Diplomats, They’re Just Like Us!

Working remotely since March in line with New York State requirements, United Nations bodies have been forced to adopt new work practices, at times straining their aging technology systems.

In what was meant to be a banner year for its 75th anniversary, the UN is instead facing challenges in bringing the world’s leaders together and struggling to replicate the rhythms of Turtle Bay. 

The Security Council, whose open debates are traditionally held in person in all five UN languages, now only broadcasts its opening remarks. Ambassadors can submit written statements in advance.

The daily press briefing is broadcast over live webcast from the home of the Secretary-General’s spokesperson, complete with all the glitches and muting issues facing remote workers in 2020.

The UN press stakeout, where journalists wait outside of committee rooms to catch principals for quick remarks and rapid-fire questions, has not been replaced. Now principals release live statements on UN Web TV without taking questions.

But remote work has brought some positive developments. Yesterday, the Secretary-General and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica hosted a high-level event on mobilizing financing for development with live statements from heads of government and global institutions such as the World Bank and IMF.

A similar event in the pre-COVID era would have taken months, if not years, to plan.