Suddenly, we’re finding out how much can be done virtually. The coronavirus lockdown has forced businesses and governments to adjust, relying much more (if they are able) on teleconferencing and remote working. For many sectors, however, the coronavirus has essentially pressed “fast forward” on trends that were anyway taking place.
Even before the lockdown, technology had been changing diplomacy. Global news and social media mean that information about what’s happening on the other side of the planet is available practically in realtime. Leaders can communicate directly with one another and diplomats can work from their home country.
On the other hand, so much diplomacy is about personal relationships. It’s really hard to share a coffee and network informally over Zoom. Living in a country gives you a much better sense about the mood and general direction governments and societies might be heading. Can you replicate that digitally?
What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Stadex, who points out that diplomats must generate a lot of carbon emissions flying all over the world. Wouldn’t it be better for the climate (and the public budget) if their activities were conducted remotely?
To get a response, we spoke to Prof. Corneliu Bjola, Associate Professor of Diplomatic Studies at Oxford University in the UK. What would he say?
Next up, we had a comment from Jthk, who argues that President Donald Trump is basically running the United States by Twitter. Does that extend to foreign policy? Is there a risk of diplomats being sidelined or undermined by “Twitter diplomacy”?
To get a reaction, we spoke to Prof. Sieglinde Gstöhl, Director of the EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies Department at the College of Europe. What does she think?
Finally, we wanted to get the opinion of a diplomat on this topic. So, we spoke to Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service (EEAS). What are his thoughts on whether diplomacy can be conducted remotely?
Are diplomats still relevant? Wouldn’t it be better for the climate and the public budget if their activities were conducted remotely? And is there a risk of diplomats being sidelined or undermined by Twitter diplomacy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!