Nepal | January 23, 2021

Synergising diplomacy: To meet post-COVID-19 challenges

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Authorities responsible for handling diplomacy must show ability to meet the challenges posed by the changed global diplomatic development to better equip Nepal’s diplomats professionally with the combined expertise of both the conventional and techno-scientific domain. The sooner this is done, the better will be the outcome

Certainly, the conduct of national diplomacy is contingent on the emerging dynamics in the regional and global environment, which often changes due to various global events occurring from time to time.

Consistent and appropriate response is required to meet the challenges of the changing scenario. If not, the handling of diplomatic affairs becomes obsolete, and, consequently, the nation may suffer and even pose a threat to national survival.

The pre-COVID-19 years, were, in general, characterised in diplomatic dealings by the internationalisation of home-based policy areas; emergence of hybrid diplomacy; virtualisation of diplomacy; and increasing significance of specialised diplomacy. These four characteristics were drawn by European experts after a pragmatic study of diplomatic developments across the globe.

However, the onset of COVID-19 has brought about visible changes with the abrupt development of overbearing emergence of self-centric and self-motivated tendency among the developed and developing countries. This development has impelled every nation-state to rethink in terms of developing matching diplomatic conduct even to minimally maintain the status qua.

Hence, international experts have reckoned six elements that can help cope with the emerging challenges for effective diplomatic function. They are: need for a new viable option; integration between digital and physical (in-person) diplomacy; expanding diplomacy at the sub-national and local level; enhancing matching diplomatic capability; searching for new intellect and new tact; and finding a new track in the COVID-affected inter-state relationship.

All these six elements deserve crucial assessment to effectively conduct diplomatic affairs as an effective response to meet the new challenges. They can supplant what is known as conventional or traditional diplomacy practised around the world as a formal process to maintain and improve inter-state relationship.

People must not forget diplomacy always stands for good and non-contentious relationship in the international community.

Once diplomacy is neglected or not conducted in a manner befitting the sovereign status of an independent nation, its repercussion will not be good and could even damage the inter-state relationship, hurting the sovereign identity of the nation-state.

Diplomacy is reckoned as an essential activity and carries the core value of a nation-state. Hence, it must be handled with minute care and caution, substantiated by sensitivity and foresight. The new situation demands a new mindset and new personality to tackle emerging issues.

Prosperous and developed countries have also been made to face the irresistible outbreak of the coronavirus. However, they have adequate human and financial resources as well as the necessary knowhow and tools at their disposal to fight against the disease.

But for weak countries like Nepal, the emerging situation is materially and technically hard to cope with. They lack ability and mobility to face the bleak surroundings ravaged by the pandemic, which calls for effective handling of diplomatic affairs in the current complexity-clouded world. More so, with public health-related concerns.

Scientific and technological activity is prevailing over and visibly dominating international dealings.

Of course, the current trend has been developing in the last few decades, but the impact of COVID-19 has further accelerated the trend, as experienced since the beginning of 2020.

The pressing need to develop a vaccine to combat the virus has driven governments and societies of both developed and developing countries to develop one at any cost.

In the long run, only those countries with adequate scientific and research fusibilities are crowned with success.

Countries with no such facilities are left behind to beg for the vaccines.

Even in the midst of the changed international setting, Nepal is still beholden to classical and conventional diplomatic conduct.

Yes, conventional diplomacy remains at the core as a vanguard to maintain bilateral and international relations, which are generally handled by diplomats recruited from an academic background of the social sciences, humanities and law.

This entrenched diplomatic practice must now be supplanted by good and able graduates of science, technology, health science and particularly information technology as diplomatic dealings across the world have much to do with scientific and technological areas of activity.

Take, for example, dealings in climate change concerns.

They demand appropriate knowledge and required expertise of a technical and scientific nature.

Similarly, Nepal’s much-needed technology transfer from the developed countries requires matching ability and good bent of mind to efficiently deal with technological matters.

Authorities responsible for handling diplomacy must, therefore, show ability to meet the challenges posed by the changed global diplomatic development in order to better equip Nepal’s diplomats professionally with the combined expertise of both the conventional and techno-scientific domain. The sooner this is done, the better will be the outcome.

Nepal’s diplomatic efficiency would undoubtedly become countable amid the growing complex diplomatic handlings. That, in turn, would naturally produce a number of generalist experts who could boast of their performance ability.

Critically considering the evolving international situation in the pre and post COVID-19 years, Nepal’s diplomatic approach to the world should be steered by analytically taking into count the six elements enumerated above. Delay and excuse of any nature should not be a barrier to modernising Nepal’s diplomatic practice to keep it as a national interest-serving profession.



A version of this article appears in print on December 31, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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