From left, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, President Jokowi, and Former Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto attending the virtual Asean Special Summit, in Bogor Palace in April 2020. (Photo courtesy of Presidential Secretariat)

A Closer Look at Zoomplomacy During the Pandemic

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

DECEMBER 15, 2021

Jakarta. Diplomacy is no exception to the technological impact of Covid-19, with diplomatic activities now mostly taking place in the virtual realm. But this new norm in diplomacy has its pros and cons, according to an Uzbek envoy.

Muzaffar Abduazimov —the Charge d’Affaires of the Uzbek Embassy in Jakarta and Secretary II for Political Issues— named accelerating penetration of information and communications technology (ICT) as one of the major trends in the mid-pandemic diplomatic world.

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Before Covid-19 struck the world, ICT was only one of the tools to conduct diplomatic practices. 

“During the pandemic, it has become the leading tool of communications in diplomacy,” Abduazimov told the Gunadarma University's Economic Faculty International Conference on Tuesday.

Virtual meetings are easier and less time-consuming to conduct. They also require less human or financial resources. As diplomatic meetings turn online, academicians start to use the term ‘zoomplomacy’ —which puts together the video conference platform 'Zoom' and 'diplomacy'.

“But besides its benefits, acceleration of ICT penetration into diplomacy poses significant information security risks. The level of digitalization and acceleration of ICT penetration requires the reappraising of information security issues,” Abduazimov said.

Diplomats pay more attention to the level of information conveyed during virtual conferences. This is because online events and negotiations call into question the compliance with the off-the-record protocols. In response, some demand the Chatham House Rule, while others feel skeptical of its applicability online, according to Abduazimov.

The envoy added, “although the shift to more online activities is a timely measure of diplomacy during the pandemic. However, online diplomacy has its pitfalls and it cannot represent all the benefits of personal diplomacy.”  

“Despite the fact that online activities are relatively easier to be conducted than personal meetings, it minimizes the non-verbal aspect of communication, which is also an impartial part of any negotiation."

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