Improving diplomatic institutions through technology

Despite an increasingly globalised society, the institutions of diplomacy continue using traditional methods that can be improved by the simple use of new technologies. For example, embassies and ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) still use diplomatic notes that are sent through postal mail, which usually take days to reach their destination. Likewise, many embassies keep using traditional mechanisms of public diplomacy and continue organising public events in venues that require the physical presence of people. In addition, consulates, whose main function is to serve their nationals abroad, lack the technological equipment to issue documents on-site and they have to wait for their MFA to send documents from the country of origin through the diplomatic bag.

In this regard, there are three possible reforms that could be implemented in diplomatic institutions.

Innovating diplomatic communication

As the first reform, MFAs could promote the use of technologies to keep effective communication with embassies and consulates. Certain countries, like the USA (the second country with the most diplomatic missions in the world), are already implementing a new work vision in its protocols. As an example, the Protocol for the Modern Diplomat, a booklet elaborated by the Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, suggests using modern resources such as emails instead of letters to communicate between diplomats. Of course, this could be a risk to the confidentiality of communications, but certain measures could be taken to ensure security. For example, the diplomatic note could be replaced by an email with an encrypted code or a communication that requests a password to be read. Certain governments have begun to develop technologies to ensure the security of their communications between agencies and ministries.

man typing on comuputer

As of 2017, the USA started to use the STARTTLS technology, which encrypts email communication between its federal agencies. In addition, the US government uses Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) technologies to detect phishing emails and spam. In this way, the US government strengthened the security of communications between its federal departments to protect the exchange of information. This type of technology has been effective in government work, so it can also be used by embassies and consulates to keep secure communications. Likewise, a virtual private network (VPN) can be used to avoid the interception of communications and thus assure a safe way for the transfer of documents.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom (a leading country in the cybersecurity field) faced the challenge to assure secure communications between the British embassies and consulates around the world. Like many other governments and companies, the British diplomatic staff was forced to work from home, but they had to continue holding high-level meetings and exchanging important information with the FCDO. Therefore, the UK government implemented an integral IT strategy that included changes to the phone system to reroute phone calls, additional network capacity, and firewall changes to ensure that the diplomatic staff could log into a secure VPN.

This all reflects that there is existing technology that can be used by other governments to strengthen the security of their communications. The least developed countries could acquire this technology through technical cooperation agreements with more developed countries. This transition from paper communications to digital communications would also reduce the mass consumption of paper – a common practice in government offices – which would even generate a benefit for the environment.

Instant messaging apps in diplomatic work

To be practical, many diplomats have also started using instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Sometimes even important documents are sent through these mediums, with the risk of being intercepted. In fact, the UN banned its officials from using WhatsApp since it is not supported as a secure mechanism for the transfer of information. For this reason, MFAs could also work on the development of a messaging app exclusive for diplomatic work and with the security measures needed.

communication appson smartphone screen

In this regard, some governments have started to use apps focused on privacy and secure communication. An example of this are the encrypted messaging apps Signal and Wickr, both used by the U.S. Armed Forces in operations deployed in war zones where adversaries can tap into communications systems and mobile phones. These apps use an encrypted code for the transfer of information, which means that only the sender and the receiver can read the sent messages, open shared documents, and listen to calls since the communication channel is end-to-end encrypted.

In the case of Signal, this app even offers the option to encrypt contact lists and eliminate a sent message once it has been read. However, due to these functions, the U.S. Department of Defense disapproved the use of Signal, since the Freedom of Information Act and other open-records laws require messages to be archived for future investigations. Another problem with Signal is that it is a commercial app available for any person with a smartphone, it is also used by activist groups and it could be used by crime organisations. In addition, the company does not store information about its users or personal data, so if someone uses the app for bad purposes, it would be impossible to trace the responsible person.

Nevertheless, the Wickr app solved these problems by offering a paid service, which provides eDiscovery technology and unlimited data retention. The eDiscovery technology is a mechanism that enables the identification, collection, and production of electronically stored information in case of a lawsuit or investigation. Wickr, which is managed by the Amazon Web Services company, is already used by the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which have purchased Wickr licenses for their employees.

In this regard, other governments should also consider using secure apps that guarantee confidentiality in the transfer of information, but simultaneously enable MFAs to have access to communications sent between diplomats. This would avoid the leakage of information, the diversion of data, or the misuse of the app, in order to ensure that diplomatic work remains confidential, but also transparent.

The new tools of public diplomacy

The second reform would consist of prioritising the use of technological tools such as social media, web platforms, and virtual events as mechanisms of public diplomacy and cultural diffusion. Because there is currently a revolution in the media, all countries must reinforce their public diplomacy strategy.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the emergence of new variants of the virus, many people will resist attending a crowded event. For this reason, embassies should choose to organise virtual events such as press videoconferences that allow the participation of journalists, as well as virtual forums, seminars, and exhibitions available to the public.

social media apps on smartphone screen

Besides avoiding to congregate people in limited capacity venues, increasing the options to attend an event virtually also brings other benefits, such as allowing people from other countries to participate, keeping controlled access of the people who attend an event, and reducing the expenses of a diplomatic mission, since the rent of venues is usually expensive.

The annual G20 summit in 2020 was a clear example that even high-level meetings can be held through videoconference. Likewise, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mexican embassies and consulates showed that it is possible to organise virtual events for the public by promoting virtual tours of museums located in Mexico as well as seminars, forums, and talks through videoconferences.

Nowadays, every embassy and consulate should establish a media strategy to strengthen its public diplomacy, especially due to the current importance of social media. For that task, a social media officer could be hired to improve the management of web platforms and social media accounts. In the private sector, some companies created a new job position called “community manager”, which was originally designed to work in the marketing field and to promote a brand through digital media.

Community managers are in charge of designing content that companies post on their social media to reach target audiences. Due to the great importance of social media, governments have also started to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to promote their work, spread information, and even make important announcements, such as presidents Donald Trump and Nayib Bukele.

Many embassies and consulates around the world have social media accounts on the aforementioned platforms, but their content is usually poor and with low activity. Therefore, a social media officer in an embassy or consulate can replicate the work that a community manager does in a company, in order to strengthen the use of these important tools and thus be active in the digital field. This would reinforce the public diplomacy of embassies and consulates, and would also keep a channel of communication with its nationals abroad.

Modernising consular work

The third reform would be focused on consulates, since many of them still depend on MFAs for the issuance of documents. When a foreign citizen needs to obtain a document from their country of origin, they go to their consulate. However, consulates only collect a person’s data and their picture, and send everything to their MFA where the information is processed, the document is printed, and then sent back via a diplomatic bag. Meanwhile, the person must wait weeks for their document or passport to arrive from their country of origin. For this reason, MFAs should invest resources to provide consulates with technological tools to issue documents on-site, i.e. printing machines, laminators, biometric devices, and other necessary equipment.

For example, the 50 consulates of Mexico in the USA print and issue documents like passports, birth certificates, and consular IDs on the same day people go to the consulate to request the documents. The Mexican consulates have all the equipment on-site to print official documents with the necessary security measures, from cameras and biometric devices, to laminator machines and passport printers. The Mexican government has achieved this by providing the consulates with all the basic supplies like security paper sheets, blank passport books, and blank identification cards. Then the consulates only print the personal information of the applicant on each document. In this way, the MFA does half of the process by manufacturing the basic elements, and the consulates do the other half by collecting the information and printing the documents. The effectiveness to issue documents on-site is such that the Mexican consulates in the United States even have the Mobile Consulate programme in which the consular staff travel to remote places where there are no consulates, such as Alaska or Hawaii, and they transport the printers, laminators, and biometric devices for the issuance of documents in that place.

Diplomatic work has maintained mechanisms that are necessary for the development of its functions, but that does not mean that some of these practices cannot be adapted and even improved with the use of technology. It is important that governments try to innovate and improve the way they work by taking advantage of the technological resources available today. With these reforms, diplomatic communication, public diplomacy, and the consular services provided to the people could become more efficient by using technology to strengthen diplomacy.

Andres Josue Aguas Cherf works at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington DC. He previously worked at the Consulate of Mexico in Utah, USA, and in Mexico City at the Embassy of Greece, the Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as the Committee on Foreign Relations Asia–Pacific of the Mexican Senate. Andres has also completed Diplo’s Bilateral Diplomacy online course


[WebDebate #44] Diplomacy in times of COVID-19: The experience of developing countries

While the COVID-19 pandemic demanded adaptation across the diplomatic profession, small and developing countries faced an additional set of obstacles. Demands on already over-stretched diplomats based at multilateral hubs increased in many cases. Internet connectivity and lack of in-house cybersecurity expertise remain challenges.

Looking ahead, diplomats of small and developing countries, especially those posted at multilateral hubs, are likely to face an additional crisis in 2021 as increasing budget constraints and delays in replacing key personnel will create additional challenges. At the same time, some issues on the multilateral agenda have been postponed to 2021, thus leading to a backlog of agenda items and meetings.


Dedicated efforts are needed in order to avoid an increasingly uneven diplomatic playing field. This begins by closely listening to the experiences of practitioners.

In preparation of this event and for further details, please feel free to consult our new report The future of (multilateral) diplomacy? Changes in response to COVID-19 and beyond. The report and this event are supported by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Join us on Tuesday, 1st December, at 13:00 UTC (08:00 EST | 14:00 CET | 21:00 CST).

The COVID-19 pandemic demanded adaptations across the diplomatic profession. Most importantly, the need for social distancing has led to changes in how diplomacy is practised: meetings were cancelled, postponed, or moved online.


Dr Stephanie Borg Psaila is the Director for Digital Policy at DiploFoundation, and the Editor of the GIP Digital Watch observatory. In 2018-2019, she served as Diplo’s Interim Director and Head of Geneva Internet Platform, replacing Founding Director Dr Jovan Kurbalija during his one-year position as co-Executive Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation. She holds a Doctorate in Law (LL.D.), a Master’s in Contemporary Diplomacy, and two law-related diplomas from the University of Malta, and her special areas of interest include legal issues in digital policy, human rights, and e-diplomacy. She holds a warrant to practice as a Notary Public in Malta, and is a former journalist with The Sunday Times of Malta.

Ms Asha DeSuza is Second Secretary at the Permanent Mission of St Kitts and Nevis to the United Nations in New York. She is responsible for social, humanitarian, cultural, and other issues covered by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly. As a legal adviser, she additionally covers issues from the Sixth Committee (Legal), the Oceans and Law of the Sea, as well as health and migration, also under the remit of the General Assembly. Since her appointment in 2017, she has led several regional coordination efforts, and served as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) negotiator for the Political Declaration on Non-Communicable Diseases, as well as the CARICOM coordinator during the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Having completed five DiploFoundation courses, including Capacity Development in Multilateral Diplomacy for the Caribbean, she considers herself part of the Diplo family.

Ms Maricela Muñoz is Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the United Nations in Geneva. She has more than 20 years of experience in multilateral diplomacy, working with governments, international organisations, the private sector, and civil society organisations, particularly in the areas of climate change, disarmament and non-proliferation, and the advancement of more peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development. She is particularly interested in areas such as digital diplomacy, information and communications technologies (ICTs), frontier technologies, including the Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), nature-based solutions, and blended finance for regenerative development, among others.

Mr Moctar Yedaly is in charge of the Information Society Division within the department of Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission. He is a telecom, satellite, and computer engineer with an MBA in International Business. He graduated from George Washington University, Amity University, and the Institute of Informatics. He has more than 20 years of international experience in the field communication and networks management, resources evaluation, and policy preparation. He is a former staff member of Intelsat in the USA and RASCOM in the Ivory Coast.

Moderator: Dr Katharina Höne, Director of Research, DiploFoundation

About our WebDebates

Our WebDebates on the future of diplomacy are live-streamed on the first Tuesday of every month. They are organised by DiploFoundation within the framework of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (IFDT). Learn more about our series of WebDebates.

If you belong to a dynamic circle of practitioners in your community, we encourage you to establish a diplomatic hub to follow the WebDebates and to facilitate discussions. For more information and assistance, please contact Diplo’s Ms Mina Mudric.



[WebDebate #45] Visual storytelling for diplomatic practice

Diplomacy is often thought of as a practice centering on language. Yet, the visual image of diplomatic practice is increasingly important in a world in which images proliferate and videoconferencing has replaced face-to-face meetings. Diplomats need to be aware of the power of images, and need to have a sense of best practices and potential pitfalls when it comes to visual storytelling.

There is no better example of the increasing importance of images and visual storytelling than the 2020 high-level segment of the UN General Assembly. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, heads of states and governments were unable to travel to New York for the opening of the assembly. Instead, each country sent a video message that was displayed in the assembly hall.

What can we learn from these images? Which pitfalls are best avoided? What best practices can we identify when we take a visual and digital-driven pespective? In turn, how can we incorporate perspectives on storytelling and ‘storyshowing’ in digital diplomatic practices?

In order to address these questions, we are joined by Ms Stéphanie Fillion, a journalist working on UN affairs who recently wrote the article ‘The Dos and Don’ts of Digital Diplomacy in the Covid-19 World’, and Dr Massimiliano Fusari, an academic and consultant on digital media as a visual storytelling means.

Join us on Tuesday, 2nd February, at 13:00 UTC (08:00 EST | 14:00 CET | 21:00 CST) for 45 minutes of discussion and Q&A with our experts.



Ms Stéphanie Fillion is a Canadian reporter specialising in international affairs, and based at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. She is a regular contributor to PassBlue, an independent media covering the UN, and she co-hosts UN-Scripted, a podcast on the UN. Fillion also covers the UN for Asahi Shimbun and is a contributor to Forbes, Radio-Canada, and Foreign Policy. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School in New York and McGill University in Montreal, and was awarded the Canada–EU young journalist award in 2015. She is fluent in French, English, and Italian.


Dr Massimiliano Fusari researches and produces digital media as visual storytelling for the strategic communication of social topics and international affairs. He is a recognised academic scholar and results-driven consultant with 30 years of established education and professional experience. As associate professor at the University of Westminster (UK), he runs the Digital and Interactive Storytelling LAB and lectures in the analysis and production of visual literacy, digital creativity, and cross-platform storytelling. He is currently reshuffling his online lab, The Visual Storytelling Academy, to incorporate the production of his mobile app –The Meta-Image. Read more on LinkedIn.

Moderator: Dr Katharina Höne, Director of Research, DiploFoundation

About our WebDebates

Our WebDebates on the future of diplomacy are live-streamed on the first Tuesday of every month. They are organised by DiploFoundation within the framework of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (IFDT). Learn more about our series of WebDebates.


[WebDebate #46] Unpacking the EU’s digital diplomacy and foreign policy

Digital foreign policy is becoming a key topic this year. Both Switzerland and Denmark have just recently launched their digital foreign policy strategies (for an overview of digital foreign policy strategies, visit our Digital Foreign Policy page). Yet, it is also abundantly clear that the range of relevant actors in digital foreign policy goes beyond states. Following our March conference 2021: The emergence of digital foreign policy, we want to take a closer look at developments at the level of the European Union.

Join us on Tuesday, 6th April, 12:00 UTC (08:00 EDT | 14:00 CEST | 20:00 CST)!

In terms of the EU’s digital foreign policy and diplomacy, a number of threads are coming together under the European Digital Strategy with its commitment to setting global standards. Clearly, some of the norms set by the EU have relevance beyond the 27 member states, and the EU seeks to promote ‘its way of managing the digital transformation’. Further, in December 2020, the EU published its strategy on cybersecurity, and some observers have argued that this calls for the development of a more coherent approach to cyber diplomacy at the EU level.

In Webdebate #46, we want to begin to unpack existing and future elements of the EU’s digital diplomacy and foreign policy. Join our experts for the discussion.


Dr Matthias C. Kettemann, LL.M. (Harvard), is a senior researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI), and the head of its research programme on rule-making in online spaces. He is a visiting professor for International Law at the University of Jena, a privatdozent at the University of Frankfurt, a lecturer at the University of Graz, the project lead at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) in Berlin, the research programme leader for Platform and Content Governance at the Sustainable Computing Lab at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, and an associated researcher at Germany’s Research Center for Social Cohesion. His most recent books include The Normative Order of the Internet. A Theory of Rule and Regulation Online (OUP, 2020), Navigating Normative Orders. Interdisciplinary Perspectives (editor, Campus, 2020), and, co-authored with W Benedek, Freedom of Expression and the Internet (2nd ed., Strasbourg, 2020).

Dr Patryk Pawlak is the EUISS Brussels Executive Officer. In this capacity, he maintains and develops relations with other Brussels-based institutions. In addition, he is in charge of the cyber portfolio, leading the Institute’s cyber-related projects and contributing to its outreach activities. Since June 2016, he is a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise. His work on cyber-related issues and the European Union’s security policies more broadly has appeared in several peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes.

Patryk holds a PhD in Political Science from the European University Institute in Florence and an MA in European Studies from the College of Europe.

About our WebDebates

Our WebDebates on the future of diplomacy are live-streamed on the first Tuesday of every month. They are organised by DiploFoundation within the framework of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (IFDT).

Learn more about our series of WebDebates here.



[WebDebate #47] Current diplomatic responses to COVID-19 

COVID-19 has posed tremendous challenges to diplomacy. Practices had to be adapted while diplomats had to address the immediate crisis situation and work towards coordinated responses. In this WebDebate, we focus on two current diplomatic responses to COVID-19: the COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access) initiative, and the work done at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).

Join us on Tuesday, 4th May, at 12:00 UTC (08:00 EDT | 14:00 CEST | 20:00 CST).

COVAX is a global initiative that aims at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Through the initiative, 92 low- and middle-income economies are eligible to get access to COVID-19 vaccines. As of April 20 2021, it has shipped over 40.5 million COVID-19 vaccines to 118 participants. Diplomatic efforts such as the Friends of the COVAX Facility (FOF), led by Singapore and Switzerland, played an important role in making COVAX a reality.

In its 46th session, the HRC passed ‘Resolution 46/14 on Ensuring Equitable, Affordable, Timely and Universal Access for all Countries to Vaccines in Response to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic’. It is worth unpacking the dynamics at the HRC and the discussion around this resolution.

In short, WebDebate #47 takes a closer look at the accomplishments and ongoing challenges of diplomatic responses to COVID-19. We feel that discussing the COVAX initiative and shining a light on the human rights dimension of the pandemic couldn’t be more timely.

Join our experts for the discussion.


Amb. Umej Bhatia is Singapore’s permanent representative to the UN Office in Geneva. He joined the foreign service in 1996, and has served in various capacities on issues covering Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the UN in Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Bhatia  served overseas as first secretary in Singapore’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York (1999–2003), as an alternate representative for Singapore on the UN Security Council (2001–2002), as Singapore’s consul general in Dubai (2011–2012), as Singapore’s first resident ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (2013–2016), and as director general in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia (2017–2019).

Mr Marc Limon is executive director of the Universal Rights Group (URG), a think-tank focused on international human rights policy, with offices in Geneva, New York, and Bogota. Prior to founding the URG in 2013, Limon worked as a diplomat at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) from the body’s establishment in 2006 until the end of 2012. This included participating in the negotiations on the institution-building package, on the Council’s midterm review, and on a wide range of thematic and country-specific issues. Limon was lead negotiator on nine different UN resolutions dealing with issues such as human rights and climate change, human rights and the environment, freedom of assembly and association, and the third Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Alongside his colleague Subhas Gujadhur (Mauritius), he also established the HRC’s Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

About our WebDebates

Our WebDebates on the future of diplomacy are live-streamed on the first Tuesday of every month. They are organised by DiploFoundation within the framework of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (IFDT). Learn more about our series of WebDebates here.


[WebDebate #48] Virtual and hybrid diplomacy: What have we learned?

In light of social distancing and lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, diplomatic practice had to adapt. Overall, diplomacy has proven remarkably resilient. Videoconferencing and other means of digital communication have ensured continuity of diplomatic practice and negotiations. Hybrid (blended) forms of diplomacy that combine in-situ and virtual attendance at meetings have emerged as another adaptation. Given the advantages, this form of hybrid diplomacy is here to stay. Diplomatic practice has always existed at the interplay of continuity and change, and the present moment is a crucial turning point which might determine the future of diplomatic practice.

Join us on Tuesday, 8th June, at 12:00 UTC (08:00 EDT | 14:00 CEST | 20:00 CST).

In October 2020, Diplo provided initial research on this topic at its conference and in its research report. Now, more than a year after the start of the pandemic, we need to ask: Where are we now? What have we learned? And how will the future of diplomatic practice be influenced? In order to shed light on these topics, we are joined by two scholars from the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group.


Prof. Corneliu Bjola is associate professor of Diplomatic Studies at the University of Oxford, and head of the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group. He also serves as a faculty fellow at the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California, and as a professorial lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. He has published extensively on issues related to the impact of digital technology on the conduct of diplomacy with a recent focus on public diplomacy, international negotiations, and methods for countering digital propaganda. His recent co-edited volume Digital Diplomacy and International Organizations: Autonomy, Legitimacy and Contestation (Routledge, 2020) examines the broader ramifications of digital technologies on the internal dynamics, multilateral policies, and strategic engagements of international organisations.

Bjola is currently working on the new co-edited volume Digital International Relations, examining how digital disruption changes the technological parameters of ordering processes in world politics.

Dr Ilan Manor is a digital diplomacy scholar at Tel Aviv University and a member of the Oxford Digital Diplomacy Research Group. His book, The Digitalization of Public Diplomacy, was published in 2019. His co-edited volume, Public Diplomacy and the Politics of Uncertainty, was published in 2020.


About our WebDebates

Our WebDebates on the future of diplomacy are live-streamed on the first Tuesday of every month. They are organised by Diplo within the framework of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (IFDT). Learn more about our series of WebDebates here.


[WebDebate #49] Emojis in public diplomacy: Best practices and lessons learned

At first glance, the work of diplomats seems to have to do very little with emojis. Indeed, the serious business of diplomacy, understood as the management of international relations, seems antithetical to smiley faces. Yet, emojis are used in public diplomacy and have become a staple of how diplomats and ministries of foreign affairs communicate on social media.

World Emoji Day is celebrated in July, so there is no better occasion to take a closer look at the use of emojis in public diplomacy, and explore recent trends, best practices, potential pitfalls, and lessons learned.

Join us on Tuesday, 6th July, at 12:00 UTC (08:00 EDT | 14:00 CEST | 20:00 CST).

Emojis have been described as the new ‘diplomatic sign language’, and lengthy debates have ensued on whether or not they have a place in diplomatic practice. Some argue that their potential for misinterpretation makes them bad for diplomacy and that attempts to appeal to a younger generation can backfire badly. Others have embraced their communication and storytelling potential. Finland, for example, became the first country to develop a set of country-themed, tongue-in-cheek emojis.

Together with our speakers, we will look at how diplomatic social media accounts use emojis to engage their audience.


Mr Malte Blas is a digital communications specialist at the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Regional Bureau for Europe. From UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, he leads regional digital communications and social media strategy, coordinating with global teams and 35 country offices across Europe. Blas regularly advises local UNHCR offices and leadership, as well as external partners, on digital advocacy and public diplomacy. Prior to joining the UNHCR, he worked in public relations, social responsibility, and digital marketing for both public institutions and private corporations, including Big Tech and IT research companies.

Ms Liz Galvez was a senior diplomat with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office for 33 years serving in London and overseas, including Helsinki in the mid-70s, Central America in the 80s, OSCE Vienna before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Romania in the late 90s, including a two-year secondment to the Foreign Minster’s Cabinet, and both UN Geneva and UN New York.

After retiring, she was appointed the first executive director of the Aspen Institute Romania which she set up and managed for three years. Since 2009, she has been a course lecturer with Diplo, specialising in Public Diplomacy and Negotiation Skills, and was recently made a senior fellow of the faculty. She has additionally run training programmes on negotiating skills and diplomatic writing skills for several foreign ministries. She speaks operational Spanish, Romanian, and French. She has a BA from the University of London in Latin and Spanish, and an MSc degree from the University of London in Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict.

Mr Matthias Lüfkens is a social media architect at DigiTips, a boutique PR agency advising a range of corporations, UN agencies, and non-profit organisations on the best use of social media. He is best known for having created Twiplomacy, a study which looks at how governments and international organisations use digital platforms. Previously, he was head of Digital Media at the World Economic Forum (WEF) where he designed and implemented a highly successful digital strategy, opening the Davos meeting to a global audience on social media. Trained as a journalist, he was Baltic States correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, Agence France Presse and Libération in the early nineties. In his spare time, he manages the Instagram account @LeJetdeau, dedicated to Geneva’s iconic water fountain.

About our WebDebates

Our WebDebates on the future of diplomacy are live-streamed on the first Tuesday of every month. They are organised by Diplo within the framework of the International Forum on Diplomatic Training (IFDT). Learn more about our WebDebates series here.


Alumni Diplo alumni

Diplomatic Law: Privileges and Immunities online course

Diplomatic privileges and immunities usually receive attention only when exceptions or abuses are reported in the news.

Starting with the evolution of diplomatic privileges and immunities and ending with the question of whether the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations should be revisited in the Internet era, this course introduces participants to diplomatic law in general and diplomatic privileges and immunities in particular. Combining a theoretical introduction with practical exercises, participants will become familiar with current developments in the field of diplomatic privileges and immunities.

Programme details

What will you learn?
  • Explain the difference between the concepts of immunities, privileges and facilities, providing examples of each.
  • Describe the legal basis of diplomatic privileges and immunities, including as it relates to individuals, states and representatives, diplomatic missions, and consular missions.
  • Explain the theoretical justifications for privileges and immunities and how regulation has evolved.
  • Describe the privileges and immunities of states and their representatives (including heads of states and governments, other ministers and officials, diplomatic missions and diplomatic agents).
  • Compare and contrast the privileges and immunities of diplomatic missions and agents with those of consular missions and agents.
  • Analyse cases of use and abuse of diplomatic privileges and immunities in the modern era, and taking these into account, argue in favour of, or against, revisions to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
How will you learn? In this course you will interact intensively in discussions with classmates and lecturers from around the world. You will receive guidance and personalised feedback on your classwork from the course team. How long will you learn? The course lasts for 10 weeks:
  • 1 week of course introduction and orientation to online learning
  • 8 weeks of addressing the course topics one by one (see below for more details)
  • 1 week for the final assignment and completing pending tasks
Alumni Diplo alumni

Humanitarian Diplomacy online course

Humanitarian diplomacy is persuading decision makers and opinion leaders to act, at all times, in the interests of vulnerable people, and with full respect for fundamental humanitarian principles.


The rapid expansion of the number of humanitarian actors in recent years, working for or with governments at all levels and often in complex situations, makes humanitarian diplomacy increasingly important.

Humanitarian diplomacy aims to mobilise public and governmental support and resources for humanitarian operations and programmes, and to facilitate effective partnerships for responding to the needs of vulnerable people. Humanitarian diplomacy includes advocacy, negotiation, communication, formal agreements, and other measures. It is a field with many players, including governments, international organisations, NGOs, the private sector, and individuals.

The online diploma course in humanitarian diplomacy is offered by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in partnership with DiploFoundation. Course faculty draws on leading experts from around the world, as resource people and guest lecturers. The diversity of the teaching team takes account of the importance of the course reaching people from everywhere in the world, from all sorts of backgrounds and with all sorts of values. More details on the course team can be found in the Methodology section below.

This course is currently offered in English, however participants who are more comfortable with French or Spanish will have the option to write and submit some course assignments and the final research paper in either of those languages.

Programme details

What are the course objectives? The online course will extend the knowledge base and develop the practical skills of current and future practitioners in humanitarian diplomacy and policy. To achieve its objectives, the course will:
  • Familiarise participants with basic definitions, concepts, actors, and institutions in the field of humanitarian diplomacy.
  • Introduce participants to international humanitarian law, the fundamental humanitarian principles, and National Societies’ role as an auxiliary to government.
  • Hone the advocacy and negotiation skills of participants.
  • Facilitate an international exchange of experiences and knowledge in a safe and supportive online class environment.
  • Develop the research skills of participants, and increase their understanding of national and regional humanitarian diplomacy activities.
What will you learn?
  • Explain clearly the concept of humanitarian diplomacy and provide examples of humanitarian diplomacy in action.
  • List and categorise the main actors and stakeholders in the field of humanitarian diplomacy and describe their roles in particular situations.
  • Describe the interplay between relevant international law, including international humanitarian law, and humanitarian diplomacy.
  • Explain how to obtain and use an evidence base for humanitarian diplomacy activities
  • Describe the role, techniques, and tools of persuasion and advocacy in humanitarian diplomacy.
  • Organise a humanitarian diplomacy alliance.
  • Prepare an advocacy strategy, taking into consideration the techniques of persuasion and the application of fundamental humanitarian principles.
  • Prepare for effective humanitarian diplomacy negotiations, and describe how different humanitarian diplomacy contexts influence negotiation outcomes.
  • Analyse case studies of humanitarian diplomacy, identifying goals, actors, methods, challenges, and implementation.
How will you learn? In this course you will interact intensively in discussions with classmates and lecturers from around the world. You will receive guidance, and personalised feedback on your classwork, from the course team. How long will you learn? The course lasts for 13 weeks:
  • 1 week of course introduction and orientation to online learning
  • 8 weeks of addressing the course topics one by one (see below for more details)
  • 4 weeks for the research phase
You can read more about this in the course brochure.

Public Diplomacy online course

Public diplomacy is a hot topic today, yet only a decade ago, it was a very specialised term.

There is a new transparency in the interactions between governments and countries in the international system, influenced by factors such as:

  • democratisation of diplomacy
  • globalisation
  • resurgence of methods of bilateral, regional, and multilateral diplomacy
  • spotlight on external and internal issues

With more public interest in foreign affairs than ever before, ordinary people are demanding open diplomacy, and governments are obliged to respond with public information about the spending of funds they receive and the results that they achieve.

This course covers the goals and methods of public diplomacy, outlining what it can and cannot do, with case studies.

Programme details

What will you learn?
  • What public diplomacy is in practice, its key features, tasks and methods
  • How to analyse different approaches to public diplomacy and identify realistic and workable tools and methods for different situations
  • How to plan strategies for country image-building activities based on best practices
  • How to assess and evaluate the impact of public diplomacy programmes
How will you learn? In this course you will interact intensively in discussions with classmates and lecturers from around the world. You will receive guidance and personalised feedback on your classwork from the course team. How long will you learn? The course lasts for 10 weeks:
  • 1 week of course introduction and orientation to online learning
  • 8 weeks of addressing the course topics one by one (see below for more details)
  • 1 week for the final assignment and completing pending tasks