So, what is Metaverse Diplomacy? Let’s begin with the first term—the Metaverse.
As defined by Accenture in its latest report titled Metaverse: evolution, then revolution, Metaverse is a continuum spanning the spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models. It applies across all aspects of organizations, from consumer to worker and across the entire enterprise; from reality to virtual and back; from 2D to 3D. This continuum is powered by virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), extended reality (XR) apps, edge computing driving new experiences, design tools and digital assets, all underpinned by connective technologies such as 5G and cloud.
Diplomacy—which is largely about maintaining relations across nations—can be conducted in four ways: consular diplomacy (linked to issuance of visas, certification of documents); public diplomacy: (includes public outreach activities & nation branding); economic diplomacy (driving trade & promoting Investment); and core diplomatic tasks (such as negotiation & reporting). Metaverse Diplomacy is therefore about exploring how different forms of diplomacy can be better facilitated in the Metaverse with web3 technologies.
The need to deploy secure, safe, and immersive digital technologies towards establishing diplomatic missions is vital to delivering a range of diplomatic services friendly to people, the planet and our collective prosperity.
Countries such as UAE have articulated intent to build Metaverse economies. The Dubai Metaverse Strategy aims to turn Dubai into one of the world’s top 10 Metaverse economies as well as a global hub for the Metaverse community. The strategy aims to build on Dubai’s achievement of attracting more than 1,000 companies in the fields of blockchain and Metaverse. It also promotes Dubai’s ambitions to support more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030.
Dubai announced its Metaverse strategy focusing on four sectors:
Government Services, Tourism, Education and Retail & Real Estate. Multiple UAE government agencies such as Dubai Electric and Water Agency (DEWA)10, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP)11 and the Ministry of Economy are planning to launch digital versions of their operations in the Metaverse.12 Nations such as the Maldives13 and Israel14 have established virtual embassies and other nations such as Barbados15 are working hard to join this group.
Pressing concerns like climate change are seeing increasing diplomatic action. One example is the German Foreign Office that works with its European counterparts to garner support for sustainability and multilateralism through the annual European Sustainable Development Week.
Metaverse Diplomacy is now being discussed actively in public domain. A review of over 20 million articles between 2019 and the first half of 2022 found that the number of articles mentioning a topic related to Metaverse Diplomacy have grown 10x.
It is beyond a doubt that the Metaverse has enormous potential to shape the present and future of diplomacy.
Here’s what diplomatic missions and governments can start doing:
1. Embrace the Metaverse-first approach
Governments and diplomatic missions of nations need to collaboratively figure out which treaties agreements, or even trips can be shifted onto the Metaverse for higher safety and better outcomes.
2. Start small and scale collectively
One can start with smaller diplomatic efforts to measure and demonstrate the value of the Metaverse (such as productivity gains from saved commute/travel, safety, reduced carbon emissions, transparency in transactions, etc.).
Gain traction with governments and public by widely sharing success(es) of these initiatives and share learnings to scale fast and collectively.
3. Establish rules of engagement
Designing participation and security protocols for diplomatic or simple discussions in the Metaverse are necessary for diplomatic parity. For example: If avatars, once regulated, are to vote on a proposal in lieu of their human selves, how should they do it? How should one ensure that a diplomat is not being misrepresented by an avatar? How can confidential agreement drafts be circulated and modified real-time in the Metaverse without being leaked?
4. Co-invest in Metaverse infrastructure and security to start beta testing
If interested in exploring Metaverse use-cases of common interest, join hands to build relevant digital infrastructure and security architecture to beta-test and then share results with those in the diplomatic community sitting on the fringes to encourage them to join the journey.
5. Push for Responsible Metaverse Diplomacy from day one
Instead of just focusing on productivity gains associated with the Metaverse, start investing in Metaverse Diplomacy initiatives that offer multi-dimensional value. That includes setting visible climate goals from replacing traditional diplomacy with Metaverse Diplomacy and making the process of negotiations more inclusive and participatory.