The work of most diplomatic missions is limited to monitoring information on the spread of the virus and assisting in the repatriation of citizens stranded in foreign countries. Diplomats are busy getting their country's citizens on board of the last plane home before the borders close hermetically.
No one knows when and how the crisis will end, but there is no doubt that it will affect all of us without exception. The processes that guide our lives today will be accelerated many times under the influence of this crisis. What may take decades will take months. What was supposed to happen over the years will now take just a few weeks.
There will be changes in most of our professions, including the profession of the diplomat. The struggle between traditional and modern diplomacy will end with the unconditional victory of the latter. Diplomats will either have to adapt to a new reality or go the way of the dinosaurs - unprepared for an evolutionary leap.
These changes will affect both the essence and form of diplomatic work. Here are some of the main changes as they appear today, long before this crisis ends:
1. In the face of a clash between two conflicting trends - a growing international interdependence on one hand, and counties moving toward a policy of isolationism on the other - diplomats will become the protagonist of a new concept of globalization. They will formulate the new rules of the global game: "A world without borders" in the literal sense will be replaced by the widespread use of big data, the global exchange of knowledge and experience, and the creation of a center (or several regional centers) for the distribution of vital resources.
2. The importance of "soft power" in diplomacy will increase, and above all, the scientific and technological potential. Diplomats will need to learn how to use the technological advantages of their countries to achieve political and economic goals. Those countries possessing modern healthcare systems and strong scientific and technological bases will have the advantage over resource-dependent countries.
3. The ability to effectively use social networks, along with creativity and having a strong market approach will be the mandatory attributes of future diplomats. Information technology has long been a part of modern diplomacy. With the end of the coronavirus pandemic these attributes will occupy a central role in the work of the diplomat.
4. A growing number of health challenges now transcend national borders, which generates a growing demand for more concerted policy responses, as well as diplomatic coordination at the global level. Health diplomacy will become a separate profession. In most diplomatic missions, there will be more "medical attache" postings - diplomats possessing medical knowledge or doctors who would go through some diplomatic training.
5. The role of international organizations and specialized agencies - such as the World Health Organization (WHO) - will become more significant. Countries will have to increase donations to the WHO and take its efforts more seriously. The influence of international financial institutions will likewise increase significantly. They will determine the global strategy in dealing with the consequences of this pandemic.
6. Diplomats will have to resolve many issues relating to the movement of citizens during times of crises. One option might be the introduction of "medical visas," allowing for cross-border movement for those who prove to be free of viral infections. Diplomats will actively participate in defining new rules, such as medical examination guidelines before boarding international flights and creating databases on the health of citizens of foreign countries.
7. Diplomatic protocols will become substantially more flexible. In a reality in which most meetings are held in the format of a video conference, protocol and dress code issues will lose much of their relevance.
Although diplomacy will see many changes in the future, the task of all diplomats will remain to protect and defend the interests of their countries. But in order to successfully cope with this task after the current pandemic, diplomats will have to adapt much faster to the changing reality.
The writer is a former ambassador of Israel in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.