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Making international diplomacy more accessible and equitable through data science


Can data science level the international playing field?

Diplomacy is the practice of negotiation through which countries and organizations seek their objectives cooperatively, on bilateral and multilateral levels. Just as in the 1990s the rise of cable news gave a new 'real-time policy' pace to this secular practice, the big data revolution is again transforming the tools of diplomacy. Data Diplomacy consists in the infusion of data, and expertise on data, into relations between nation-states or other entities, enabling better governmental decisions and the participation of stakeholders from civil society, academia, and technology sectors. Yet, although digital innovations bear a promise of diffusion and horizontality, such potential is not equally distributed. Less developed countries are at a disadvantage to muster the technical and human resources to produce, collect, and evaluate data in many policy areas, curtailing the assertiveness of their diplomatic apparatuses when compared to better-resourced governments. The policy challenge at hand is how to harness the potential of data science to level the playing field and equip governments more equitably to operate in multilateral arenas across key policy areas.

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"Data Diplomacy" consists in "the infusion of data, and expertise on data, into relations between nation-states or other entities", enabling better governmental decisions and the participation of stakeholders from civil society, academia, and technology sectors.


The Data Diplomacy Academy will be a knowledge and training hub to assist diplomats and other parties within the UN with the tools and know-how necessary to harness the potential of the data science revolution.

The abundance of data of our present time creates unprecedented opportunities to render work in multilateral organizations smarter, broader, and more equitable across the system.

By partnering with a team of international scholars, UNITAR will seek to make these benefits accessible to all, as well as to use this information to deliver actionable insights about the dynamics of the UN as revealed through data analysis.

To achieve its core aim of leveraging the benefits of data science to optimize work in
multilateral diplomacy, the Academy delivers five principal offerings:


Development of digital
tools and databases on
the fields of multilateral
politics, peace and security,
and international energy


Courses on data science
applied to international
relations and multilateral

Research and

Paper series, custom reports,
and other publications that
deliver new insights on
the UN system and topics
in international relations
through data science


Seminars, talks, and
opportunities to collaborate
and circulate ideas

Institutional cooperation

Linkage with universities,
think tanks, and other players
in academia and policy


We emphasize three policy areas that are marked by imbalances and call for data-based innovation: energy, security, and multilateralism.


Less developed countries struggle to form negotiating positions in the multilateral energy regime due to information scarcity. Existing datasets cover energy flows but not the formal instruments of cooperation between governments. Mapping the landscape of diplomatic agreements can fill this knowledge gap and outline trends of partnerships and energy matrices for each country.


The UN Security Council (UNSC) is the capstone of global security and it is characterized by an imbalance between permanent and rotating members. The former, being great powers, have more resources and accumulated institutional memory on substance and procedure than the latter. To act with dexterity at the Council, it is important that all members, especially temporary ones, are able to muster intelligence on Council debates and practices


Bureaucratic complexity is a core challenge to the legitimacy of the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The enormous output of resolutions makes it difficult for countries and Secretariat to monitor initiatives, thus encumbering the organization’s ability to report back on progress to its stakeholders. This complexity can be overcome with digital tools that facilitate navigation across the corpus of UN documents

By bringing together multiple stakeholders from academia, government, and international service, the Academy contributes to SDG 17:

"Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development"

Specifically, it furthers SDG 17.6:

"Enhance North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation on and access to science, technology and innovation and enhance knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms, including through improved coordination among existing mechanisms, in particular at the United Nations level, and through a global technology facilitation mechanism"


This research project has been supported by

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Thank you!

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