5th Geneva Engage Awards - Towards effective and engaging online meetings | 29 January 2020

29 January 2020


"Policies developed in Geneva impact citizens, communities and countries worldwide. Online tools should play a vital role in including their voices in debates on health, standards, human rights and numerous other issues addressed in Geneva." stressed Béatrice Ferrari, Director of International Affairs, Presidential Department, Republic and the State of Geneva, in her opening statement at the 2020 Geneva Engage Award event.

The 5th Annual Geneva Engage Awards have been awarded to actors in International Geneva in recognition of their effectiveness of using social media during 2019 in three main categories:

  • International organisations: The UN Refugee Agency 
  • NGOs: The New Humanitarian
  • Permanent missions: Norway

This year, Geneva Engage, introduced a new award for effective and innovative online meetings. The award was given to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) for its pioneering efforts in making online meetings an effective tool in global diplomacy.

In receiving this award, Chengetai Masango, Head of the IGF Secretariat said: "We walked the talk by using the Internet in order to discuss Internet governance issues. Without online participation we would not have been able to achieve a high level of multistakeholder inclusion over the last 15 years. One lesson we learnt is that proper preparation and moderation are essential for effective online participation."

The panel discussion at the Geneva Engage event focused on the technical, behavioural and diplomatic aspects of online participation. Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) framed the main issue by saying: "Can you hear me" is the most frequently-asked question in thousand of online meetings happening right now. The challenge is not only that of ensuring that you are heard by the other side, but also the way how these meetings are prepared and moderated.  New protocol rules are being established. New technological solutions are emerging from holograms to virtual reality."

According to Dr Kurbalija "Geneva as a host of thousands of meetings is the right place to explore the future of meetings". At the GIP, the first practical steps will be to research on the future of meetings and the use of experimental conference rooms. 

Arvin Kamberi, Head of e-participation at DiploFoundation and conveyor of more than a 1000 online meetings over the last 10 years, said that "online participation is not only tech-cool, but also a very practical tool for business continuity. During the disruption of air travel caused by the eruption of Iceland’s volcano in 2011, online tools were often the only solution for arranging meetings. Today, when the coronavirus slows-down travelling, online conferencing can help as well". 

Stefania Pia Grottola, PhD researcher and Teaching Assistant at the University of Geneva, on the future of diplomacy, shared her experience from the recent study trip to the Silicon Valley as a fellow to Denmark’s Office of the Tech Ambassador: "It is impressive to see the new technological tools developed in the Valley. However, there is still a lack of understanding of diplomatic dynamics. Here, it is where Geneva can create an important bridge between technology and diplomacy".

The Geneva Engage Awards is awarded by DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform with the support of the Canton of Geneva. 

Text provided by the Geneva Internet Platform. For more information about Geneva Engage initiative and activities of DiploFoundation and the Geneva Internet Platform, please contact Marco Lotti (marcol@diplomacy.edu).

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