COVID-19 and Citizen Diplomacy

As an international organization with contacts all over the world, we’ve been monitoring the COVID-19 situation and making contingency plans for any changes to our programs.

Well that day is here. Yesterday, I ate my breakfast watching Leo Varadkar, the prime minister of Ireland announce the closure of all public institutions across my home country in an attempt to slow the community spread of COVID-19. Then I came to work for a discussion with the U.S. Department of State where we decided to postpone all our programs until May.

What this means for Citizen Diplomacy right now

First, we have decided to cancel April’s First Thursday on April 2. We are hopeful that our First Thursday in May will go ahead, and I will be in touch later this month as we see how the situation progresses.

Second, we are working closely with the U.S. Department of State and our partners in D.C. to reschedule our programs for later in the year. We know from past experience that, once this crisis passes, we will be inundated with delegations trying to make up for lost time, and we want to be prepared.

Third, we are continuing with our plans for the Citizens Soiree on June 4. I am hopeful that the pandemic will be under control by then. But most importantly, the Citizens Soiree underwrites our Sister City High School exchange programs. And I think this recent global crisis underscores the need for Philadelphia to ensure our young people have a global perspective.

My one ask for you

Please take a moment to reach out to any of the international visitors you hosted recently. While we will not be hosting international delegations face-to-face for the next month, our work to build and strengthen international connections for Philadelphia is as important as ever. And if there is one thing I have learned from working through global crises, it’s that people always remember who stood by them when times were hard. This is the power of Citizen Diplomacy.

Thank you for all your support, and do let me know if you hear any good news from your international contacts. I think we could all use some good news these days.

Stay safe and healthy!


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