Founder and Publisher of OpenCanada.org and Assistant Professor of Digital Media and Global Affairs at UBC
Six months ago, Gadhafi was still alive, Canada was a member of Kyoto, the U.S. was still in Iraq, U.S. debt was on the brink of a precipitous downgrade, and we launched opencanada.org. Since then, we have produced a lot of content (for a full review, see our 2011 Content Glossary here (or below). But more importantly, from Day 1, it was clear that foreign-policy change was afoot and that we were jumping into a rapidly changing world.
In our inaugural Dispatchpost, Taylor Owen suggested four ways to adapt the Canadian foreign-policy discussion to new global dynamics. OpenCanada is still in its infancy but, with the end of 2011, we reflect on the site’s progress in these four areas:
(i) We desperately need innovation of ideas.
While Canada boasts a wealth of top thinkers on international relations, they rarely interact outside of the academic world. Instead, their ideas are presented publicly isolated in newspapers, with little room for commentary or discussion. The Roundtable blog seeks to give a group of Canada’s top foreign-policy innovators a place to share ideas, and to give the Canadian public a portal into their conversations.
Sixty-one blog posts later, Roundtable has delivered, producing OpenCanada’s two highest-traffic-generating pieces – Roland Paris’ “What is Stephen Harper Afraid of?” and John Hancock’s “Quitting Kyoto: Un-Canadian” – and prompting vigorous debate about the Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Canada’s China policy. All addressed ideology in the context of foreign affairs, challenging the widespread notion of an “ideal, centrist, moderate foreign policy.”
This desire to confront ideology permeated other areas of the site as well, with the Think Tank inviting four prominent conservatives to answer the question “What Does Conservative Foreign Policy Look Like?”, and the Rapid Response asking, “Is Conservative foreign policy different from Liberal foreign policy?” Jennifer Welsh’s critique of David Cameron’s brand of British Exceptionalism caught the Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan’s attention, spurring an international discussion of transatlantic conservatism.
(ii) We must reform, dismantle, or replace the institutions through which we conduct foreign policy.
The Arab Spring demonstrated the promise of new technology in pushing global governance away from hierarchy. OpenCanada embraced this trend, particularly through our Rapid Response feature. Each week, for 24 weeks, we asked a select group of high-profile Canadians a question via email. This has provided unique personal and direct insight from 25 of Canada’s top foreign-policy thinkers on 24 different issues. For the first time, Canadians were able to hear what Rob Prichard and Janice Stein really believe should be John Baird’s priority, what former UN ambassador Paul Heinbecker seriously thinks about Ethical Oil, and if Roméo Dallaire sees secession as the solution to African conflicts. The questions that solicited the greatest response were, “What issue should John Baird prioritize?” and “Are diplomats needed in the digital age?”
(iii) We must meaningfully engage and incentivize the new foreign-policy actors.
OpenCanada recognizes that it is not only the procedures of global governance that require updating; it is also the actors. The principal drivers of Canadian foreign policy are no longer the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Canadian International Development Agency – they are the individuals, corporations, and groups working at the new intersections of domestic and international affairs.
Two of OpenCanada’s most popular pieces were written by rising academics studying Africa. Erin Baines of the University of British Columbia wrote about U.S. President Barack Obama’s challenge to Uganda and Sudan’s Lord’s Resistance Army, spurring international Twitter debate about the implications. After the recent Congo elections, Oxford’s Emily Paddon’s “Beyond Elections in the Congo” drew large global readership, including thousands of views from within the Congo thanks to its mention by a prominent Congolese blog.
(iv) We must base our foreign policy in the tools and tactics of a networked world.
OpenCanada recognizes that it is not only the actors of global governance that require updating; it is also their methods. We seek to actively innovate in this new and rapidly changing space. The #cdnfp Twitterati list, our active @TheCIC handle, and our Readings section have all sought to bring together the emerging online debate of Canadian foreign policy. More broadly, though, Canadians clearly agree that aggregation and “super-curation,” as Anne-Marie Slaughter puts it, are the editing practices of the future. Beyond Canada, the most meaningful and innovative international-affairs conversation is now almost exclusively online, with key content nodes around the world forming the core of a global network of audience, reader, and content creators. This media space is immensely exciting, and rapidly changing, and we intend to be a part of it.
There is no reason to think that the next six months will not bring as much change to Canadian foreign policy as the past six did. In preparation, we are experimenting with new ways of stimulating conversation and broadening our reach. In January, we will launch our Future of Aid series, creating a platform for discussion among five of the top thinkers on international development. As part of this, we will launch our video conversation technology, taking Facebook chat to a new level. Later in the year, we will delve into the future of Canada’s military and the complexity of contemporary supply webs.
For us, this will be a year of rapid expansion of both our content and staff. A year of constant platform and technological experimentation. A year of pushing Canadians and Canadian international affairs into the global conversation. We hope you will join us!
2011 OpenCanada Content Glossary
For each Think Tank, we ask a group of experts and practitioners to reflect on an international policy issue. Here are the subjects we explored in 2011.
- Are Social Media Driving the Arab Spring?
- Is Good Banking Regulation Good Foreign Policy?
- Can Diplomacy and History be Transparent?
- How Can Canada Engage its Diaspora?
- Can War Be Beautiful?
- Who Shot Ahmed Wali Karzai?
- Will Germany Kill Europe?
- Did al-Qaeda Hijack the Terrorism Discourse?
- Canada Navigates China’s Rise
- Is Brazil the Key BRIC?
- Sitting on the Stimulus
- What Does Conservative Foreign Policy Look Like?
- Does IP Policy = FP?
- The CIC and CCA Welcome Colombia’s President
- Does Brazil Care about Canada?
- Diplomacy in the Digital Age
- Tweeting Genocide
- Will Globalization Kill Canadian Manufacturing?
- A Billionaire Revolutionary?
- Perimeter: NAFTA 2.0?
- How We Fight
Stand alone essays are individual long-form contributions
- Colin Robertson’s ‘Could the Great Lakes Represents Canada’s Economic Future?
- Erin Baines’ ‘Target or Captives? Obama’s LRA Challenge’
- Simon Wexler-Collard’s ‘Designing Institutions for a New Libya’
- Jean-Frédéric Légaré-Tremblay’s ‘Ghengis Khan Keeps an Eye on his Riches’
- Emily Paddon’s ‘Beyond Elections in the Congo’
- ‘How can Canada Engage its Diaspora?’: Patrick Johnson
- Canada Navigates China’s Rise’: Joanna Wong and Michael Hart
- What Does Conservative Foreign Policy Look Like?’: Hugh Segal
- ‘The CIC and CCA Welcome Colombia’s President’: Stephen Randall
- ‘A Billionaire Revolutionary?’: Paul Sedra and Bessma Momani
- ‘How We Fight’: Stephanie Carvin, John Tirman, Michael Spagat and Leslie Roberts
We have conducted a wide range of interviews, by phone, email, video recording and online chat.
- ‘Is Canadian Liberal Internationalism Dead?’ with Andrew Cohen
- ‘What is Canada’s Legacy in Afghanistan?’ with Graeme Smith
- ‘The World Focused on Oslo’ with Kristian Berg Harpviken
- ‘When Civil War and Drought Collide’ with Chris Tidey
- ‘Ignatieff’s Greatest Success?’ with Michael Ignatieff
- ‘Tales from Tahrir’ with Lyse Doucet
- ‘Al Qaeda: A Hostage Reflects’ with Robert Fowler
- ‘Are Social Media Driving the Arab Spring?’: Sarah Abdurrahman, Sonia Verma, Brian Stewart and Jillian York
- ‘Is Good Banking Regulation Good Foreign Policy’: Chrystia Freeland, Colin Robertson and John Manley
- ‘Can Diplomacy and History by Transparent’?: Margaret MacMillan, Clay Shirky and Jeremy Kinsman
- ‘Can War be Beautiful?’: Danfung Dennis and Sophie Hackett
- ‘Who Shot Ahmed Wali Karzai?’: Mark Sedra and Matthieu Aikins
- ‘Will Germany Kill Europe?’: Louis Pauly, Brian Milner and Hans Kundnani
- ‘Did al-Qaeda Hijack the Terrorism Discourse?’: Stephen Walt, Mark Juergensmeyer and Sean Brighton
- ‘Canada Navigates China’s Rise’: Paul Evans and Jon Penney
- ‘Is Brazil the Key BRIC?’: Ted Hewitt, Raul Papaleo and Richard Pound
- ‘Sitting on the Stimulus’: Catherine Swift and John Curtis
- ‘What Does Conservative Foreign Policy Look Like?’: Adam Daifallah, David Bercuson and Nicholas Gafuik
- ‘Does IP Policy = FP?’: Rafi Hofstein, David Wolfe and Richard Gold
- ‘The CIC and CCA Welcome Colombia’s President’: Arlene Tickner
- ‘Does Brazil Care About Canada?”: Paul Knox, Jamal Khokhar, Joao Augusto de Castro Neve, Christopher Garman, Jean Daudelin and Susan Kaufman Purcell
- ‘Diplomacy in the Digital Age’: William Thorsell, Brian Box, Ed Greenspon and Drew Fagan
- ‘Tweeting Genocide’: Rick MacInnes-Rae, Mona Eltahawy, Gordon Smith, Roméo Dallaire and André Pratte
- ‘Will Globalization Kill Manufacturing?’: Jim Milway, Andrea-Mandel-Campbell, Stephen Chase, Christopher Sands and Edward Burtynsky
- ‘Perimeter: NAFTA 2.0?’ Duncan Wood
- ‘How We Fight’: Peter Singer, Michael Rubin
These stand alone pieces were developed in-house by our editorial staff.
Rapid Response Questions:
Each of the questions below, was sent to a group of Canadian international affairs experts.
- What issue should John Baird prioritize?
- How has Canada’s experience in Afghanistan changed Canadian foreign policy?
- Can Lagarde and the IMF save the Euro?
- Should Canada strengthen its military presence in the Arctic?
- Does last week’s creation of a Southern Sudanese state point to secession as the solution to other African conflicts?
- What's the ultimate objective of Harper's softer stance on China?
- Should we view the Oslo attack as an arbitrary act or as a reflection of wider political and religious extremism?
- Was Jason Kenney's public outing of 30 wanted war criminals legitimate and / or effective?
- What societal problems have the London riots exposed?
- Does the 'royal' rebranding of the Canadian Forces have a wider meaning?
- What would be the regional fallout from the end of Assad's regime?
- Is Conservative foreign policy different from Liberal foreign policy?
- If 9/11 defined the last decade, will the Arab Spring define the next?
- Is a U.N. resolution on Palestinian statehood a step forward or backward for the Israel-Palestine conflict?
- Is the Ethical Oil Campaign helping or hurting Canada's international reputation?
- Is Jean Monnet's dream for Europe ending in nightmare?
- Should Canada treat its intellectual property as a national asset?
- Are diplomats needed in the digital age?
- Why commemorate the War of 1812?
- Could the spread of information via digital media reduce mass atrocities?
- How can the G20 help save the euro zone?
- Can the Egyptian revolution be counted a success while the Armed Forces remain in power?
- With the delay in Keystone XL, will attention now shift to the Northern Gateway?
- What is the best international affairs book of 2011?
- What was Canada's best international moment of 2011?
- Peace Can Be Dangerous
- It's Getting Harder to Run the World - So Spare Some Sympathy for the French
- JB Rules. For Now.
- Irrational Pessimism
- An Orderly Anarchy
- Globalization's Achilles Heel
- The Great Confusion
- The Club That Matters
- Power to the People
- War or Peace
- Top Four Reasons We Should Ignore Rankings (But Won't)
- Quitting Kyoto - Un-Canadian
- R2P v. ICC?
- No Republicanism, Please - We're Canadian
- Post-Qaddafi Libya: The Next Quagmire?
- What is Stephen Harper Afraid of?
- Crowd-sourcing Terror in Norway
- Four Reasons for Optimism in Libya
- What Winston Churchill Could Teach Stephen Harper
- Wanted: Grand Strategy for the New World Disorder
- Revenge of the Drones
- What Does the U.S. Expect from Pakistan?
- The Ugly Underside of Arab Liberation
- Is There a Problem in Canada-U.S. Relations?
- NATO's Success in Libya
- The 800-Pound Panda in Obama's Asia Speech
- A Pivotal Moment? U.S. Policy Toward Asia
- Canada-U.S. Border Deal - From Aspiration to Action
- The Total Surveillance Society Approaches
- Questions on Libya and R2P
- The Provocation Flotilla
- God Save the Superstars!
- What Future for the Euro?
- Somalia: No Water. No Solution.
- Power Corrupts. Even the Fourth.
- Norway: Tweeting at the Speed of Light.
- Libya and Canada's "New" Foreign Policy
- The Canadian Forces are Royal... and Obese (Again)
- Obama's Jolt: Will it Work?
- Secrets? What Secrets?
- Desperately Looking for Leadership
- Question, Challenge and Dispute
- Libya and R2P
- In Defence of R2P
- Canada's Bush?
- Blame the Bobbies
- The Big Deal? The Big Distraction.
- What's Next for Capitalism?
- Rights and Responsibilities in a Post- Qaddafi Libya
- In Conversation on Libya
- The Folly of Europe Bashing
- Recognizing States and Governments - A Tricky Business
- The Impact of 9/11 on the Ethics of Military Action
- It's About Politics, Not Economics
- Revenge of the Technocrats
- How New is the Threat of Cyber Attack?
- British Exceptionalism and the 'National Interest'
- National Roundup
- President's Welcome
- Muzzled Media and the Common Great Lakes Agenda
- On the Global Drug Policy Debate
- History Repeats Itself (Let's Hope Marx Was Wrong)
- Capitalizing the B in BRIC
- Welcome, Professors and Students
- Globalist of the Year
- A Call to Action
- Fairness and Financial Stability
- A Holiday Greeting from the CIC
- The "Mexican Problem" is Canada's Problem
- Four Ways to Reinvigorate the Canadian Foreign Policy Debate
- Welcome to OpenCanada.org!
- The Munk Debates, Henry Kissinger and Polite Company
- First Impressions from ISAF HQ in Kabul
- Notes from Mazer el Sharif: Tactical Challenges, Strategic Quagmire
- More on the Integrity of the Comprehensive Approach
- Have the Taliban Changed Their Tune one Women's Rights?
- How the New Yorker Goes Viral
- Afghan Army: If You Build it, Who Will Come?
- The Risks of Building the Afghan Army
- Would Slowing Oil Sands Development Make us Richer, Cleaner and More Powerful?
- Conferencing in Halifax While Rome Burns?
Photo courtesy Reuters.