Innovation Diplomacy, Viral Pandemic and Changing Attitudes
2 June 2021
“The ongoing pandemic has changed the way we live. It will also change the way diplomacy is conducted. Diplomacy has gone virtual and diplomats have been deprived of one of their most potent tools: personal contact. Last year, for example, and for the first time ever, the 75th United Nations General Assembly – the annual meeting of world leaders in New York – was held in a virtual format with pre-recorded video presentations and videoconferences by world leaders.
“There is a strong consensus that we need to build back better after COVID-19. For this to happen, new innovative approaches are needed as we adapt to new circumstances, and I am certain that today’s speakers will shed some light on this topic.
“One thing is certain: global cooperation and solidarity are central to responding to and mitigating the social, economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. No country in the world can stand alone to fight and tackle such a menace. I hope this crisis will catalyse a deep reflection on the strengthening of multilateral structures and capacities of international institutions to be better equipped with challenges such as pandemics.
“Furthermore, and relevant to today’s discussions, digitalization and emergence of new technologies have completely shifted the way the world works, and the pandemic will only accelerate these trends. Think how technology has increased all aspects of people’s lives.
“While we could be forgiven for adopting short-term thinking as we chart the way out of this crisis, we must not lose a sense of perspective. I am referring to the all-important 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, and the role of innovation in driving recovery and progress towards the SDGs. Sustainability and innovation must go hand-in-hand.”
These opening remarks by Barbara Dietrich, CEO and President of Diplomatic World, at the webinar ‘Innovation Diplomacy” that was jointly hosted with The Diplomatic Society, set the tone for the ensuing discussions.
The webinar, moderated by Dieter Brockmeyer, co-founder of the Diplomatic World Institute and author of the ground-breaking book ‘Pandemia’s Box’, set out a new course for human relations. The pandemonium that was brought about by Covid-19, declared a global viral pandemic, exposed the shortcomings and frivolity of the system of engagement and interactions between nations, regions and the human eco system in general. The world will have to act in unison to tackle these challenges and this will require a concerted effort in innovative international relations.
The panel of experts’ challenge was to use their experience, knowledge and qualifications to define ‘Innovation Diplomacy’ and to lead the discussion on how diplomatic relations has changed and what it may entail as the pandemic is brought under control.
Prof Andre Thomashausen, who is based in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa, considered as the capital to host one of the largest diplomatic representations in the world, felt that public diplomacy which pivots on face to face meetings and people to people exchanges has been affected the most as representative missions abide by the physical distancing protocol of the pandemic. The use of professional diplomatic channels and the acknowledgement of protocol is an integral function in international relations and technology should play an enhancing role, especially in communications.
Prof Vincent Ligorio, Head of International Relations and Psychoanalyst based in Moscow, Russia, coined the term DAD – Diplomacy at a Distance - as he referred to the demise of multilateralism as displayed by the unfortunate vaccine nationalism of some nations. As a scholar of Neuro Politics, Ligorio pointed out the need for physical presence and the need for human touch and how this created a level of trust which is a key factor in human diplomacy. Training and educating a new generation of diplomats on the new approaches in this period of transition will require dynamic engagements and interactions.
Dr Halit Unver in his remarks raised the issue of global empathy, the use of the heart in global relations. As a computer scientist, educator and director of international relations, Unver creates an analogy of mobile communication and biotech in reference to a digital nervous system and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in relating to human intelligence (HI) and the psyche. Unver, who lives in Germany, observes a multi-stakeholder relations, coupled with multilateralism, should allow for a more innovative and flexible perspective. Media and military hold sway in this technological epoch and will necessitate contemporary diplomatic convergence to bring about greater balance.
Regional and inter regional economic diplomacy is explained by Dr Srimal Fernando who joined in from Colombo, Sri Lanka, one of the eight member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Fernando’s book outlines a change in the dynamics of intra-regional associations like SAARC and opens an avenue for inter-regional cooperation and the opportunity for re-aligning supply chains and developing new value chains. The digital networks are equipped to manage the details of negotiations sealed with a handshake.
Comparison, competition and contestation are natural human traits that bring out the best and worst character of people as they try to make their way through life. The discussions presented make a clear case for greater diplomacy which is innovative, yet rooted in the tradition and profession of being a diplomat.
“Pandemia’s Box is not meant to provide solutions,” explains the author Brockmeyer. His aim was to challenge the current discourse and spark the imagination of the possibilities that have opened up due to a changing planet and the infusion of new ideas and energy.
by Kirtan Bhana