The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic caused many changes in the diplomacy agenda. Both diplomacy is carried out by state actors (government) and public diplomacy is carried out by the international community with a people-to-people approach. Diplomatic activities play an important role to maintain peace between countries, strengthen cooperation, and create a mutual understanding of the country which through diplomatic activities especially soft power diplomacy, a country can be seen as a country that upholds peace through a soft power strategy and can be used as a strategy to avoid a conflict in the region. Therefore, with the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, diplomatic activities should continue, especially providing opportunities for youths in the Southeast Asia region to improve diplomatic skills. The Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi, stated that the youth population in Southeast Asia reached 213 million. With a large population, ASEAN youth have the potential to participate in creating and maintaining world peace by maximizing the use of technology amid in Covid-19. One of the strategies to increase soft power diplomacy during in pandemic is to utilize one of the ASEAN pillars, namely the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) pilar, which is a pilar with a people-centered approach that focuses on the international community which has many agendas to overcome various challenges in the Southeast Asia Region such as in the fields of population, poverty, employment, community welfare, and strengthening ASEAN identity through uniting the diversity of identities of each country in the Southeast Asia region into one identity to create an ASEAN identity and being able to recognize and appreciate the national identity of each country (Kementerian Luar Negeri Republik Indonesia, 2015).
Besides, ASEAN can realize the “we feeling” ASEAN and identify each diversity as a unified identity without reducing the recognition of the plurality of cultural, religious, economic, and political-ideological backgrounds that have developed. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, diplomatic activities involving the international community should be continued. In particular, by maximizing the ASEAN Foundation in strengthening its public diplomacy strategy by involving the community. One of the objectives of the establishment of the ASEAN Foundation is to increase awareness, interaction, and wider participation of the ASEAN community in ASEAN activities, including developing human resources to increase capabilities and capacities as productive and responsible members of society in contributing to the progress of ASEAN Agenda (ASEAN Foundation, 2018). Therefore, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, ASEAN must continue to implement the goals of the socio-cultural pillars by utilizing technological advances. It can be done to strengthen soft diplomacy in the Southeast Asia region through ASEAN Foundation are by conducting virtual art performances, carrying out creative ideas for youths in the Southeast Asia region in displaying their respective cultural diversity, developing youth diplomacy skills in the Southeast Asian region such as increasing the ability of negotiation skills that can be done virtually. The ability of diplomacy plays an important role to create harmonization among countries. Each ASEAN member country through youths can promote each country’s national identity related to tourism, culinary and culture, which can be a long term strategy to create sustainable diplomacy and when the pandemic is over, the international community keep on continue to look at a country as a harmonious country and upholds friendship in involving the international community to contribute for strengthening diplomatic cooperation among countries in the Southeast Asia region. Therefore, by utilizing digital diplomacy amid the pandemic, it can be the strategy to reduce or resolve conflicts through understanding communication, creating mutual understanding, strengthening relations in international actors; reduce tension, anger, fear, and misperceptions; increase experience in interacting; influence the mindset and actions of government by explaining root causes of the conflict. Therefore, diplomatic activities can be improved, especially under the ASEAN Foundation in guiding youth in the Southeast Asia region to develop their diplomatic skills, and providing opportunities for youths to convey their ideas in overcoming a conflict that is currently occurring in the Southeast Asia region. Because youths play an important role in continuing diplomatic activities in the future. Assistance, direction, and collaboration are needed to ensure the sustainability of soft diplomacy in the Southeast Asia region in the future.
in utilizing soft diplomacy amid in the Covid-19 pandemic, the international community, especially youth, not only promotes the advantages possessed by each country, but requires a good practice in terms of improving diplomacy skills, negotiation, and involving youth in providing ideas from various aspects where youths can also be allowed to be involved in solving the problem in the Southeast Asia region. In addition, youth collaboration through the ASEAN Foundation can also collaborate with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) in each country that focuses on each issue. Therefore, in conducting diplomacy, negotiating, and resolving a conflict, every level of society can be involved in conveying their ideas. And amid in the Covid-19 pandemic situation, diplomatic activities should never stop, but each country especially ASEAN, needs to take advantage of digital as a new alternative for cooperation and diplomacy amid in the Covid-19 Pandemic.
*Nani Septianie, Research Assistant at Universitas Islam Indonesia