United Nations (CNN)Nothing says diplomacy more than a hearty handshake. Touching, embraces, and cheek-to-cheek kisses represented daily life in the corridors and at receptions in the world arena of diplomacy: the United Nations in New York.
'Cocktail receptions on Zoom are sad.' United Nations diplomacy in the age of Covid-19
Now, Covid-19 is striking at the heart of the United Nations itself. And many diplomats, some speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity, believe that the old ways of doing business may be changed forever by the pandemic.
It's been a struggle on the world's highest diplomatic stage. How do you practice the fine arts of diplomacy when the conference rooms sit empty, meetings are via Zoom, and the entire staff is working from home?
"Obviously diplomacy needs contact. it needs presence," said Secretary General António Guterres. We are doing our best through these virtual mechanisms."
"Of course, I miss intimacy ... hugging my dear colleagues or smiling with them together," Hungary's UN Ambassador Katalin Bogyay told CNN.
The pandemic has meant the UN-based diplomatic corps has had to function like uh, common civilians.
The 15 countries on the United Nations Security Council -- the UN's loftiest decision-making body -- hold public meetings that look like a Hollywood Squares show on steroids.
Gone are the face-to-face conversations that diplomats say can mean the difference in how a nation might vote or a resolution is written.
Typically, the 193 UN Ambassadors and deputies attend hundreds of receptions at each other's homes or offices annually, a tradition that has been upended.
The goal isn't to partake in fine food and drinks, said Belgium's UN Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, but to meet a lot of people at the same time. "That is really useful as part of daily work," he said.
Now everything is virtual. "Cocktail receptions on Zoom are boring and sad," another diplomat conceded.
The Security Council's lack of unity on important issues, from Syria to Myanmar, has not improved in the pandemic era.
It took three months to even approve a resolution about the virus itself. And the recent vote on continuing the flow of humanitarian aid to Syria required five secret remote votes and concluded with many recriminations.
The diplomats do seem to have a coping mechanism that sometimes defies norms. After all they have to sit through numbing marathon hours of speeches during an average year.
French Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière said "as long as there is no vaccine we have to adjust to these realities."
Diplomats shelter inside their homes. and must adjust like all of us.
"You appreciate your own company," said Hungary's Bogyay. "I create every day as if it was a musical piece. I have etude, sonata or symphony days with some nocturnes depending on the topics we are covering."
Another diplomat confided that she and senior diplomats have shared