State of Digital Diplomacy in Mongolia Missions

By Julian Dierkes

With the appointment of Z Enkbold as chief of staff and Ts Sukhbaatar as foreign policy advisor, Pres. Battulga’s foreign policy team is coming together.

Foreign policy, of course, is one of the areas of policy-making that presidents have been active in, whether that be in chairing the National Security Council, travelling abroad, or in appointing ambassadors. Pres Battulga faces some specific challenges as I’ve argued in an article for World Politics Review.

Digital Diplomacy

But beyond the substance of relations with China and Russia as well as continued engagement of third neighbours, what is Mongolian diplomacy doing when it comes to digital initiatives? Digital diplomacy is an area that I’ve been interested in a Canadian context as well as for Mongolia. Digital diplomacy is the attempt to carry out diplomatic initiatives through digital means. I strongly believe that this is an especially attractive opportunity for a nation like Mongolia where the foreign service is small given limitations of personnel and financial resources.

As Mongolia will not be able to set up small or large embassies everywhere around the world or even in countries that it maintains close relationships with, there are opportunities for engaging stakeholders in Mongolia and abroad, but also for active public diplomacy through cost-effective digital means.

The high water mark of Mongolian digital diplomacy probably was the effort linked to the ASEM meetings.

Since then, and especially in the last year of the MPP government, digital diplomacy efforts have stalled at best.

Mongolian Missions on Twitter

Twitter is not the only or perhaps even the best platform for Mongolian activities. Personally, I think that the opportunities for thematic blogs written by diplomats, policy-makers and experts offer the most potential. Obviously, as I’m writing this on a blog!

But even blogs need amplification via other platforms and Twitter is one of the obvious platforms given its worldwide reach (except for China, significantly for Mongolia). And, Mongolian diplomacy had been well-represented online for some time.

Now? Not so much.

I’ve long maintained a Twitter list of Mongolian embassy accounts. If any missions are missing on this list, do let me know.

The list currently includes 28 Mongolian missions. But let’s see how active these missions are. I list them below by the county (embassies)/city (consulate) of the mission.
Australia: active (total tweets 2,882)
Austria: dormant (last tweet July ’16, total tweets 39)
Belgium: active (233)
Brazil: dormant (Sept ’16, 39)
Canada: active (733)
Czech Republic: active (492)
France: dormant (Apr ’16, 61)
Germany: dormant (July ’15, 76)
Hong Kong: active (1863)
Indonesia: active (574)
Italy: active (though, oddly, private account, total tweets 122)
Japan: active (804)
Osaka: dormant (Dec ’15, 77)
North Korea: dormant (May ’16, 13)
Poland: dormant (Oct ’16, 51)
Russia: active (2,665)
Ulan-Ude: dormant (Sept ’15, 1)
Singapore: active (5,335)
South Korea: active (3743)
Sweden: active (863)
Switzerland: dormant (Nov ’15, 10)
Thailand: active (160)
UN/New York: active (1018)
Vietnam: active (142)
United Kingdom: dormant ( July ’16, 226)
United States: active (1,414)
San Francisco: active (112)

And headquarters?

MFA in Mongolian: active (2,794)
MFA in English: dormant (Dec ’16, 2,293)

Some real surprises in this list, I find, particularly in some of the dormant accounts. No tweets in English from the MFA in eight months? Dormant accounts in some countries that are of importance to Mongolia: Germany, the UK?

Overall, not a very good situation, I would argue. 11 of 29 accounts are dormant. Unless there has been a deliberate decision by the Foreign Minister or other officials to forego digital diplomacy activities and those missions that are carrying on are driven in these activities by activist ambassadors or other staff.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots
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