86% of people want a more equitable and sustainable world after COVID-19, according to a recent study conducted by the World Economic Forum. Can we achieve this goal if we continue to do the same as we did before this crisis?
The pandemic has disrupted normalcy as we knew it at every level. It has exponentially accelerated changes, deepened crises, and increased uncertainty. Overall, this crisis has put to question the values that underpinned our system and at the same time has offered a unique opportunity for transformation. As we adjust to this new reality, we have the opportunity to reflect on how we were functioning as individuals and societies before COVID, and imagine new possibilities to lead into more sustainable ways of relating to one another and the environment: we have been given the chance to build back better.
We live in an increasingly complex global environment, one which is simultaneously becoming both more interconnected and more fragmented. COVID-19 has further challenged our international system. Increasing tensions between the main superpowers and the questioning of multilateral mechanisms have sparked competition, discouraging collaboration. In coming out of lockdowns all over the world, we will need to reach a new consensus on how we understand the post-pandemic world and what will be prioritized. Voices that were already underrepresented or marginalized by our system, are those of whom have been more unequally impacted by the pandemic, people all over the world who will face higher barriers to recover emotionally, physically and financially.
At the international level we have critical and urgent decisions to collectively take ahead, if we are to decisively move forward to a more equitable and sustainable world, leaving no one behind – as the UN 2030 Agenda aims to. Diplomacy, as a tool through which, for centuries, states have represented themselves to communicate and negotiate in bilateral contexts and multilateral fora, can play a key role to generate consensus for action.
But diplomacy, as traditionally understood, will not be enough. In our view there are two prerequisites to put this practice at the forefront to move to a more equitable and sustainable world after COVID-19: care and inclusiveness.
Care, understood as “a species of activity that includes everything we do to maintain, contain, and repair our ‘world’ so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, ourselves, and our environment”. This attitude has been characterized as “feminine”, constrained to the responsibility of women in the private scene as part of a gender stereotyped role.
Beyond this, concerns and commitments underlying caring were doing the right thing, connecting, focusing on the others’ experience, acknowledging individual dignity and worth and being present. On the other hand, Inclusiveness relates to the acknowledgement that states hold no longer the monopoly of power in the international systems. While states remain prominent actors, diffusion of power has paved the way for increasingly influential non-state actors, who have gained space in discussing global governance and our common agenda. Initiatives are emerging to explore ways to make diplomacy more inclusive.
Ours is the Global Diplomacy Lab – the GDL -, a platform for exploring a new and more inclusive diplomacy, one that goes beyond state to state relations. On its fifth anniversary, in 2020, we launched the Strategy for the next five years of the GDL. We collectively defined that we are working towards a new form of Diplomacy, one which we’ve called Diplomacy 4.0 – past tracks 1, 2 and 3 -, with the aim at enabling all relevant actors to engage in a new form of multi-stakeholder and cross-domain cooperation, with an inclusive mindset: one which seeks collaborative solutions to shared challenges in a positive-sum game.
Seeing that Foreign policy and diplomacy have traditionally been male domains and considering gender equality, as UN Women defines it, which implies that interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration, recognizing the diversity of different groups of women and men, how can we achieve gender equality at the representation function?
As Gender Alliance members, we are exploring the intersectionality of these concepts, with the aim of raising awareness of the need that diplomats -state and non state representatives- put the gender lens on to ask ourselves: when sitting at the negotiation table, are we representing the whole collective we are committed to?
Only if we are able to represent our collectives in their entire diversity, international agreements will boost their efficacy and Diplomacy will reposition itself as the tool by excellence to produce global public value.
This means we have to rethink how we do diplomacy and how we train to be professionals of diplomacy. But most importantly, we have to imagine new kinds of leadership.
Within the Gender Alliance, we have pitched the initiative Care4Diplomacy. With it we aim to contribute to a more effective global governance through promoting both care and inclusiveness as key values in multi-stakeholder diplomatic processes – this means Diplomacy 4.0 -, to collaborate to achieve political, social, material, and emotional conditions that allow for the vast majority of people and living beings to thrive.
We are setting up a Task Force to generate content and lead research linking care, diplomacy and gender, in partnership with the Global Diplomacy Lab, the BMW Foundation, GLAC and other potential partners; we will launch a survey with network members, to identify examples of care-focused programs dealing with issues of global governance; and we will develop a framework for an Inclusive Diplomacy Monitor.
The invitation is open. More information on the Gender Alliance: https://thegenderalliance.com/
About the authors:
Carolina Sheinfeld has vast experience in the educational sector and continuously advocates to generate systemic change in the area of immigrant and refugee integration.
Rocío Cañas is an international analyst and cooperation officer working in the fields of foreign policy, diplomatic relations, development cooperation and human rights in both the public sector and non-profit organizations internationally.
Trini Saona is a journalist and Chilean diplomat who continuously explores new methodologies and tools of diplomacy in order to achieve a new understanding of their practical use.
Published on October 10, 2020.
Photo credit: Marc Beckmann