How Covid-19 Impacted Multilateral Diplomacy
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Diplomatist|December 2020
Adjusting to the “new normal” multilateralism
Preethi Amaresh*

The impact of the COVID-19 on multilateral diplomacy is bountiful. The viruses overlook national borders, and COVID in our interconnected world has generated unprecedented worldwide disturbance that has impaired one-third of the world economy and caused the biggest economic collapse following the Great Depression. The global pandemic has further hit regional integration, free movement and trade as new rules have gradually come into action creating an increasing threat to global peace and security.

Interpersonal interaction has been the “lifeline” of diplomacy that diminishes the boundaries and builds trust among the countries. Multilateral diplomacy has mostly been a complicated process, and post-COVID it has become more complicated. Diplomacy has moved to “Virtual diplomacy” through teleconferences that have become the new means for multilateral diplomacy where face-to-face meetings have become rare. The pandemic has distorted the setting of informal talks and interpersonal interactions, which are indispensable components for the advancement of multilateral diplomacy. Also, when the world required a more synchronized global acknowledgment, the one-sided responses of the nations have challenged the idea of the new multilateral diplomacy that has led to a lack of trust in it. The impact can be seen through the present state of multilateral organizations that have aggravated their decline. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has made the world to question its accountability and effectiveness. The blame game in world politics has also taken a dominating edge in almost all the multilateral diplomatic discussions on the pandemic. The absence of face-to-face meetings has also made nations like China to exploit the pandemic crisis in order to undermine the key United Nations (U.N) bodies.

The 20th-century multilateralism saw shuttle diplomacy, summit diplomacy and hotline diplomacy that became mainstream diplomatic means. The metamorphosis of diplomacy has been characterized by three criteria, combining to modify and renew diplomatic mode, which includes technological/ social change, human resources to utilize it, and financial aid and recognized need. The pandemic in the age of “Artificial Intelligence” and “Digital Diplomacy” has paved the way for new normal multilateral diplomacy in the 21st Century. Countries are now investing financial resources to develop infrastructure to support “videoconference diplomacy” with task-specific adjustability, state control and security. However, challenges such as inefficiency, unevenness and debasement, leading to a disinclination to earmark resources to the multilateral diplomacy needs to be addressed.

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