Virtual Diplomacy during COVID-19


Against this backdrop, diplomats are facing multiple challenges, which encompass a broad range of elements, including access to adequate technology, the re-shaping of communication protocols, and the need to continue their work in virtual negotiation settings. The impossibility to meet face to face, given the confinement, social-distancing, and other sanitary measures, has demanded an overnight transformation of the diplomatic business as we know it.

There is no doubt that governments undertake a tremendous amount of work in times of crisis. In this context, delegations in multilateral hubs such as Geneva, New York, and Vienna, are responding to a more dynamic environment, with their role becoming more salient as permanent missions are called to engage with specialised agencies in the search of solutions to the health crisis, to further promote international co-operation, and to participate in the reactivation of commerce.

In other words, there is a need to keep the momentum going for multilateralism, as we all have asserted that no country is safe until all countries are, and global responses must show us the way to recovery. On the other hand, and almost overnight, diplomats have been asked to become advanced users of virtual platforms. As stated before, challenges such as the gap in digital skills, meaningful connectivity, and other matters pertaining to the digital divide, may have placed participants from the Global South in a disadvantageous position. As the United Nations is looking for ways to increase the efficiency and optimization of regular procedures, while respecting established protocols and developing blended mechanisms in a sort of hybrid diplomacy, we shouldn’t forget that inclusiveness, transparency, and a broader participation of all states must be guaranteed. Moreover, the multilateral system is debating over the identification of situations in which virtual diplomacy mechanisms are feasible, without losing sight of conferences and meetings where physical presence and human interaction remain irreplaceable

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