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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


EKSTEEN, Riaan. Challenges and opportunities in practising diplomacy - Before, during and after Covid-19. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.1, pp.112-135. ISSN 2224-7912.

There is no doubt that the world is currently experiencing turbulent times. Not even diplomacy could escape change when Covid-19 hit the world in January 2020. Old approaches that have been in place for decades, even centuries, changed drastically, and diplomacy could not expect to continue as if nothing had happened. Approach to and application and operation of diplomacy has essentially been affected. In the era after Covid-19, countries and diplomats will still have to pay attention to these variables and will hardly be able to return to a previous era. Furthermore, domestic politics play an important role when considering strategic foreign policy decisions due to the threats that are expected or are already being carried out in connection with national security issues. Decisions on foreign affairs must therefore be evaluated in a certain domestic context because they develop mainly within national borders. In recent decades, the link between the two has become closer. The concepts of national interest, national security, domestic politics, and foreign policy have now become even more intertwined. Consequently, the question arises involuntarily: how are diplomats prepared and trained for this new world. Nowadays, diplomats are expected to be international advisers. Geopolitical views and applications have become more and more important, and the world is more interconnected than ever before. Understanding the global system is an inevitable requirement. The era requires people who can make difficult decisions and who will not worry about fine protocol rules being strictly enforced and adhered to anymore. These international advisers are now more than ever involved and instrumental in decision-making processes of peace and national security. This interdisciplinary role that these advisers must play is a challenging one that requires skilful dynamics. Contemporary diplomacy is changing at an unprecedented pace and is characterised by new role players, new issues, and new responsibilities. Multilateralism, which was the key to diplomacy since World War II has only gained momentum in the last 30 years, and with Covid-19, the importance of multilateral diplomacy was reaffirmed. In the span of two years, Covid-19 has revealed itself as a great equaliser, proving how interdependent the whole world really is. Covid-19 has unequivocally proved that the future of diplomacy is multilaterally driven. In addition, Covid-19 prevents personal contact and meetings, but foreign policymakers have been forced to adapt to a new digital norm. That digital revolution not only makes a wealth of information available, but also increases the speed at which decisions must be made. Diplomats similarly benefit from gathering and sharing knowledge, and this knowledge is made available at an unprecedented rate and needs to be managed. Knowledge management is the efficient handling of information and resources within a particular organisation. Knowledge diplomacy and a knowledge management system are both important because they increase the effectiveness of an institution's decision-making ability and ensure that all employees have access to overall expertise within the organisation. Knowledge management is consequently the conscious process of defining, structuring, retaining, and sharing knowledge and experience of employees within an organisation. The term knowledge diplomacy is becoming more and more popular and is used in different ways. Knowledge diplomacy, therefore, understands the role that international higher education, research, and innovation can play in strengthening relations between states. The impact of technology on the practice of diplomacy in the time of Covid-19 also inevitably emphasised the growing importance of conducting diplomacy digitally. Diplomats need to take a proactive approach to digitisation and acquire the skills needed to further promote domestic diplomacy through digital platforms as an important new component of future public diplomacy. The fight against the emergence of digital disinformation must, due to the nature of the decidedly negative implications of fake news, also receive pertinent attention. The subject of cyber security is most important and may not be ignored. Science diplomacy has become increasingly important. Another important aspect that diplomats should actively consider is how corporations continue to grow in their ability to practise public diplomacy. States are no longer the only international role players in the ever-growing diplomatic scene. Therefore, in order not to run the risk of becoming an endangered activity - which may become increasingly irrelevant because of increasing technological advances - diplomatic representation in the digital age must be intensified in order to increase diplomatic engagement and become a critical tool in an era of complex interdependence and globalisation. The number of role players involved in foreign affairs and diplomacy in one way or another has increased tremendously in recent decades. The longer the pandemic lasts, the more the world changes, and the challenge for diplomats is to manage these changes. The role of China and Russia in following their own world vision is an aspect of growing importance and demands constant vigilance.

Palavras-chave : corporate diplomacy; Covid-19; digital diplomacy; digital technology; domestic policies; foreign affairs; geopolitical relations; knowledge diplomacy; knowledge management; multilateral diplomacy; science diplomacy.

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