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.
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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.
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.