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September: The start of the diplomatic year

Published on 08 September 2020
Updated on 19 March 2024

Unveiling a series of new events and tools for policy practitioners

There’s more than one reason why September feels fresh. The equinox marks a change in the seasons. Schools, offices, and parliaments resume their work, and the diplomatic calendar kicks off. But this year’s re-entry is like no previous one.  

The UN General Assembly’s annual debate, a fixed appointment held in New York every September, is changing its format. Instead of the habitual meetings, for the first time in 75 years, heads of state will address the high-level segment via video meetings. In other diplomatic hubs, meetings are turning virtual, or at best, hybrid. Corridor meetings and shoulder-tap conversations are being replaced by online chats. 

As more diplomatic activities shift online, diplomats will need to revisit the ways in which they meet, negotiate, and develop policies. So how is multilateral diplomacy being affected by COVID-19?

As for digital policy itself, some discussions – such as those related to taxation, competition, and the digital economy – are maturing. The UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation has provided the framework and space to help answer the perennial question of who, how, and where should the digital space be governed. It will soon be time for deeper discussions on digital technology and the environment. 

At DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP), in the coming weeks, we will accelerate the development of innovative solutions. In addition to continuing our online teaching in diplomacy and digital policy – our modus operandi for years – we’ll be launching a series of new events and tools for diplomats, policymakers, and practitioners during this term



Launching in September 2020

14 Sept. The new Digital Watch observatory
 [Update] Visit the new Digital Watch website

17 Sept. ConfTech’s Library on the Future of Meetings
[Update] The ConfTech Library is now available!

21 Sept. The humAInism Speech Generator
[Update] Try out the Speech Generator.

24 Sept. ConfTech Help Desk for inclusive governance 
[Update] Check out the new ConfTech Help Desk.

28 Sept. The Digital Watch Weekly Digest 
[Update] Sign up for the new DW Weekly Digest.


Launching in October 2020
[Update] Visit…

5 Oct. Advanced Cybersecurity 10-week course
8 Oct. Tech Meets informal get-togethers (in Geneva)

12 Oct. Diplo’s new Data Engine
 [Update] Visit Diplo’s Data Engine

15 Oct. Online course ‘Online Meetings and Conferences: How to Run Effective and Secure Events’
19 Oct. The Digital Watch AI-powered media barometer
22 Oct. Study: Diplomacy in the age of COVID-19
26 Oct. The new Geneva Digital Atlas
29 Oct. The ConfTech Immersion Lab (in Geneva)



1. The new Digital Watch observatory     

Launching on Monday, 14th September | Online

We’re launching a brand new version of the Digital Watch observatory, built on a smart mix of expert and AI-powered analysis. While we’ll continue to analyse the 40+ digital policy issues, we’ll also focus on cross-cutting aspects.

Why will this be useful? The new observatory will help you understand issues in an interdisciplinary way. For instance, we’ll look at AI and data policy through the lens of human rights, security, and trade. We’ll also be going further (and include the interplay between the environment and the digital) and deeper to unpack complex issues (such as how the new digital standard is shaping geopolitics and the digital world).



2. ConfTech’s Library on the Future of Meetings     

[Update] The ConfTech Library is now available!

Launching on Thursday, 17th September | Online

At the height of the spread of the global pandemic, many organisations and companies shifted to teleworking and online meetings, while universities and schools also turned to online learning. This new way of working, learning, and living is here to stay.

The ConfTech Lab’s new library on the future of meetings helps us make the best decisions to transition from onsite to online and hybrid meetings. There will be a wealth of articles, how-to guides, and videos on how to make this transition as effective, efficient, and smart as possible.


3. The humAInism Speech Generator 

[Update] Try out the Speech Generator

Launching on Monday, 21st September | Online

The humAInism Speech Generator is a platform for generating diplomatic statements on cybersecurity by codifying existing expertise (bottom-up AI) and pattern recognition of speeches delivered during the UN-mandated Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on developments in the field of ICTs in the context of international security (top-down AI).

During the launch, we will be looking under the bonnet, and also explain what we’ve learned on AI governance from the development of AI tools.

4. Help Desk for inclusive governance

[Update] Check out the Help Desk

Launching on Thursday, 24th September | Online

COVID-19 has forced the world to shift to a digital way of working and meeting, creating ‘the new normal’, which is likely here to stay. While some have managed to adapt easily, others need a helping hand to transition to virtual meetings and conferences, and to select the right approach and tools. 

One of the best ways of assisting those who need help is by providing real-time assistance based on the specific needs and roles of organisations or countries. This is the main role of the new ConfTech Help Desk which will be launched officially at the end of September.

5. The Digital Watch weekly digest

[Update] Sign up for the new DW Weekly Digest.

Launching on Monday, 28th September | Online

The digital policy field is complex and intense with fast developments. What better way to keep track than to read bite-sized updates each week? In the next few weeks, the Digital Watch will be providing regular e-mail digests on developments that are making headlines, as well as their impact on global policy. We’ll also share a list of policy events to keep an eye on, and other relevant content. 

6. Contemporary diplomacy course offerings

Launching on Thursday, 1st October | Online

We’re launching our autumn courses in October. These include Sustainable Development Diplomacy, Negotiation Skills, Language and Diplomacy, and Economic Diplomacy. The application deadline is 25 September.

If you’re interested in deepening your understanding of diplomacy, apply for our Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy programme, offered in co-operation with the University of Malta. For the first time, our programme will be entirely online. It starts in February 2021.


7. Advanced Cybersecurity 10-week course

Launching on Monday, 5th October | Online

Today’s headlines often feature the word ‘cyber’, reporting on threats related to the virtual world: online child abuse, stolen credit cards and virtual identities, malware and viruses, botnets and denial-of-service attacks on corporate and government servers, cyberespionage, and cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure including nuclear facilities and power supply networks.

What are the real cybersecurity challenges? What has changed during COVID-19? What is the role of diplomacy, international legal instruments, and regional and national policies in addressing these threats, and how efficient are they? How does international cooperation in cybersecurity work, and what are the roles of the various stakeholders?

The 10-week advanced course on cybersecurity will cover technological and geopolitical risks, policy challenges, actors, and initiatives related to cybersecurity, especially those related to cybercrime, violence, child protection, the security of core infrastructure, and cyberwarfare. It also covers a broader context: the relations of cybersecurity with economic development and human rights.


8. Tech Meets informal get-togethers

Launching on Thursday, 8th October | Geneva

The number of diplomats assigned to cover digital policy issues is increasing. In International Geneva, where more than half of the digital policy discussions take place, a vibrant network of tech diplomats is emerging quickly.

Starting in October 2020, we will launch a series of informal get-togethers for tech diplomats. The Tech Meets will be held at different locations (including Jardin Botanique and the Attique of the World Meteorological Organization), and will serve as networking events.


9. Diplo’s new Data Engine 

[Update] Visit Diplo’s Data Engine

Launching on Monday, 12th October | Online

After years of conceptual and technical developments, we will present a pilot version of our Data Engine, as part of Diplo’s new artificial intelligence (AI) and data ecosysteem. Simple in usability and complex in development, it will allow diplomats and other global governance actors to use data in practical ways.

The engine addresses data from the following perspectives: diplomatic (what matters for practitioners of diplomacy); technical (what the cutting-edge tools and platforms are); statistical (which proven statistical techniques can be used, such as data normalisation and identifying outliers); and AI-related (what are the optimal algorithms for discovering patterns of relevance for diplomacy). 

The first practical use of Diplo’s Data Engine will be to power the Geneva Data Sandbox as part of the Road to Bern via Geneva process leading up to the UN World Data Forum. 


10. Online course ‘Online Meetings and Conferences: How to Run Effective and Secure Events’

Launching on Thursday, 15th October | Online

With recent limitations to international travel, online meetings have become a key working tool for governments, businesses, and organisations worldwide. Diplomacy and global governance have been particularly affected as meetings, conferences, and other major events have been cancelled worldwide.

In our intensive and updated short online course, participants will learn how to organise and run online and hybrid events, including: choosing and using appropriate technical platforms, planning the entire process from the initial idea  to follow-ups, and effectively moderating meetings. Using a just-in-time approach, the course will address the developments in online and blended meetings and events as they unfold. The call for applications will be launched in the coming days.


11. The Digital Watch AI-powered media barometer

Launching on Monday, 19th October | Online

Media coverage – or lack of coverage – is a good indicator of national policy priorities, new technological developments, and issues raised by various actors.  

The new Digital Watch media barometer will use AI tools to analyse the coverage of digital issues across global media. The barometer will help practitioners monitor the pulse of global and regional debates, as well as priorities in the digital field. 


12. Study: Diplomacy in the age of COVID-19

Launching on Thursday, 22nd October | Online

DiploFoundation has been conducting research on the challenges to multilateral diplomacy and the UN system in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the support of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, we are investigating the changes and challenges to the conduct of (multilateral) diplomacy. 

Part of the study assesses the diplomatic practice and tools used as a response to the COVID-19 crisis, including new forms of conducting diplomacy, multistakeholderism, the inclusion of non-state actors, the impact of technology, and the adaptations of practices and procedures. The study will be presented at an event on 22 October.


13. The new Geneva Digital Atlas

Launching on Monday, 26th October | Geneva & online

We’re launching the new Geneva Digital Atlas, a useful guide for navigating digital issues, actors, and processes in International Geneva. The aim is to increase awareness about the rich Geneva digital scene and to accelerate co-operation between actors dealing with various aspects of digital policy issues, ranging from standardisation and data protection to security and human rights.

The Atlas, which is powered by AI analyses of documents and instruments, will therefore encourage actors to approach digital policy through various angles, and strengthen collaboration among stakeholder groups.


14. The ConfTech Immersion Lab (in Geneva)

Launching on Thursday, 29th October | Geneva

The way we meet is the way we live and run our society. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped us realise this simple truism. 

Our new immersion lab, which will be unveiled in October, will offer a space for implementing different types of meetings, including hybrid meetings which combine multiple formats. The lab will also showcase the application of different tech tools and moderation techniques for more effective meetings. 


Subscribe to our DiploNews and Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) newsletters and stay up-to-date with our latest projects.

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