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Diplomacy in the Age of Coronavirus

April 28, 2020

Speakers:
Eliot A. Cohen, Dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS

Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador of the UAE to the United Nations and President of UN Women

Dean Eliot Cohen hosted a virtual discussion with Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh on international cooperation and the practice of diplomacy amid the global pandemic.

The speakers acknowledged the coronavirus crisis is one of the most difficult periods of recent memory and will become a formative experience for young professionals. Ambassador Nusseibeh noted that the international community is only as strong as the weakest link, with interconnection and cooperation more essential than ever. This is illustrated by the status of United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a global logistics hub through which 85% of the World Health Organization's medical cargo is routed. UAE leaders have pledged to maintain shipping access as a pillar of the country's humanitarian response.

Referring to restrictions on travel and gatherings, Cohen said many of the traditional tools of diplomacy are unavailable. How is diplomacy being conducted today? Nusseibeh reported that although the UN has bounced back quickly to ensure continuity of its essential operations, there have been some gaps. Diplomacy is inherently social and elements have been missing, such as the usual side conversations at receptions and the compromises forged offline during conferences. The 'middle ground' of diplomacy is unavailable and negotiators are striving to regain it in the virtual format, she said. This pushes diplomats to be more creative, for instance by checking in virtually with colleagues regularly to look after their well-being. Still, the UN is managing to keep its business moving forward surprisingly well, she said.

Discussing important lessons of the pandemic to date, Nusseibeh and Cohen pointed to the future of multilateralism being more networked than ever before.   

Dean Eliot Cohen hosted a virtual discussion with Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh on international cooperation and the practice of diplomacy amid the global pandemic.