[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 #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.