Welcome to ICOBIRD 2017

The 6th International Conference on Business, International Relations, and Diplomacy (ICOBIRD)

“Business, International Relations, and Diplomacy in the Information Era”

Jakarta, 2-3 November 2017


Information technology has revolutionized human interaction since the invention of the internet in the late 1980s, almost the same time with the end of the cold war when international relations began to take its new stage. In fact, it is information technology that became one of the key driving forces of globalization that characterizes much of international relations in the post-cold war era. However, few have been explored about the role of information technology in international relations.

Readings on international relations in the post-cold war dominantly characterize this era as the unipolar moment where the United States is the sole remaining superpower that shapes global politics. As a consequence, the picture of International Relations (IR) heavily depicts the role of the United States in managing its liberal order through its economic and democratic institutions which now becoming problematic with the declining power of the United States and the rise of China. Other readings characterize this era in a more independent way as a globalized era where free trade among states shapes more peaceful and cooperative international relations through the complex web of economic interdependence between states. This reading, while explains much of the current trend of international cooperation, is only one aspect of globalization and still has limitations in explaining the persistence of conflicts in international relations.

The 6th International Conference on Business, International Relations, and Diplomacy (ICOBIRD) is thus keen on taking the challenge of exploring the other side of globalization that is still underexplored in pursuit of explaining international relations that could not be understood in its entirety through the existing readings. Taking the theme “Business, International Relations, and Diplomacy in the Information Era,” this conference aims to highlight the role of information technology, not only in driving globalization but also in shaping international relations in general.

States are growingly dependent on information technology to run the government, conduct diplomacy, and manage their economic and defense infrastructure. Business actors are dependent on information technology to run their corporation and expand their market across borders. Individuals are undoubtedly dependent on information technology for various aspects of their day to day activities. And, while Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are dependent on information technology to promote development, democracy, human rights, and social justice; other actors such as terrorist groups, criminals, and hackers depend on this technology to achieve their hostile purposes. Information technology, in this sense, is a potential battlefield in
international relations that shapes the dynamics of peace and conflict between states, non-states, and between states and non-state actors. Information era is thus a not exaggerating term to characterize business, international relations, and diplomacy in the current context.

In exploring the characteristics of business, international relations and diplomacy in this new era, this conference would begin with the following five areas:

1. Theorizing international relations in information era

One of the consequences of seeing international relations from a different prism is whether and which of the existing theories has better explanatory power in explaining international relations in this prism. During the two World-War and Cold War periods, for example, realism had better explanatory power in understanding international relations, while liberalism had better explanatory power in explaining the cooperative trend in the post-war onward. Now that international relations enter a new stage of information era, what theory(-ies) and concepts would best explain international relations? What would be the main challenges for IR theories and concepts to explain international relations in this prism? More specifically, how about the core concepts such as sovereignty, power, and security? How would information era speak differently about state power and power constellations? What about north-south relations? Would it mean more concentrated or distributed power relations? What about state and non-state relations? Public-private partnership?

2. Digital diplomacy and interstate relations

The second area that has been transformed by information technology is states’ practice of diplomacy. This subtopic, therefore, aims to explore questions such as how far and in what ways states use information technology to conduct diplomacy? How effective is digital diplomacy? What about other use of information technology by the state such as espionage? What are the implications of using this technology on inter-state relations?

3. Cyber security and information warfare

Perhaps the most developed area in relations to international relations in information era is concepts and issues related to cyber security and information warfare. This area specifically treats information as a new form of power, and thus, information technology including cyber here, as a new domain for securitization. It further treats cyber as a new battlefield for states that states have to win over other states and non-state actors for their security. Many concepts of this area, however, is not yet well-defined. For this reason, this subtopics explore questions, such as how should we understand emerging concepts such as information warfare, cyber security, cyber defense, cyber offense, cyber attack, cyber conflict, cyber war, cyber power, cyber terrorism, and cyber crime? How do these concepts affect the conduct of war? How far cyber threats from various actors pose challenges to states’ security? How do states respond to these challenges?

4. International Law in information era

Closely related to all of the above areas is the question on how international law responds to these new characteristics of international relations? How does international law speak about digital diplomacy and cyber war? Are the existing laws sufficient to respond to these changes? What are issues emerging in international law in relations to these changes? What kind of steps have the states taken to respond to these issues? What about the rise of e-commerce? How does international law respond to issues such as taxes for online businesses?

5. E-Commerce and International Political Economy

Issues on e-commerce do not always correspond to international law. Other aspects under consideration are the impact of e-commerce on international relations. For example, many have proposed correlations between various economic forces, such as trade and investment and the peaceful relations between states even though with mix results. Now with the rise of e-commerce, could it also have meaningful impacts on peaceful interstate relations? What are the impacts of e-commerce on global governance? What are outstanding issues related to e-commerce in the context of international relations? How should businesses adapt to these changes?

6. Social Media, Development, Democracy, and Human Rights

The last area where we see the significant nexus between information technology and the transformation of international relations is on issues related to the role of social media in promoting social movement domestically or internationally. In both cases, however, it is apparent of how international media, forces, and actors could promote domestic change and vice versa. This subtopics would thus discuss questions such as how domestic actors use social media to promote their caucus to international audience and vice versa, and how states respond to these movements?

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