How the diplomat’s role will change post-Coronavirus

 How the diplomat’s role will change post-Coronavirus


The rise of Africa has no other option but modernisation, democracy and openness.

Are we facing a redefinition of the role of the diplomat in the world today? Whether yes or no, anticipating the outcome is crucial.

The coronavirus challenges us on the functioning of a globalisation model where multilateralism, as a community of values ​​and solidarity, has revealed its shortcomings. At this time, when we are going through an unprecedented health crisis, the wind that heralds renewal carries with it the tenets, dogmas, and fundamentals of an obsolete “world order”.

The world is under attack in its essence and coherence, both in terms of functioning and configuration. It cannot and must no longer be ruled solely by power relations and the law of the strongest.

The interdependent relations of vulnerability put an end to any ambition for balance and cohesion on the international chessboard. However, the coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity to review the overlapping patterns of a “global society” to adapt to its times.

While resilience must be the aim, it now emerges that adaptation remains the watchword of diplomats capable of interacting with new realities. Proactive diplomats must fully consider the emerging contours of uncertainty and direct their actions, modus operandi and goals in a resolutely stabilising principle of global equilibrium.

Diplomats should take part in the initiation, reflection and concretisation of conceptualising a new world order.

An inescapable effort of reflection

Are we at the dawn of a redefinition of the role of the diplomat in the post-coronavirus world? Nothing is certain, but everything suggests we are entering a new era. Whether the changes that will result from the crisis are of different degrees or nature, we must anticipate the change, rigorously mobilise and vigilantly observe the circumstances.

The diplomat must rethink and adapt to this situation.

Diplomats must rethink “international interaction” in all that it implies as transnational links of interdependence, whether human, political, economic, cultural, legal, scientific, or others.

Today, the notions of risk, sustainability and justice must be revisited to assess the relevance of various approaches and to question certain perceptions and practices which have reached their limits.

Diplomats must readapt their role in this “new interaction system” as their responsibility and duty. If we consider that the diplomat acts in the creation, maintenance and orientation of transnational ties, then his role is fundamental, and the exercise of his profession becomes normative in the international system.

The new role of the diplomat

A central protagonist of a new concept of globalisation, the diplomat must adapt to the requirements of a new framework for interpreting international relations. The diplomat will have to advocate for multilateralism more than ever. He is at the service of a rational and lasting globalisation, which preserves humanity as well as international equilibrium.

Negotiation will remain central in the diplomat’s profession, as it will shape not only the configuration of the world system, but also the resilience and adaptation capacities of a world in constant mutation.

If the principles of openness that prevailed in the past were those of free movement, today they will be those of compromise and the merging of efforts for a common interest.

Information will become crucial — both its essential communication and its decisive analysis. The diplomat will have to gain expertise and learn to react in an environment that he must be able to transform according to the requirements of the moment.

The ability of the diplomat to effectively influence his environment is today becoming the barometer of the resilience of our international system.

The importance of “soft power” in diplomacy will increase, particularly in its scientific and technological forms. Innovation will become a tool and a goal in geopolitical and geostrategic issues.

Effective use of social media and new communication technologies will be compulsory attributes for future diplomats. The progressive dematerialisation and digitalisation of the diplomat’s work is inevitable.

Confinement has shown digitalisation is easily achievable and represents a considerable saving in time and money.

The diplomat will have to broaden the spectrum of his interlocutors by more effectively engaging civil society and NGOs, which are now key players and often decisive in international relations.

The Moroccan foreign ministry has initiated this necessary rationalisation effort by adopting innovative approaches over the past few years.

The African stakes

Africa is the continent where this paradigm shift in the exercise of diplomatic work will be most eloquently observed. The challenge for African countries is very real and the continent’s capacity to take charge of its destiny is under careful scrutiny today. Post-coronavirus Africa will be substantially different.

Weeks ago, the entire diplomatic machine of the continent moved to be on time with history. From Addis Ababa to New York, from the African Union to the United Nations through the World Health Organisation, the Bretton Woods institutions, the G20 and the European Union, African diplomats have spared no effort.

Real African solidarity is emerging, and aspirations for unity and renaissance are today at the top of a continental agenda, full of humanity, driven by visionary leadership and supported by a firm and clear vision towards a prosperous and audacious future.

It is this same vision which King Mohammed VI promotes, for an Africa that advances with determination.

The latest initiative Morocco is leading alongside other African heads of state is to establish an operational framework to support African countries in their various strategies of managing the pandemic. This initiative is in line with a spirit of unity and solidarity that operates on a continental scale.

In this configuration, African diplomats become the pillars of an overhaul of African interaction. They must assume their responsibilities by reflecting in their actions the requirements of a renewed pan-Africanism. Their approach must be in tune with the efforts already made to free Africa from outdated models, unjustified dogmatisms and obsolete ideologies.

The rise of Africa has no other option than modernisation, democracy and openness. It is therefore necessary to strengthen, modernise and develop the mechanisms and instruments of the African Union.

This effort must be in line with today’s clearly defined priorities and requires a relaunching of economies, combating of inequalities and social disparities, and promoting of inclusive growth while building a future of prosperity, peace and security for the continent. DM

Op-ed published on the Daily Maverick April 29th, 2020  


Youssef Amrani
Ambassador of Morocco in South Africa, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and co-operation delegate and Former Secretary-General of the Mediterranean Union.