to establish reliable partnerships with people who do not traditionally belong to the political sphere. The goal must be to include people who were not previously part of the debate or who never even considered taking part in it. The purpose, after all, is not to change the political spectrum, but rather to communicate that there is only one effective way to secure peace and progress: by working together.
This article was published in the March issue of the Diplomatic Magazin.