Isabel Bramsen and Anine Hagemann present their article “The missing sense of peace [in Syria and Yemen]: Diplomatic approachment and virtualization during the COVID-19”
With the unprecedented COVID-lockdown in 2020, many peace diplomatic efforts turned virtual. This represented a temporary loss of many of the usual practices of peace diplomacy and provided an opportunity to examine virtual diplomacy as all that was lost; the importance of physical face-to-face meetings. Based on interviews with parties and mediators involved in the peace processes of Syria and Yemen we analyze the affordances of virtual and physical meetings respectively.
Particularly, virtual meetings condition peace diplomacy in terms of broadening accessibility, putting confidentiality at risk, allowing for higher frequency of meetings, often disrupting interaction, but also in some instances equalizing it. Physical, meetings on the other hand allow for bodily presence, for spending extended periods of time together, for reconciliatory interaction and creating informal space.
Most importantly, the transition to virtual meetings demonstrated the missing sense of peace, a notion we develop to capture the visceral dimension of physical meetings, conceptualized to include understanding, togetherness and trust. We argue that neither virtual nor physical diplomacy should be discarded and discuss strategies of how to work around the missing sense of peace in virtual diplomacy and the potential of hybrid solutions exploiting the potential of both formats.
Isabel Bramsen (PhD) is Associate Senior Lecturer at Lund University, Department of Political Science and postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Resolution of International Conflicts (CRIC), University of Copenhagen. She has published several articles on nonviolent resistance, violence, conflict resolution, emotions and the micro-sociology of peace and conflict. She is co-author of International Konfliktløsning (Samfundslitteratur 2016) and Addressing International Conflict: Dynamics of Escalation, Continuation and Transformation (Routledge 2019).
Anine Hagemann is a PhD candidate at the University of Copenhagen, on leave from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Her research focuses on peacebuilding, Protection of Civilians, women’s involvement in peace negotiations and Nordic peace collaboration. She is interested in practice-relevant research and is a Danish diplomat with extensive field experience. She is co-author of New Nordic Peace (Nordisk Ministerråd 2019).
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