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Diplomat Interview (Nicaragua)

Spotlight on Ricardo Carioni, Nicaragua’s Deputy Ambassador

What are your thoughts on the current health crisis?

Coronavirus has impacted all dimensions of our lives, both at personal and professional levels. To call it a tragedy would be an understatement, considering the lives lost, the unspeakable pain of those who lost loved ones, and the ongoing suffering of many still under lockdown and other extremely challenging conditions. Whilst in some countries the peak has passed, and recovery begins, in others they’re still battling to survive the worst. It is easy to judge and criticise the choices and steps taken by people and/or governments, but hard to prescribe comprehensive solutions. However, I’m confident that humanity’s resilience and ability to adapt will prevail, and I’m sincerely hopeful that we’ll learn some lessons from each other and be better prepared for the future. My observation is that international solidarity, cooperation, multilateral and regional coordinated actions are essential to succeed.

How has Covid-19 impacted you personally?

Since the pandemic began in January, the scariest moment was when my wife, who works in cancer research trials at Charing Cross Hospital, started to show symptoms of Covid-19. Tests later confirmed she was positive. I feared the worst for her, whether my 13-year-old son would also become ill, and how I could help them if I became ill, which I eventually did. Fortunately, we are generally healthy, so our illness was bearable. It essentially felt like the worst flu we have ever had, and luckily, we were able to take turns looking after each other. We are now fully recovered, whilst being extra cautious to prevent any possible reinfection. One silver lining of this virus is that most children tend to be asymptomatic, as was the case with my son.

How has the current situation affected your work life?

As the Republic of Nicaragua’s Deputy Ambassador in the UK, Ireland and Iceland, our work in diplomatic, multilateral, government and international affairs has been rapidly adapting to new challenges and unscripted realities. This is particularly the case with the diminished luxury of person-to-person interaction, which historically, has been the fundamental core of diplomacy. Diplomacy has been built on (and maintains) a wealth of traditional practices and protocols, where the adaptation and application of new digital technologies has, until now, not generally been the norm when compared with other sectors.

Our Nicaraguan communities have been our highest priority and responsibility. We haven’t stopped working, learning and evolving in order to effectively serve and respond to the needs of our people, particularly through the use of new technology. We have had to respond to immediate problems, like organising repatriation flights in coordination with various governments. We have had to provide clear and constant advice to Nicaraguan expats, as well as consular services. All of this has taken place alongside our work strengthening bilateral relations with governments, academia, civil society and other institutions.

We are also actively collaborating and advancing our response to the pandemic at multilateral and UN organisations, in a variety of sectors, such as maritime, coffee and sugar. We have moved our regular (and emergency) meetings online. We are working collectively with other countries, and private and public sectors, to ensure the production, trade and supply flows of food products supports the millions of people, families and communities that depend on them.

What are you working on next?

We are closely working with partners and other organisations to support key sectors of Nicaragua’s economy, like travel and tourism. We must focus on the responsible, sustainable and timely recovery of these industries, while mitigating the long-term impact of Covid-19. Above all, I’m deeply impressed by the spirit of solidarity, resilience and positivity in the midst of this grave challenge for travel, tourism, leisure and hospitality. I am extremely motivated by the inspiring sentiments that have transpired from my (mostly online) conversations with the major stakeholders of these industries, as well as in other sectors such as renewable energy, manufacturing, infrastructure, agri-business, education, health, fisheries, mining and natural resources.

It is paramount for governments to work in tandem with academia to develop the best scientifically informed policy and strategy. As such, I welcome opportunities to engage with some of the brightest minds and the world’s top universities, especially in the range of webinars and roundtables that I’ve recently attended.

We are working hard not to lose momentum on important social issues where we have already made significant progress. For instance, Nicaragua is the fifth most gender equal country in the world and top in the American continent. In terms of climate action, 83 per cent of Nicaragua’s energy is produced from renewable resources. I look forward to participating in COP 26, which I hope will be a momentous meeting. We are determined to make the necessary commitments to achieve serious progress in tackling climate change and protecting nature.

It’s also our responsibility to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, by strategically implementing well-planned and managed policies. International cooperation at multilateral levels must be at the core of this. It’s more important than ever to influence migration policy globally, enhancing cooperation and contributing to the identification of practical solutions to migration problems, and to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need.

We must protect minority groups, which are under extra pressure during the current pandemic. As a government, it is our obligation to keep working hard to stay alert and firm in ensuring the protection of all minorities’ rights, particularly our indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in the Nicaraguan Caribbean autonomous region.

Last, but most certainly not least, we’re continuing our efforts to promote dialogue and understanding between the people of Nicaragua and those living in Great Britain, Ireland and Iceland, primarily through what makes us human, our culture. To try to overcome social distancing, we’ve launched a series of virtual exhibitions at our Nicaragua House Cultural Centre, to bring the warmth, colours, rhythm, flavours, literature and traditions of my people and country to the UK. We celebrate the cultural and historic bonds between the UK and our land of lakes and volcanoes, of Native American, African, Spanish, British and multicultural roots, Caribbean and Pacific, of Darío and Sandino. Physically in Fitzrovia, we give visitors to Nicaragua House a warm virtual welcome at our cultural and business hub. We offer an exciting cultural agenda of exhibitions, film screenings, music and dance performances, book launches, lectures, networking events, and virtual tastings of the world’s finest chocolate, coffee, rum, cigars and more.

To conclude, I welcome this acceleration of the use of digital technologies in the diplomatic world, as well as the agile response of our partners and organisations to keep advancing our diplomatic and business agendas in the midst of social distancing measures. Perhaps I’m especially welcoming and adapting to digital diplomacy in part due to my previous role pioneering new technologies at TripAdvisor. However, I think these changes in the diplomatic world are here to stay and will have a long-term positive impact.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude, and that of my family, to all the NHS and essential workers in the UK that put their lives at risk to look after us. My message is clear: we have serious challenges, but we’ll only succeed if we can fully embrace and practice compassion, solidarity, collaboration and cooperation.

Interview originally published by Alliance Manchester Business School, at Manchester University.


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