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The Quai d'Orsay on Social Networks

The Quai d’Orsay on Social Networks

Published on February 23, 2012
Statements by Bernard Valéro, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, published in "La Croix" newspaper

Paris, February 22, 2012

"The Quai d’Orsay on Social Networks"

In the globalized world full of challenges, in which French diplomats work each day, the impact of new information and communications technologies on international relations in general and public diplomacy in particular is increasingly important.

Over the past 25 years, the Quai d’Orsay has developed an Internet culture revolving around its “France Diplomatie” site (now in English, Spanish, German and Arabic), which welcomes 1.6 million visitors a month. That makes it one of the leading French institutional sites, on a par with comparable sites hosted by our main foreign partners.

This pillar of our public democracy has seen its prestige amplified on the Web thanks to the multiplying effect of all the many diplomatic posts—163 embassies, 92 consulates, 16 permanent delegations—that make up our network and have all been active on the Internet for several years.

While the development and mastery of this tool is now helping us to become active on social networks and participate fully in the “global conversation,” one might still ask why and how.

Why?

Because social networks belong to a new continent that we are all discovering, here at the dawn of the 21st century. A space in which we must be present and active if we want to exist, if we want to share our values and if we want to be in contact with all the new actors that are evolving on the international scene: public opinion, civil society, local governments, NGOs, religious communities, economic milieus, the academic world, bloggers—so many interlocutors with whom it is essential to dialogue and interact.

How?

By optimizing all the tools provided by the social networks, from Facebook to Flickr, YouTube to Twitter. With nearly 130,000 subscribers, the Quai d’Orsay is one of the state institutions with the largest number of followers on Twitter (http://www.lanetscouade.com/fr/article/le-top-20-des-institutions-francaises-sur-twitter).

By expanding the presence of our diplomatic and consular network on the Web Version 2.0. About 100 of our embassies and consulates are currently active on social networks, not to mention the systematic presence of French institutions. But it is not enough just to show up or to use the whole range of networks. The main thing is changing the paradigm, favoring “conversational” communication over our traditional “top-down” communication.

By making sure our digital communications are on global time. Communication on the Web Version 2.0 must be all the time, everywhere, and in every language.

By training the men and women who defend our interests, promote our values, and spread our country’s influence to become adept at this new form of communication, in which everyone is a content-provider. Beyond the dialogue and communication functions of social networks, the new space provided by the Web Version 2.0 offers new tools to fulfill our responsibilities:

- The security of French citizens living or traveling abroad. First, the Internet, and then, social networks are used systematically by our diplomatic and consular posts, as well as by the Foreign Ministry’s crisis unit, to better inform/alert our compatriots who find themselves in difficulty because of crisis situations or natural disasters.

- In promoting freedom throughout the world, France is fully taking into account the need to protect certain actors on the Web Version 2.0, who are under threat because they had the audacity to exercise their freedom of opinion and expression. This is a duty; it is one of our essential missions.

This conjunction—more important each day—between increasing the number of actors abroad and multiplying new means of dialogue and the dissemination of information is an opportunity when it comes to the influence exerted by our diplomatic corps We are resolutely committed to it, because France’s message is awaited there as elsewhere, and because there as elsewhere, we must take care to listen to the rest of the world.

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