The CPD Blog is intended to stimulate dialog among scholars, researchers, practitioners and professionals from around the world in the public diplomacy sphere. The opinions represented here are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.
: a soldier who is paid by a foreign country to fight in its army : a soldier who will fight for any group or country that hires him (Merriam-Webster)
Say that you work for a private security company (PSC) and most people think one of two things: Either you are a mall cop. Or you work for Blackwater, the infamous private security firm, and you go around shooting people. Blackwater rose to notoriety in 2007 for the Nisour Square incident in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed and 20 were injured when Blackwater personnel, under contract for the U.S. State Department, opened fire while clearing a route for U.S. officials. The ensuing outrage from Iraqi’s prompted a string of investigations, including one by the FBI, and brought to light the highly unregulated environment in which foreign PSCs operated in Iraq. The FBI’s investigation found that at least 14 of the 17 people killed in the incident were shot without cause, and a range of charges, including manslaughter, were levied upon the guards involved.
Guns and trucks
The Nisour Square incident would damage the credibility of all PSCs for years to come, and not just those in Iraq. Blackwater itself would change its name twice – first to Xe Services in 2009 then to Academi in 2011 – to try to restore its reputation (even though everyone still knows it by its original name). As for other private security companies, they have evolved – both deliberately, to distance themselves from being perceived as mercenaries running around with guns and trucks; and organically, to adapt to the maturing security environments of places like Iraq. Regulation, for example, (albeit sometimes stifled by corruption, bureaucracy, and inertia), means that the “Wild West” days, of PSCs roaming about Iraq shooting first and asking questions never, are long over. Indeed, many Western PSCs currently operating in Iraq have not fired a single bullet in years.
Lifecycle of a post-war security environment
When a liberating (‘occupying’) force (aka the U.S. Military), leaves a country (or, at least, the military campaign is over), the diplomats and private industry (aka International Oil Companies) move in. With them come the private security companies to provide them protection. [Actually, some PSCs are often part of the war campaign itself to supplement military efforts].
Many, if not most, Western private security companies were founded by ex-military officers and soldiers, usually special forces or similar. And they often recruit their buddies (the “Old Boys’ Network”), who are just getting out of the military. In a new post-war environment, this is reasonable. Ex-soldiers will have the skills and abilities demanded by the still volatile security environment that a military campaign leaves behind. Bodyguards are for celebrities. Entry-level armed guards on the ground in hostile environments are known as “shooters.”
A mercenary is a soldier who will work for any group that hires him; a shooter is an ex-soldier who will do the same. The PSC market is colloquially known by many as the “circuit,” as contractors go round from one company to another and back again depending on who is offering the best terms.
What happens over time, though, is that the market “matures” towards local nationalisation of security provision. Indigenous PSCs will spring up as cheap and cheerful alternatives to their foreign (Western) counterparts. The international oil companies and other clients will switch to these local providers, attracted by the cheaper contracts and “encouraged” by the host government. Thus, the Western PSCs, with their guns, trucks, and shooters become less relevant.
How do foreign PSCs continue to do business in a mature “nationalised” security market, like Iraq? Supporting the shooters on the ground in the first place would be a system of intelligence analysts (“int” or “intel”, depending which side of the Atlantic you are from). In the early security market, these int guys would also most likely be ex-military. Later though, “consultants” come into the picture – a much more civilian job title. As the host government and clients start to want to see fewer guns and trucks (even if they are still there), they want to see more consultants. A consultancy sector is a sign of an industrialized nation and this is something to which governments like that of Iraq aspire. The new shooters, then, are those who can handle information rather than AK-47s. [It is taboo to use the word intelligence in the private security world because that makes host governments think you are spying].
These information mercenaries can be former career soldiers, even if they were not military intelligence, as there are courses and qualifications available in security management, which turn them into security consultants. Or they can be civilians with an analysis background, for example. The point is that it is this different breed of contractor which is more relevant in a mature security market like Iraq. They are still members of the private security world and, while they may have done time on the ground as actual shooters, they are a different species to the Blackwater guards in Nisour Square in 2007. They are not mall cops either.
Information Mercenaries. Except we don’t really wear suits. Or ties.
Public diplomacy of private security
While the public diplomacy aspects of a military campaign ought to be managed by the governments involved, the phrase “public diplomacy” does not even exist in the private security world. Ex-soldiers are often unaware of how their actions in a foreign country, and the way in which they interact with the local population, can elicit significant consequences. Before, they had the military, their government, and the umbrella of war to protect them. In the private security world, they are open to liability. The Nisour Square incident is a prime example.
Information mercenaries can play a role here. They are more likely to be aware of, or at least are capable of understanding, public diplomacy due to their typically more educated backgrounds (either post military or in lieu of). Private security companies would do well to recognize the need for public diplomacy and recruit individuals who can handle it. As alluded to earlier, host governments are often more amenable to consultancies and allow PSCs, with a “softer” image, a smoother ride than those with reputations hardened by armor and weapons. This, in turn, makes these private security consultancies more attractive to potential clients. We are in an era where nothing can be covered up for very long and reputation is everything. Information mercenaries are necessary for an information age.
The rise of Web 2.0 tools created a new, easy-to-use channel for diplomats and public diplomacy bureaus to reach far-flung publics. Many foreign ministries adopted the new technology almost immediately, creating a field called public diplomacy 2.0. New problems appeared quickly though. Social media’s all-in participation creates an environment where messages cannot be controlled as they are framed and re-framed by the twittering masses. Connotation in social media is frustratingly fluid, and the context of messages, as they are passed from platform to platform and reader to reader, mutate in unpredictable ways. Then there are the trolls: being in broadcast mode is as likely to create a snarky backlash as it is to create an audience of curious on-lookers. Public diplomacy 2.0 was supposed to be the ultimate engagement device, but commentating on commentary is not a conversation and posting digital posters is not effective messaging.
We now know that social media is not a public diplomacy panacea. It is easily criticized as being “more interested in the appearance of dialogue than actual conversations.” In other words, operationalized engagement (the creation of the “environment”) undercuts the concept’s ideals. Comer & Bean compare American public diplomacy to a corporation that “welcomes consumer feedback on its branding efforts but not its role in global warming.” They explain Web 2.0 as a new way of marketing via the Internet: It creates the perception of user empowerment that in reality works as a way for companies to refine their personalized branding and utilize user-generated content as cost-free labor. Therefore, public diplomacy 2.0 could be considered the marketing of a dialogue rather than the call-and-response inherently promised in a two-way communication platform.
EVALUATION OF PUBLIC DIPLOMACY 2.0
Then, there is the whole evaluation problem. A message-receiver using Web 2.0 tools is not the same as a receiver at the end of person-to-person interaction. Data that analyzes usage or viewers via the Internet does not equate to engagement. A receiver may “follow” or “like” a program without ever being exposed to the message. So how are scholars and practitioners engaged with digital diplomacy supposed to measure effectiveness?
Public diplomacy programs are aimed at foreign publics, especially those with an unfavorable view of the host government. Surveying these populations with accuracy is difficult. Researchers would need to survey the receiving population before and after the program to gauge whether the receivers changed their perception of the host government. That “after” is a significant problem. How long does it take for a public diplomacy program to take effect? And how do you even appropriately collect that information?
Then, of course, there is the macro-argument- should we be using the Internet as a public diplomacy device at all? Despite often impressive analytical numbers, the Web currently lacks global inclusiveness. Though U.S.-centric, James Thomas Snyder—the author of The United States and the Challenge of Public Diplomacy and a former member of NATO’s International Staff—hit the nail on the head:
No doubt the Internet has brought about a revolution in communications as well as a communication of revolution … But its immediate access, instant gratification and supernumerary analytics have masked a stupidly expensive, massively oversold and extraordinarily anemic Rube Goldberg device for global communications. Politically speaking, the Internet is largely a system of the democratic haves texting feverishly to themselves … Instead of congratulating ourselves for the newest new thing, or the State Department’s number of followers or friends, we should be pouring resources into connecting, forcing open, and communicating with—in the best way possible—those countries and benighted populations.
James Thomas Synder
THE CASE FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY 2.0
Not all is lost though. With five years under the belt, a whole mess of trial-and-error programs, and case study after case study of “here is where this went wrong,” foreign ministries have transitioned to public diplomacy 2.1. Lessons were learned: Communicating within this new public sphere should only be done strategically, targeted, and with genuine concern. Self-serving, blanket statements will not reach audiences anymore. But despite this focused approach, practitioners must realize that communities on the Internet are not walled off. Any directed messages are available for scrutiny by all publics, and therefore should be written with that in mind. Furthermore, this increased scrutiny means that the messaging must also be done in a truthful manner. The last thing a government wants is to be seen as partaking in propaganda à la the Cold War.
In addition, practitioners of public diplomacy 2.1 need to be part of a community of interests and find ways to be a service to their audience rather than just marketing policies. This means communicating to the desired audiences in their own language and using their platforms of choice. It is more beneficial to be seen as empowering a network to speak for itself rather than speaking for them. Strict advocacy and controlled messaging must be discarded as habits of the past; public diplomacy 2.1 requires flexible and open two-way communication.
Any good public relations theorist can tell you, two-way symmetrical communication is the ultimate goal. It predicates that both sides of the table are not only listening intently but also willing to change their stance on an issue, or at the very least, to adjust. It’s a negotiation as much as it is a conversation. Does anyone really expect Twitter replies to change how a government will enact foreign policy? Will a YouTube comment really force a foreign ministry to reconsider its official stance on an issue? Probably not. So, what is the point of all this online engagement other than the marketing of a manufactured government brand?
The Italian Embassy in Washington DC hosted a conversation with with Anne-Marie Slaughter and Kim Ghattas, part of the Embassy's Digital Diplomacy Series.
THE ANSWER COULD BE…
Public diplomacy 2.1 practitioners are exposed to more information and viewpoints than thought humanly possible just a decade or two ago. Everyday, people from all over the world are sharing their responses, ideas, and perceptions; and governments are paying very close attention. Public diplomats that monitor the world through a series of fast-moving bits and bytes cannot—and most certainly should not—be unaffected by this enormous amount of new information. Could, counter-intuitively, the greatest use of public diplomacy 2.0 be for foreign publics to reach and mold government perception?
This may just be wishful thinking. Even if an online exchange does manage to persuade an individual bureaucrat enough to alter his or her perception, is it possible for that individual to be a domino? In other words, could that single person be the first in a line to alter the perceptions of an entire government, which could ultimately result in an altered foreign policy decision? Foreign ministries are made up of a relatively small number of individuals, and individuals are indeed alterable. The question remains though: is anyone really listening?
On February 23, two giant pandas arrived in Belgium on a 15-year loan, where they received a red-carpet welcome. Among those waiting on the tarmac were 2000 people, many of them excited kids, and also the Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. In September 2013, Di Rupo and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang signed the agreement to send the two mammals to the Pairi Daiza Animal Park, some 30 miles southwest of Brussels.
With only about 1600 giant pandas left in the wild, China is very concerned about renting them out, and the Belgian zoo is one of just 17 zoos around the world hosting these cuddly creatures. According to Chinese statistics, 43 giant pandas, including cubs, are currently living overseas.
Both Chinese and Belgian stakeholders emphasize scientific research on the importance of protecting the species do not discuss the public diplomacy dimension of the loan. Although global media is panda-crazy (about 100 journalists were waiting at the airport), the pandas have their own twitter feed and parts of Belgium are in the state of “Panda-Monium.” The caution around directly speaking about diplomacy is understandable because the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) — an international treaty and international organization — determines that the export of pandas will only be authorized if China and the receiving country “are satisfied that the transaction will generate positive conservation benefits to the species.”
Nevertheless, the case of 4-year-old male panda Xing Hui (meaning Twinkling Star) and same-aged female Hao Hao (meaning Cute) is a prime example of China’s panda diplomacy, and it presents some insights into this fluffy part of the PRC’s public diplomacy. What this latest round of all show is that besides all of the efforts to promote and support animal conservation and biological research, sending pandas abroad is a strong symbolic aspect of China’s foreign policy, used by the Chinese government to win hearts (less minds though) in selected foreign countries. In addition, it points to the interesting fact that China is able to integrate international partners into its attempts to shape its global image, and even to make these partners pay for China’s image management.
Creative Commons, Wikipedia
The conditions of the China-Belgium contract illustrate that panda diplomacy is a cost-effective undertaking, at least for China. Normally, a pair of pandas is on loan for 10 years and costs $1 million annually. Xing Hui and Hao Hao will stay in Belgium for 15 years and their price is somewhere between an estimated €10m in total and an annual fee of around $1 million for China. For Belgium, borrowing these pandas will cost more than what it would take to look after 40 elephants.
Furthermore, the zoo is spending over $10 million for a panda enclosure. Annual upkeep is estimated at $50,000 and the pandas are insured for $1 million each. On top of that, the zoo will have to invest in enormous amounts of bamboo. What makes this deal even more striking is the fact that when the pandas breed – and this is the official reason why they are sent abroad – it is normally the case that the hosting zoo has to pay another $500,000 dollars to China. Overall, it is stunningly expensive to host the pandas and they can become a serious financial burden for the hosting zoo. In Adelaide, for example, the pandas were a major reason why the zoo there had a debt of 24 million Australian dollars.
Considering these factors, the question is why engage in panda diplomacy at all? For China, the answer is quite clear. First, it can position itself as a kind friend who is generous enough to share two of its most precious “national treasures.” This generosity becomes even more pronounced in the case of Belgium, where serious debates between rivaling Dutch and French speaking communities emerged, as did the question of which Belgian zoo had the right to host the pandas. Some Dutch speakers were angry that they would be going to a zoo in the French-speaking part of the country. From the Chinese point of view, what more could you wish for than having foreigners quarrel with each other over the right to host Chinese pandas?
Second, China reaches a much wider audience with pandas than with the Confucius Institutes, China Daily, CCTV, or any touring arts group. Third, and particularly remarkable, the otherwise critical global media forget about human rights, Tibet, terrible air quality in Beijing, and so on when it comes to the pandas. The old journalistic rule of thumb that babies and animals always “work,” in combination with the child-like image of the giant panda, makes these animals ideal for the media age.
Less clear is why international zoos engage in panda diplomacy. Yes, it helps the zoo to raise its scientific profile and prestige if giant pandas produce cubs. However, this is not an easy undertaking, as giant pandas are unusually reluctant to have sex, at least in captivity, and females only go into heat for between one and three days a year. And yes, pandas are absolute crowd pullers and therefore are good for business. France’s ZooParc de Beauval recorded almost 50 percent more visitors after its pair of pandas arrived two years ago, and visitor numbers to Edinburgh zoo leapt 51 percent in 2012, the year after they began hosting pandas. However, while these numbers normally decline after a certain period of time, the cost of hosting remain the same, making the benefits of hosting questionable.
And not only are these animals expensive, but the receiving country has to offer China something in return. This, of course, is not noted officially, as pandas are supposed to sent abroad for breeding and conservation purposes only. But China is not just renting the pandas out to anyone: in the case of Canada, for example, various commentators were of the opinion that the pandas were a gesture of gratitude that was described in the context of a “raw materials for panda” deal.
Although the deal was negotiated between the relevant offices in charge of conservation in Canada and China and the hosting zoos, the change of attitude by Canadian officials towards China possibly made it easier to secure the agreement. In 2006, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office, his conservative government cooled its relations with China. But times changed and Harper, who once promised to put “Canadian values” ahead of “the almighty dollar” in trade with China, made it clear that trade is now what matters most in dealings with the ruling Communist Party. During his second official trip to China in early 2012, Harper signed more than 20 commercial deals worth almost $3 billion, and a declaration of intent on a foreign investment protection agreement, after 18 years of negotiations. These deals included agreements to ship additional Canadian petroleum, uranium, and other products to China. As some analysts have argued, the main purpose of the visit was “to secure new markets for Canadian oil” as it found a very interested customer in China.
In contrast, when looking at Belgium and China, it is less obvious what the small European country could offer China in return for the pandas. Belgium is China's sixth-largest trading partner in the European Union, with total trade in goods of 21.2 billion euros ($29.1 billion) in 2012 and a bilateral trade volume of 26.3 billion U.S. dollars. Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo said he aimed to enhance cooperation with China in such fields such as foreign investment and people-to-people exchange, especially among youth. Also, a new Belgian visa application center was opened in Beijing two days before the pandas left to boost tourism from China.
While this might seem irrelevant, the China Horse Association explained that Belgium has about 350,000 horses in total, one horse for every 31 people, while China has 6.5 million horses, one horse for every 200 people. “Belgium is a small country, yet it is superior in terms of horse riding. China may be big in numbers, but it's not ‘strong’ in the horse industry,” a representative of the Association said.“ The horse trading agreement between the two countries is significant. We wish that we can learn more about the advanced concepts and technologies from Belgium in order to promote the further development of the Chinese horse industry.”
Whether this decision had any influence on the panda deal is up for debate, but the timing is remarkable. The international star of animal diplomacy, however, is and will remain the giant panda, as will be seen in early April when Xing Hui and Hao Hao make their public debut in Belgium.
ADLER, Russia — The Sochi 2014 Winter Games drew Sunday night to a close, an Olympics intent on projecting the image of a strong and confident new Russia across this vast country and to the world beyond, with a mighty Russian team awakening the echoes of the mighty Soviet sport system to prideful spectator cheers of “Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!”
Albeit, over 17 days, to the beat of “Get Lucky” by a Russian police choir. And cheerful volunteers yelling, “Good morning!” while dancing to the Black Eyed Peas.
“This is the new face of Russia, our Russia,” Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee, said Sunday night at the closing ceremony to more cheers. “And for us, these Games are the best-ever.”
These were the first Winter Games in this country. The last time the Olympics were in this nation, in Moscow, it was 1980, the Soviet Union held sway over what is now Russia and several satellite nations. And the United States, along with several other nations, boycotted.
The giant mascot bear who “blew out” the cauldron Sunday night evoked comparisons to Misha the Bear, the 1980 Moscow mascot, one of the most famous in Olympic history. The music that accompanied that scene came from 34 years ago, too.
Even so, to underscore the point that this is now and that was then, that Russians are hardly isolated from the strains of western pop culture but really, truly have a sense of humor and can even laugh at themselves, Sunday’s proceedings opened with a troupe of shimmering silvery dancers poking fun at the glitch in the opening ceremony — a riff from the snowflake that failed to open 17 days ago into one of the rings in the Olympic symbol. The crowd roared in appreciation.
Moments later, Chernyshenko posted to his Twitter feed:
— Dmitry Chernyshenko (@DChernyshenko) February 23, 2014
In virtually every regard, these Olympics would seem to meet the classic definition of under-promise and over-deliver. Seventeen days ago, the narrative was marked by worry over security, budget, environment, transport, logistics, unfinished hotel rooms and a bevy of other concerns.
The all-in cost of these Games, including infrastructure: a reported $51 billion, most-ever.
Broader geopolitical issues shadowed these Games, too, including a backlash over the Russian law purporting to ban gay “propaganda” aimed at minors.
History will of course render its long-term judgment.
But as most of the 2,856 athletes from 88 national Olympic committees and the so-called Olympic family pack up and scatter to the four corners of the globe, the immediate verdict is quite clear.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, bet big on these Games. And he has won his bet.
“What they promised, they delivered,” longtime International Olympic Committee member Pal Schmitt of Hungary said Sunday. “A new city was born here.”
There has been much talk, some bordering on amazement, at what the Russians have done. The scope and scale of the facilities here took Western Europe maybe 100 years in the Alps, and at Sunday night’s ceremony, the IOC president, Thomas Bach, declared, “What took decades in other parts of the world was achieved here in Sochi in just seven years.”
Michael R. Payne, the IOC’s former marketing director, said, “Sochi proved a total surprise for everyone — quite possibly turning out to be the best-organized Winter Games ever.”
He pointed out, as did several others, the compact nature of the venues in Olympic Park; the discreet security arrangement that meant firearms were never visible within the Olympic zone; transport that worked and did not get lost; spectacular broadcast images; and a press center unrivaled among modern Games’ hosts.
Even the weather largely cooperated. Alpine skiing, always at risk for bad weather, got every race in on time.
The gay issue proved largely a non-issue. “The reality is we have come here, everybody has been welcomed,” Julie Chu, the U.S. flag-bearer in Sunday’s closing ceremony, said at a news conference Saturday, adding, “I know there was a lot of focus on the anti-gay law … it has been a non-factor.”
The volunteers, in their multi-colored jackets — 22-plus years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was absolutely a priority that the Russian presentation was bright and vivid, not Soviet red and dour — were uniformly enthusiastic. Some could speak English reasonably, others like exceedingly well.
Bach, Sunday night, said through the volunteers “everybody with an open mind could see the face of a new Russia — efficient and friendly, patriotic and open to the world.”
“Wherever we go, no matter whether we are riding, the bus, waiting for the bus, at a venue watching, consistently, every day, someone comes up to us, and they say, can we take a picture? And they want a picture of us with the American flag in that picture,” said Marilyn Sowles of Colchester, Vt.,, whose husband Ken represents such skiers as Bode Miller, Ted Ligety and Hannah Kearney.
“They really appreciate us Americans coming. They really want to know what we think about the Games. They ask that question earnestly. When we say we have loved it at the Olympics, that the venues have been great, that things have run efficiently for us, but that the reason we love the Olympics most is because of how kind and friendly everyone has been to us — and as you know most of the people at the Olympics are Russian, so we are talking the Russian people.
“When we go home, we will tell the American people how kind the Russian people have been to us. And that touched our hearts. And you can see in their face how proud they are. It matters to them that we have felt their kindness.”
The Russians did not win men’s hockey gold. Canada did, defeating Sweden, 3-0, Sunday in the Games’ final event.
But — after saying time and again to their people and the world that they expected not very much here from their athletes — the Russian team, which included American-born snowboarder Vic Law and South Korean-transplant skater Victor Ahn, topped the overall medals count, with 33, and the gold count, with 13.
The Russians dominated figure skating, with 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova dethroning South Korea’s Yuna Kim in a performance that once again drew attention to the sport’s opaque judging system.
Sochi 2014 marked the first time Russia topped both tables since the breakup of the USSR.
In Vancouver, the Russian team finished 11th in the medals table, with 15 overall and just three gold. That led to a purge of senior sports officials.
The U.S. team, which led the medals count in Vancouver with 37, earned 28 here, second in the overall count, its best-ever total for a Games outside North America. The Americans won nine gold medals, their best-ever performance at any Winter Games, and dominated the new action sports such as slopestyle — even as the long-track speedskating team went oh-for-Sochi, a debacle sure to come under intense scrutiny in the months to come.
Putin, in a diplomatic coup, dropped in on USA House during the first week of the Games — this even after President Obama’s appointment of Billie Jean King and others to the White House delegation to the 2014 Games in an obvious rebuke of the Russian anti-gay law.
Larry Probst, the U.S. Olympic Committee chairman and new IOC member, said at a news conference of Putin, “He has really owned the Games. I compliment him and his team as well.”
With the benefit of hindsight, even with the pre-Games glitches over the hotels that created such a social-media furor, it should nonetheless be understood that this project did not come together easily. Like Rio 2016, it was often referred to as an “adventure.”
As recently as September, an IOC inspection suggested literally hundreds of red alerts that needed to be resolved, with time obviously running short.
Putin, who had taken a personal interest in these Games from even before the day in 2007 the IOC awarded Sochi the Games, convened a meeting and made it abundantly plain to the responsible parties that things not only had to come together but would.
A few weeks before, Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister, had essentially taken up semi-permanent residence here from Moscow. It was Kozak who moved things along day to day for the final push — all involved knowing that when they were dealing with Kozak they were dealing, too, with Putin.
“Mr. Putin has been playing an important role in the preparation of these Games, as well as the whole Russian government,” Bach said. “If that would not have been the case, we would be sitting here in a very different mood. Only with this effort by the Russian government and Russian people was such a big success possible.”
Sochi ended up being so good in so many ways it’s now fair to ask:
Is this the new way? Does it take $51 billion now to do an Olympics? And what about Pyeongchang in four years’ time — what can they possibly do to top this?
The South Koreans said Saturday they are hardly going to spend $51 billion. Try $9 billion, $4 billion of which is for a high-speed rail line to Seoul.
What went wrong in Sochi?
Were workers paid — fairly and on time? What about the environmental issues that common sense says go hand in hand with getting so much done in so little time? For that matter, it has been odd to have been by the sea and not, for instance, notice flocks of birds.
What about legacy? Those hotels, now finished, up in Krasnaya Polyana, nestled under the mountain venues? Will they be filled in a year? Or five?
No question, Payne said, that the “pre-Games frenzy” dissuaded many would-be international fans from attending. Thus Sochi didn’t boast the raucous atmosphere of some Games.
“But,” Payne said, “that did not dampen the Russian enthusiasm and passion — and as a winter sports power, they were more than entitled to host a Winter Olympics with their athletes competing for the first time in front of a home crowd.”
Like the guy at the U.S.-Russia hockey game. He told Chicago-based NBC television producer Bob Vasilopulos that he sold five cows just to make enough money to travel from his small village to come to Sochi, to see the Olympic Games:
“I can always work and make money, raise more cows,” he said. “But to see an Olympics in my own country is once in a lifetime.”
Given Indonesia’s rising economic position - despite recent dips – Anja Eifert’s argument that “in ‘America’s Pacific Century,’ Indonesia is constituting a ‘steam engine’ in the Asia-Pacific region, the country should be regarded as a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy;” that “the U.S. could do more,” in the context of public diplomacy, and that “it must propagate deeper engagement with words and deeds.” Yet, I think in essence it is not so much a matter of more. Much of the success of U.S. public diplomacy is not dependent on “more words and deeds” from the U.S., but rather by how all this is perceived by the recipient country, Indonesia.
After all, Indonesia, envisions itself as having “a thousand friends and zero enemies” and no BFF (Best Friend Forever), whether from North or South, East or West. Indonesia’s goal of being on good terms with all countries may entail tightening U.S.-Indonesian relations reflected in a growing number of bilateral public diplomacy projects. Yet it is unlikely that the 21st century will be the “American Century for Indonesia,” and ASEAN and other regional institutions rather than the U.S. remain the centrepiece of Indonesia’s foreign policy. Additionally, for every new initiative with the U.S., there are many others, which have been newly set up with other partners such as Australia, South Korea, Japan, as well as China. This attitude, relevant for the U.S.’s public diplomacy success rate and limitations today, can be explained by looking a bit back in time.
Over the past century, U.S.-Indonesian relations have been on and off, despite the United States’ expressed intentions and increased investments in Indonesia. Just as with the U.S., Indonesia’s public diplomacy is tightly wound into its foreign policy. The latter is affected by a combination of both continuity and perpetual flux. Various factors, such as history, geography, demographics, economics, security, and national interest have prompted Indonesia to adopt a foreign policy that is “bebas dan aktif,” or, “free and active.” The first element, ‘free,’ implies that Indonesia is trying to follow its own course in world affairs, away from the dictates of major powers and without external pressures or influence. The second element, ‘active,’ means that the country is dedicated to being involved in constructive activities geared towards bringing about and supporting world peace.
This basic foreign policy principle, which influences how Indonesia’s public diplomacy takes its present shape today and how that of other countries is perceived, was espoused in Vice President Mohammad Hatta’s address “Mendajung Antara Dua Karang,” or “Rowing Between Two Reefs,” at a session of the Central National Commission on 2 September 1948 at the height of the Indonesian War for Independence (1). After more than 65 years of existence Indonesia’s basic ‘free and active’ foreign policy doctrine has remained unchanged, though its articulation and implementation have evolved over the years, with crucial differences in attitude towards the United States.
Both presidents Sukarno (18 August, 1945-12 March, 1967) and Suharto (12 March 1967-21 May 1998) employed this principle on antipodal agendas. Under Sukarno, the free and active principle was seen as standing against colonialism and imperialism and as promoting post-colonial/socialist alliances to reshape the world. Indonesia became the founder and leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and showed little interest in economic development, which resulted in close relationships with China to the detriment of the United States. This led to allegations from Suharto that this close relationship with China was in fact, violating the free and active doctrine. Suharto’s military-dominated New Order regime pursued economic development, froze relations with the Soviet Union and China, joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), developed closer relations with the U.S., and upheld a merely symbolic political commitment to third world solidarity through the NAM (2).
Zsoolt, Flickr, Creative Commons
In the post-Suharto period, while his three predecessors all gave the doctrine their own particular spin, Indonesia’s sixth president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY; 20 October 2004-present), introduced his own metaphor of “navigating in a turbulent sea” in response to the transformations in Indonesia’s strategic environment (3). He envisioned the implementation of the free and active principle through the creation of a ‘new dynamic equilibrium’ wherein foreign policy, of which public diplomacy is a part, was no longer entangled in the East vs. West dialectic, particularly between the U.S. and China.
So, while Indonesia’s relations with the U.S. may have deepened over the years, especially under the Obama presidency, this is not the only country with which Indonesia has developed greater ties, and given its historical context and its current implementation of the free and active principle, it is unlikely to see any country as its BFF or employ any country as the centerpiece of its foreign policy over the coming years.
U.S.-Indonesian engagement through public diplomacy is a fact today, however. To add a few concrete Indonesian examples to the U.S. Public Diplomacy Fund mentioned on Ms. Eifert's argument in the CPD Blog, Indonesia has excellent student exchanges which are financed by the Indonesian Ministry of Education, with which the MFA co-operates in the selection of participants and the gathering of input for the projects’ set-up. These were expanded to the U.S. in 2011. Indonesia and the U.S. have also had a two-weeks-long exchange between Indonesian students selected from different programs’ national competitions and peers in the U.S. to discuss several issues, such as the presidential system. U.S.-Indonesian working groups have also been launched. Civil society actors from both countries were invited to share knowhow and best practices on democratic principles, women’s issues and education as well as on journalistic ethics.
However, this must be put into perspective. It does not really reflect an Indonesian preference for the U.S., but rather broader changes in the course of Indonesian foreign policy, namely, the tendency of moving towards a more bilateral execution in the expansion of its so-called foreign policy concentric circles in addition to the initial regional and multilateral implementation. Indonesia has expanded the countries it targets over the years, from its Pacific neighbors to Australia, Europe, and recently North America which has undoubtedly affected its public diplomacy activities (4).
It is also unlikely that Indonesia will be a fervent supporter of the propagation/promotion of U.S. values (as is partly intended by U.S. public diplomacy programs in Indonesia). A quick look at the approach of the Bali Democracy Forum, an annual, intergovernmental forum on the development of democracy in the Asia Pacific region, initiated and hosted by the Indonesian government, makes this even more evident. The Forum has deliberately avoided using a “club of democracies” model- such as is found in the U.S.-initiated Asia Pacific Democracy Partnership- and includes both democratic and less/non-democratic participants (5).
This has lead to criticism from established Western powers, including the U.S., but Indonesia has claimed that its approach to democracy is somewhat different from the American model in the sense that it aims to discuss democracy and share experiences rather than force a certain model onto participants. This is well-expressed by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirajuda: “I believe that democracy is a universal value, but universal as it is, we cannot impose it on others, because when we impose values on others they tend to reject those values…” (6). The way in which Indonesia aims to treat peers reflects the way in which it expects to be treated as well.
Furthermore, realistically, the absence of President Barack Obama at the 2013 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leadership meeting and thus the continuous importance of summit diplomacy cannot be mitigated through a series of public diplomacy activities. Both are of equal importance; as the U.S. has learned through experience over the years, public diplomacy is not simply a damage control tool. Also, any strengthening of high-level relations with the U.S. president will, given Indonesian poll numbers, no longer depend so much on current Indonesian president SBY as you suggested, but with whoever his replacement is.
While estimates are just estimates and we must wait for this year’s electoral outcome, the Indonesian press, academic literature, and especially the general population see Yoko Widodo (better known to all as Yokowi and referred to as the “Yokowi-effect”), the former mayor of Solo and now the governor of Jakarta, as a potential replacement. His popularity with the public partly stems from his civil-society and Blusukan (unannounced spot-check) approach. His presidential candidacy or election, while so far, far from guaranteed, is seen as a divestment from the old guard and elites or the passing of the torch to those emerging from Indonesia’s democratic present. (7)
Moreover this could also potentially mean a new boost to Indonesian public diplomacy practice on a more transversal and presidential level. Indonesia’s public diplomacy started strong (e.g. interfaith dialogues) but has somewhat stagnated in importance and support within the Kementerian Luar Negeri Republik Indonesia (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and at the higher levels. A boost from a ‘new’ presidential governing style and/or his support of a culture more open to public debate, as was the case in the years following the Reformasi, would be beneficial to Indonesia’s public outreach at home and abroad.
The vice verse is true as well. Aside from a potential “Yokowi-effect,” the current U.S. "Obama effect" and his special relationship with, and high popularity in, Indonesia is a possible boon to the U.S.’ public diplomacy, which should not be disregarded and has been for the most part underexploited. With the U.S. presidential elections in 2016, the latter could indeed, as Ms. Eifert's argument on the CPD Blog states, run out of the time and opportunities, which these particular circumstances provide for improving U.S.-Indonesian relations.
Moreover, what Ms. Eifert's argument on the CPD Blog also puts to the forefront is that public diplomacy- especially its practice and therefore not necessarily the use of the terminology within governments-, whether in the U.S. or Indonesia, supersedes both countries’ MFAs. In the conversations I had in Jakarta with prominent individuals it became increasingly clear that the practice of public diplomacy is an interdepartmental responsibility in need for support from the highest-levels. The need to bring in more transversal themes, such as its economic development, which not only give good news but also share experiences on stumbling blocks along the country’s journey as an emerging power into its public diplomacy narrative is key to its future. This will also be elaborated throughout my USC research.
These are just a few out of many thoughts, and there’s much more to discuss and open for research. I am very much looking forward to exchanging more thoughts with you and other interested readers over the course of our research!
(1) See e.g.Mohammad Hatta, “Indonesia between the Power Blocs,” Foreign Affairs, (April issue, 1958); Ann Marie Murphy, “Democratization and Indonesian Foreign Policy,” Asia Policy, no. 3, (2012), p. 87; Bantarto Bandoro, “Indonesian Foreign Policy in 2008 and Beyond,” The Indonesian Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 4, (2007), p. 327; Matthew Omolesky, “Indonesia Between the Reefs,” The American Spectator (21/04/2010)
(2) For more information see e.g. Symasad Hadi, “Indonesian-China Relations in the Post New Order Era,” In: Lam Peng Er, Narayanan Ganesan and Colin Dürkop (eds.) East Asia’s Relations with a Rising China (Konrad Adenauer Stifting, 2010), pp. 217-241; Ian James Storey, “Indonesia's China Policy in the New Order and Beyond: Problems and Prospects,” Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International & State, vol. 22, no. 1, (April 2010), p. 145; Greta Nabbs-Keller, “Growing Convergence, Greater Consequence: The Strategic Implications of Closer Indonesia-China Relations,” Security Challenges, vol. 7, no. 3, (Spring 2011), pp. 23-41; Franklin B. Weinstein. Indonesian Foreign Policy and the Dilemma of Dependence: from Sukarno to Suharto ( Ithaca: NY Cornell University Press, 1976); Rizal Sukma, “The Evolution of Indonesia’s Foreign Policy: An Indonesian View,” Asian Survey, vol. 35, no. 3, (1995), pp. 304-315.
(3) See Marty M. Natalegawa, “Indonesia and the World 2010,” Jakarta Post Opinion (annual policy statement on 8/01/2010); Irfa Puspitasari. Indonesia’s New Foreign Policy- ‘Thousand friends-zero enemy. IDSA Issue Brief (New Delhi: Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, August 10, 2010).
(4) See e.g. Wirajuda Hadianto. Re-thinking the Republic of Indonesia’s Foreign Policy Concentric Circle. The Jakarta Post (4 November 2010).
(5) See e.g. http://bdf.kemlu.go.id/
(6) See Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, “Seeds of Democracy in Egypt: Sharing is Caring,” Strategic Review, vol. 1, no. 1, (2011), pp. 150.
(7) For more on "The Yokowi effect", see e.g. Dave McRae, "Indonesian politics in 2013: the emergence of new leadership?" Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies, vol. 49, no. 3, (2013), pp. 289-304
The value of job creation cannot be overstated. Particularly in the Middle East, with its huge population of young people, idleness and the inability to support one’s family cripple societal development and provide extremists with innumerable recruiting opportunities. Without jobs, there will be no lasting political stability.
Patterson described some specific U.S. sponsored or co-sponsored programs that can produce jobs:
• Qualifying Industrial Zones in Egypt and Jordan that offer opportunities for duty-free exports to the United States, particularly textiles and clothing.
• Overseas Private Investment Corporation programs providing $400 million in financing in Egypt, $700 million in Jordan, and $300 million in Palestine.
• Loan guarantees to Middle Eastern governments to ease localized access to capital.
• Entrepreneurship summits that draw on the expertise of the American private sector to encourage and assist the next generation of business leaders in the region.
• The Initiative for the Palestinian Economy that will work with an international array of companies that might invest in Palestine.
These efforts are linked to broader foreign policy goals. Bringing investment to Palestine, for example, is an integral part of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace plan. Further, these projects help establish the United States as a partner in advancing Arab civil society.
Not every such venture will succeed. Patterson noted that in Egypt some banks found it more profitable to lend money to the government rather than to small businesses. Presumably such glitches can be fixed and future efforts will work more smoothly. Patterson mentioned that among those future projects might be a focus on a range of educational opportunities, from technical colleges through advanced math and science training.
It could be argued that the United States is trying to buy hearts and minds. That is an unnecessarily uncharitable judgment of these programs. American foreign policy planners would be foolish not to use economic muscle to accomplish their goals. Further, having a job – which leads to being able to put food on the table and have a decent place to live – are powerful stabilizing factors in any society, particularly one as unsettled as the Arab world has been.
When the United States provides help along these lines it will win friends and advance its national interest. That is what public diplomacy, done correctly, can accomplish.
As much of the world’s media continues to focus on the politics of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the continued violent protests in the Ukraine, another country closer to home threatens to descend into civil war.
Street demonstrations throughout Venezuela, now entering their second week, have turned a country already suffering from high rates of violent crime and murders into a battleground. Supporters of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez have taken to the streets in Caracas and elsewhere, demanding solutions for Venezuela’s economic nosedive and crime epidemic. The Venezuelan government has responded with a heavy crackdown against protesters, arresting opposition leaders, including Lopez, using paramilitary groups to attack protesters, and firing tear gas and live ammunition at anyone appearing to be against the government.
Flickr, Creative Commons, Futurxtv
Maduro’s response to the protests has been equally detrimental. Last week, he blamed the U.S. for meddling and causing the uprisings. He then expelled several American diplomats from the country, despite there being no evidence of U.S. interference. His state-run news agency, Telesur, also accused Venezuela’s neighbor Colombia and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos of inciting violence and sabotaging the country. In his public appearances, the president has appeared confused and erratic, the exact opposite of how his successor, Hugo Chavez, appeared when making addresses to the Venezuelan people and global audiences.
In the last year, Maduro has managed to destroy nearly all of the goodwill that Chavez had built up in the region, particularly in the “alternative to the hegemonic U.S.” vein, despite having numerous opportunities (the NSA spying scandal, Ecuador’s Correa flight over Europe) that his successor could only dream of having. Under former President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s public diplomacy strategy was decidedly aggressive yet largely peaceful, and for the most part, successful. Chavez became President of Venezuela in 1999 after decades of discontent over political corruption and poverty and used various international and domestic platforms to denounce the United States and to promote Venezuelan policies. Julia Sweig, in her analysis for the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that Hugo Chavez “once remarked that he saw himself as a transitional figure in Venezuelan history.”
Flickr, Creative Commons, AndresAzp
Chavez’s overseas development (ODA) efforts in Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, and much of Central America and the Caribbean threatened to not only provide a counterbalance to U.S. hegemony in the Western Hemisphere, but to do so without violence and with surprising poise. In the eyes of many, Chavez’s Venezuela was winning the public diplomacy battle against the United States with his initiatives like the anti-FTAA trade agreement Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), the TV network Telesur, and his various petro-aid schemes Petrocaribe, Petroandina, and Petrosur.
But fast forward to today and Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, seems to be missing much of the public diplomacy plot. His economic and trade policies are considered largely to be failures, with inflation at astronomically high levels as Venezuelans are forced to endure crippling shortages for basic foodstuffs and consumer goods. Following last April’s election, where Maduro narrowly beat opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski, the Venezuelan government has continued to engage in a poor public diplomacy and communications strategy that has further weakened the Bolivarian republic. As noted by William Dobson in his recent article for Slate.com, the key difference between the Venezuela of Chavez and the Venezuela of Maduro is that “for all of the combative rhetoric and venom spewed by Hugo Chavez, the Comandante always kept a lid on widespread repression.” Despite often having his anti-American and anti-opposition rhetoric often cross over into the realm of insanity and conjecture, Chavez knew that his public diplomacy strategy would be for nought if he engaged in a visible, lengthy, brutal crackdown.
It is evident that Maduro has not learned this lesson and has struggled to match his successor’s confidence and bravado, all while engaging in the self-defeating act of ordering brutal crackdowns on peaceful demonstrators. Opposition groups like Popular Will Party, who were largely marginalized and weakened under Chavismo, have become revitalized and emboldened.
Maduro’s government has seemingly failed to understand that the public diplomacy capital built up through aid diplomacy and careful communications strategies by Hugo Chavez has been destroyed in one fail swoop by sloppy tactics and violent crackdowns by the police and military.
China, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and Russia are now known globally for their economic strength. But what about their cultures? These states are much more than just their GDPs, and increasingly, they are attempting to gain global recognition not only for their rapid growth, but also for their rich cultural traditions.
China is clearly not content to be a world-class economy; it wants to be recognized as the newest great power. This is evinced as much through its combative claims on disputed territories as through its aggressive cultural diplomacy programming. For example, by sending the Shanghai Ballet on a tour of the United Kingdom, China sought to prove that it deserves global recognition not only for its own vibrant cultural heritage, but for its mastery of Western arts as well. In addition to embracing the quintessentially Western ballet style, the troupe performed a piece based on Jane Eyre, a classic British novel.
In the United Arab Emirates, we see an interesting example of cultural engineering; this small but wealthy state, which was inhabited by nomadic Bedouins only half a century ago, has earned a place on the world stage largely thanks to Dubai, an international financial center and emblem of consumerist culture. However, over the past decade, Dubai has sought to augment this image with a reputation for high culture, most prominently through the Dubai International Film Festival. By actively seeking entries from all corners of the developing world, and to a lesser extent from traditional film markets in the United States and Europe, the Festival has positioned Dubai and the United Arab Emirates as cultural leaders in the Middle East and beyond.
Despite its growing economy, Russian soft power is undoubtedly faltering. Once known as an icon of peace and high culture, Russia’s repressive anti-gay legislation, authoritarian retrenchment, and willingness to use sanctions to bully its neighbors has recently overshadowed its cultural prowess. Even its cultural diplomacy programming has taken an authoritarian turn with the recent centralization of RIA Novosti – a state-owned broadcaster that has traditionally brought Russian culture and news to the world – under President Vladimir Putin’s personal control. While Russia did make good use of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Winter Olympics to showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage, the Games have cast heavy doubt on the potential of the Russian economy and society, with the Washington Postsuggesting that hosting served primarily to draw attention to the country’s weaknesses.
Though it lacks the high profile of China or Russia, Indonesia’s 6.2% annual GDP growth makes it a country to watch. Recently, Indonesian leaders have sought to build their cultural power along with their economic standing, and extensive public diplomacy programming is spreading Indonesian dance, music, and art throughout the Islamic world. Last fall, the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Education partnered with the Islamic Republic of Iran to host the “Indonesia Cultural Festival: 1000 years of Indonesia-Iran cultural relations.” Located in Tehran, this festival featured the performing and visual arts of both countries, and is emblematic of Indonesia’s effective use of culture to develop partnerships and influence outside of its immediate region.
You can learn more about cultural diplomacy strategies in emerging markets at the 9th Annual CPD Research Conference—A New Era In Cultural Diplomacy: Rising Soft Power in Emerging Markets on Friday, February 28, 2014.
Among the principal assets of U.S. public diplomacy are American values. They are admired around the world, even by many people who dislike American policy. No other political system offers such extensive individual and systemic freedoms as those enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Showcasing and standing up for those freedoms should be at the heart of U.S. public diplomacy.
To narrow this a bit, consider freedom of the press. From time to time, it faces challenges within the United States, but it remains a fundamental element of American law and national character. As an instrument of soft power – which relies on attraction rather than coercion – it is an invaluable attribute.
In many places throughout the world, freedom of the press is under siege. This is nothing new, but the breadth and virulence of current efforts to silence journalists is striking. Those in countries where independent reporting of news has been blocked might well ask, “Where is the United States?”
The official U.S. response is usually little more than offering perfunctory remarks about the value of a free press and finger-wagging at the governments jailing or otherwise obstructing journalists. This is not enough.
Consider the imprisonment of journalists in Egypt. People in the Middle East take note of the passive response of the United States, and so when U.S. diplomats tout the value of a free press, the disingenuousness is obvious and American credibility suffers. The Egyptian case receiving most attention involves journalists working for Al Jazeera. The Qatar-based channel has always been controversial, but it remains one of the Arab world’s most influential news organizations. When its journalists are locked up, the United States should demand that they be freed and be prepared to back up those demands.
The Al Jazeera personnel are not alone in Egypt. Bloggers and others critical of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government also have been imprisoned. Al-Sisi is “our guy” (at least for the moment); he depends on U.S. support to keep the battered Egyptian economy afloat, so the United States has considerable leverage. But leverage is valuable only if it is used.
Similarly, Egypt is far from alone in its suppression of news media. In Russia, the Kremlin has recently tightened its control over news organizations, and China will not allow certain American journalists to work there. Plenty of other nations can be added to this list, all standing in stark contrast to the openness of the United States.
The U.S. public diplomacy strategy in response to this situation should proceed on several levels. First, President Barack Obama should set the tone with a major speech about press freedom. It should be translated and disseminated widely.
Second, the United States should make clear that it is standing by its values. It should pressure the Egyptian government by threatening to withhold aid until press freedom – which enjoyed a brief surge of growth after the uprisings of 2011 – begins to be rebuilt.
Third, the State Department should shine a spotlight on its existing programs in support of international journalists and should expand those efforts. Along with the work of numerous private organizations, the U.S. government already offers foreign journalists a wide array of training programs and opportunities to visit the United States. These should be made more visible to diverse publics, not just the international journalism community.
This is one of those instances in which the United States holds the moral high ground but doesn’t seem to know how to take advantage of it. Reaching global audiences has never been easier, given tools ranging from satellite television to social media, and yet the United States continues to lag in embracing assertive public diplomacy strategies that could engage those large audiences. The White House and State Department need to rev up the engine of public diplomacy and make it more central to U.S. foreign policy. Forcefully defending press freedom would be a good way to start. The world will take note.
“Treknie gadi (the fat years) – tas jums tiešām ir jāzina (that one you really have to know),” said the Latvian teacher, and, for the next two hours, our language class dissected those two words. We read in Latvian about Prime Minister Aigars Kalvītis and his famous 2005 speech to the nation promising a modern incarnation of Jacob’s biblical prophecy of seven ‘fat years’ of prosperity followed by seven years of hardship. We learned pārpalikums (surplus) and dižkibele (global financial crisis). We discussed the crushing poverty faced by much of the society after the economy overheated, leading a new government to put in place strict austerity measures that pushed nearly a fifth of the population to seek work elsewhere in Europe. “Treknie gadi means government mismanagement, broken families, and extreme hardship. When Latvians say that today, it’s pregnant with meaning,” she concluded.
For five hours a day in small group classes, approximately 2,000 U.S. diplomats at the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute do similar cultural analyses in 60+ languages from Chinese to Bangla and Kiswahili. This dedicated investment in foreign language acquisition, and the intense cultural understanding that comes with it, has for years set the State Department apart from other foreign ministries worldwide.
Diplomacy, like negotiation and card playing, is an old, traditional ‘art’. To succeed at all three, the player needs an edge over his or her opponents, an edge based on preparation, confidence and cultural acuity. The more you know going in, the greater your chances of ultimate success. For that reason, the State Department runs one of the largest professional diplomatic training institutes in the world.
Since 1947, the Foreign Service Institute, which is housed at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, has trained U.S. diplomats, military attaches, development aid managers, information systems operators, and many others for U.S. government service abroad, now averaging over 100,000 enrollments annually. Today, the 72 acre government training oasis in Arlington, VA instructs over 2,000 students per day in foreign languages, regional studies, economics, leadership skills, and functional specialties.
“You cannot imagine how powerful it is in Georgia when an American diplomat speaks Georgian,” says Temuri Yakobashvili, former Georgian ambassador in Washington. “For nearly three hundred years, we were part of the Russian empire and the Soviet Union, and no Russian diplomat learned Georgian. But you Americans began training your people in Georgian soon after your embassy opened in the ‘90s. Georgians know that and it means a lot for them. And for America.”
While the soft diplomacy value of showing respect for a host country’s native language is in many cases priceless, the value of participating in the society without any filters is even more valuable in today’s touch-and-go foreign policy world. American diplomats in Kyiv can be found meeting with civil society, government and opposition leaders, speaking directly to the main actors in the current political crisis in both Ukrainian and Russian. Consular officers interview hundreds of visa applicants in Hindi, Urdu and Spanish each day, letting in valid students and businesspeople while keeping out would-be illegal immigrants and terrorists. And through a new program started last year, Diplomatic Security agents can now navigate road blocks and address security threats in ‘street’ Arabic.
The security-focused Arabic program is one of several new initiatives underway since Ambassador Nancy McEldowney took the reins as FSI Director (an Assistant Secretary equivalent position) in 2013. She also is emphasizing media training for senior officers to give them intensive on-camera TV interview practice in foreign languages.
“I like to use the military term, ‘strategic enabler,’” says McEldowney. “We get some of [the] country’s most talented people, bring them to FSI, and train them in the skills they will need to advance U.S. interests abroad. But this is ideally not a one-time or one-assignment approach. Our goal is for officers to come back to us throughout their career to get new skills to progress to more senior levels. Our mission is not just to give our corps technical skills; it is to create the top foreign policy professionals in the world.”
With significant new training directives in mind and a strategic development plan being circulated among State Department leadership, McEldowney is taking the long-term approach to advancing U.S. foreign policy. Her plan intends to improve the variety and depth of State Department educational resources in order to meet the demands of a quickly shifting world. As the late African icon and liberation leader Nelson Mandela famously said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
Disclaimer: Ms. Hudson-Dean is a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. The views expressed in this article are hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.
Shirley Temple Black, an American cultural icon of the Great Depression Era, and U.S. Ambassador to both Ghana (1974-76) and Czechoslovakia (1989-92), passed away on Monday, February 10th. CPD reached out to a few public diplomacy scholars and practitioners for their take on her global public diplomacy impact.
Shirley Temple Headshot, Wikimedia
Shirley Temple Black’s shift to diplomacy was completely different from the current wave of free-lance celebrities. She was firmly tied to a state-centric notion of statecraft. If some may have doubted that a child actor could make such a transition she turned out to be a consummate professional, with no sign of any embarrassment or indication that she was in over her head. Although she was widely valued for her ‘old school’ discipline and tact, recognition that was amplified by her appointment as Chief of Protocol of the United States, she certainly benefited from name recognition as Ambassador to both Ghana (1974-76) and Czechoslovakia (1989-92). Indeed what was innovative in her selection and performance to these key postings was the appreciation that visibility and access through country-specific American public diplomacy mattered. – Andrew F. Cooper, Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, Canada
Temple served as potent PD symbol in China, along with Micky Mouse and Donald Duck, especially for those who was born during 1965-1975 like myself. She aptly conveyed the American value of independence and individuality (not the "papa's girl who would follow every word from parent advocated in traditional Chinese culture). CCTV broadcast many of her classics in the early 1980s and got a lot of fans among Chinese viewers. However, those who were born in the 1980s and 90s are not familiar with her, as Disney cartoon figures replaced her. Most Chinese people are not aware of her diplomat role because her target nations were those in East Europe and Africa. Chinese media had a wide coverage of her passing away on entertainment pages for our fond memory of a child film star with slim mention of her diplomatic mission. – Anbin Shi, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at Tsinghua University, China
Shirley Temple Black’s career speaks to the inherent power of cultural diplomacy to move people in positive ways. As perhaps the biggest child movie star in history, she made magic with her dance and voice—and her talent echoed around the world as did her powerful films which made America look vibrant and culturally robust. In many ways she made America into the great “fairy tale” it could be—a nation beckoning others with its openness and warmth. – Tara Sonenshine, Distinguished Fellow, School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University, Washington, DC
I’m a Shirley Temple fan. Not a big fan of her movies; they seemed more suited for my sister. I’m a fan of her diplomacy in Czechoslovakia. I was a Newsweek reporter living in Prague between the 1989 “Velvet Revolution” and 1991 when I saw up close how Ambassador Shirley Temple Black worked it. That’s how I became a fan. (Disclosure: I like ambassadors, my wife was U.S. ambassador to Hungary 2010-13.)
America has had many notable diplomats dealing with Czechoslovakia, or the more modern Czech Republic, a country split from Slovakia in 1993 following a “Velvet Divorce.”
But Shirley Temple Black’s watch came at a seminal moment in modern Czechoslovak history and she was, perhaps unexpectedly, the right person at the right time.
Her personal and informal style worked well with the new government, made up of formerly imprisoned, hard laboring and human rights Charter 77-signing artists, musicians, actors and a playwright president named Vaclav Havel. Many of those new Czechoslovak political leaders admired their American colleague, President Ronald Reagan, an actor-politician like themselves who expressed in the clearest terms – and to the whole world – their deepest desire for freedom.
In Shirley Temple Black, the Czechoslovaks had a new diplomat-artist colleague who shared Reagan’s sentiments and temperament.
Ambassador Shirley Temple Black in Czechoslovakia in, Wikimedia
During early street protests in Prague in 1989, she spoke out for more democratic freedom and in thinly veiled language against the Husak government to which she was credentialed. And as the Berlin Wall fell and the distinct scent of revolution filled the Eastern European air, people filled central Wenceslas Square and jangled their keys in protest. Shaking those keys meant that they wanted to lock out the communists and open the door to democracy. Suddenly she became the U.S. ambassador to a reborn and dramatically transitioning state.
Thankfully, she knew something about drama. And timing.
Timing brought her to Czechoslovakia for the first time in 1968, in the midst of the Prague Spring and the crackdown on reformers. And a combination of actor’s good luck and timing brought her back for the Prague Spring’s reversal in 1989.
The most visible part of diplomacy consists of public meetings or events, speeches given, parties thrown. But most of the work takes place away from the public eye. Public and private diplomacy require the ability to perform for and understand an audience, and she was skilled at both.
When it came to the new Czechoslovak leadership, she knew these people and what motivated them, understood their anti-establishment tendencies, and gained their respect not merely because of her recognized early film work, but also because her ability to take the stage and perform whatever diplomatic duties were necessary.
Because of her GOP star power and her husband Charlie’s own network she was able to attract a never-ending stream of American officials and business people to Prague. She enticed them to come and witness the unfolding story of the Velvet Revolution.
Peaceful democratic change was as strong a draw as the incomparable fairytale beauty of the Prague castle, and the visits got Czechoslovakia added attention in the halls of Congress.
The first six months after the revolution felt like a nationwide party. And the embassy grounds were no exception. Journalists often were invited to events at the ambassador’s residence and whenever congressional delegations came through town, she opened up the Petschek Palace doors, located on recently renamed Ronald Reagan Street.
At my first reception, I asked a white-jacketed staff member in Czech (and loosely translated into English) “Is Shirley Temple available?” He looked over toward the ambassador and nodded. I then said, “Please procure me Shirley Temple” at which point the bartender nearly dropped the glass he was holding. He had never heard of the drink.
At these receptions, every American or Czechoslovak guest eventually made it to the drawing room, where the ambassador’s Oscar statuette sat on a bookshelf. I often sat and watched as one person after another grabbed the Oscar, felt its heft and held it high, sometimes giving a very short acceptance speech. And the ambassador often would take a photo next to the new Oscar “winner.” This was the type of cultural diplomacy that money can’t buy.
Guests sometimes wanted to linger, but the ambassador usually made it clear when the party was over. She would stand in the foyer, kick off her sky-high heels, light up a cigarette and open up the garden door to let in her dog, a boxer named Gorby, named after Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorby’s latent herding instinct kicked in and moved guests slowly toward the exit.
Now that she has headed off-stage, it’s time to raise a glass of grenadine and 7Up and bid a fan’s fond farewell.
This article originally appeared in The Sacramento Bee. Read the original here.
In early February, 7 USC Master of Public Diplomacy students embarked for São Paulo, Brazil. We arrived with just a day to get acclimated to the city before our meetings began on Monday. As students of diplomacy, the logical choice for a research trip to Brazil might be Brasilia. As the capital, it hosts the country's diplomatic corps and would certainly make a worthy case study of how diplomacy works in Brazil. While traditional diplomacy will always be worth pursuing, we are not going to Brazil to study it. Rather, we are going to learn about innovations in public diplomacy: we want to understand what is different about Brazil, and what it means for public diplomacy in the rest of the world. The area that I am focusing on is city diplomacy.
One of the oldest forms of diplomacy is city diplomacy, in which city-states established bilateral relations thousands of years ago. In the post-Westphalia era, traditional diplomacy takes place between two heads of state or their representatives.
However, globalization changed diplomacy and increased the number of diplomatic actors. Non-governmental organizations and sub-national entities have their own interests and are able to operate at a level of global influence. The head of the São Paulo State Government’s Office of Foreign Affairs Rodrigo Tavares says it best:
With globalization, these sub-national governments can no longer fulfill their constitutional responsibilities in education, sanitation, economic development, transportation, the environment, and other areas without interacting with the world.
In order to maximize their interests, cities are not just looking to their national government; they are looking to the world. And in the case of São Paulo, the world is looking back.
Consider this--while Brasilia hosts 100 embassies, São Paulo has over 50 consulates--the second largest consular corps in the world behind New York City. In 2013, the State of São Paulo became the first sub-national government in the Southern Hemisphere to sign a direct bilateral agreement with the United States. Last week, it became the first state in Brazil to ban animal testing. Google, Facebook, and ESPN are among the many corporations that set up strategic offices in São Paulo. These examples alone demonstrate that this city, is in fact, and important international actor.
During our trip, we will be meeting with Helena Monteiro de Oliveira, Coordinator of International Cooperation for the São Paulo State Government, and Leonardo Barchini, International Relations City Clerk for São Paulo. Gaining inside information about São Paulo’s views and objectives at the global level will allow us to better understand its interactions with the international community. At the end of the day, São Paulo has much to offer Brazil and the world at large. We hope that the lessons we learn over the next week will offer a picture of the full potential this city has to offer. And as global attention turns to Brazil in the lead up to the World Cup this summer and the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, São Paulo steps onto the global stage full of potential and challenges.
MPD students meeting at the State of São Paulo Governor's Palace with Helena Monteiro de Oliveira, Coordinator of International Cooperation for the State of São Paulo's Office of Foreign Affairs.
Stay tuned in to the CPD Blog for updates from São Paulo, photos of the delicious food and caipirinhas we will be enjoying, and most importantly reflections on our meetings and public diplomacy lessons.
“Soft power” is an important element of foreign policy, emphasizing attraction rather than coercion. The concept, popularized by Harvard professor Joseph Nye, provides counterbalance to the infatuation with hard power, especially military force, which has been driven by the accelerated development of “smart” weaponry. Drones, for example, are appealing to their users because their “pilots” may be thousands of miles away, wholly out of danger while people on the ground are dying. It is war without cost for one side.
The “immaculate destruction” facilitated by such weapons makes it easier to drift into war. When there is little cost to using hard power, policymakers may set aside their moral compass, relegating soft power to the domain of wimps.
Soft power advocates share some of the blame for this. They have been distracted by cutesy projects such as “gastrodiplomacy,” which may produce a few newspaper articles about the virtues of kimchi or mushy peas, but are unlikely to have any lasting effect on their audience.
Soft power proponents tend to forget that the purpose of soft power, as with public diplomacy more broadly, is to advance the strategic interests of your country. The goal is not be “nice” or transiently popular, but to advance toward your foreign policy goals. Public diplomats are not social workers, and they should not allow themselves to be seen as such.
Soft power intrinsically benefits from logic. Getting the outcome one wants is the essence of diplomacy, and doing so through attraction rather than coercion (although this is not always possible) is common sense. Soft power should become manifest in public diplomacy programs that respond to people’s needs – what will help them improve their lives. This approach is most likely to win the respect and appreciation that are the fruits of carefully nurtured soft power.
Consider the reasons behind the mass public’s support for the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. People were not motivated by just a thirst for democracy; those who marched to Tahrir Square and other rallying points throughout the Arab world wanted a roof over their families’ heads, decent schools for their children, a job so they could be self-supporting, and medical care to ensure their families’ health. The country that helps people reach those goals will begin to find that it has more friends than adversaries. Further, helping achieve such results will enhance freedom and stability, an important function of public diplomacy.
In some countries, including the United States, politics and the scarcity of common sense have led to soft power being pushed out of the policy mainstream, consigned to the backwaters of wishful thinking. Correcting this, in the United States at least, will require structural change. First among the reforms should be bringing to an end the persistent fiction that public diplomacy and aid programs, the domain of USAID, should be separate enterprises. If policymakers really want to rely on soft power, the publics to whom public diplomacy is directed must receive the programs most likely to produce desired results. Programs with such goals have proved successful, including PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, which was one of the great achievements of the George W. Bush administration, and on a more micro level, individual projects undertaken by Peace Corps volunteers.
This readjustment of values and priorities will not come easily. Earlier this month, several dozen scholars and soft power practitioners met at Wilton Park, the conference center of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to consider the future of soft power. Interesting ideas abounded, but many of us came away from the sessions realizing that no matter how hard we work, change will not come unless those at the top of the policymaking pyramid embrace soft power as truly the preferred way of dealing with the rest of the world.
john brown on February 7, 2014 @ 4:29 pm Prof. Seib, In response to you article, which gave me a slight indigestion, may I cite a passage from an article from my father, diplomat/scholar Dr. John L. Brown (who actually practiced "public diplomacy" rather than just writing /pontificating about it), in the Foreign Service Journal (1964):
"In the course of the inauguration, I was introduced to the ranking Belgian present, a high official from the Ministry of Education, a gifted, somewhat erratic 'intellectual of the Left.' He was known for his hostility to the United States.
We were seated side by side at the banquet which followed the inauguration. The savory ham of the Ardennes, smoked over a juniper fire, the fresh mountain trout, lightly browned in butter with golden almonds sprinkled on their crisp skin, the tender chicken (the famous 'Coucous de Malines'), their white flesh punctuated generously with black truffles, the excellent wine, the cordial atmosphere of the old Hotel de ville all made conversation very easy. We talked about the concert, the music of Joaquim des Prez, the contributions of Belgium to medieval art, the researches of Pirenne on the Flemish cities. I found him a most pleasant companion, learned without being pedantic, animated with real enthusiasm for the past of his country.
When the cheese came, he asked: 'But how can an American be interested in these things? Americans like only jazz.' I said that of course many Americans did like only jazz and in this they were like many Europeans. But, I went on, the organizer and director of the ensemble which played for us is an American and there are many such groups in the United States, which are specialized in ancient music. We began to speak about musical education, about Julliard and Curtis and Eastman, about the place that music occupies in the public educational system in America. We parted friends. We continued to see each other. I am still in correspondence with him."
He can still dunk like a butterfly, but in the personally tragic case of former basketball pro Dennis Rodman in North Korea, the embrace of Kim Jong Un and his policies sting like a bee. Rodman is the most recent example of sports diplomacy gone awry. With the Sochi Olympics starting, a new cadre of unpredictable athlete diplomats will likely take the stage.
It is a time-honored tradition to use athletes as diplomats. They are some of the most recognizable global personages whose participation can lead to substantial bilateral benefits. In the 1970s, for example, U.S. President Nixon successfully promoted a team of American pingpong players to open up a dialogue with Mao Zedong’s China.
When sports diplomacy goes wrong, however, it can go very wrong.
Portal Bogota, Flickr, Creative Commons
Nixon was a former college football player who loved sports and competition. During his presidency, he used American chess player Bobby Fischer for his propaganda value and as a symbol of Cold War superiority.
In 1972, Fischer won chess’s internationally televised “Match of the Century” against Boris Spassky. He also won the acclaim of a nation looking to school the Soviets in a field where they were dominant before Fischer’s victory. From that high point, however, things began to go downhill for Fischer and his propaganda value. Years later, and hours after the 2001 attack on the twin towers, Fischer, in an interview, reprehensibly justified the World Trade Center attackers with strong anti-American remarks. Regarding the attack he said, “I applaud the act.”
Fisher’s demise took time, but some athletes self-destruct in real time. Muhammad Ali is the world-renowned boxer who won a gold medal as Cassius Clay in the 1960 Rome Olympics. President Carter asked Ali to go on a five-nation Africa tour to get those countries to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics as a protest of the Soviet military’s 1979 Afghanistan invasion.
Ali flew on an official state aircraft, but began to make diplomatic mistakes from the minute he landed. He was unable to address complex political issues and even argued against the boycott he was there to promote as Carter’s proxy.
While the parallels between Ali and Rodman are many, hoops-playing President Obama can verily say that he did not send Rodman as his envoy to Pyongyang. He has, however, chosen University of California President and former Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano to lead the Sochi delegation. Who better to deal with both the politics and the security threats?
Rodman recently checked himself into alcohol rehab, and despite his generally ridiculed mission to North Korea and his ill-considered comments there, his trip might yield unexpected results.
A composed Charles Smith told CNN that he and the other players went to North Korea to work as “cross-cultural ambassadors and use the game of basketball as a bridge for exchange.” Smith also spoke clearly about the potential benefits for the two diplomatically estranged nations.
For North Korea, those benefits include American cultural exposure and an introduction to racial diversity. A downside for this unofficial delegation was its exploitation to bolster Kim Jong Un’s totalitarian and nuclear-armed regime.
The upside for the United States? More Americans to bring back insight about this isolated state and its leader. Informal interactions with North Koreans might also open up new channels for dialogue. What was lost in the controversy of the basketball exhibition was that the delegation was made up of more (and more interesting) people than just spotlight-grabbing Dennis Rodman.
The Olympics will provide more opportunities for athletes to share in peaceful exchange. The infectious Olympic spirit invariably uplifts participants and spectators. But there are as many pitfalls in sports diplomacy as there are potential merits. For every successful pingpong diplomat there is a Rodman waiting in the wings.
Each year the second year students in the USC Master of Public Diplomacy program select a location abroad to conduct new research that can further the study and practice of public diplomacy. This year, the Class of 2014 selected Sao Paulo, Brazil for its unique position in world politics. Brazil is currently transitioning from a regional and hemispheric power to a global one. The country will be on display during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and MPD students want to gain a better understanding of Brazilian public diplomacy practices.
Brazil, a rising power, is undeniably experiencing growing pains. Social issues such as education, public services, and healthcare are major issues that the government is fighting to address. Recent protests, high levels of violent crime, and social movements in cities like Sao Paulo threaten to negatively impact the country's global image. Brazil is truly at a crossroads: it is a rising power with immense economic and political potential, yet at the same time, sufferers many of the ills of a developing country.
At the end of this week, seven MPD students with diverse interests and backgrounds will embark on this journey south. During our field research, we will meet with scholars and practitioners alike to gain valuable insight into the practices of Brazilian public diplomacy. This trip will give us the opportunity to experience first-hand what we have been studying for the past year and a half. Our research will focus on “Innovations in Brazilian Public Diplomacy,” specifically analyzing digital engagement, ecotourism, sustainable development, sports diplomacy, and Brazil’s political and economic transition to a global power.
Our research questions include:
1. How does Brazil’s public diplomacy strategy reconcile the country’s rapid economic expansion, societal issues like crime, poverty, lack of education and healthcare, and its role as a regional and hemispheric power? What roles do global events like Rio+20, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the 2016 Summer Olympics play in Brazil’s larger public diplomacy strategy? Can Brazil’s “joga bonito” and “samba strategy” overcome social unrest and negative images?
2. Is there a strategic implementation of technology in Brazilian public diplomacy? What is the best way for the United States to engage Brazilians in digital diplomacy?
3.How are Brazilian public diplomacy practitioners utilizing communication technologies to conduct diplomacy in their field?
4.What is innovative about sustainable development in Brazil and how are Sao Paulo’s leaders using it as a means to brand the city and engage with other global cities? What is the role of ecotourism in public diplomacy?
5. How is the local skateboarding community contributing to Brazil’s broader sports diplomacy efforts? How are Brazilian professional skateboarders serving as sport and cultural ambassadors?
Fernado Stankuns, Flickr, Creative Commons
During the next few weeks, we will publish a series of blogs detailing our experiences and findings on the diverse topics we will address while in Brazil. It is our hope that this research will be a valuable addition to the study and practice of public diplomacy. We would like to acknowledge that this trip would not have been possible without the support from the Master of Public Diplomacy program director, Nick Cull, CPD director Jay Wang, and the entire Annenberg community. We look forward to sharing our experiences and hope to create a discussion on emerging world powers in public diplomacy!
Recent developments in Africa related to the contentious topic of homosexuality have reminded me of a discussion that took place during one of the interactive sessions at CPD’s 2013 Summer Institute in Public Diplomacy. During this discussion, I argued that the West needs to fully recognize and show respect to the cultural, religious, and sociological demagogy of countries (especially in Africa) opposed to the practice. This is especially true when promoting the acceptance of homosexuality as a human right.
Early in January, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill was passed by the National Assembly in Abuja and then signed by the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan. Following this, the parliament of Uganda passed similar legislation. Both laws decreed the same things: that homosexuality is illegal, and its practitioners and promoters risk state-sponsored sanctions in the jurisdictions involved. In Nigeria, the new law not only forbids marriage of same-sex couples, but also carries up to 14 years in prison for individuals convicted of promoting a homosexual lifestyle, soliciting and/or participating in homosexual relationships.
The development of this issue, particularly in Nigeria, has set off a renewed debate on the topic of homosexuality in the global arena, with the public diplomacy implications coming into fresh focus. Understandably, this debate also touches on Western-Non-Western relations.
President Goodluck Jonathan, Flickr, Creative Commons, GovernmentZA
Let me examine the Nigerian situation. The massive public approval of the bill by Nigerians is highly disproportionate to the minority who disapprove. No doubt, this is a demonstration of democracy where the majority has its way and the minority had its say. This is a fundamental point that must be considered in the homosexuality debate. However, there has been vociferous disapproval from some foreign jurisdictions. A swift reaction came from Ambassador Samantha Power, the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, who took to Twitter. “Deeply troubled that #Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan signed anti-#LGBT law. Big setback for human rights for all Nigerians,” she tweeted.
Interestingly, local support for the law in Nigeria grew as foreign interests expressed their reservations. From religious organizations to socio-ethnic cultural groups, and even the political class, in spite of pressures from the West, Nigerians from all walks of life have asked the government to remain resolute on the new law. Notably, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the country’s umbrella organization of Christian faith, and the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), its Muslim counterpart, have both asked the West not to impose their values and to let Nigeria practice its own beliefs. There have been strong insinuations and even subtle threats that Nigeria may suffer aid cuts from the West if the law is sustained.
Remarkably, Nigeria was one of the countries that voted against and opposed the historic passage of the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) resolution, which adopted the rights of LGBT persons as a human right in 2011. While 23 member countries on the council voted in favor of the resolution, 19 states including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and of course Nigeria voted against it. (There were three abstentions, which included China.)
For the majority of Nigerians, LGBT is not a matter of human rights as it goes against their cultural, religious, and social beliefs. It is also ahistorical to their anthropological sense of self-worth, and exemplifies the influence of Western cultural practices and beliefs on Nigerians. In the evolution of indigenous communities, it is hard for Nigerians to imagine homosexuality in society.
But while some of the reactions to the new law have been cautious, Canada openly called on Nigeria to repeal the law. In a statement by its Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, the Canadian government said: “Canada is deeply concerned that Nigeria has adopted a law that further criminalizes homosexuality. We call on Nigeria to repeal this law, to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedom of all Nigerians regardless of their sexual orientation.”
The United Kingdom, however, is treading lightly on the issue, opting to take the path of bilateral engagement at the ‘highest levels.’ British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that although his country’s government is disappointed with President Jonathan for signing the bill into law, “we will continue to lobby at the highest levels on this issue.” The UK Department for International Development (DFID), which gives aid to Nigeria, has even declared that the anti-gay law will not precipitate a halt of its engagement with the country.
The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed deep concerns, noting, "The law is inconsistent with Nigeria's international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 constitution." But the country’s envoy, Ambassador James Entwistle, said that in spite of the new law, his country would not withdraw bilateral assistance to Nigeria, even though the latest developments “may put some restrictions on what we can do to help fight HIV/AIDS in this country.”
The United Nations issued a statement of caution on the law. A statement from the Office of the Secretary-General said that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon “fears that the law may fuel prejudice and violence, and notes with alarm reports that police in northern Nigeria have arrested individuals believed by the authorities to be homosexuals, and may even have tortured them." Further, the statement expressed fears that the new law “also risks obstructing effective responses to HIV/AIDS."
DATA AND RESEARCH
Between March and May 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey measuring public opinion on homosexuality in 39 countries with a total of 37,653 respondents. Highlights of the survey revealed that factors like religion and economics are key in shaping beliefs on homosexuality. Thus, while homosexuality is considered unacceptable in countries where religion occupies a central place in the lives of citizens, the reverse is the case for regions where secularism trumps religion. The survey also illustrated a directly proportionate relationship between economic conditions and homosexuality. For example, homosexuality tends to be more generally acceptable in states where citizens enjoy better living standards, rather than in poorer nations.
In real terms, European countries, the U.S., Canada, and some Latin American nations have populations that are more in favor of homosexuality than are opposed to it. According to the survey, this trend has seen an increase over the past few years. In the 2013 survey, 80% of Canadians accepted homosexuality, compared to 70% six years ago. In the U.S., 60% of respondents believe the practice should be accepted, which is an increase from 49% in 2007. In Spain, Germany, and France the acceptance figures are 88%, 87%, and 77% respectively. In Argentina, 74% of those polled say homosexuality is acceptable, and for Brazil the figure is 60%.
Compared to the figures from the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, 98% of Nigerian respondents are against homosexuality. 96% of those polled in Senegal, Ghana, and Uganda also opposed homosexuality. The case with South Africa is interesting, as homosexuality is legalized and discrimination based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional. But even in South Africa, 61% of those polled are against the practice, with only 32% supporting it. Additionally, results from predominantly Muslim countries indicate an overwhelming majority against it. The results show 87% in Pakistan, 97% in Jordan, 78% in Turkey, and 95% in Egypt.
What is clearly perceptible from these statistics is that the homosexuality debate is still very much ongoing. One can safely say that in spite of the UN’s inclusion of LGBT rights as human rights, the acceptance of homosexuality in some cultures is far from a reality. This is partially due to the entrenched beliefs, cultures, and idiosyncracies that are deeply rooted in the psyches of these populations.
Ofor Okeke on February 5, 2014 @ 8:45 am Western Nations should respect the decision of majority of Nigerians. I see their resorting to bullying Nigerians to change the law as not just annoying but also irritating. A country like the USA should concentrate her resources on fully legalizing gay/lesbian relationship in her country where it is only supported in 16 states and backed by just 52% of Americans.
yusuf on February 6, 2014 @ 7:55 am The western nation gay proponents usa,canada,uk et al are resorting to nothing short of abusing d cultural sensibilities of nigerians and nigeria as a nation.diplomacy by bullying in dis sense is totally unacceptable. The rights of d gay proponent nations stops where dat of nigerians begin. While d forces of globalization today hv become a mainstay reality,the vagaries,dynamics and intricacies of the world values today, exemplified in the viewpoint of sceptism,hyperglobalism and transformationalism schools all combine in a continous flux to make the clash of values and civilisations inevitable as the global gay debate rages on.d debate is just a manifestation of civilisation clash which is an inescapable reality which all discerning observers like the western protagonist sud be well aware of. Its very unfortunate that rather than face reality in dis case,they hv shockingly decided to tow the path of mischief and hypocisy.
Pd student on February 9, 2014 @ 10:53 pm Still wondering how this post was related to public diplomacy. I don't see any evidence presented of foreign countries trying to transparently influence the Nigerian public. All the communications were government to government. Other than the title, where is it examined that Western governments are attempting to change minds over LGBT views through their denouncements? That would have made for a more appropriate PD-related post.
Even more odd is the relationship described between economic development and views on gay rights, which tracks many other correlations between expansion of human rights and economic development - but then we are made to believe that 'African' cultures don't accept homosexuality. A broad brush stroke when 20+ Sub-Saharan African nations have legalized same-sex intercourse.
Finally, the implication that the acceptance of people's sexuality is a western value and thus intolerance is somehow part of 'African' cultural is wholly unsubstantiated.
Abooki on February 12, 2014 @ 7:48 am Quating Ofor Okeke: "Western Nations should respect the decision of majority of Nigerians. I see their resorting to bullying Nigerians to change the law as not just annoying but also irritating. A country like the USA should concentrate her resources on fully legalizing gay/lesbian relationship in her country where it is only supported in 16 states and backed by just 52% of Americans"
You are absolutely right man! I wonder how they indirectly emphasize the 'fact' of dictating Africans' social ways of living. Wars have been prevalent in on this continent (of which they have a hand, both directly and indirectly)but all you hear from them is reporting the number of deaths using UN! They only intervene in a given African civil war when they are rest assured that such a nation has got what they want--MINERAL WEALTH! Furthermore, we still have other soring issues...say poverty, poor health conditions...et cetera. Why not pay attention to them rather than homosexuality? What's good with that--a man putting his stuffs into a fellow man via the rectum? What a hell is this 'natural' act? Most of their articles, journals and respective comments I read on their sites are overwhelmingly in favour of homosexuality...which actually proves that most of them are spoilt people perpetuated due to random breeding as denoted by President Museveni in his letter to the speaker of parliament of the Republic of Uganda.
I strongly belive that the indirect objective of this, to them, is paralyzing Africans' development, which starts with the destruction of successful psyco-social precursors. Once you distort someone's brain and a way of thinking and analyzing something independently and rightfully in a natural mean (which turns catastrophic when on a large scale), you not only halt their future developments but also distort their matching and overwhelming freedom of governance--we're no longer slaves or colonial territories so that they dictate whatever they want want on us! You hear them exaggerating that "...ugandans are surely stepping backwards in the stone age periods and are most likely to remain uncivilized in this twentieth first century..." as if culture is technology! Turning away from nature means hell!
More predictions shows that animal-human relationships are most likely to hit Africa and the whole world through western promotions! I heard on news that a certain man in California (U.S.A) was wedded with a dog (and 'at least' not a bitch) under a 'holy' commitment 'with' God! I even saw a priest (the face seemed to be edited, for no one would dare expose their identity under this nasty event!). Our parents and grandis used to tell us that one time one day westerners would ephasize all nasty behaviours which would eventually turn 'normal' in Africa and the whole world renging from homosexuality to walking completely naked...and then human-animal sex and relationships...et cetera...
I'm sorry if i've, in one way or the other, turned aggressive but the issue is; it's better we do things in natural ways and keep the reasons for being sane humans intact with us. If a nation designs rules against anything and such rules are massively endorsed by the majority, it clearly outstands that such people have accepted that they (the rules) as part of their required tools to perfectly shape their societies to greater hieghts of social developments. Of course changes in cultures have been prevalent in given parts of the world due to so many factors. However, some have been so senstive that they've required diplomatic revisions and changes as long as they hardly fit in those given societies...a thing I believe is okay as long such changes are hugely backed up by the majoriy. We put most of our trust in the western hemisphere of the world. Let's hope this won't be misused with regard of extending an unneccessary imperialism in one way or the other. We're no longer under colonialism and hence we are very, very senstive on neo-colonialism following errors made in the colonial eras.
God bless Africa.
Oke Epia on February 13, 2014 @ 4:42 am My intention for posting this blog is to stimulate a healthy and respectable debate on the issue. I will therefore appreciate that comments reflect respect and tolerance for opposing views no matter how much we disagree with them. What to me remains central in the debate is the place of democratic rights and popular aspirations whether from the western or African perspective.
@pd student: the question of how the post relates to public diplomacy misses the point I believe. Concern should rather be on how pd can be deployed as a constructive tool to address a burning issue of global import.
In my new book, “Shaping China’s Global Imagination: Branding Nations at the World Expo,” I explore the idea of nation branding—what it is and how it works—through the instructive case of the Shanghai World Expo. Despite the growing interest in how countries promote their national image, the potential and role of branding in a nation’s communication has often been assumed but not demonstrated. This book reflects an effort to provide conceptual clarity and empirical attention to this very issue.
Clearly, all nation brands were not created equal at the Shanghai Expo. Indeed, different approaches and strategies come into focus at an event like the World Expo, where nations are symbolized through branding practices and resources.
The project offers us ways to understand nation branding that is conceptually grounded. But we also learned practical lessons for organizers of future World Expos and the enterprise of nation branding in general. Here are several issues that stand out for me that I believe are important to branding a nation.
1. Storytelling as the Foundation
Storytelling with mass appeal is the foundation of this kind of brand communication effort. Shaping perception through branding is less about making good arguments than sharing a compelling and relatable story about a nation’s image. Such storytelling needs to have a clear structure and order and needs to engage the audience’s emotions. Our research suggests that a focused, structured approach in storytelling works more effectively than a dispersed approach for an event like the World Expo.
2. Co-creating a Nation Brand
Nation branding is not merely about selling a country or a cultural experience, but to demonstrate how the nation and its communication can enrich its audience’s lives. As shown in the case studies in the book, Expo visitors created their personal narratives with regard to their pavilion experiences. To tell an engaging story is to move away from being self-focused to embracing the possibility of co-creation of nation-brand meaning. Yet devising such strategies requires a deep understanding of the audience’s motivations and imaginations.
3. Strategic Use of Stereotypes
Given that stereotypes form the basis of our expectations in a communicative context, they should be productively harnessed to draw audience into the story rather than being uniformly jettisoned. We argue that simply presenting the new and less familiar may alienate the audience, thus missing even the opportunity to make a connection, let alone creating any kind of resonance. It is particularly noteworthy in situations where one wants to shed negative perceptions. On the other hand, much, if not most, of nation branding is about confirmation and reminding. National symbols are familiar representations and offer powerful mental shortcuts to the country. The association and connection established serve as points of departure for the nation to articulate its story.
Shanghai World Expo 2010, Creative Commons
4. The Importance of Surprise
It is crucial to provide delightful surprises that are thematically relevant. This is especially important for countries that enjoy high awareness and familiarity among their audiences. Ultimately any nation-branding effort is also an educational experience. It is for the audience to learn and appreciate something about other countries. Regardless of message focus and tailoring, there needs to be an element of surprise somewhere in presenting and delivering the experience or content. Without providing a spark in the minds of the audience, the communication may be viewed as mundanely familiar, thereby failing to command any attention or interest.
5. Production Values Do Count
The production values of communication increasingly matter. This is a spill-over effect of the ever-rising expectations by the growing global middle class—young, urban, and tech-savvy—of quality visual presentations and multisensory experiences in other realms of communication. This study demonstrates that sensory stimulation and spectacular production were crucial factors in effectively presenting a nation brand at the Expo. High-tech, high-quality production is usually a function of resources and know-how, which most likely give richer nations an edge over smaller, poorer ones.
6. Don’t Ignore the “Last Three Feet”
On the other hand, the low-tech approach of human interaction can be equally engaging and powerful when done well. In the case of the Expo, the interaction between visitors and pavilion representatives is an important platform for nations to connect with their foreign audience in a personal way. The challenge is how to make such an approach scalable. This may not require a big budget but could potentially deliver huge impact. Smaller players, in particular, should not overlook this approach.
7. A Transnational Production of Nation Brands
This project also suggests the transnational nature of the production of a nation brand in contemporary times. A World Expo pavilion is spearheaded by a national government. But its presentation is accomplished through a complex web of public-private and transnational partnerships. How to work effectively with multiple partners in a nation-branding endeavour becomes crucial and determines the outcome of the effort.
8. Sustaining the Effort
Finally, given the evolutionary nature of the branding process, a one-off, individualized nation-branding approach is of limited usefulness. As in general branding, nation brands need to be reinforced or revitalized over time. It therefore requires sustained attention and investment. Only in this way can managing a nation’s image become strategic rather than merely tactical.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, China has been a rising star in the arena of public diplomacy. Its PD campaign, coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, involves fourteen separate Departments, including the United Front Work Department, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Culture, and the General Administration of Press and Publication.  The colossal campaign aims to brand China as a responsible, peace-loving, and culturally sophisticated nation.  China has done this through generous aid to Africa, the global expansion of its media properties, and the rapid growth of Confucius Institutes.
In the United States, almost every aspect of China’s public diplomacy campaign is labeled “assertive,” “aggressive,” or a “charm offensive.” Being Chinese, whenever I encounter such reports, I feel a sense of pride. China is probably experiencing its best years since the British Army burst open the gate of the Qing Dynasty with armor and cannons in 1840. But this pride won’t last long. My reason soon retakes control, reminding me that under the centralizing structure of the Chinese government, formidable PD projects are nothing new. In the midst of the Cultural Revolution, during the 1970’s, the Government sponsored the Tanzam Railway, a 500 million dollar construction project that connected Tanzania and Zambia and mobilized thousands of Chinese workers.
The pertinent question is whether China’s current PD campaign achieves its goal. Is it successful? This touches on the issue of evaluation, a “hard nut to crack” in the sphere of public diplomacy.
When it comes to assessing PD, there are two main approaches.  One is to measure the output of PD effort, for example how many foreign students have enrolled in Confucius Institutes. The other goes beyond the activity itself and seeks to evaluate its outcome, often at a cognitive level. In the case of Confucius Institutes, a positive outcome would be participants’ increased understanding and favorability towards China, or more fundamentally, whether the presence of Confucius Institutes improves China’s reputation in surrounding communities.
The output approach is easier to quantify and track, and is often adopted by practitioners to justify funding. However, a high output does not necessarily bring forth positive PD outcomes; the soaring number of foreign students who study at Confucius Institutes does not lead to an indisputable victory in the battlefield of PD. The outcome approach, which “gets to the heart of assessing the effectiveness of public diplomacy,” is more reliable in this regard. 
In terms of its output, China’s PD program appears to be a booming success. It has been flexing its soft power through a wide range of PD channels, characterized by the troika of Confucius Institutes, foreign aid, and international broadcasting. Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, in a mere nine years, have swept across 117 countries, with 440 Institutes and 646 Classrooms. Beijing pledged $189 billion in foreign aid and government-sponsored investment activities in 2011,  investing $75 billion in aid projects in Africa alone from 2000 to 2011. Chinese media property CCTV boasts three major global offices in Beijing, Washington, and Nairobi, and more than 70 additional international bureaus. Its program claims a reach of millions in 137 countries.  In an era when the budgets of the VOA and the BBC have been battered by funding cutbacks, CCTV’s output is staggering.
However, when it comes to the outcome of China’s PD, the result may be more disturbing than reassuring. Unlike its Western counterparts, China’s PD architects—who perceive China as misjudged and deserving of more respect—have paid greater attention to improving the nation’s image. In an online exchange in 2013, Qin Gang, China’s Director General of the Information Department, described public diplomacy as “an important means to introduce China and improve national image.” China’s Public Diplomacy Forums in 2011 and 2013 also revolved around the concept of image.  Nevertheless, based on data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, China’s favorability in 16 sample countries was in flux from 2007 to 2013. Compared to the country's booming economic power, China’s image is in need of rebuilding.
In 2008, favorability towards China plummeted to the lowest point in the sample period, from a median favorability rate of 46.5 percent in 2007 to 41.5 percent. After 2008, there was an increase in favorability in the majority of sampled countries, with the median reaching its peak of 51 percent in 2011. In the past two years, the favorability rate showed a clear pattern of recession. Among the 16 sample countries, only Mexico, Indonesia, and Turkey exhibit favorability with an average 6 percent increase. In another survey conducted by the BBC, of the 25 countries surveyed in 2013, 12 hold positive views of China and 13 hold negative views. In Africa and the BRIC nations, China’s “performance” is seen in a more positive light. However, in the EU, the U.S., and Canada, as well as in neighboring countries like Japan and Korea, China is viewed in an “extremely negative” light. 
The flux in favorability contrasts with the powerful appearance of China’s PD campaign. The high outputs in cultural diplomacy, foreign aid, and international broadcasting have not been translated into any tangible outcome in terms of a more positive image, which China has arguably put the most weight on. However, it would be unfair to jump to the conclusion that China’s recent PD efforts have failed. The long-term nature of PD requires a more tolerant view in the short term. The expansion of media properties and the establishment of Confucius Institutes may pay off years after the investment.
Indeed, China is not alone in waging a battle to improve its national image. At the recent Public Diplomacy Forum held in DC, a U.S. PD practitioner commented on the job security within the field of PD by stating if the goal of public diplomacy is to make the world like us (the United States), then we will never lose the job. This may sound like a joke, but there is more than a grain of truth in it. Both China and the United States have been investing in public diplomacy with a considerable output, however, the outcome, like increased favorability across the world, is limited.
I would like to conclude with words from Chairman Mao. In a meeting with two Latin American leaders in 1956, Mao said, “U.S. imperialism is very weak politically because it is divorced from the masses of the people and is disliked by everybody and by the American people too. In appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of, it is a paper tiger. Outwardly a tiger, it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain.” 
This view is certainly prejudiced, but it can be interpreted as a cautious note to all Chinese PD practitioners, as well as to their U.S. counterparts. Are the United States and China divorced from foreign audiences? Is our PD campaign a “paper tiger” that has a formidable appearance but is weak inside? Focusing more on a substantial outcome, rather than the output, should be a general trend that frames future PD efforts.
In 2013, Indonesia hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leadership meeting. Established in 1989, APEC has 21 member states that are committed to promoting trade and economic cooperation in the region. The summit was overshadowed by the absence of President Obama, who canceled his trip to manage the partial U.S. government shutdown. Secretary of State John Kerry attended instead. The U.S. was the only country not represented by its head of government. As a result, the stage was wide open for China’s President Xi Jinping, who delivered the keynote address.
The Obama administration understands Indonesia’s potential as a strategic stakeholder with significant political and economic clout in an area of increasing geostrategic importance. Its economy averaged a GDP of $878.2 billion and a growth rate of 6.2% in 2012 (World Bank). The democratic government transition in 1998 advanced economic growth, lowered trade barriers, and advanced foreign investment opportunities. Since 2004, President Yudhoyono has consistently worked towards implementing economic reforms to eradicate corruption, diminish nepotism, and remove bureaucratic hurdles. Indonesia has joined the club of Southeast Asia’s rising “tiger economies” alongside Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Indonesia now constitutes an economic steam engine in the Asia-Pacific and should be regarded as a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy in its proclaimed pivot towards Asia.
President Obama and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde at APEC 2011
In her 2009 Senate confirmation hearing, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the importance of economic means coupled with diplomatic and military measures to enhance U.S. soft and smart power abroad. Walter Russell Mead (2004) framed the issue in similar terms, stating that it is the skillful combination of soft power with sharp (military) and sticky (economic) power that will ensure U.S. hegemony regionally and globally. As part of his Asia policy in the 1990s, President Clinton detailed a comprehensive foreign policy strategy to engage Asia; he suspended the U.S. trade embargo with Vietnam and improved trade relations with China, measures that expanded diplomatic channels with both countries. Furthermore, Clinton attended the APEC summit eight times, thus demonstrating U.S. commitment to the region vis-a-vis economic policies and trade agreements.
A signature of President Obama’s foreign policy agenda has been engagement with the Muslim world, of which Indonesia is a part. In his Cairo speech in 2009, Obama spoke of the significance of economic cooperation and engagement with Muslim countries: this included regional business promotion, new market creation, and expanded trade partnerships. Obama may have an edge over Clinton’s initiatives in Asia-Pacific countries, due to the Muslim majority in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. In addition, Obama’s special childhood ties make for a unique opportunity to deepen U.S.-Indonesian relations, an example of which is the 2010 Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Partnership between the United States and the Republic of Indonesia.
The Essence of Economic Statecraft
Economic statecraft is at the center of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. It is described as “harnessing global economic forces to advance America’s foreign policy and employing the tools of foreign policy to shore up our economic strength” (U.S. Department of State). Apart from a Global Economic Statecraft Day celebrated by U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, the Department of State (DoS) has launched various initiatives – particularly in the realm of public-private partnerships – to supplement its commitment to tightening U.S. economic interests and diplomatic efforts.
Bolstering public-private partnerships within U.S. foreign policy is not new. Economic public diplomacy (PD) also allows for the advancement of partnerships between DoS and the private business sector, which includes U.S. small-to-medium-scale businesses as well as multinational corporations like McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Citigroup, and Apple. The latter are global brands that promote and sell their products abroad, highlighting U.S. culture and values. With its burgeoning middle class, Indonesia presents ample market opportunity. What’s more, the potential of businesspeople as citizen diplomats needs to be exploited more efficiently by DoS via extended integration of, and cooperation with, various businesses.
Within DoS, the Office of Economic Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy (EPPD) is dedicated to corporate social responsibility as well as private sector outreach. The Secretary of State’s annual Award for Corporate Excellence is given to U.S. businesses that engage local communities abroad and promote U.S. values and economic interests. In 2007, the award went to GE Indonesia. With it, the EPPD has the potential to effectively shape U.S. foreign economic policy through its Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy, a body with members from both the public and private sectors. A third initiative is the Innovation Fund for Public Diplomacy , which recognizes original PD ideas in U.S. embassies and consulates in partner with inventive business concepts.
Accordingly, the U.S. Commercial Service backs public-private partnerships in cooperation with DoS. Usually located in U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, the U.S. Commercial Service for Indonesia exists outside the diplomatic mission in Jakarta’s central business district. Through specific events such as the “SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit” and general representation at U.S. and Indonesian trade fairs, the U.S. Commercial Service facilitates interaction between U.S. and Indonesian businesspeople. Additionally, the U.S. Business Visa Program lowers visa application barriers, expedites the application process, and facilitates U.S. travel for Indonesian entrepreneurs.
Another one of DoS’s latest economic PD initiatives is an Information Resource Center at the Pacific Place Jakarta shopping mall. Since 2010, @america has been a space for academic and cultural events that utilize interactive computer technology for its exhibitions and information sessions. It is a prime example of successful private-public partnership, with Indonesian and U.S. companies (Google, Microsoft, and Starbucks) co-sponsoring the endeavor.
With the predicted rise of Indonesia into the major leagues of the international economic community, engaging Indonesian business leaders should be a critical pillar of economic statecraft for what Hillary Clinton called “America’s Pacific Century.”
Tasks for the Future
By encouraging U.S. businesses to invest in Indonesia and facilitating trade partnerships, the Obama administration has laid the groundwork for its vision of 21st century economic statecraft in Indonesia. However, the potential of added PD has yet to be fully explored. Initiatives such as the Innovation Fund for Public Diplomacy are a good start, but DoS could do more, such as: (1) create closer cooperation with the Department of Commerce in crafting, financing, and implementing sustainable economic PD that goes beyond short-term commitments and into building and sustaining communication and transportation infrastructure; (2) offer additional funding for entrepreneurs and start-ups through investment incentives for U.S. businesses; (3) implement increased grants and bilateral exchange agreements targeted at experts and professionals to work in Indonesia; and (4) create and sustain a network of public-private partnerships to finance internships and open professional training opportunities for future leaders in the U.S. and Indonesian business landscapes.
Engaging Indonesian entrepreneurs in an environment conducive to U.S. business interests and foreign policy goals necessitates attendance by the head of state at regional economic summits like APEC. Attending the annual leadership meeting in Indonesia would have furthered U.S. efforts for improved integration and cooperation while also providing a forum for President Obama to accelerate U.S. membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Most notably, President Obama and President Yudhoyono need to reaffirm their commitment toward a comprehensive U.S.-Indonesian partnership. If the U.S. sincerely wants to realize its economic statecraft potential and consolidate its status in the Asia-Pacific region – while curbing that of China – it must propagate deeper engagement with words and deeds.
Ellen Huijgh on February 10, 2014 @ 1:29 am I was delighted to read your blog. It fits well with my research The Public Diplomacy of Emerging Powers: Insights from Indonesia and Turkey for USC CPD. I share your opinion that Indonesia’s current status as an emerging power in today’s regional and global politics and businesses and that the impressive developments made since the Reformasi (Reform) period in 1998 as well as its recovery from the Asian financial crisis cannot go unnoticed. While a raising economic statecraft not necessarily equals (increased) investments in public diplomacy at home and abroad, it’s definitely a country that has been watched and courted over the last years, and not just by the US.
Given Indonesia’s rising economic position - despite recent dips - I follow your argument that “in ‘America’s Pacific Century,’ with Indonesia constituting a ‘steam engine’ in the Asia-Pacific region, the country should be regarded as a centrepiece of US foreign policy”; that “the US could do more,” in the context of public diplomacy, and that “it must propagate deeper engagement with words and deeds.” Yet, I think in essence it is not so much a matter of more. Much of the success of US public diplomacy is not dependent on “more words and deeds” from the US, but rather by how all this is perceived by the recipient country, Indonesia.
After all, Indonesia, envisions itself as having “a thousand friends and zero enemies” and no BFF (Best Friend Forever), whether from North or South, East or West. Indonesia’s goal of being on good terms with all countries may entail tightening US-Indonesian relations reflected in a growing number of bilateral public diplomacy projects. Yet it is unlikely that the 21st century will be the “American Century for Indonesia,” and ASEAN and other regional institutions rather than the US remain the centrepiece of Indonesia’s foreign policy. Additionally, for every new initiative begun with the US, there are many others which have been newly set up with other partners such as Australia, South Korea, Japan as well as China. This attitude, relevant for the US’s public diplomacy success rate and limitations today, can be explained by looking a bit back in time.
Over the past century, US-Indonesian relations have been on and off, despite the US expressed intentions and increased investments in Indonesia. Just as with the US, Indonesia’s public diplomacy is tightly wound into its foreign policy. The latter is affected by a combination of both continuity and perpetual flux. Various factors, such as history, geography, demographics, economics, security and national interest have prompted Indonesia to adopt a foreign policy that is “bebas dan aktif,” or, “free and active.” The first element, ‘free,’ implies that Indonesia is trying to follow its own course in world affairs, away from the dictates of major powers and without external pressures or influence. The second element, ‘active,’ means that the country is dedicated to being involved in constructive activities geared towards bringing about and supporting world peace.
This basic foreign policy principle, which influences how Indonesia’s public diplomacy takes its present shape today and how that of other countries is perceived, was espoused in Vice President Mohammad Hatta’s address “Mendajung Antara Dua Karang,” or “Rowing Between Two Reefs,” at a session of the Central National Commission on 2 September 1948 at the height of the Indonesian War for Independence (1). After more than 65 years of existence Indonesia’s basic ‘free and active’ foreign policy doctrine has remained unchanged, though its articulation and implementation have evolved over the years, with crucial differences in attitude towards the US.
Both presidents Sukarno (18 August, 1945-12 March, 1967) and Suharto (12 March 1967-21 May 1998) employed this principle on antipodal agendas. Under Sukarno, the free and active principle was seen as standing against colonialism and imperialism and as promoting post-colonial/socialist alliances to reshape the world. Indonesia became the founder and leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and showed little interest in economic development, which resulted in close relationships with China to the detriment of the US. This lead to allegations from Suharto that this close relationship with China was in fact violating the free and active doctrine. Suharto’s military-dominated New Order regime pursued economic development, froze relations with the Soviet Union and China, joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), developed closer relations with the US, and upheld a merely symbolic political commitment to third world solidarity through the NAM (2).
In the post-Suharto period, while his three predecessors all gave the doctrine their own particular spin, Indonesia’s sixth president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY; 20 October 2004-present), introduced his own metaphor of “navigating in a turbulent sea” in response to the transformations in Indonesia’s strategic environment (3).
He envisioned the implementation of the free and active principle through the creation of a ‘new dynamic equilibrium’ wherein foreign policy, of which public diplomacy is a part, was no longer entangled in the East vs. West dialectic, particularly between the US and China.
So, while Indonesia’s relations with the US may have deepened over the years, especially under the Obama presidency, this is not the only country with which Indonesia has developed greater ties, and given its historical context and its current implementation of the free and active principle, it is unlikely to see any country as its BFF or employ any country as the centrepiece of its foreign policy over the coming years.
US-Indonesian engagement through public diplomacy is a fact today, however. To add a few concrete Indonesian examples to the US Public Diplomacy Fund you mentioned in your blog, Indonesia has excellent student exchanges which are financed by the Indonesian Ministry of Education, with which the MFA co-operates in the selection of participants and the gathering of input for the projects’ set-up. These were expanded to the US in 2011. Indonesia and the US have also had a two-weeks-long exchange between Indonesian students selected from different programs’ national competitions and peers in the US to discuss several issues, such as the presidential system. US-Indonesian working groups have also been launched. Civil society actors from both countries were invited to share knowhow and best practices on democratic principles, women’s issues and education as well as on journalistic ethics.
However, this must be put into perspective. It does not really reflect an Indonesian preference for the US, but rather broader changes in the course of Indonesian foreign policy, namely, the tendency of moving towards a more bilateral execution in the expansion of its so-called foreign policy concentric circles in addition to the initial regional and multilateral implementation. Indonesia has expanded the countries it targets over the years, from its Pacific neighbours to Australia, Europe and recently North-America which has undoubtedly affected its public diplomacy activities (4).
It is also unlikely that Indonesia will be a fervent supporter of the propagation/promotion of US values (as is partly intended by US public diplomacy programs in Indonesia). A quick look at the approach of the Bali Democracy Forum, an annual, intergovernmental forum on the development of democracy in the Asia Pacific region, initiated and hosted by the Indonesian government makes this even more evident. The Forum has deliberately avoided using a “club of democracies” model -such as is found in the US-initiated Asia Pacific Democracy Partnership- and includes both democratic and less/non-democratic participants (5).
This has lead to criticism from established Western powers, including the US, but Indonesia has claimed that its approach to democracy is somewhat different from the American model in the sense that it aims to discuss democracy and share experiences rather than force a certain model onto participants. This is well-expressed by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirajuda: “I believe that democracy is a universal value, but universal as it is, we cannot impose it on others, because when we impose values on others they end up rejecting those values…” (6). The way in which Indonesia aims to treat peers reflects the way in which it expects to be treated as well.
Furthermore, realistically, the absence of president Barack Obama at the 2013 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leadership meeting and thus the continuous importance of summit diplomacy cannot be mitigated through a series of public diplomacy activities. Both are of equal importance; as the US has learned through experience over the years, public diplomacy is not simply a damage control tool. Also, any strengthening of high-level relations with the US president will, given Indonesian poll numbers, no longer depend so much on current Indonesian president SBY as you suggested, but with whoever his replacement is.
While estimates are just estimates and we must wait for this year’s electoral outcome, the Indonesian press, academic literature, and especially the general population see Yoko Widodo (better known to all as Yokowi), the former mayor of Solo and now the governor of Jakarta, as a potential replacement. His popularity with the public partly stems from his civil-society and Blusukan (unannounced spot-check) approach. His presidential candidacy or election, while so far, far from guaranteed, is seen as a divestment from the old guard and elites or the passing of the torch to those emerging from Indonesia’s democratic present.
Moreover this could also potentially mean a new boost to Indonesian public diplomacy practice on a more transversal and presidential level. Indonesia’s public diplomacy started strong (e.g. interfaith dialogues) but has somewhat stagnated in importance and support within the Kementerian Luar Negeri Republik Indonesia (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and at the higher levels. A boost from a ‘new’ president’s governing style and/or his support of a culture more open to public debate, as was the case in the years following the Reformasi, would be beneficial to Indonesia’s public outreach at home and abroad.
Moreover, what your blog puts to the forefront is that public diplomacy -especially its practice and therefore not necessarily the use of the terminology within governments-, whether in the US or Indonesia, supersedes both countries’ MFAs. In the conversations I had in Jakarta with prominent individuals it became increasingly clear that the practiceof public diplomacy is an interdepartmental responsibility in need for support from the highest-levels. The need to bring in more transversal themes, such as its economic development, which not only give good news but also share experiences on stumbling blocks along the country’s journey as an emerging power into its public diplomacy narrative is key to its future. This will also be elaborated throughout my USC research.
These are just a few out of many thoughts, and there’s much more to discuss and open for research. I am very much looking forward to exchanging more thoughts with you and other interested readers over the course of our research!
(1) See e.g.Mohammad Hatta, “Indonesia between the Power Blocs,” Foreign Affairs, (April issue, 1958); Ann Marie Murphy, “Democratization and Indonesian Foreign Policy,”
Asia Policy, no. 3, (2012), p. 87; Bantarto Bandoro, “Indonesian Foreign Policy in 2008 and Beyond,” The Indonesian Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 4, (2007), p. 327; Matthew Omolesky,
“Indonesia Between the Reefs,” The American Spectator (21/04/2010)
(2) For more information see e.g. Symasad Hadi, “Indonesian-China Relations in the Post New Order Era,” In: Lam Peng Er, Narayanan Ganesan and Colin Dürkop (eds.)
East Asia’s Relations with a Rising China (Konrad Adenauer Stifting, 2010), pp. 217-241; Ian James Storey, “Indonesia's China Policy in the New Order and Beyond: Problems and Prospects,”
Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International & State, vol. 22, no. 1, (April 2010), p. 145; Greta Nabbs-Keller, “Growing Convergence, Greater Consequence: The Strategic Implications
of Closer Indonesia-China Relations,” Security Challenges, vol. 7, no. 3, (Spring 2011), pp. 23-41; Franklin B. Weinstein. Indonesian Foreign Policy and the Dilemma of Dependence: from
Sukarno to Suharto ( Ithaca: NY Cornell University Press, 1976); Rizal Sukma, “The Evolution of Indonesia’s Foreign Policy: An Indonesian View,” Asian Survey, vol. 35, no. 3, (1995), pp. 304-315.
(3) See Marty M. Natalegawa, “Indonesia and the World 2010,” Jakarta Post Opinion (annual policy statement on 8/01/2010); Irfa Puspitasari. Indonesia’s New Foreign Policy-
‘Thousand friends-zero enemy.IDSA Issue Brief (New Delhi: Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, August 10, 2010).
(4) See e.g. Wirajuda Hadianto. Re-thinking the Republic of Indonesia’s Foreign Policy Concentric Circle. The Jakarta Post (4 November 2010).
(5) See e.g. http://bdf.kemlu.go.id/
(6) See Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, “Seeds of Democracy in Egypt: Sharing is Caring,” Strategic Review, vol. 1, no. 1, (2011), pp. 150.
Anja Eifert on February 13, 2014 @ 5:25 am Thank you for your feedback and interesting analysis on Indonesian foreign policy and PD. I do agree with you that the US cannot pursue a successful PD strategy by simply projecting its values onto a foreign country. Perception does play a key role and goes hand in hand with the importance of engaging in a dialog among equals. However, I would posit that the US can frame its PD narrative and thus its perceptions abroad. Depending on the US ability to reconcile its foreign policy values with its foreign policy agenda, there is ample potential for constructing a powerful PD narrative based on shared norms and interests.
Economic statecraft constitutes only one of many case scenarios for US foreign policy in the 21st century. It is interesting, however, that DoS pronounced it as one of its main diplomatic pillars. In this respect, I support your argument that Indonesia has no intentions of siding with neither the US nor China. It will continue to pursue a "free and active" foreign policy centered on economic and diplomatic initiatives which will cement its status as a regional power in the Asia-Pacific vis-à-vis the US, China, and Japan.
In terms of broader US-Indonesian relations, I would argue that the US is running out of time and opportunities. As you pointed out correctly, SBY cannot run for reelection and will leave office in 2014. Whether or not Jokowi (if he decides to run) will win the presidential race, the US will also elect a new President in 2015. Obama's special relationship with Indonesia and high popularity ratings will most likely not be superseded by his successor, regardless of party affiliation. The "Obama effect" in Indonesia has held enormous potential for US PD. Unfortunately, it remains underexploited.
He can still dunk like a butterfly, but in the personally tragic case of former basketball pro Dennis Rodman in North Korea, the embrace of Kim Jong Un and his policies sting like a bee. Rodman is only the most recent example of sports diplomacy gone awry. And with the Sochi Olympics a few weeks away, it is inevitable that a new cadre of unpredictable athlete diplomats will make it to center stage.
It is a time-honored tradition to use athletes as diplomats in the international arena. They are some of the most recognizable global personages whose participation can lead to substantial bilateral benefits. In the early 1970s, for example, the United States and President Richard Nixon successfully promoted a team of American pingpong players to open up a dialogue with Mao’s China.
Nixon was a former college football player who loved sports and competition. During his presidency, he used American chess player Bobby Fischer for his propaganda value and as a symbol of Cold War superiority. Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, called Fischer and told him to go to Reykjavik, Iceland, to play Soviet chess grandmaster Boris Spassky. “America wants you to go over there and beat the Russians,” Kissinger said.
In 1972, Fischer won chess’ internationally televised “Match of the Century” against Spassky. He also won the acclaim of a nation looking to school the Soviets in a field where they were dominant prior to Fischer’s victory. From that high point, however, things began to go downhill for Fischer and his propaganda value. Years later, and hours after the 2001 attack on the twin towers, Fischer was interviewed overseas and reprehensibly justified the World Trade Center attackers with strong anti-American remarks. Regarding the attack he said, “I applaud the act.”
Fisher’s demise took time, but some athletes self-destruct in real time. Mohammed Ali is the world-renowned boxer who won a gold medal as Cassius Clay in the 1960 Rome Olympics. President Jimmy Carter asked Ali to go on a five-nation Africa tour to get those countries to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics as a protest of the Soviet military’s 1979 Afghanistan invasion.
Ali flew as a personal envoy on an official state aircraft, but began to make diplomatic mistakes from the minute he landed on the African continent. He was unable to address complex political issues and even argued against the boycott he was there to promote as Carter’s proxy. As New York Times columnist Dave Anderson wrote at the time: “For all his genius as a boxer and as a celebrity, Mohammed Ali is not equipped to handle a diplomatic mission during an international crisis.”
While the parallels between Ali and Rodman are many, hoops-playing President Barack Obama can verily and thankfully say that he did not send Rodman as his envoy to Pyongyang. He has, however, chosen proven University of California President and former Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano to lead the Sochi sports delegation. Who better to deal with both the politics and the security threats of the Olympics?
Rodman recently checked himself into alcohol rehab, and despite his generally ridiculed mission to North Korea and his ill-considered comments there, his trip might yield unexpected and positive results for the United States.
A composed Charles Smith told CNN that the he and the other players went to North Korea to work as “cross-cultural ambassadors and use the game of basketball as a bridge for exchange.” Smith also spoke clearly about the potential benefits for the two diplomatically estranged nations.
For North Korea, those benefits include American cultural exposure and an introduction to racial diversity. Of course, a downside for this unofficial delegation was their exploitation to bolster and further legitimize Kim Jong Un’s repressively totalitarian and nuclear-armed regime.
The upside for the United States? More Americans to bring back insight about this isolated belligerent state and its reclusive leader. More informal interactions with North Koreans might also open up new channels for dialogue. What was lost in the controversy of the basketball exhibition was that the delegation was made up of more (and more interesting) people than just spotlight-grabbing Dennis Rodman.
During the Sochi Olympics, there will be plenty more opportunities for athletes to share in peaceful exchange. The infectious Olympic spirit invariably uplifts participants and spectators. But there are as many pitfalls in sports diplomacy as there are potential merits. For every successful pingpong diplomat there is a Rodman waiting in the wings.
The 24/7 Olympic news cycle is consumed right now, and understandably, with security issues for the forthcoming Winter Games in Sochi. Then, too, there are the construction woes over the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, is paying a visit this week.
You had to be tuned in very, very carefully to hear the bolt that came Monday from Canada — even though it carries huge implications not just for the United States but for the race for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Toronto will not bid for the 2024 Games, its chance of winning “next to none,” councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told the city’s economic development committee.
Without Toronto in the race, the coast would now seem to be clear for a U.S. bid.
Meanwhile, in a development that absolutely should raise screaming alarms that ought to go viral at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, not even one person showed up Monday at Toronto City Hall to try to persuade the economic development committee to support a 2024 bid.
This from a city that is due to stage the 2015 Pan-American Games. Such a regional event typically is a precursor to an Olympic campaign.
Toronto bid for the 2008 Games, finishing second, behind Beijing. It tried for 1996 as well, coming in behind Atlanta and Athens.
Vancouver, of course, played host to the 2010 Winter Games. Calgary staged the 1988 Winter Games, Montreal the 1976 Summer Olympics.
The Toronto move Monday follows rejections last year by voters in Munich and St. Moritz, Switzerland, of 2022 Winter Games bids. In early 2012, Rome dropped out of bidding for the 2020 Summer Games. Common threads: financial worries and unfavorable perceptions of the IOC itself.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said a possible Olympic bid could end up costing $45 million. That figure would almost assuredly be low, given what Istanbul and Tokyo are believed to have spent on the 2020 campaign, won by Tokyo in September. Madrid, a third entry for 2020, spent far less.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is currently going through a roster of potential cities — San Francisco and Los Angeles are believed to be among leading possibilities — with an eye toward announcing later this year whether it is, in fact, going to jump in to the 2024 campaign.
Other possibilities that have been discussed for 2024: Paris; Rome; Doha, Qatar; and a South African candidate.
There are two schools of thought about an American entry for 2024.
— One, Bach and the IOC want the U.S. not only to bid but to win.
The rationale: it’s time.
The U.S. has not held a Summer Games since 1996. The U.S. provides significant financial underpinning to the movement, including but not limited to NBC’s $4.38 billion investment in televising the Games to an American audience through 2020. The USOC and IOC have had their differences over the years, including over certain revenue and marketing shares, but those differences have now been patched up.
USOC chairman Larry Probst, now an IOC member, and chief executive Scott Blackmun have for the past four years assiduously worked hard at the relationship business so key to winning IOC votes. Finally, Bach was elected IOC president last September, replacing Jacques Rogge of Belgium, who served 12 years; Bach understands the import of having a U.S. Games at the earliest opportunity.
— Two, Bach and the IOC for sure want the U.S. to bid. Any American city automatically would make the 2024 race better. But does the IOC really, truly want the Americans to win?
This is the gut question. This is what the USOC is trying to figure out. Because the USOC gets in on one condition only — it expects victory.
Nothing in life is certain. Olympic bid races are by definition unpredictable. But the USOC can not afford another debacle like New York 2012 or Chicago 2016.
Simply put, from an American perspective, for 2024 the U.S. must win.
And, for as much progress as Probst and Blackmun have made over the years, and for all the right signals that are being sent, it’s still a hugely difficult call and the environment is yet enormously layered and complex.
Here, for instance, is one constructive signal:
In 2015, the 204-member Assn. of National Olympic Committees, led by the influential Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait, is due to hold its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
Why Washington? Among other reasons, to prove to the three or four dozen IOC members expected to attend that entry in and out of the United States, and not just the United States but the capital itself, can be effected easily and graciously — always a stumbling block to any U.S. bid.
There is yet a ways to go. In recent weeks, two high-profile Olympic visitors have flown into the United States. Both, at very different airports, waited in long, long lines at passport control.
Any American bid, meanwhile, is bound to face an array of lingering issues.
The United States right now has about 450 people giving of their time and energy worldwide in the Olympic movement. Numbers-wise, that’s huge — maybe more than any other country anywhere. The challenge is that for all those numbers, for all that energy, the United States is still struggling to find influence that matters.
The U.S. now counts zero — repeat, zero — presidents of Olympics international sports federations.
On another front, the U.S. was recently awarded the international volleyball FIVB women’s Grand Prix in 2015, in Omaha, Nebraska. Next year, too, Houston will play host to the international weightlifting federation championships.
The USOC is working to attract more such events. But there’s sound reason there’s a perception the U.S. has not done its part in putting on such key championships. Outside of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996, that Omaha Grand Prix will be the very first major FIVB event the United States has ever staged.
Another perception is that Olympic sport in the United States is an every-two-year kind-of deal — with the rest of the time Americans seeming to care mostly about the four professional sports leagues. In Europe, by contrast, you can see all manner of Olympic sports on TV seemingly every day of the week.
Then there is the political challenge.
Why, again, is that 2015 meeting in Washington?
Perhaps to show the rest of the world strong national support is, indeed, possible.
The American Olympic system is set up differently than everywhere else. Around the world, Olympic sport is largely run by — and funded by — each country’s national government. In the United States, by formal act of Congress, the USOC must be self-supporting — not a dime from the federal government.
This has led some to believe there is little interest in Washington in Olympic sport. Compounding this perception in recent weeks: President Obama’s decision to send to Sochi a delegation that includes no senior political figures but does include Billie Jean King, in a pointed commentary obviously aimed at Russia’s law on gay “propaganda” purportedly designed to protect minors.
In the IOC, memories can run long. Every single vote counts.
Certainly, it is well-remembered that President Obama lobbied the IOC on behalf of Chicago’s 2016 bid. It is also remembered that his security detail kept the IOC members waiting.
The IOC will vote for the 2024 site in 2017. By then, President Obama will be out of office.
Just to play politics, Olympic and U.S. presidential, for a moment: When she was First Lady, Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic frontrunner for 2016, led the U.S. delegation to the 1994 Lillehammer Games. President and Mrs. Clinton led the U.S. delegation to the Atlanta Games in 1996.
The USOC — obviously — would never, ever bring up such a possibility. But anyone reading Time magazine this week — with the cover story, “Can Anyone Stop Hilary?” — can play simple deduction.
At any rate, the IOC, in a key part of the bid process, demands a financial guarantee. In virtually every other country, the national government steps up to provide that guarantee. In essence, that makes the bid — from wherever it is — a de facto national bid. The American system of federalism makes such a guarantee impossible.
A Los Angeles or San Francisco bid, as an example, would have to be guaranteed by the respective city and then, too, by the state of California — not by the federal government. Same goes for any city in any state.
That immediately positions the American candidate differently from the others in any Olympic bid campaign.
Chicago and New York sought different options to meet the guarantee.
The IOC was different then — voting in 2009 against Chicago (Rio won) and in 2005 away from New York (London won).
It is still three long years until 2017. Will it be different enough by then for an American city, whatever that city might be?
The hard part is trying to guess this year what the world is going to be like in 2017.
Truly, we don’t even know yet what it’s going to be like by February 23. That’s the day the Sochi Games come to an end. By then, we will all know then a good deal more about the world we live in.
Non-governmental organizations, together with government institutions have been major stakeholders in Turkey’s African initiative. Humanitarian assistance, development aid, humanitarian diplomacy, and exchange diplomacy are central to Turkey’s existing involvement in Africa.
Turkey, as the natural heir of the Ottoman Empire, has inherited both a historical baggage and a legacy in North and Sub-Saharan Africa. Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria were once Ottoman provinces, hence giving impetus to colonial perceptions in various factions of these societies. Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, parts of Niger, Chad, and Uganda were also under Ottoman rule. Unlike European colonialists, Ottomans do not have a history of abusing the resources of Sub-Saharan Africa. On the contrary, Turkey has supported the course of decolonization, giving way to a more favorable perception of modern day Turkey.
The early years of the Turkish Republic witnessed a setback in relations with Africa due to economic hardships, domestic and international security concerns, lack of human resources and capital. Nevertheless, the decolonization process of African nations converging with Turkey’s economic ambitions propelled the political and economic relations. Starting from the late 1970’s, government institutions provided humanitarian and development aid to Zimbabwe, Senegal, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
In the late 1990’s Turkey developed The African Action Plan to advance its relationship with Africa along the lines of a more dynamic and proactive foreign policy. However, for reasons pertaining to the lack of material resources it could not be fully actualized. As Turkey reached a certain level of political and economic maturity together with the already established active NGOs in the region; the 2005 Africa Opening became a staple of the new Turkish Foreign Policy initiatives.
The NGOs have been quite active in Africa, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, even before 2005 engaging in various educational and humanitarian activities. TİKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency) currently has offices in Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Egypt, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Besides, students from various African countries are invited to Turkey through state funded scholarships. 561 scholarships were offered to Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, Turkey provided training for over 200 junior diplomats.
The humanitarian work has had tremendous effect on trade volume, increasing the total amount of trade from around $7 billion to around $23 billion by 2012. Correspondingly, Turkish Airlines (THY) now flies to the following destinations in Africa: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. With İstanbul as the connecting hub now more businesses can reach their destinations in Africa. Together with trade the number of embassies in Africa have increased from 12 in 2002 to 35 by 2013.
Turkey has also shown interest in state building and political affairs in recent years. Turkey’s humanitarian diplomacy in Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Somaliland positions it between a traditional and non-traditional actor. In 2008 Turkey joined the African Development Bank Group as a non-regional member and held the Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit in İstanbul with the next meeting scheduled to convene in 2014. Additionally, Turkey, in cooperation with the U.N. hosted the İstanbul Somalia Conference in 2010 and 2012. Turkey also hosted the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries in 2011. In fact, P.M. Erdoğan’s official visit to Mogadishu has created what Ali (2011) has called the bandwagon effect attracting other leaders. Including a brave decision at the time to open an embassy in Mogadishu. Flourishing ties with Africa has helped the vote for Turkey’s UNGA Security Council temporary membership for the term 2009-2010 and is likely to be employed once more in Turkey’s bid for a new term.
Turkey’s African initiative derives from foreign policy objectives, a growing economy, and the efforts of NGOs. As a new foreign policy frontier the African initiative has potential shortcomings or threats:
1. A one-way communication predominantly relying on economical assistance namely in Sub-Saharan Africa.
2. The lack of a consistent, genuine interaction between the societies of Turkey and Africa.
3. Information deficit: Evaluation of Sub-African countries as a unison entity and one size fits all approach.
4. Developing a long-term PD strategy involving cultural, economic and educational exchanges.
5. Falling into the trap of over-confidence.
6. Necessity to improve the quality of universities to sustain the attractiveness of the education system
7. Realistic evaluation of the capacity to act in terms of humanitarian diplomacy, trade volume and the amount of aid that can be offered on a yearly basis to avoid a say-do gap.
8. The absence of human resources that professionally know the region, languages and traditions.
9. Triggering colonial perceptions, the use of ideological narrative in North Africa; employing a dominant narrative in Sub-Saharan Africa.
10. The limited amount of experience in the Sub-Saharan region compared to traditional actors.
Turkey has been enjoying significant recognition of its soft power in Africa through humanitarian aid and development work. However, Turkey’s African initiative is fairly new and therefore requires an effective long–term strategy. A future commitment in the region is necessary in order to sustain the soft power effect.
Numan Hazar, Küreselleşme Sürecinde Türkiye-Afrika İlişkileri (Turkish-African Relations in the Age of Globalization), USAK Yayınları, genişletilmiş 2inci baskı, 2011. (In Turkish).
Fuat Keyman, Proactivism in Turkish Foreign Policy: The Global-Local Nexus, Another empire: A decade of Turkey’s Foreign Policy Under the Justice and Development Party, Kerem Öktem, Ayşe Kadıoğlu, Mehmet Karlı (Ed.), İstanbul, Istanbul Bilgi University Press, 2012, pp. 19-32.
Mehmet Özkan, Turkey’s rising role in Africa, Turkish Policy Quarterly, Winter 2010, pp. 93- 105.
Mehmet Özkan, Does ‘rising power’ mean ‘rising donor’? Turkey’s development aid in Africa, Africa Review, 5:2, pp. 139-147, 2013.
Abdirahman Ali, Turkey’s Foray into Africa: A New Humanitarian Power? Insight Turkey, Vol. 13, No. 4, 2011, pp. 65-73.
On November, 8 2013, Super typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm ever recorded, destroyed an area as big as Belgium and affected the lives of 14 million people in the central islands of the Philippines.
Immediately following the storm, a surge of prominent international newsmakers and their crews descended on Tacloban and began live reporting from the disaster zone.
The visually powerful coverage resonated around the world: expressions of solidarity and funding poured into the Philippines.
Only a few days after the storm, columnist Elfren S. Cruz from the Philippine Star, asked the critical question: how to keep the world’s interest from waning "when media celebrities move on and search for new tragedies and disasters"?
Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening MP, is greeted by UK Ambassador to the Philippines
This is a legitimate question: with the exception of the 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan, almost all other disasters received little to no media coverage after the initial shock.
I arrived in the destroyed city of Tacloban on November 22, five days after Elfren S. Cruz’s op-ed was published, and the influential television crews had all already left. (I still met reporters from The New York Times, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal.)
Anderson Cooper was gone, so were Al Jazeera and most others who were bringing the heartbreaking images to audiences worldwide.
The coverage has stopped since. Following my return to New York at Christmas, I haven’t heard or seen any references to the Haiyan aftermath in mainstream news.
The national media continue to report on the massive rebuilding which may take more than four years and cost more than eight billion U.S. dollars.
To heal, the Philippines will need continued support from the international community in the form of funding and expertise.
The question is therefore more than timely: How international interest can be sustained after global media coverage stops?
Here are a few ideas that could help bolster long-term communications.
First, the government – which has the biggest stake in this – could create a specialized communications office producing high-quality multimedia content and broadcast cuts.
This content would be created for international audiences who would consume it through social media and websites like Yahoo! News or HuffPost TV. Since major newspapers and websites in the Philippines are in English language, these products could be used also nationally. Pitching story ideas and sending experts to international broadcasters and media outlets such as AFP or BBC could help further the effort.
The government estimates that 1.1 million houses were damaged by the typhoon, many of them schools and hospitals. The return of kids and patients to these facilities, for example, will provide emotionally charged audiovisual opportunities that would resonate with any audience.
There are communications professionals in the government of the Philippines who could manage the production of such high-quality multimedia packages.
There are also writers, videographers, and photographers affiliated with the United Nations agencies, international charities, and philanthropic organizations who could contribute to producing content from the affected areas.
Many of these institutions have a common goal: communicate the recovery process to keep international audiences involved and to sustain the funding flows.
If the government assumed the role of a production and distribution coordinator, the long-term success of the campaign would significantly increase.
And though not every one of the stories would turn into a news report on CNN, some would.
Such story placements, and additional clever use of social media, digital news outlets, and celebrities, could help sustain the engagement of relevant audiences and the development of finance partners.
LONDON --- If Apple, Disney, Coca Cola, and other corporate giants benefit from their carefully nurtured brands, why shouldn’t nations do the same? “Branding” is a fashionable tool on which some public diplomats rely heavily…perhaps too heavily.
Helping global publics associate a country with nice things may be useful, but emphasizing a brand for a country can be self-defeating. A nation is not a soft drink, and public diplomacy planners will find themselves getting little return on their efforts if they are satisfied with mere imagery.
This relates to a larger concern about public diplomacy. The purpose of public diplomacy is to advance the strategic interests of the country that is employing it. Goals must be precise and well defined. Convincing people that you are “great” must have a purpose behind it, something beyond creating an image and hoping that the rest of the world will respond to it in a useful way.
That is why the United Kingdom’s “GREAT Britain” campaign is a model worth studying. Elements of conventional branding are used: the royal family, Downton Abbey, London’s attractions, and such are part of the effort to entice people to be well disposed toward things British. But emphasis is placed not simply on making people around the world have warm feelings about Britain. Conrad Bird, director of the campaign, which began in early 2012, says it “is about jobs and growth for Britain; it is designed to make money for Britain.” An important program goal is to stimulate foreign direct investment (FDI) and strengthen the UK’s economy.
GREAT Britain India Launch, British High Commission, New Delhi
The campaign has carefully developed aspirations and is on track to meet its goal of a twenty-fold return on investment: the equivalent of US$960 million returned on the investment in the program of US$48 million (calculated on 1 British pound = US$1.60). Tourism and education make up a big part of that, as increasing numbers of foreigners come to the UK to play and go to school. But around US$300 million is expected to come from FDI.
Almost every country on the planet welcomes foreign direct investment, but few have approached garnering it with the skill of the British. A reduction in the main corporate tax rate from 26 percent in 2011 to 21 percent this year (and 20 percent in 2015) is an incentive, as is the availability of a skilled work force and high tech centers. Also, priority accorded the “GREAT Britain” campaign is evident in its being run from the prime minister’s office. When Conrad Bird invites a foreign business leader to meet to discuss investing in Britain, the meeting will take place at 10 Downing Street. This top-of-government support is also important when enlisting British businesses to work with foreign partners. Many other governments relegate such programs to sub-sub-cabinet offices, implying that they really don’t matter much.
The sophistication of the British effort underscores the importance of ensuring that a country’s “brand” represents substance, not solely image. Other countries should pay attention, particularly those that have used branding for a quick boost to tourism and those that seem to believe that they can hide significant political or economic problems behind the smokescreen of a brand.
Public diplomacy done well requires much more than this. The publics to whom this diplomacy is directed are increasingly knowledgeable about how the world works, principally because new technologies provide them with so many sources of information. In such an environment, any nation’s “brand” will be too wobbly to stand on its own. The “GREAT Britain” administrators understand that and have designed a solidly built and appropriately comprehensive program.
When historians look back at the first few decades of the 21st century, 2013 will almost certainly be seen as a game-changing year.
That judgement can in the main be attributed to a series of disclosures made by American fugitive Ed Snowden, formerly a low level CIA employee and National Security Agency sub-contractor whose flight and subsequent revelations have given rise to sensational reverberations across the globe.
As we await the jarring geopolitical screech that will undoubtedly attend the next set whistles to be blown, it is perhaps worth reflecting on some of the larger, longer-term implications.
When the story broke last June, the coverage was focussed on Snowden the man, his quest for a safe haven, and the scope of corporate and international complicity. More recent pre-occupations have included consideration of the trade-offs between national security and individual privacy, detailed investigations into the nature and extent of state-sponsored cyber-spying and collusion, and the expression of concern over the digital vacuuming of metadata.
To be sure, these are portentous issues. None of them, however, nor even the content of Snowden’s “alternative” Christmas message or the growing number of tributes and awards, capture the full import of the episode.
Just as the emergence of the peer-to-peer music file sharing web site Napster changed the music industry forever, Snowden’s command performance may mark the beginning of the end of an era of unprecedented government surveillance and secrecy. There is no question that it has also illuminated fundamental shifts in the distribution of national power and the exercise of global influence.
NSA Seal, Flickr
World order - increasingly more heteropolitan than multi-polar - is beginning to look very different.
Score one for a free press, civil society and the public interest...
Snowden has made strategic and highly effective use of the mainstream media to promote and publicize items drawn from his vast corpus of documents.
Last September, it was revealed that the US had been spying on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, some of her key aides, and Petrobras, the giant national oil company. In response, Rousseff abruptly cancelled her state visit to Washington. Coming from the head of Latin America’s largest, most important, and most assiduously courted country, this represented an unprecedented, and hitherto unthinkable snub. Worse yet, it came at a time when Uncle Sam’s position in the region - which was set back further when similar allegations surfaced regarding Mexico - had reached new lows. Chinese eyes are undoubtedly smiling as traditional Gringo hegemony is battered by these, and other very public hits,
The deputy sheriff is asleep...
Australia, America’s longstanding political proxy and closest military ally in SE Asia, recently experienced a rude awakening in the face of a rapidly rising Indonesia. When it was disclosed in November that as part of a regional, U.S.-led effort Australia had tapped the phones of President Yudhoyono, his wife and several other key players, the Indonesian President asked for an apology. Australian PM Abbott, in a breathtaking blunder in crisis communications, refused, and instead displayed an attitude reminiscent of an Australian leader plucked from the middle years of the previous century. In response, Indonesia recalled its ambassador, cut off military and intelligence cooperation, and threatened to suspend food imports and all bilateral activity in the areas of immigration, people smuggling, resource management, and maritime security. In Jakarta at the time, I was repeatedly asked, “Why can’t the Australians understand that we are now more important to them than they are to us?” As power shifts inexorably from the North Atlantic to the Asia Pacific, this question could scarcely seem more apt.
...but the bear is wide awake.
2013 was by most measures a banner year for Russia, not least for the propaganda coup of landing Snowden with an offer of temporary asylum. In recognition of his resurgent power, President Putin received pack-leading kudos. His long-serving and formidable Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, danced diplomatic circles around the competition and engineered significant international gains for Russia in Syria, Iran, and the Ukraine. It took a couple of decades to regain direction and momentum following the collapse of the USSR, but Russia is back in the game and garnering newfound respect - if not necessarily admiration - as a force to be reckoned with.
New Year resolutions are already aplenty, but we at CPD thought you might still be interested in knowing our goals for the year ahead.
As CPD enters its 10th year, our mission remains the same. Our work continues to be guided by a global vision, a drive to integrate research and practice for distinctive social impact, and a commitment to preparing the next generation of public diplomacy leaders and practitioners. We share your belief that public diplomacy plays a crucial and expanding role in fostering peaceful, productive relations between nations and peoples.
1. Sharpen research focus
CPD conducts research into thematic areas of perennial interest and identifies emerging trends deserving further scholarship. This year we are pursuing five priority areas—Rising Soft Power in a Multipolar World, Global Youth and the Next Generation of Public Diplomacy, Public Diplomacy Performance and Evaluation in the Digital Age, Public Diplomacy and Global Development, and Design and Creativity in Public Diplomacy. We will provide details on these initiatives on our website, and invite your participation and contribution.
2. Strengthen global PD community
Building a strong global PD network is crucial to advancing the field. Looking ahead, we will put more emphasis on highlighting and strengthening these connections. In particular, we are making efforts to better engage young, emerging scholars. We will be launching a new initiative this spring to support their work and career development.
3. Transform research into practice
Public diplomacy is an applied field that draws on a variety of academic disciplines. CPD will continue to explore ways to transform our research into practice so that practitioners and policy-makers can benefit from the Center’s work. We will improve the sharing of scholarly work with a broader audience through multiple CPD platforms.
4. Expand editorially
We are broadening our web content by adding new features, such as photo essays, Q&A with CPD, and This Week in Public Diplomacy. On Wednesday we will be releasing our pick of the 10 biggest public diplomacy stories of 2013, as part of our annual review of global PD trends.
5. Enhance digital capabilities
CPD will expand its focus on digital technologies and social media to provide a more robust platform to facilitate discussion and dialogue. We will soon launch our redesigned website to improve the web experience.
6. Broaden audience segments both domestically and internationally
It is also important that CPD broaden its reach to attract new, young audiences that wouldn’t otherwise be engaged, including a new generation of public diplomacy professionals who reflect our nation’s rich diversity, and the international community at large.
7. Enlarge our support base
Over the past 10 years, CPD has benefited from strong support in our global public diplomacy community. The Center operates on a modest budget, with a small, but dedicated, staff and a team of talented student interns. We ask for your help in widening our circle of supporters for our ambitious venture. Together we will take CPD to new heights.
Sports diplomacy is often presented as a slam dunk approach for building relations across political divides. Last week veteran NBA star Dennis Rodman took a shot at “basketball diplomacy” in North Korea and showed how professed good intentions can go afoul. It also demonstrated the deft role of the media as the tables turned on the NBA players following a confrontational interview between Rodman and CNN New Day anchor Chris Cuomo. The NBA players not only lost control of the ball but became the ball on CNN’s court.
Portal Bogota, Flickr
By coincidence I happened to be serving jury duty Tuesday morning, arriving shortly after the fateful interview. I sat along with 200 members of a captive audience in the juror’s lounge as we watch the five TV monitors – all set to CNN – replay the interview repeatedly over the next four and half hours. I watched how the veteran CNN players spun the story from an initial interview, to confrontation and controversy, to what would become by the next day, a bad and bizarre story gone viral.
Taking the Political Bait
From the outset the North Korea basketball initiative was controversial and political North Korea, after all, was the third spoke in what former President Bush called “the axis of evil.” There are the nuclear tests, human rights, and an American who has been detained for over a year. High stake political issues. Sports diplomacy is supposed to be apolitical.
Initial clips of the Cuomo’s interview with the 10-man NBA team began on the familiar up-beat note on the benefits of sports diplomacy. NBA player Charles Smith talked about “bringing people together through basketball” and “putting smiles on people’s faces.” Highlighting the apolitical nature of playing basketball, he said, “Basketball is not that complicated to us. That’s what we do.”
“I get why you’re there … all the relational,” but said Cuomo, “It is more complicated than basketball.” He raised the ante with charged language, telling the players, “you’re giving a birthday present to a despot who just had his uncle executed.”
In a clip from the 8:25 minute interview that was not played, Charles caught on to what the CNN anchor’s goal. “It is baiting to get us into politics and we don’t want to get into politics.” Yet that is precisely what happened.
Just when it looked as if Cuomo was closing the interview, the players let down their guard.
Cuomo began, “Let me end with this …” And, then Cuomo pressed Rodman about intervening on behalf of the detained American, Kenneth Bae. Rodman, decked in sunglasses and waving a cigar, flew into an emotional and incoherent tirade. He appeared to implicate Bae, “if you understand what Kenneth Bae did … “
Cuomo had scored big time.
CNN Full Court Press
The NBA players soon found themselves playing on CNN’s court and by a new set of rules. In some ways sports analogies carry over to media conventions. However, the strategies for scoring differ.
Television thrives on drama and emotion. The Cuomo created tension between himself and the players by hard hitting political questions that undermined the integrity and credibility of the player’s apolitical motives. While the players were good at fielding the apolitical questions of basketball diplomacy, they appeared as novices in CNN’s political arena.
Once CNN had footage of Rodman’s emotional outburst, the network was able to re-play it over and over – not so much for the substance of the content, but the emotional hook for viewers.
The CNN reporters passed the interview like a ball from to one another. With each pass, a new angle on the story emerged. By the noon hour it was no longer a story about basketball, cultural understanding, or sports diplomacy, but a “dramatic confrontation,” “bizarre meltdown,” and “incoherent rant.”
As the day progressed, CNN anchors kept the story alive by playing the footage for high-profile, on air guests to comment on. Coincidentally the guests seem to take sides with CNN in attacking Rodman, sometimes personally. On CNN’s Newsroom, Wolf Blitzer brought on Ambassador Bill Richardson, who had made several trips to North Korea to secure Bae’s release, said Rodman had “been drinking the kool aid” in North Korea and had “crossed the line” by suggesting Bae committed a crime. Later that evening, CNN Anderson Cooper interviewed Bae’s sister, who said her family was “shocked,” “outraged,” and “appalled” at Rodman siding with the North Korean leader against her brother. That interview was followed by CNN's Piers Morgan Live interview with Senator John McCain who personally attacked Rodman, saying “I think he’s an idiot … a person of not great intellect.”
Momentum inevitably grew. By the next day the major media outlets had joined in on the feeding frenzy against Rodman.
It turns out that Rodman was not drinking kool aid but imbibing a more potent substance. On Thursday he apologized for his behavior and statements and particularly to Bae’s family. His dream of basketball diplomacy was unraveled by the politics he had sought to avoid.
I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae’s family. I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I embarrassed a lot of people. I’m very sorry. At this point, I should know better than to make political statements. I’m truly sorry.
Sports diplomacy seeks to score beyond political points. But in this story, the only points scored were political. Once the initiative became a political ball in the hands of seasoned CNN veterans it was, unfortunately for the NBA players, game over.
My thanks to American University doctoral student Sindhu Manjesh for her assistance on the post.
Matthew Wallin on January 14, 2014 @ 11:07 am The issue here isn't sports diplomacy--this issue actually is Rodman. He's simply the wrong person for this job. No one should have expected anything other than a show of antics. It was hopeless from the get go because the wrong people were involved. Of course CNN made a mockery of it, how could they not have? Given what was going on and what Rodman had been saying prior to the interview, I wouldn't put the blame on CNN at all.
RS Zaharna on January 15, 2014 @ 8:37 am Thank you, Matthew Wallin, I completely agree with you on several fronts. High profile figures tend to be highly controversial and can adversely affect the perception of an initiative from the outset, as you pointed out. Also, North Korea is highly controversial and even carefully choreographed initiatives can draw fire. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra visit to North Korea in 2008 was called “sing-song diplomacy.” http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2008/0225/p99s01-duts.html
I was also hoping to spotlight the role of the media as PD players. The state-centric focus of PD puts a lot of the control over initiatives in the hands of the state. Yet, states may have less control over initiatives than they imagine and this may be one of the inherent difficulties in PD measurement and evaluation. The media can play a powerful role in shaping perceptions of initiatives and countries. A point made by Etyan Gilboa in his work on media diplomacy. Far from blaming the media, I love watching them in action. The reason why the NBA and CNN stars get paid the big bucks is because they are very, very good at what they do. They are critical players in the PD equation.
The heated debate surrounding NSA leaker Edward Snowden usually revolves around two extreme positions: Some consider him a hero and a whistle-blower worthy of clemency, while others consider his acts treasonous and believe he should be subject to the harshest punishment in our penal system.
Ironically, that very same penal system makes getting Snowden back to the United States nearly impossible.
The reason? The punishment meted to traitors can include death. And nearly all our allied nations and many others refuse to extradite criminal suspects to the United States if they are potentially subjected to capital punishment.
Which is why in the case of Snowden, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote a letter to the Russian Justice Minister last year saying that he would not seek the death penalty in his case. The letter, which accused Snowden of theft and espionage, was intended to erase the death penalty extradition hindrance. Holder went on to clarify that “the United States would not seek the death penalty even if Mr. Snowden were charged with additional death penalty-eligible crimes.”
Eric Holder, Flickr, Ryan J. Reilly
Snowden is not the first American fugitive to receive a get-out-of-capital-punishment free card. In case after case, and on a case-by-case basis, the United States engages diplomatically with other countries to provide assurances that some of the most heinous crimes committed by fugitives abroad will not be subject to capital punishment in the United States. It is usually the only way to get those criminals – some of them accused of terrorism – back to the United States to face any justice at all.
As a result, it creates a two-tier sentencing system for those committing horrendous crimes against Americans: one for those who get caught in the United States, such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was executed by lethal injection; another for those who are captured outside our national territory, such as Abu Hamza, an Islamic militant kept in Britain for nearly eight years before he was extradited to the United States to face terrorist related charges. If guilty, he will never face the death penalty.
If non-U.S. forces had captured Osama bin Laden while alive, the fugitive might not have been extraditable to the United States. During the hunt for bin Laden in 2001, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon put the U.S. government on notice that had British troops found the world’s most wanted criminal, they would have required assurances that the United States would not seek the death penalty before handing him over.
The death penalty in the United States also creates the perverse reality that the more heinous the crime, the less likely a fugitive in a foreign land will see swift justice in the United States. The less consequential a felony – grand theft auto, for example – the more likely the extradition. “If you steal a car in the U.S., Mexico will return you to face prosecution and punishment. If you kill the driver, Mexico will protect you,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in the Congressional Record at the end of 2003.
This is not theoretical. In April 2002, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy David March conducted a routine traffic stop. March was shot dead, execution style, by Armando Garcia, who then immediately fled south of the border to Mexico to join at least another 350 alleged murderers and criminals who were effectively non-extraditable to California. Garcia was eventually returned after years of legal and diplomatic engagement to satisfy the Mexican government and its restriction on extraditing to countries that practice the death penalty. Garcia received a life sentence in 2007.
In the last few years, Californians have become much more sophisticated about capital punishment. In 2012, voters in this state rejected Proposition 34, which would have banned the death penalty, but were actively engaged in the debate – a debate that raised serious questions about deterrence, cost and morality.
The capital punishment questions that all Americans now need to ask include: Why do we give up our chance to get back well-known criminals living overseas? Is it fair to have a system that requires an exemption for the most egregious crimes and criminals and no exemption for those criminals who act and are caught within U.S. territory? Why maintain an incentive for criminal acts against the United States and its citizens abroad, while maintaining the ultimate punishment for those who commit similar acts inside the country?
Our more globally integrated society requires increasingly expedient and assured justice. That will be difficult to achieve as long as the death penalty remains on our books.
I received a letter from the U.S. State Department last week. It was from a program officer in the office of International Visitors thanking me for hosting three Chinese journalists who were visiting the United States as part of the State Department’s Edward R. Murrow exchange program. It was a very nice thank-you note. The last line read: “Your generosity and kindness made a lasting, positive impression, helping advance the cause of America’s public diplomacy effort.”
My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed having the Chinese visitors in our home. We even took them to a college basketball game, which was mentioned as a highlight of their trip in the State Department’s note. We learned a little bit more about China that day. I am a strong supporter of person-to-person citizen diplomacy and the State Department’s educational and cultural exchange programs. We often host international visitors in our home. However, I was slightly amused that this one dinner earned me a personal thank-you for advancing the cause of U.S. public diplomacy. After all, I’ve dedicated over a decade of scholarship to the topic without any acknowledgment from State.
My colleagues who research and write about U.S. public diplomacy may feel as I do. We have devoted portions of our careers to shed light on U.S. public diplomacy efforts through our writing and research, but wonder if the State Department officers ever read a word of it. I can understand that the theoretical stuff may not be overly helpful to the folks who work in the public diplomacy trenches day-to-day, but much of what I publish (usually with Alice Kendrick of SMU), is very practical. For example, our recent article in American Behavioral Scientist contains evidence of how U.S. tourism advertising to international audiences can serve double-duty for the government, both economic and in terms of public diplomacy. Our university-funded data showed that among a large sample of Australian adults, not only did the tourism ads work to increase interest in travel to the U.S., but also in improved overall attitudes toward the U.S. government and U.S. people.
Flickr, Creative Commons
I’m not completely sure, but I suspect that the State Department barely considered the positive spill over (what we have been calling Bleedover) effects that the Commerce Department’s “Brand USA” tourism campaign is having toward winning hearts and minds. And if they did, I doubt they saw our experimental research supporting the idea.
Or maybe they have seen it and I just haven’t heard from them yet.
That’s okay. The note last week was still a really nice gesture and greatly appreciated.
Laura Belmonte on January 6, 2014 @ 5:56 pm Wonderful to see Jami Fullerton blogging here. Her current work on nation branding is excellent.
Nick Cull on January 7, 2014 @ 1:12 am The whole issue of academic contact with government remains in play in various ways. Both sides need practice to be mutually intelligible -- like any two cultures -- and exchange visits work here too. I has helped USC to have diplomats in residence over the years, but conversation and readiness to express core ideas in shorter forms seem to help too. The 180,000 word monograph is not a form that plays well in DC -- I speak from experience!
john brown on January 7, 2014 @ 8:09 am Public diplomacy is essentially something you do rather than write about. That in part may explain the existence of "two cultures," to use Professor Cull's words.
Jami Fullerton on January 7, 2014 @ 10:37 am I think that there is an opportunity to do and to write. We've been trying to engage in both in Oklahoma -- in the form of hosting/sponsoring the many international exchange programs, Fulbrights, working/teaching overseas on State Department grants and generally participating in citizen diplomacy, like sister cities. But I also think that the work we do as scholars is valuable, much of which could be useful to the practitioners.
Perhaps, it is the same difficulty that academe has with bridging to industry. We're in our ivory towers and they are in the trenches. 180,000 words is too many - but maybe there's a way to do a "Research in Brief" and share that with our colleagues in Washington. Or a joint conference around a particular public diplomacy topic, like the one I participated in after 9/11 at the University of Michigan.
From the academic side, I'm sure we could do a better job reaching out to them with our work rather than just waiting to be noticed.
Jonathan Henick on January 8, 2014 @ 3:46 am Speaking as just one practitioner, I must confess that we rarely have time to dig into the academic research. We tend to be overwhelmingly consumed with the day-to-day work of programming, information work, overall management, and simply keeping up with current events, not to mention policy!
Academia has quite a bit to offer, however, and we would all do well to make efforts to bridge the gap more often. I have noticed, for example, that much of the academic research overly focuses on Washington structures and programs and fails to take into account the field perspective and innumerable programs, initiatives, and approaches taking place every day at our overseas missions. The Department needs to find better ways to make such data available to researchers.
Conferences help (when we have time to attend!) and perhaps we could incorporate more of the literature into Foreign Service Institute training. Our PD Fellows at universities (and it is my privilege to be in such a position now) also can play a key role. I guess we'll all have to keep plugging away at it!
Donna Oglesby on January 8, 2014 @ 10:45 am I am currently researching how diplomats and academics teach diplomacy (including public diplomacy.) Specifically I ask what, if anything, is different about teaching and learning in diplomacy courses offered by practitioners and academics in American colleges and universities.
￼I am finding -- through examination of syllabi and interviews with those teaching -- that what the two distinct communities teach in terms of skills and procedures as well as the beliefs that inform them, the values that sustain them and the theories that lie behind them differ significantly.
I do find that some more theoretical literature in diplomatic studies is valued little by teaching American diplomats. I am not, however, finding any evidence for Dr. Brown's contention, that an understanding of an an appreciation for the practice of [public] diplomacy cannot be taught. Approaches may differ between those who come to teaching from practice and those who come to it from scholarship but there can be integrity and value in both paths to knowledge and excellence abounds.
Craig Hayden on January 8, 2014 @ 11:47 am I think Prof. Cull's notion that "Both sides need practice to be mutually intelligible" is spot on, if the objective is cultivate and encourage a relationship that yields benefits that might not otherwise be available to either parties.
That said, I don't think it's the job of public diplomats to consume academic work (they have a lot to do already) - but it couldn't hurt. This is especially obvious when there are meso-level theories (such as media effects concepts or cross-cultural communications concepts) that could directly inform thinking about PD practice. Theory serves the purpose of guiding questions and shaping analytical conclusions; it's not *just* navel-gazing or critical hand-wringing.
At the same time it's not the job of the academic to craft his or her work in a manner that is on face useful to the practitioner. Academics, I would argue, have a rather distinct vocational obligation to think about questions that do not necessarily fit with the imperatives of policy or practice. Of course this doesn't mean they cannot or should not work to produce knowledge that can be helpful to planners and practitioners.
As Emily Metzgar, Efe Sevin, and myself reported to the US advisory commission on public diplomacy last month, the fact of the matter is that most PD "research" pubs are not that theoretical and much more speculative than grounded in empirical study (obviously, Prof. Fullerton's work is an exception). As public diplomacy becomes a more mainstream object of study for more established theoretical frameworks, disciplines, and research methodologies, I think we can (and should) see a more robust agenda of rigorous and indeed useful writing.
Tanya Ward on January 10, 2014 @ 1:30 pm Thanks for raising these important questions, Jami. Quite a few of our colleagues here have read your paper on tourism campaigns and public diplomacy impact in Australia with great interest. I wanted to let you and your readers know that the State Department, and its public diplomacy elements in particular, play an active role on the President’s Tourism Promotion Council and work closely with Brand USA on a variety of projects to promote international travel to the U.S. Last summer, our Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) partnered with Brand USA on a global social media campaign entitled “50 States in 50 days” to promote travel to all fifty U.S. states. For 2014, IIP and Brand USA are working together on a pilot culinary tourism campaign in five major East-Asian markets that will leverage Embassy July 4th activities to promote U.S tourism and agricultural exports. State coordinates with the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture and others to promote the U.S. as a welcome destination in critical markets around the world, including Mexico, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, and Brazil. Targeting their efforts to local priorities, our public diplomacy overseas also mesh Brand USA promotion with, for example, their outreach to young people considering academic exchange and summer work-study programs, or their outreach to cultural audiences. We would be very interested to hear more of your ideas on nation-branding and public diplomacy, and would welcome the opportunity to talk more.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Afghanistan is in disarray. The only way out of this miserable situation is for a miracle to happen. After all, philosopher David Hume told us that miracles are not logically impossible. The situation as bad as it seems can be reversed, however—only with a continued American military presence, financial assistance, and solid Afghan leadership will the country succeed. Afghans understand how important the U.S. presence is, and that is why all the elders from around the country voted for the Security Treaty. The U.S. presence will not only keep warlords and other destabilizing elements in check, but it will also reduce and remove the uncertainty that exists in the minds of all groups: investors, educators, donors, etc. With better, non-corrupt leadership, Afghans trust that their government will grow, which is of the utmost importance for the creation of economic prosperity. Karzai has been nothing but an exquisite blend of incompetence and mental instability. He also lacks a tragic sense of the past, and a strategic sense of the future.
Taken by the author in 2013.
The new leadership’s first priority must be to put into place mechanisms that will ensure the continuation and survival of civic institutions. Without healthy and strong institutions, rights of minority groups and women are in jeopardy. Napoleon is known to have said, "men make history, but institutions insure its continuity." The Afghan people have illustrated the ability to create civic institutions, but if there are no mechanisms in place that can maintain them over time, they are useless.
Aside from the Afghan people, there are many other players—Iran, India, China, and Central Asian countries—that have a stake in the affairs of Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan is not only favorable to the Afghans, but also to regional players. By now, it has become apparent among those following the events of Central and South Asia that Pakistan is one of the major sources of chaos in Afghanistan, as Islamabad has been helping the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan. Understanding Pakistan’s motives is key to explaining its influence in Afghanistan. If there’s one great lesson the world leaders should learn from Nelson Mandela, it is that you should decipher your opponent’s frame of reference. Afghanistan must understand the situation that Pakistan is in and where they are coming from before honest dialogue or robust diplomatic negotiations can take place. I believe that diplomacy among major regional players can help remove the mistrust that exists right now and further help tackle some of the challenges. There have been numerous attempts to negotiate some sort of a peace deal with the Taliban, but to no avail. These negotiations have failed because the Afghan government and the United States have tried to talk to a group who has no control over the decision making process. The Pakistani security apparatus is calling the shots in terms of what kind of a deal is made. Pakistan will not allow a deal that’s not to some extent in line with its national interests.
Taken by the author in 2013.
To achieve a high level of diplomatic coordination and a peace deal with the Taliban, the United States and other players must give a few assurances to Pakistan:
1) Western powers are not in Central Asia to take away or destroy Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
2) The United States and India are friendly but that doesn’t mean they are working in cahoots against Pakistan.
3) In the case of a conflict between India and Pakistan, Afghanistan will remain a neutral player and will not allow India to use its space for any kind of activities against Islamabad.
4) The United States will remain committed to the stability and security of the region. In his monumental book, Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger noted: “It is a mistake to assume that diplomacy can always settle international disputes.” While diplomacy cannot resolve Afghanistan’s troubles with Pakistan and other groups in the region, it is a good place to start.
As for the current Afghan leadership’s incompetence, clearly it has failed to take advantage of the handsome opportunities it was given. My only hope is that the new leadership is serious enough, competent enough, and caring enough to avoid another dark period as the one the Afghan people are undergoing right now.
Bob canfield on January 5, 2014 @ 11:36 am I agree that Mr Masoud's suggestions for reassuring the Pakistanis should be undertaken. But one can wonder if the pakistanis would buy it. Their distrust of Americans and Indians is intrenched.
Fahim Masoud on January 7, 2014 @ 4:23 pm Dear Mr. Canfield:
You are right: Pakistan's distrust of India and the United States is deep-rooted. My hope is that through diplomacy, openness, and continued talks, some sort of agreement with regard to Afghanistan is achieved amongst these important players.
Chris Bell on January 10, 2014 @ 3:33 pm Another good piece, it seems like internal progress could be hugely advanced if Pakistan can be convinced that a stable, peaceful Afghanistan is in it's own self-interest. Hopefully continued, determined diplomacy can make progress on this in the near future.
As far as institution-building, is there anything that can be done but hope for some reforming giant to come to power and break down old walls and build new a better Afghanistan?
Jawid on January 20, 2014 @ 10:01 pm Do you think these assurances are the main reasons why Pakistan has been backing Islamists since its birth and with the assurances given, every thing will get into the right track and hell would turn into paradise. Don't you think these assurances have been given over and over to Pakistan during the past decades?
Section 11 of the Resolution discusses innovation in the cultural structure and mechanisms of the country. While these are important decisions for China, one may wonder how all this relates to China’s public diplomacy or foreign cultural relations. Even though there is a strong emphasis on issues such as urbanization and the financial system, there are at least four items of interest for students of Chinese culture, soft power, and foreign cultural exchanges.
Point 38 of the Resolution is concerned with the improvement of the cultural management system. While on one hand, the document promotes changing the role of government departments (zhengfu bumen) from doing or handling culture (ban wenhua) to managing culture (guan wenhua), which may be interpreted as a government step back from the cultural sphere. On the other hand, the document calls for the establishment of organizations that should supervise and control (jianguan) the management of state-owned cultural assets (guoyou wenhua zichan), it stresses the necessity to strengthen methods and mechanisms to persist in the orientation or guidance of the correct public opinion (zhengque yulun).
Point 39 calls for establishing and improving the modern cultural market system (xiandai wenhua shichang tixi), which should, amongst other things, include the further transformation of state-owned commercial cultural units (guoyou jingyingxing wenhua danwei) into enterprises. Additionally, it calls for ways to explore the implementation of special management and share systems (teshu guanli gu zhidu) for important state-owned media enterprises (zhongyao guoyou chuanmei qiye). Yes, this sounds rather cryptic and it is not entirely clear what this means, but seemingly there are people who want to reform the way state run media like Xinhua or CCTV are managed. Of course, none of these media outlets will become enterprises, purely operating under market conditions, but it may be that Xinhua and Co. will adopt more free market rules and possibly go more in the direction of profit-orientated entities.
18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
If this is actually the case, it will be very interesting to see what will happen, for example, to Xinhua’s several newspapers and magazines which, with the exception of Cankao Xiaoxi, which translates international news into Chinese, the company barely has any readers outside the Xinhua headquarters. Another interesting case to watch will be the 24-hour English news channel, CNC World, which started in summer 2010. To date, 51% of CNC World is owned by Xinhua and 49% by private investors; however, recently there were rumors in Beijing that Xinhua wants to reduce its share, because CNC did not meet expectations, as it was supposed to rival the BBC or CNN.
Point 40 calls for building a modern public cultural service system (xiandai gonggong wenhua fuwu tixi) which, for example, should include the promotion of cultural projects that benefit the cultural needs of the masses. The question, however, is what the masses actually want or need in terms of culture and whether a government can addresses these issues.
Those points provide some interesting insights into how the CCP understands culture – namely as something that can be managed, controlled, and guided.
Point 41 entitled “raising the level of cultural openness” is also concerned with China’s attempts to present itself to the world. Here the Resolution notes that under the guidance of the government, in regard to market operations and social participation, foreign cultural exchange should be broadened. The construction of the international communication capacity (guoji chuanbo nengli) and foreign-orientated discourse systems (duiwai huayu tixi) should be strengthened and all this should be done in order to promote Chinese culture globally, while helping China’s culture go global.
Furthermore, the Resolution calls for attempts to array the system of domestic and international propaganda (neixuan waixuan), assumingly not only in terms of which organization is doing what but probably also in terms of better coordinating the two. There will be attempts to support major media outlets (zhongdian meiti) in their domestic and international developments to better develop Chinese companies abroad. In the future, the government also wants to foster foreign-orientated cultural enterprises and support cultural enterprises abroad while expanding in international markets.
Last but not least the Resolution notes to encourage social organizations, non-governmental organizations, Chinese-funded institutions, and others to participate in the construction of Confucius Institutes, overseas cultural centers, and cultural exchanges between peoples.
So what does all this tell us now? Well, first of all it becomes obvious that culture, soft power, and related concepts have high standings within the Chinese leadership, something that became apparent at the 18th Party Congress in November 2012. The political importance of culture becomes obvious and therefore, as argued before, institutions operating in this context cannot ignore this political dimension.
It is striking to see how the Chinese leadership wants to apply the same market mechanisms it is applying to the economic sphere, to the realm of culture. The government wants to manage and guide culture and cultural entities in its favor. But what is even more striking is the fact that some people in Beijing apparently believe they can apply this approach to the international arena.
Reading something like this makes people wonder why the seemingly same people who make sometimes quite smart decisions in the economic context, put forward the idea that Marxism could contribute to China’s soft power. Apparently you don’t have to be a genius to realize that this won’t work. The guiding role of Marxism should help to strengthen the country’s soft power? Really? Those statements not only show a total lack of even the most basic communication skills of a presumed 21st-century country, but also show ignorance or lack of knowledge about how this whole influence business works. And as long as these are the guiding principles, China will struggle to become a “cultural power.”
Right after I graduated from college this past May, I went on a bit of an odyssey. I took a trip to Afghanistan. After being away for three years, I returned to the western part of the country where my family resides. I was struck by how much things had changed for the worse in just three years. Three years ago, there was a lot of employment, a lot of optimism for the future, and an overall hope for a better life. However, this time, complete hopelessness, lawlessness, and uncertainty dominated the atmosphere. Everyone lived in a state of utter fear. Before I move forward elaborating further on the situation in Afghanistan, I’d like to add that all is not lost, and with a better, more competent leadership things can be turned around internally. Externally, through a coordinated and robust diplomatic effort, regional and international players can come to some sort of agreement that is conducive to the interests of all players, and more importantly, to the stability of the region.
The withdrawal of the American troops in 2014 has created anxiety and uncertainty within Afghan society. Elias Canetti, the German Nobel Laureate and author of Crowds and Power, opens his book by stating: “There is nothing that man fears more than the touch of the unknown.” It is this unknown that has moved the Afghan people to do something about their future. Groups are of course responding differently to the situation. For example, warlords like Ismael Khan, who is presently the Minister of Water and Energy, are arming themselves. Khan, originally from Herat, was the governor of the province until President Karzai removed him in 2005. Even though Mr. Khan no longer holds power in Herat, he still maintains more control over the affairs of this province than the current governor. Mr. Khan, along with other warlords around the country, are gearing up for the American troops’ exodus. These warlords believe that the U.S. has already accomplished its mission: killing of Osama bin Laden and breaking down al-Qaeda’s leadership structure – and thus has no interest in staying in Afghanistan.
Intense rivalries over power have already begun. This is manifested in an increased number of kidnappings and political assassinations. A week after I arrived in Herat, two armed men killed the leader of an ethnic Hazara district. According to several newspapers, the killing was due to his growing political popularity. Assassinations on motorcycles are the most fashionable way of killing one's opponent.
Terror and fear are dominant in the city of Herat. No one travels to the outskirts of the city any longer. The rich and those with prestige and power are responding differently. For one, they’ve stopped their investments and are securing their liquid assets by stashing them away in foreign banks and are leaving the country for the Gulf and other stable neighboring countries. Who’s to blame them? How can people live in a country where crime is now the order of the day? Where mass poverty is besetting more and more people? To borrow a phrase from President Lyndon Johnson, poverty is so pervasive that “nobody [has] a name for it.” Theft, kidnappings, burglaries, and other heinous crimes emanate from unemployment. Unemployment is, without a doubt, the source of all social diseases.
Governance has gone the way of the dinosaurs. Justice, security, and liberty have become concepts as foreign as if it were the Middle Ages. Complete chaos reigns over Afghanistan. According to Business Insider, Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, second only to Somalia. The joke amongst Afghans is that Afghanistan bribed Somalia to take the fall. Corruption had become so prevalent and normalized that nobody even wanted to complain about it anymore. It is part of the system. Someone jokingly told me, “they [lawmakers] should go ahead and make it part of the legal framework.”
People in Herat were telling me that the security situation is the worst it’s been in the last twelve years. I believe there are three possibilities for these growing acts of terror and violence:
1) With the withdrawal of American Combat Forces in 2014, people feel that after the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, the Taliban, will once again overtake the country, and total barbarism will reign supreme;
2) The Karzai government is intentionally fomenting instability in order to not hold elections, which are scheduled for next year; and
3) The scariest of all possibilities—the normalization of corruption and fear.
Women are of course the greatest victims of all this instability and violence. They have no rights and many are experiencing a form of enslavement. They have systematically been reduced to an inhumane level. If you are harassed in the workplace, it is your fault for having dressed improperly. If a girl is raped, not only does she not get justice with regards to the perpetrator, but also she herself is thrown into jail where she will endure ongoing sexual abuse by prison guards. How could a girl come forward and fight such oppression when the system is diabolically unjust and oppressive? Days after I arrived in Herat province, a seventeen-year-old girl, while on a trip to the bazaar, got shot in the head by two armed men. The story I got was that she had declined a marriage proposal from one of them. The case went cold and nobody prosecuted the perpetrators. Herat is considered one of the most cultured, economically vibrant, and politically stable provinces in the country. If one of the major cities is in such a state, imagine what is going on the periphery.
These are interesting and difficult times for the Afghan people. The political situation is blazing with uncertainties and crises. However, the other side of crisis is opportunity. The international community and the United States must look beyond 2014 and stay engaged in the affairs of Central Asia and Afghanistan. Otherwise, this period of fear and uncertainty can easily devolve into a brutal civil war.
In the second part of this piece, I will provide recommendations for new leadership and stability in Afghanistan.
Chris Bell on December 20, 2013 @ 7:24 pm I admit that I really didn't realize how wide the issue of poor governance and unrest in Afghanistan is. The efforts spent combating the Taliban in the south and east of the country can be undone all too easily if the country as a whole doesn't have a view of a better future. I'm afraid that history is going to repeat itself, that 2014 will be another 1989, with a descent into vicious civil war. Even some of the names are familiar.
It seems that, at the root, there is little popular buy-in to the idea of Afghanistan as a nation, something worth investing in now to see gains down the road. Considering the repeated failure of the state to perform its core functions, that isn't surprising. Until the legitimacy of the government is fixed, I don't know how much progress towards a free, prosperous future there can be.
hamed on December 21, 2013 @ 12:22 am As the one who born in Herat Afghanistan and grew up there in a cultural family, could feel everything about the people which is in Afghanistan, I don’t want beat around the bush, about the above article : it was really wise and widely described each and every points, such a human being, security situation and etc…
This is about 4 mounts that I am in USA and am studying here, but now I saw this article which was truly defined the story of Afghans, that was widely modify by Fahim Masoud .Great one .
Nasrat on December 21, 2013 @ 4:04 am You rightly portrayed the situation of uncertainty and fear in Afghanistan. Despite some progress in establishing relatively well functioning security forces, the government failed to deliver services to people on the basis of good governance. Inequity, lack of justice and most importantly the widespread corruption in government is devastating the newly built institutions and the governmeant as a whole.
Afghan people have to support and participate in the election and say no to a scary post-2014 situation by electing a capable, transparent team to lead the state.
Omid on December 22, 2013 @ 11:14 am A Very good article.
You have widely discussed a few valid issues that is the truth on the ground. I have to say that without a transparent administration and a good leadership with a good sense of patriotism, the country will be in a continued calamity and will hold a bleak future.
Fahim Masoud on December 22, 2013 @ 10:17 pm Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Please be aware that the second part of this piece will feature in the next few days.
Chris - yes, unfortunately, the current security situation is not very hopeful. It is to be hoped that the new Afghan leadership will usher in an era of political stability and economic prosperity.
Nasrat - I'm definitely in tune with you. In "The Origins of Political Order," Francis Fukuyama argues that poor countries are poor not because they don't have natural resources, but because they lack effective political institutions. To eradicate corruption and build a governance culture, the new leadership's first priority should be establishing strong and durable political institutions . . .
Ryan Buchanan on December 24, 2013 @ 7:46 am It is saddening to see a country and people subjected to usurpations. The usage of ethos and pathos is sustainable enough to conclude the necessity for call of action. However, I would like to believe in George Orwell's 1984 in the spirit of man but in this case, there is a need of many factors to fix this problem. One could be to use opium to make not heroin but morphine. Create a more centralized (competent government) and history would also agree with investments into health and sanitary institutions. Like South Korea who is a very stable and wealthy country yet it's counterpart Brazil is at the level Korea was in during the cold war because of their different investment plans. Soon, and with the aid of the people themselves and foreign influences hopefully they will build a foundation for a brave new nation.
saleem on December 25, 2013 @ 11:11 pm Fahim Jan, its an atricl which is based on the ground truth.I beleiv the five main issues such as! Poorty, Gender discrimination, religios extremism, Illetricity, corrupts leadership are the obstilcals which are continously caused by warlords( Schools into ston by Greg) and it will keep the nation from moving farword.If we look at the history of West back in 1700ac under the name of god big number of people lost their lives and luck of edjucation and luck of transperacny within the Afghan Gov can be an major obsticals.As you brought up some examples of Women abusing, if it stay the same, how come the same woman cab be good enough mother to rais her son and daoughter for the sake generation with pro civilization and pro evolvment.Having such fear can make the papulation not to fight for thiere rights.If you edjucate a man you have edjucated one single individual in a society, but if you edjucat a woman, you have edjucated the whole society(School into ston)
Ahmad on January 3, 2014 @ 6:39 am Fahim Jan...while I partly agree with your analysis, the fact remains that Afghanistan is a post conflict nation and the presence of International community is vital for its institutions to mature and grow. We must not generalize a personal experience of yours and brush the entire country as unstable and insecure. Sometimes we hold a small piece of reality and think as if it is the entire reality.
Fahim Masoud on January 7, 2014 @ 4:11 pm Dear Ahmad:
I don't know if you have travelled to Herat recently, but not too long ago the province was more stable than any other part of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, that's not the case any more. Now, if Herat is in such a state of chaos, imagine how unstable is the periphery.
Dr. Ahmad Wali Shirzad on January 29, 2014 @ 2:24 am Dear Mr.Masoud:
I congratulate you on your extra ordinary article regarding the analysis of the existing conditions in Afghanistan particularly in Herat. Adding to what you mentioned here and discussions I had with you in Herat, the delay in signing the MSA from the Afghanistan government side as a trigger has worsened the conditions. People are losing the hope we are experiencing financial and economic depression. International aids organizations are withdrawing and the level of security belt is getting smaller. Unfortunately the leadership of the Government is only taking care of extension of their power through any possible way.
Besides goodwill, another major motivation behind humanitarian assistance is exerting influence. Influence can emerge through cultural, economic, or political means. Political means seeking to resolve a conflict through humanitarian assistance and institutions practicing humanitarian efforts can be identified as ‘humanitarian diplomacy’.
Humanitarian diplomacy is a growing field in diplomacy and is considered part of public diplomacy. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) define humanitarian diplomacy as the following: “Humanitarian diplomacy is persuading decision makers and opinion leaders to act, at all times, in the interests of vulnerable people, and with full respect for fundamental humanitarian principles.” Therefore, humanitarian diplomacy is about persuasion, communicating the message to domestic/international audiences, and more importantly bringing global change by speaking to the human conscience through active engagement.
Minear (2007) classifies diplomacy as “capital D” and “small D,” the first one being high-level and formal while the second one being terrestrial covering humanitarian functions. The author further agues that “small D” diplomacy may overlap with Diplomacy when humanitarian practitioners themselves play a role in negotiating the terms of engagement in hot war or post-conflict situations.
In broad terms humanitarian diplomacy can be means to generate awareness for severe humanitarian conditions and/or political conflict that is lacking global attention. Humanitarian diplomacy can bring global historical change through a “human oriented approach.” Likewise, Turkey’s multi-dimensional proactive foreign policy is playing a lead role in Middle East politics as well as in new regions, by relying predominantly on humanitarian diplomacy and soft power.
Turkey’s credibility has significantly increased in these regions by establishing a base for soft power. Together with the value-based and humanitarian political narrative, that has an Islamic tone, it can be argued that Turkey has been able to generate a sense of trust and brotherhood in Africa and Middle East. Thus, Turkey is committed to becoming a key player in mediating conflicts such as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Syrian-Israeli peace talks, the Iranian nuclear talks, Somalia crisis, and most recently the Syrian civil war.
Turkey is eager to bring historical change, promoting what can be described as a niche approach to international politics by creating awareness to issues that have direct effect on global peace. The most well known cases are:
1. The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process: With the 2008 Operation Cast Lead, the Turkish Red Crescent opened a liaison bureau in Gaza and provided emergency assistance along with other NGO’s that donated clothing, medicine, and money to rebuild the infrastructure. Turkey’s most notable humanitarian diplomacy is perhaps the infamous Mavi Marmara flotilla crisis between Turkey and Israel. Despite the unsuccessful attempt to deliver the humanitarian assistance to Gaza, the flotilla crisis created massive global attention and stimulated discussion on the conflict. Through Turkey’s temporary position in the 2009-2010 UN Security Council, the country has been more active in promoting the Palestinian cause and gave full support to Palestine’s application for a non-member observer status at the United Nations. However, the current political situation with Israel remains a barrier for Turkey, in pursuing its job as a mediator during peace talks.
2. The Somalia Crisis: Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit to Somalia in 2011, the first head of a government to visit in 20 years, created global attention. Soon after, Turkish NGO’s started working to bring about positive changes to the troubled state. Although Turkey’s initial interest in Somalia began with the Djibouti Peace Process in 2008 and through hosting the İstanbul Somalia Conference in 2010 with the UN. Nevertheless, as Turkey has quite recently shown interest in Somalia, the political conflict amongst different factions seems to be partly out of Turkey’s reach.. It should be noted that unlike other international organizations based in Kenya, Turkish NGO’s dared to operate out of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, which is a groundbreaking step by itself in dealing with disaster relief and political problems.
3. The Syrian Civil War: Despite falling on deaf ears, Turkey has been outspoken about the future of Syria and the necessity of a regime change prior to the escalation of violence. The “Friends of Mediation” conference was initiated in coordination with the UN, Finland, and Turkey. Turkey hosted the first İstanbul Conference on Mediation on February 24-25, 2012 as well as Conference of the Group of Friends of the Syrian People. However, as the civil war escalated drawing attention to the influx of refugees, Turkey has fallen behind on much of the recent peace talks organized by key players Russia and the U.S, mainly the Geneva peace talks.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syrian civil war, and even the Somalia conflict all indicate several key issues that policy makers need to address prior to assessing the effectiveness of Turkey’s mediation efforts. First and foremost is the human resources and knowledge scarcity; second is the importance of remaining neutral to be an honest broker in international conflicts. Thirdly is Turkey’s own long enduring problems such as the Kurdish and Armenian questions as well as other issues related to consolidating a liberal democracy. Fourth is the equilibrium between soft and hard power. It is probably not realistic to expect that all these issues be taken care of in a limited time, however coming to terms with the nation’s actual capacity and the expectations raised by the political narrative can be highly productive in terms of humanitarian diplomacy efforts and where the nation stands in terms of power. After all, it might be unrealistic to assume that Turkey’s new founded interest in humanitarian diplomacy can bear results in a very limited time frame. In a general sense though, despite falling short of an absolute solution in regards to these conflicts Turkey has been able to generate global awareness and accelerate discussions. Beyond any doubt, Turkey’s economic growth, investment in human capital, and knowledge along with political stability and resolving the domestic issues will have enormous effects on the countries ambitions in becoming a key humanitarian diplomacy actor and mediator.
Bayer R. & Keyman, E. F. (2012). Turkey: an emerging hub of globalization and internationalist humanitarian actor?. Globalizations, 9 (1), 73-90
Davutoğlu, A. (2012). Principles of Turkish foreign policy and regional political structuring. International Policy and leadership Institute. SAM Vision Papers No 3. Ankara: Republic of Turkey MFA Center for Strategic Research. http://www.mfa.gov.tr/site_media/html/bakanmakale_tepev.pdf. Retrieved on: February 6, 2013.
Davutoğlu, A. (2013a). Turkey’s mediation: critical reflections from the field. Middle East Policy. 20 (1), 83-90.
Davutoğlu, A. (2013b). Turkey’s humanitarian diplomacy: objectives, challenges and prospects, Nationalities Papers: the journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity, 41:6, 865-870.
Migdalovitz, C. (2010). Israel’s Blockade of Gaza, the Mavi Marmara Incident and ıts Aftermath. Congressional Research Service. CRS Report for Congress. June 23, 2010.
Minear, L. (2007). The craft of humanitarian diplomacy. Larry Minear, Hazel Smith (Ed.). Humanitarian Diplomacy (pp. 7-35), Tokyo: United Nations University Press.
Murphy, T & Sazak, O. (2012). Turkey’s civilian capacity in post-conflict reconstruction. İstanbul: Sabancı University IPC.
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
It is with great respect for you and your office that I write this open letter.
I have covered the Olympic movement for 15 years. The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics will be my eighth Games.
I will remind you that in 1980, the last time the Olympic Games were in what is now the Russia, what was then the Soviet Union, the United States team did not go amid intense pressure from the White House. Today, Mr. President, the official U.S. delegation to the Sochi Games that you have announced does not include yourself, the First Lady, the vice president nor any member of your cabinet.
This marks the first Olympics since the 2000 Sydney Summer Games that the president, vice president or a former president will not be a member of the American delegation for the opening ceremony. A White House statement said your schedule simply doesn’t allow your to travel to Sochi.
Throughout the 1990s, it was typical for First Ladies to lead the American delegations. In 1996, of course, President Clinton led the U.S. delegation at the Atlanta Summer Games.
Again with respect, Mr. President, what you have done today is disrespected the Russians — and in particular the Russian president, Vladimir Putin — big time.
Mr. Putin has for years taken a personal interest in the Sochi project. He even came to the International Olympic Committee’s all-members assembly in Guatemala in 2007, at which Sochi won the 2014 Games, to lead its campaign. When Mr. Putin became president again for the third time on May 7, 2012, his very first meeting that day was with the-then IOC president, Jacques Rogge.
To be obvious: Sochi matters, a lot, to Mr. Putin.
And Mr. Putin is a very big deal within the Olympic movement. The Russians are spending at least $51 billion to transform Sochi from a Black Sea summer resort to a Winter Games destination. That’s at least $10 billion more than the Chinese spent in 2008 for Beijing, and Beijing was a Summer Olympics. For $51 billion, you get a lot of attention.
Mr. President, you have also sparked potential problems for the athletes on the U.S. team and, looking ahead, for the possibility of an American bid for the 2024 Summer Games, because in this matter of protocol you have also made clear your disregard for the International Olympic Committee.
All of this in the name of politics.
If we’re being straight with each other, this centers in some measure around the new Russian anti-gay law. That’s why you’re sending an icon like Billie Jean King as part of the official U.S. delegation. It’s why a White House spokesman said the delegation, headed by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, now president of the University of California system, “represents the diversity that is the United States.”
Also, too, it assuredly has to do with leverage. You want it. There are complex geopolitics at issue, like your relationship with Mr. Putin, the interplay with the former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and other matters that we, who do not have access to the daily White House security briefings, have no idea about.
Mr. President, you are a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. You know full well the Olympics are a time when nations are supposed to give politics a rest, if only briefly.
You know, too, that sport has the power to bring people together. Just a few days ago, you were in South Africa, at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, who understood that ideal perhaps better than anyone in our time.
You flew to South Africa aboard Air Force one with former President President George W. Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Obama, sir, if you were looking to make a statement about “the diversity that is the United States,” why not send Mr. Bush and Mrs. Clinton to Russia as your delegation leaders? Both are Olympic delegation veterans — Mr. Bush in 2008, Mrs. Clinton as First Lady in 1994 and 1996 — and that would have sent a very different signal of respect, indeed.
These things matter.
Instead, what you have also signaled — and this is unpleasant to acknowledge — is that, frankly, you don’t respect the American athletes themselves. The statement you’re making to them, loud and clear, is that they’re not important enough for you to step above politics.
Thinking this through to its logical conclusion, sir:
Compare your action Tuesday with President Bush, who cheerfully demonstrated his unity with American athletes in 2002 by literally sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the stands at the opening ceremony in Salt Lake. You have put politics ahead of the athletes in a way that could potentially compromise the U.S. team’s success in 2014 if the Russians take the next steps. What might those steps be? This is not difficult. The Winter Olympics involve a multitude of judged sports. (Think back to the ice-skating controversy in 2002.) Moreover, any Winter Olympics involves transport issues. (It’s a long way up a winding road from the ice cluster in Adler to the snow cluster in Krasnaya Polyana.)
Things have a funny way of happening on snow and ice, Mr. President. It can get slippery.
Is your busy schedule — or, indeed, the First Lady’s — payback for Chicago’s first-round exit in 2009 for the IOC voting for the 2016 Summer Games? Rio de Janeiro won that day. It was historic; you were the first sitting U.S. president to ever appear before the IOC, at the general session in Copenhagen. Yet most of what the IOC members remember about you being there has nothing to do with your fine speech, or even the First Lady’s, for she was there, too. It was the Secret Service sweep and the delay it caused them in getting to their seats.
If that seems petty to some — what about this now?
If the fact that the U.S. Olympic Committee is weighing a bid for the 2024 Games is not foremost on your agenda, be sure that it is high on the IOC’s list. The new IOC president, Thomas Bach, and his key advisers, are keenly seeking a U.S. bid. But the USOC is willing to jump in only if it has a high likelihood of winning, because Olympic bids in recent years have run to $50 million and more.
The IOC will pick the 2024 site in the summer of 2017. By then, you will be out of office.
Even so, within the IOC memories run long. And in 2015, three or four dozen IOC members, maybe more, are due in Washington, D.C., for a key assembly, a meeting of the 204-member Assn. of National Olympic Committees.
There they will be reminded vividly that you are there. And that in 2014 you threw this in their face.
All in the name of gay rights? Some of us may see gay marriage as a civil rights measure, Mr. President. But if you were to look at this from afar, it’s still the case that only 16 states and Washington, D.C., permit gay marriage. That’s not exactly a majority.
This controversial Russian law passed the Duma, their lower house, by a vote of 436-0. We can disagree with the measure, but there can be no question about the numbers.
Which begs the question: who are we Americans to be using the Olympics to lecture the Russians about how to run their country? To be sending Billie Jean King over as a symbol of — what? The purported progressiveness of our society or our moral superiority? Isn’t that presumptuous or, worse, arrogant?
After Sochi, are you planning to send Billie Jean King next to states such as Ohio (which you won in 2012), Virginia (ditto) and Colorado (same) to lobby for gay marriage? It’s banned there now in all three. And Colorado is home to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
How would we like it if the Russians — or, for that matter, anyone — came over here and told us what to do? Would we welcome their advice on matters such as the death penalty, which virtually every nation in western Europe now considers morally abhorrent? (Should that be an automatic disqualifier for a U.S. 2024 Summer bid? Or just disqualify, say, Texas?) What about our laws regarding assault rifles? Or legalized marijuana? And on and on.
Mr. President, the concept of American exceptionalism is not altogether popular around the world. But it’s often the case that we Americans are indeed held to a different standard. Here, you should have gone in a different direction in deciding who was, and was not, going to Sochi in the official White House delegation.
Too, you should have made this decision sooner. It was announced Sunday that France’s president, François Hollande, would not be going to Sochi.
Surely, sir, you were not taking your lead from the French?
3 Wire Sports
Los Angeles, California
On December 9, 2013 at the World Bank senior officials from the Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly manage the shared water resources of the Red Sea, Jordan River, and the Sea of Galilee (commonly known as Lake Tiberias or the Kineret). The agreement lays out the framework for the following: a joint desalination plant in Aqaba, Jordan at the head of the Red Sea where the water will be distributed to Israel and Jordan; the release of water from Lake Tiberias to Jordan; and the sale of 20-30 million cubic meters of desalinated water per year by Israel to the Palestinian Authority. It goes even further to link the brine produced from the desalination plant to the Dead Sea in an ecological experiment hoping to save the Dead Sea from destruction.
This MoU is a government-to-government water sharing agreement between countries that are hard-pressed to agree on much of anything, and this formal diplomatic overture is commendable. However, this agreement, water security, and the economic investments that will come with it have the power to build bridges between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians. That is if the governments choose to approach this water-sharing agreement as not merely an investment in future water security and tourism, but as a touchstone for peace.
● strategic partnerships,
● mutuality in water relationships,
● technical training and assistance, and
● local community engagement.
The MoU begins with addressing these first three points, but has not gone as far as to engage with the local communities. The governments involved can easily speak to their publics through local leader engagement and the established NGOs working in this sector, such as Friends of the Earth Middle East. The leaders in the local villages and towns in and around Aqaba, Tiberias, along the Jordan River Valley, and on both sides of the Dead Sea, should be approached by the governments and brought into this conversation. Town halls can be held to emphasize how this water sharing agreement positively impacts individual lives through better access to stable water resources and economic growth opportunities. A joint publicity campaign sponsored by all three governments through traditional and social media could garner public support for this water agreement, while at the same time socialize the three publics to understand that their governments are working together for the benefit of the people. Simple actions which require relatively minimal resources that stress these mutually beneficial relationships can only bolster the current diplomatic discussions taking place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. If water stress can easily create conflict, water relief should be leveraged to create peace. Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority must not let this historic agreement be relegated to the history books, but to bring it to the people to ensure not only a water-secure future for the Levant, but to facilitate stable relationships between the governments and encourage peace between the peoples.
During the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela, as tens of thousands gathered in the FNB stadium in Johannesburg and millions more watched on television, an entirely different story emerged: the ten-second interaction between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro.
As Obama entered the VIP seating area, the first head of state to greet him was Raul Castro. The two appeared from a distant camera angle to exchange pleasantries and shake hands. Both leaders were smiling as Obama moved on to another head of state with a strained U.S. relationship, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. Yet, despite such a short (and at face value, meaningless) encounter, a major storyline that emerged from Nelson Mandela's memorial was the possible symbolic meaning behind the Obama-Castro handshake. Was Obama just being cordial? Was it planned? Does this signify a thawing in U.S.-Cuban relations? Does it mean nothing? Or does it mean everything?
A woman walks from a taxi on a busy street in Havana, Cuba.
Photo taken by Colin Hale, June 2013.
The answers to these and similar questions, posed by The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Sydney Morning Herald, are debatable. While the White House insisted Tuesday morning that Obama's handshake with Castro was "not planned," and the Cuban government later insisted the same, there is little doubt that some sort of interaction was inevitable. Whether Castro planned to be the first to greet Obama on the stage or not, the symbolism of the interaction, intentional or not, cannot be understated.
Tuesday's interaction, after all, was only the second time since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 when a sitting U.S. and Cuban president shook hands. Back in 2000, Raul's brother and then-president Fidel Castro shook hands with President Bill Clinton. As the Sydney Morning Herald noted on Tuesday, the interaction thirteen years ago at the United Nations took place out of sight of cameras and "was not recorded for posterity."
Criticism of the handshake has been fast and fierce. Members of Congress (particularly those from south Florida), political pundits, and anti-Castro regime activists criticized President Obama’s handshake with Castro. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl) told Secretary of State, John Kerry during an unrelated hearing that "when the leader of the free world shakes the bloody hand of a ruthless dictator like Raul Castro, it becomes a propaganda coup for the tyrant."
Proponents for a revised U.S. approach to the Cuban regime have signified the event as a possible opportunity for a thawing of relations. Similarly, U.S.-Iranian relations were gradually improved with the efforts of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to engage Western leaders at the United Nations (although Rouhani and Obama never shook hands during that particular U.N. event).
From a public diplomacy perspective, these interactions, albeit brief, can play a role in sending messages to domestic and foreign audiences and encourage change. As calls for a re-assessment of U.S. policy towards Cuba continue to grow and as the Cuban government appears to be loosening its grips on the economy, the magnitude of Obama and Castro shaking hands and interacting can have major implications.
For Cubans, this event has the potential to symbolize that the Yanquis are more approachable than before. It also sends the message that Castro and Cuba are on the same level (or at least on the same stage) as the United States, Brazil, and other major powers. These symbols are important when it comes to countering anti-U.S. rhetoric.
For the American audience, the handshake sends signals that change in the relationship is possible during Obama's second term. While relations are not expected to change overnight, these small events, coupled with significant policy changes by both countries, can build into more positive public opinion and real policy change down the line. Cuba's economic reforms and the U.S. relaxing certain restrictions and other portions of the embargo are also pieces of the larger puzzle.
The Cuban flag hangs near the University of Havana in Havana, Cuba.
Photo taken by Colin Hale, June 2013.
While the act of a handshake might not, as an article in The Atlantic argued, "move the needle," it is yet another piece in a series of actions, policies, and good-faith efforts to repair and rebuild the U.S.-Cuban relationship. Public diplomacy rarely moves the needle quickly enough for a particular action to be viewed "successful" by policymakers and media. The handshake will likely be no different in changing public opinion polls and policymaker's minds in the next few months. However, these opportunities can encourage further dialogue about the current situation and provide opportunities for future dialogue between heads of state, government officials, academics, and foreign publics.
Will the Obama-Castro handshake mark the beginning of a new U.S.-Cuban relationship? Perhaps, but those who criticized and opposed the President for shaking the hand of a man whose authoritarian regime restricts human rights, a free press, and free speech (whether that man is Raul Castro or Hassan Rouhani) are missing the larger point about public diplomacy, image, and messaging. The U.S. should be actively engaging its enemies through traditional and public diplomacy means, and as the leader of the free world, President Obama should always be willing to engage other foreign leaders and foreign publics, especially if they appear to want engagement as well (as shown with Iran and Cuba). If we are to believe that our democratic and human rights values are of the greatest importance, actively engaging our ideological opponents through public diplomacy and messaging will only strengthen our own resolve and weaken the rhetoric of our opposition.
These small interactions go beyond the initial handshake and can provide unique opportunities for dialogue and engagement between countries and foreign publics. They can inspire debate, encourage conversation, and gradually change public opinion. While major policy hurdles will still require traditional diplomacy and serious negotiation, and while American policymakers should continue to stand firm on issues of human rights in Cuba (as they should throughout the world, including within the U.S.), there should always be an open door and an opportunity for dialogue.
So the Obama-Castro handshake might not mean much today, or tomorrow, or next week. Its significance in the coming years, however, could be much more important.
As an emerging middle power Turkey has been actively seeking to exert influence, specifically in the Middle East and in Africa through means of public diplomacy. Educational exchanges, cultural institutions, media outputs, international conferences, infrastructure aid, and humanitarian assistance are Turkey’s most notable governmental and non-governmental public diplomacy tools.
I will be discussing Turkey’s humanitarian assistance in this blog entry as the first in a series on humanitarian aid. For those who are unfamiliar with Turkey’s role in international humanitarian assistance, in the last several years Turkey has been lending a helping hand to those states that need emergency assistance. Although Turkey was once a major recipient of humanitarian aid, today, Turkey is the fourth largest donor state in terms of humanitarian assistance. Turkey gives a steady $1 billion in donations or 0.13% of its national wealth, showing the largest increase in 2012 by $775 million.
The Disaster and Management Presidency (AFAD), Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), and Turkish Red Crescent (KIZILAY) are amongst the governmental institutions that provide, organize, and distribute humanitarian aid such as tents, blankets, food packages, sanitary kits, and many others. Besides providing shelters TIKA sponsors infrastructure development such as buildings, hospitals, schools, roads, sanitation projects, agricultural projects, and cultural restorations. There are quite a number of active NGO’s that work in coordination with The Disaster and Management Presidency (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent (KIZILAY). These NGO’s such as Deniz Feneri Derneği (Light House Foundation), Cansuyu Charity and Solidarity Foundation, Kimse Yok Mu Turkish Non Governmental Organization, and İHH (The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Relief) offer humanitarian assistance as well as infrastructure projects and healthcare to countries in Africa, Middle East, Asia, and the Balkans.
Zaharna argues that one of the key aspects of public diplomacy, relationship building, can be conducted through development projects, which is an expression of the ties between two entities. Such a relationship can be established and improved by businesses, humanitarian assistance, and through the work of NGO’s. As a matter of fact, that is what Turkish institutions are doing, resulting in trust between the donor and the recipient and a favorable country image for Turkey. Perhaps the healthcare assistance such as cataract surgeries, building hospitals, educational work, and orphan care are major contributors in building long-term relationships with these communities.
Through these institutions and organizations, Turkey is not only trying to establish herself as a humanitarian assistance provider, but also as a mediator in regional conflicts by operating with regional partners and gradually building trust through local partners. One can argue that Turkey is providing an example of niche diplomacy through humanitarian value-based policies. Indeed, Turkey’s humanitarian rhetoric and value-based policy resembles the notion of ‘niche diplomacy’ that is commonly associated with middle powers. Good will supporting good works and performing good deeds pay off in terms of international prestige where a country is rewarded for its goodness.
Turkey has been seeking to expand its sphere of influence during the last decade and realizing that public diplomacy can play a part in improving Turkey’s soft power. Together with the nation’s economic success, Turkey has focused on becoming a major player in humanitarian assistance. Turkey’s humanitarian assistance efforts can be considered long-term relationship building public diplomacy tools aiming to develop Turkey’s soft power in those societies. Humanitarian assistance also establishes long-term connections, which can eventually help Turkish businesses to tap into emerging economic markets and pursue foreign policy objectives.
As Turkey has been practicing a more active foreign policy, civic engagement and humanitarian assistance are playing a large role in contributing to this policy change. In this sense Turkish policy makers have taken humanitarian responsibility as a priority where a humanitarian rhetoric meets with value-based policies. With that Turkey has been involved in regions that were previously beyond its reach. In the last several years Turkey has offered a helping hand to Kenya, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Mali, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Philippines, Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, Gaza, Iran, Syria, Albania Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro where civil unrest, conflict, famine, and natural disasters prevail.
One of the most notable relief campaigns for Somalia and Myanmar was introduced by AFAD as well as various NGO’s. In numerous African countries, water wells are being built to provide clean water, a necessity in those parts of the world where people are faced with diseases due to the lack of clean water. Cataract operations are an ongoing work in Africa. Monetary donations for food packages and Eid donations show major increases during the month of Ramadan and Eid al Qurban.
The Palestinian question has been the center of attention for the NGO’s most notably after the Operation Cast Lead in 2008. While the NGO’s sent food packages and monetary relief along with hospital building constructions; governmental institutions have been assisting with agricultural, educational, and health projects. Besides, both governmental institutions and NGO’s are working in establishing the self-sustainability of these communities by offering career building and continuing education courses.
In the case of the Arab Spring, besides aid being offered by the state, Turkish NGO’s contributed a variety of monetary and emergency humanitarian assistance to the MENA communities. For instance, İHH (The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Relief) was in Libya only two days after the revolts bringing in 5 doctors and 19 emergency assistance personnel. İHH worked in cooperation with Turkish Red Crescent to establish soup houses, build tent camps, and provide clean water, baby formula, and blankets. İHH also assisted in the evacuation of the Turkish citizens working in Libya at the time of the uprisings. Additionally, in Yemen İHH distributed Ramadan donations. More importantly as a part of NGO level mediation the İHH hosted the regime opposition at the headquarters in İstanbul. In Tunisia the foundation offered health care services during the transition process. Deniz Feneri Derneği (Light House Foundation) delivered food assistance to Yemen by distributing 2,000 food packages to families and 1,000 stationary packages to students. During the uprisings Deniz Feneri sent emergency assistance packages worth $205,496 to Libya. Cansuyu was also at the Libyan-Tunisian border offering emergency assistance with Tunisian partners El-Rahme and Taavun Associations. Kimse Yok Mu? Association was also at the Tunisian-Libyan border to help Libyan refugees delivering Ramadan donations such as monetary assistance, food packages and health care. After the revolts following immediate humanitarian assistance Turkish NGO’s and governmental agencies such as TİKA (Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency) have been working diligently to maintain the self-efficiency of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen through infrastructure work, restorations, cultural, and educational development. Through such work on re-constructing of the post-awakening in the MENA region, Turkey has been pursuing long-term commitment to the stability and establishment of a new Middle East. In fact, while responding to immediate crises Turkey has also been concerned about contributing to the creation of a better human and stable global order.
The ongoing Syrian civil war has been a testing ground for Turkey’s humanitarian assistance and value-based policies. The influx of over 500,000 Syrians over the course of three years created a massive need for aid mobilization. Since 2011, Turkish NGO’s as well as the government have taken immeasurable efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war to a safer zone in Turkey. On a governmental level, AFAD has erected 14 tent cities, 1 temporary shelter home, and 6 prefabricated housing camps in various Turkish cities, hosting over 200,000 Syrian citizens with several new camps currently in construction for the Syrian Christians. TİKA has provided healthcare for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Syrian relief efforts by the NGO’s range from food packages to sanitary needs, baby formula, educational supplies, clothing, tons of fresh food, bread, and dairy products. However, Turkey’s humanitarian involvement in the Syrian crisis deserves further attention that will be elaborated on in upcoming blog entries.
Turkey is working on becoming an active participant in international humanitarian assistance and has established itself as the fourth largest donor state this year. The debate on whether humanitarian assistance can be considered selfless acts of goodwill or public diplomacy continues. Through emergency aid, infrastructure assistance, and providing healthcare, which are all scarce in some regions Turkey it is expanding the nation’s soft power. It looks like as Turkey’s value based policy rhetoric is having a significant impact on the global goodwill.
Though the permanence of this influence depends on Turkey’s economic stability, it begs the question: What effect does hard power have on soft power regarding humanitarian assistance? While economic aid is classified as hard power, humanitarian assistance is also soft power. Unless Turkey continues to pursue economic growth, soft power alone cannot sustain the country’s current image.
Zaharna, R.S. (2009). Mapping out a spectrum of public diplomacy initiatives: information and relational communication frameworks. In Nancy Snow (Ed), Routledge handbook of public diplomacy (pp. 86-100). New York, NY: Routledge.
On the sad occasion of Nelson Mandela’s death, it’s worth recalling his words on languages: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
I read that quote on a poster on the wall at the Beijing Language and Cultural University on a smoggy morning this September – BLCU is one of the British Council’s longest standing and biggest partners in China. Nearly 1,000 Chinese youngsters were taking their British Council IELTs English exams -- in one sitting, in that one building, that very morning.
The British think of ourselves as tongue-tied, but in fact the UK's rich linguistic diversity should be one of our greatest assets. Over 200 foreign languages are spoken in London and Manchester alone. And around one in six schoolchildren in England speak a language other than English as their mother tongue -- so there is a great stock and variety of foreign languages to build on.
But the problem is that the great majority of British people feel unable to hold a conversation in any of the languages the UK most needs for its future: Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish, and Japanese. Even the languages (French and to a lesser extent Spanish and German) we’ve always taught in schools are only confidently spoken by a fraction of the population. And the number of people who can speak the languages of many of the countries that are becoming more and more important to the UK is tiny.
This has to mean we are missing out –- great opportunities for international trade, cultural exchange, and advancing international understanding are getting lost in translation every single day. But if we could harness and grow the UK's linguistic wealth, we would improve our prosperity and security, as well as improving social inclusion and intercultural understanding here at home.
And if that isn’t enough incentive, languages are investments for all ages, with increasing scientific evidence that learning languages improves cognition and helps ward off dementia. Everyone, at every age, is a winner if they get to learn languages. Which is important, because in a multipolar world we need to shatter once and for all our national myth that speaking English alone is enough.
I’d like to help get the message across to language learners, young and old, that fluency and pure academic achievement aren’t the only yardstick, that functional use of a language or even a few words can be valuable -- and real fun.
Two of the biggest challenges in the modern world are that there are not enough people getting the chance to learn English, and also that too many people speak only English.
Nobody does more worldwide than the British Council to share the English language. But we need to remember the wisdom of Nelson Mandela and recognize that English alone is not enough, if we want to speak to the hearts of people beyond our shores.
Public diplomacy (PD), if defined as the act of a government engaging directly with a foreign public, then many governments are currently conducting PD towards the Filipino public in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan's devastation. Most public diplomacy scholars and practitioners refer to the foreign aid assistance in the wake of a disaster as "aid diplomacy." This aid diplomacy is often spoken about in terms of foreign aid packages, goodwill gestures, and how foreign aid can help to increase a public's positive attitudes towards the aid-providing country. When it comes to foreign aid, these packages are usually seen as drivers of goodwill and the implementation of a nation's soft power, but we must acknowledge that economic incentives are generally considered a coercive tool of hard power. It is important to remember that public diplomacy experts understand that PD is not a strategy of merely goodwill and smiles, but a national interest driven foreign policy strategy. Therefore, we should look at aid diplomacy with a discerning lens, and make assessments based on direct impact.
While it has been demonstrated in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in Japan, and after the earthquake in Pakistan, that public opinion towards the U.S., for example, after the delivery of foreign aid is correlated with rising positive attitudes toward the United States. However, is it the amount of financial aid that helps to create positive sentiments after these disasters, or is it something else?
Could it be that the on-the-ground presence of people, diplomats, aid and rescue workers, foreign medical teams, or branded-food, shelter, and clothing supplies, make the greatest public diplomacy impact? With 5,670 dead, 1,761 missing, 26,322 injured and 11.2 million people affected, of which 4.1 million are currently displaced, what does the aid diplomacy look like for the Filipino people affected by Typhoon Haiyan?
See Vizynary for more information about this graphic.
Foreign aid packages to the Philippines, according to the latest report issued on December 2 by the Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) notes that while $504 million has been pledged by 49 countries including the Vatican, the European Union, as well as a number of multilateral organizations and international NGOs (excluding the UN), only $12 million has been disbursed.
In a disaster, where immediate relief is needed, the large majority of foreign aid is tangled in the bureaucratic distribution process and isn't helping the people. So, what is impacting the public? It's not the inaccessible $492 million pledged to the Philippines. So is there significant aid diplomacy currently being conducted?
Well, let's take a look at the on-the-ground relief efforts being conducted in the immediate aftermath of the super typhoon. According to the Philippines government report "National Diaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC)," a total of 25 countries are currently in the Philippines providing medical and humanitarian relief.
56 Countries Providing Relief to the Philippines
Of these 25 countries, only China, Japan, and South Korea are providing financial, medical, and humanitarian aid. Only Western countries, with the exception of Malaysia, contributed both foreign aid and on-the-ground medical teams including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan are the only countries providing both foreign aid and humanitarian goods. While an interesting grouping of countries, Israel, Russia, South Africa, and Turkey, only committed medical assistance. India and Qatar provided only humanitarian goods, while France was the only country to not provide financial aid, but sent medical teams and humanitarian goods.*
So to answer the questions raised above, yes, aid diplomacy is being conducted in the Philippines, but it is done so by the few thousand people on the ground who are providing medical assistance, clean water, food, shelter, and other basic necessities. These 25 countries that chose to send goods and people are the aid diplomacy heroes to the Filipino people, regardless of the amount of money they pledged to the government of the Philippines. While the millions pledged will be a necessity down the line for reconstruction, it is not what drives the immediate public impact.
Based on the understanding that public diplomacy must directly impact the public, and circumvent the government-to-government relationship, public diplomacy scholars and practitioners should not be considering foreign aid a direct PD tool. However, on-the-ground assistance must take center-stage as the defining component of aid diplomacy.
*Please note, this piece is only tackling the public diplomacy of traditional government agencies which are not the only actors participating in the immediate medical and humanitarian relief. There are 18 UN agencies and 138 international NGOs doing so as well, and they are working alongside a total of 94 foreign medical teams.
Below is a list of articles which feature on-the-ground rescue stories in which foreign assistance teams provided immediate relief to Filipinos in need.
Canada to Match Donations Made By its Citizens to Typhoon Victims
The Philippine Star
November 12, 2013
First Baby Born In IDF Field Hospital in Philippines Named ‘Israel’
The Times of Israel
November 15, 2013
Japan Sending Troops to Aid Philippines
The Wall Street Journal
November 14, 2013
Malaysia Offers Aid to Philippines in Wake of Haiyan
The Star Online
November 12, 2013
More Foreign Aid Pours in for Typhoon Victims
The Philippine Star
November 11, 2013
Russia Sends Medical Supplies to Typhoon-hit Phl
The Philippine Star
November 12, 2013
Turkey Joins Relief Efforts in Philippines
Hurriyet Daily News
November 11, 2013
Typhoon Haiyan: UK planes take aid to Philippines
November 18, 2013
“America has put our money where our mouth is, our boots on the ground and our hands in the air like we just do care."
-Stephen Colbert, American Political Satirist and TV host.
On November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan ravished the Philippine archipelago. With 195 MPH winds and gusts of up to 230 MPH, the typhoon killed an estimated 4,000 people and displaced another 670,000. Across the southern part of the Philippines and especially in Tacloban, the city most affected by the typhoon, the scene is apocalyptic. Power lines are tangled and have drowned in the floods, tin roofs scatter the grounds, and corpses are ubiquitous. In the heat of this moment of crisis, international aid is flowing to the Philippines from across the world. Off the coast of the Philippines, the U.S.S. George Washington aircraft carrier arrived with a crew of 5,000 and 21 helicopters to aid with search and rescue and transport relief supplies into the hard to reach areas. The Japanese have also arrived with their Self Defense Force. A local Philippine news source reported that throughout the disaster zone, there are many “nations, cultures and flags” including the French, the Japanese, the Turkish, and Doctors Without Borders. The response from these various countries illustrates international cooperation and countries “doing the right thing.” However, missing in action is the region’s giant, China who only initially donated $100,000. Why is China so unsympathetic to the Philippines and how does crisis relief and humanitarian assistance reflect current bilateral relationships? In the first part of this post, I discuss why China is behaving coldly towards the Philippines. Then, I argue that China’s harsh response is a missed opportunity to warm tense relations with the Philippines and to reverse its aggressive and hostile image in the region.
The Philippines and China: A Tense Relationship
China’s response to the super typhoon in the Philippines reflects the tense history between the two counties over the last several decades. By 1995, the Chinese had occupied and built a wooden stronghold on Mischief Reef, a small atoll within the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), just 130 miles west of Palawan Island. This marked a flashpoint in Sino-Philippine relations and “negatively colored Philippine perceptions of China.” For many, Mischief Reef was a “possible precursor of China’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia.” However, in the late 1990’s the perception of China among the Philippines and several other countries in the Southeast Asian region began to shift from a security threat to one of economic opportunity. Part of this change in attitude grew out of the financial support China provided to its neighbors during the Asian Financial Crisis. This period was marked with “high-level leadership exchanges, the promotion of trade and investment, and the expansion of security and defense cooperation” between China and the Philippines.
The ‘golden age’ in Sino-Philippines and Sino-ASEAN relations was short-lived. As China’s economy grew, so did its military and its aggression in the South China Sea. China’s military aggression has raised concerns amongst Southeast Asian countries, forcing them to reconsider their positive perception of China as an economic partner. The situation escalated last year at Scarborough Shoal when the Chinese maritime agencies prevented the Philippine Navy from entering Scarborough Shoal and arrested Chinese fishermen who were allegedly fishing illegally. At the end of last year, China informed the Philippines that it planned to station the ships at Scarborough Shoals permanently. Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary, Albert del Rosario, describes Beijing’s behavior as “dictatorial”.
In January 2013, the Philippine foreign minister notified the Chinese Embassy in Manila of its intention to take China to the United Nations international courts. The Philippines has been the most vocal country in Asia and the first country to take a legal stance against China. The tense Sino-Philippine relations clearly set the tone of China’s relief efforts to Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
China missed the early opportunity to build personal connections with the affected people, form partnerships, and participate in an international effort to relieve human suffering. Polls suggest that relief assistance can directly improve the image of a country. At the Brooking Institute Conference on Humanitarian Relief and Public Diplomacy, Kristin Lord, a nonresident fellow pointed out that after the United States provided aid to the victims of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, the percentage of Indonesians who held a favorable view of the United States increased from 15% to 38%. Similarly, relief assistance in Pakistan improved the view of the United States from 21% in 2004 to 27% in 2006. According to polls, 63% of Indonesians and 78% of Pakistanis surveyed said their view of the United States became more favorable as direct result of American assistance. China missed this crucial window to gain favorability with Filipinos, who are currently proceeding with a court case against China.
Disaster aid sends a message to the world. It demonstrates that a country cares about humanitarian suffering and the real and immediate needs of people, regardless of where they reside. China’s unsympathetic response communicates to the world, that despite having the second largest economy in the world, it is not willing to relinquish its political issues to help a neighbor in the biggest typhoon in recorded history. As China continues to rise, it needs to do so with grace and integrity, illustrating the willingness to follow international norms. Leadership means relating to people, earning their trust, and offering solutions people can understand. The typhoon presented China with the opportunity to demonstrate that in times of crisis, it will do what is right, not what is political. And what is right is often also sensible for policy.
As John F. Kennedy once recognized, “When written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters- one represents danger, and the other opportunity.” To date, China’s action, or lack of action, resembles the danger character more than the opportunity character. The typhoon crisis shows the importance of addressing suffering with empathy and compassion in a timely fashion. Key to public diplomacy is engaging and listening. This is the moment for China to do both of these things. Will Chinese leaders be able turn the ship around?
 Storey, Ian. Southeast Asia and the Rise of China: The Search for Security. London: Routledge, 2011. Print. Pg 420.
 Storey, Ian. Southeast Asia and the Rise of China: The Search for Security. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.
 Storey, Ian. Southeast Asia and the Rise of China: The Search for Security. London: Routledge, 2011. Print. Pg 432
Shannon Haugh is a second year Master of Public Diplomacy student at the University of Southern California. She is the current Editor-In-Chief of Public Diplomacy Magazine and the recipient of the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. Shannon’s experience growing up in the Philippines speaking English and Japanese has shaped her interests in East Asian relations, international development, nation branding, people to people public diplomacy, human rights, and ICT. Before coming to USC, Shannon worked for various Japanese companies in the Los Angeles area. Recently, Shannon spent the summer in Cape Town, South Africa doing paralegal work for refugees. Shannon also supported the State Department during President Obama’s visit to South Africa.
Danni Li on December 9, 2013 @ 10:32 am I totally agree with Shannon that China’s unsatisfactory performance regarding international aid could be the “missed opportunity” for improving Sino-Philippine relations. Yet since we all agree on the importance of “listening” in public diplomacy, I would also invite people to “listen” to China’s story behind such a seemingly insufficient aid decision and discuss whether such an opportunity is missed deliberately or not.
First, China is a “new hand” in terms of overseas disaster relief. Although China’s aid began to be extended beyond its socialist allies after the end of Cold War, the transition is gradual and slow, especially considering how hostile the Chinese government interprets its global environment to be. Even though the state announced the determination to be a “responsible stakeholder”, it takes time for the mechanism to mature; just as it takes time for a child mentally prepared to grow up to physically become so. In other words, please don’t expect China to be “responsible” right away.
For instance, charity in China is still being dominated by the government, with little, if any, private organizations having a strong say. This directly leads to the entanglement of aid with politics (strictly speaking, which country’s foreign aid is not so?). This, to Shannon’s interpretation, could be a product of government narrow-mindedness; for me, it bespeaks the incapability of governance: slow and conflicting decision-making mechanism in terms of foreign affairs (e.g. MFA saying yes whereas PLA saying no); and failure (not reluctance) to educate the public on the virtues of foreign aid.
Currently, Chinese people are feeling “wronged” and “biased”, when reading the media highlighting it donating “too little”. Why cannot people see China IS donating, especially when China itself is suffering from the typhoon in the same time? I’m not here to argue whether China should donate or how much China should donate; I am only concerned such not-comparable-to-even-IKEA comments would hurt Chinese people’s feelings and even increase the general public’s “petty-mindedness”, leading them to think: “See? We are blamed even we donate. Then what’s the point of donating?”
Confucius Institutes (CIs) are probably China’s most prominent, but also most controversial cultural diplomacy tool. There is a lot of debate going on concerning the political implications of CI’s, especially in the U.S. (the most recent example can be found here) but also elsewhere. While these debates are absolutely necessary and helpful to better understand these institutes, it sometimes seems there is more guessing and speculation rather than a fact based discussion. This is especially the case when it comes to the relationship between the international host institutions of CIs and the CI Headquarters in Beijing.
A brief glimpse of this relationship became apparent during a round of so called “In Service Training Workshops for Confucius Institute Directors” this year. Between July and October, a series of training workshops for foreign directors of Confucius Institutes were held at Fudan University in Shanghai, Xiamen University in Fujian, and Tianjin’s Nankai University respectively. While there have been so called pre-service training workshops for Chinese CI directors, this series of events was for the first time held for their foreign counterparts and over 200 foreign directors from 188 Confucius Institute’s in 73 different countries participated. Officially, the workshops focused on directors who took office after 2010, aiming to deepen their understanding about China and to enhance their capability of constructing and managing Confucius Institutes, but more veteran foreign CI directors also participated.
According to Hanban, the Chinese organization in charge of CIs, which is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education, the workshops were “innovative in both curriculum setting and topic designing.” Contents presented included diverse topics such as Chinese Confucian classics, diplomacy, economy, exchange of Chinese and foreign cultures, and traditional Chinese medicine. Additionally, more practical issues were discussed ranging from the management of Confucius Institutes, the experience and problems for brand building, market expansion, crisis public relations management, the approaches and strategies to integrate CIs into the universities and communities, the development of new programs, and the quality control and assessment of teaching.
A closer look into the handbook and program of the workshop in Shanghai presents some interesting insights into these training sessions and illustrates not only what China wants to show to the world, but also which practical issues CIs face. In a keynote speech by Zhao Qizheng, one of China’s most prominent public diplomacy voices, he spoke about “Cultural Obstacle Factors in CI Teaching” and the following symposium dealt with the question “How to enhance inter-cultural communication between China and foreign countries?”
Next to some expected topics such as “An Introduction to Confucian Classics” by Xu Jialu, the former Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and a lecture on the “Book of Changes – the Classics of Chinese Civilization,” Wu Xinbo from Fudan gave a presentation on “A New Outlook of China’s Diplomacy,” Zhang Weiwei explained “How to Understand Contemporary China,” and Zhou Zhen spoke about “History of China: Territory and Culture.”
This selection of topics is interesting for at least two reasons: first, those contemporary themes are normally not often debated in Confucius Institutes. Of course, there are more conservative institutes and there are more progressive ones that would touch upon controversial issues. But more often than not CIs don’t talk too much about topics that are considered “sensitive” by China and they focus more on topics that are – at least at first glance – more apolitical. Generally speaking there is nothing wrong with this focus, although one may argue that this approach does not really help to show and introduce the “real China” to the world.
Secondly, the selection of topics indicates that Hanban wants to present Beijing’s official point of view on certain topics to its foreign directors. When asked about what he was told in the session on Chinese territory and culture, one foreign director told me that the lecture of course noted that Taiwan and Tibet are part of China.
Confucius Institutes, Vancouver, Flickr
This is not a surprise, as this is the official Chinese narrative on these specific issues. And although this might be grist for CI critiques’ mills in the sense that CIs get their marching orders from Hanban to spread communist propaganda, this argument, in my understanding, ignores the very fact that it is one thing to tell foreign directors that Taiwan is a part of China, while it is another story to actually express this point of view. There are reports that this happens occasionally, but more often than not CIs try to stay away from those topics and do more apolitical stuff like paper cutting or tea ceremonies. Therefore, as I have pointed out elsewhere and as others have also argued, CIs are not a propaganda tool if we understand the term in its negative and sinister sense.
What all this illustrates, however, is the fact that CIs are not apolitical organizations as some CIs are claiming. Interestingly enough this claim is not so much made by Hanban or official Chinese voices, but more often by foreign host institutions, which apparently want to defend themselves against accusations of propaganda, indoctrination, and the likes. While this impetus is understandable, I would say denying the political dimension altogether seems somewhat ignorant or naïve.
As any other government that runs cultural institutions abroad, the Chinese government sets up and partially funds CIs not just for fun and idealistic purposes, but for practical reasons as well. These include promoting Chinese language and culture, but CIs should also promote a positive image of China (whether this works or not, is another story) and they should contribute to creating a Harmonious World, which is one of China’s current foreign policy slogans.
Confucius Institutes therefore do not exist in empty space but should be seen in the broader context of China’s foreign policy. Again, I would say CIs don’t do politics as such by celebrating the CCP; but claiming that politics do not play a role, also does not work.
The great imperialists of the 19th Century built railroads to solidify their control of vast expanses of land and incorporate their territory into modern industrial economies. And although the construction of railroads may seem archaic today, the government of China has demonstrated their continued relevance in both internal state building and external diplomacy.
The Economist recently highlighted the country’s vast high-speed rail projects including a new line, which “will incorporate into the network three provinces covering about 30% of China’s land area.” The new line connects Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang (China’s western most province and home to its Uighurs) with Lanzhou, capital of Gansu. There is little economic activity between these cities and the rugged land between them is mostly empty. Why, then, build a $24 billion railroad?
Sharon Hahn Darlin, Flickr, Suzhou Train Station, China
The answer is two-fold. Foremost, the line is symbolic and political. Xinjiang has seen the most political unrest of any part of China in the recent past. The construction of a major rail line underlines Chinese control of the territory and incorporates it further into the heartland. Moreover, the new line has led to a boom in development at stations along it, attracting ever more ethnic Han Chinese from the coastland and diminishing the Uighur majority there. Secondly, Xinjiang is rich in natural resources (especially coal) and a key transit corridor to Central Asia—from which China seeks to secure its future energy supply, along with other key natural resources. In his book The Revenge of Geography, Robert Kaplan writes, “China has a vision of Afghanistan (and of Pakistan) as a secure conduit for roads and energy pipelines that will bring natural resources from Indian Ocean ports, linking up with Beijing’s budding Central Asian dominion-of-sorts.” The construction of a high-speed railroad will free up existing line to be used exclusively for freight. Thus, this new high speed line—along with the conventional Qinghai-Tibet Railway (perhaps the great engineering feat of this century so far)—physically, politically, and economically links the periphery to the center.
Yet there is a second and equally important aspect to this story. Grand infrastructure projects have long been an avenue for states to project their power and wealth. The construction of 38,000 miles of rail in Russia from 1857-1904 solidified the empire’s “great power” status and enhanced its ability to project power across the glob. The laying of the transcontinental railroad in the United States did the same. For China, the extent of its high-speed rail is looked on with envy by the rest of the world (indeed, there are more miles of high-speed rail in China than in all of Europe).
China’s development of its western periphery will also have profound impacts on international political economy. Robert Kaplan also remarks that “as the United States moves to defeat al Qaeda and irreconcilable elements of the Taliban, it is China’s geopolitical position that will be enhanced. Military deployments are ephemeral: roads, rail links, and pipelines can be virtually forever.”
While public diplomacy is most often used when tackling international affairs and politics, your Thanksgiving dinner table, Hannukah celebration, or Christmas tree lighting, might feel like an international crisis…
World Bank, Flickr
These 8 Public Diplomacy Rules for Surviving the Holiday Season should help!
1. You are sick and tired of hearing the same story from your grandpa every year? LISTEN to your family and friends, they just want to share with you what they think is best! Let everyone have a say. You might not agree with everything or anything, but let them have at it.
2. Fighting with your mother because she says you are cooking every dish the wrong way? RESPECT differing points of view. While they may be WRONG or drive you insane, they are entitled to them. So, show a little respect, it could go a long way.
3. Need to negotiate your way out of an uncomfortable situation? FIND COMMON GROUND. While you might not have much in common, you MUST be able to find something you share. Whether it’s a memory, or a place, anything to demonstrate commonality.
4. Experiencing awkward silence because...? EXPAND on shared interests, try to find things to discuss that are directly related to the point you both have in common.
5. Want to help cool down the tension? Use SMART POWER. Figure out what incentives (the first piece of pie, or the honor of carving the turkey) will motivate certain family members to behave in a way that is conducive to a pleasant dinner.
6. Arguing with your father-in-law because you’re not singing that holiday song ‘the right way’? EXCHANGE traditions. If you are hosting a meal, you might want it to go a certain way, but open up to your guests’ traditions. Ask your guests to each share a tradition they have so that everyone feels welcome, and everyone is participating in a positive manner.
7. ObamaCare, Global Warming, Abortion Rights, the Middle East...politics, religion…Stay away from STICKY SUBJECTS. If you know that your guests have divergent view-points, steer conversations away from those topics. If one arises, kindly say to all of your guests that while you are open to having discussions of all shapes and sizes, that for the sake of comfort for all the guests, you’d like to stay away from that subject.
8. Don’t like that dry, bland turkey or cranberry sauce out of a can and want to be polite about it? Be TRUTHFUL and TRANSPARENT. Let the cook know that while turkey is not your favorite, you love their pumpkin pie! And don’t forget to share with your guests what they can expect out of the holiday at your home. If you are a guest, ask questions and offer help to your host. Whether host or guest, don’t put up a facade for the holidays, be yourself, be thankful, and have fun.
Congratulations are in order for CPD as Jay Wang took the helm this fall and began engaging with the public diplomacy community as the new CPD director. As often happens with such beginnings, the focus intuitively turns to the future. I would like to suggest a counter-intuitive move and challenge public diplomacy scholars around the world to explore the contributions of ancient heritages to the practice of public diplomacy.
My suspicion is that contrary to the prevailing view of public diplomacy as the “new diplomacy,” public diplomacy is actually as old, if not older than traditional diplomacy. This is my hunch.
My prediction is that pooling observations from the ancient world will offer creative insights for communicating with culturally diverse publics in the global political arena in the digital era.
The Public Origins of Diplomacy
The study of diplomacy and more recently public diplomacy have been cast in a relatively contemporary Western context. European diplomatic scholars frequently cite the embassies established in early Renaissance Italy as the origin of modern diplomacy. British philosopher Edmund Burke is cited with the first English language use of the word “diplomacy” in 1796. Former U.S. diplomat and scholar, Edmund Gullion is credited with coining the term “public diplomacy” in 1965.
Looking at public diplomacy through this lens or timeframe suggests that public diplomacy is a comparatively new phenomenon, or the “new diplomacy.”
This lens also establishes private communication between sovereign political entities as the diplomatic norm. The emphasis on private has prompted some traditional diplomats to suggest that “public diplomacy,” is an oxymoron. How can diplomacy be diplomacy if it is public?
Not only is diplomacy private, rather than public, it is written rather that oral. Diplomatic scholarship focuses heavily on written documents and correspondence. In On the Way to Diplomacy, Costas Constantinou traces the origins of the word “diplomacy” to “diploma” and the study of the handwritten official documents. In the late 1700s, focus shifted from the form of the document to the political content of the documents and then to the study of statecraft and external affairs.
Not surprisingly scholars focused on the written documents in their studies of diplomacy of the ancient world. In Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations, Raymond Cohen challenges prevailing diplomatic scholarship when he exposed the Amarna Letters from ancient Egypt. The Letters were novel in revealing that “Greece was not the birthplace of diplomacy,” as Cohen noted, “but the heir of a very ancient heritage already more than 2000 years old by the time of Alexander the Great.” Cohen’s observations suggest a wealth of diplomatic activity in the ancient world, even before ancient Greece.
Diplomacy as Public
The focus on private, written forms of communication may have obscured the ever-present public forms of diplomatic communication. Diplomacy has been called the world’s second oldest profession. It likely preceded the development of written forms of language, as well as the parchment to write on.
Additionally, given the oral traditions and political systems of early civilizations, it is more likely that diplomacy was oral communication conducted in a public arena. Royal courts were a prominent feature in many civilizations, such as the imperial court of Byzantium depicted below.
Flickr, Creative Commons
A second look at the diplomatic literature through a lens that highlights public forms and forums of diplomacy can be revealing. Ancient architecture, for example, features open expansive public spaces for people to gather. The agora in ancient Greece provided a forum for political debates. The ancient Mayan civilization of Mesoamerica featured the plaza for the public to assemble and discuss political issues.
Diplomatic scholars Hamilton and Langhorne in their classic, The Practice of Diplomacy, described the diplomacy in ancient Greece as “surprisingly” open and public. Envoys in ancient Greece required polished public speaking skills to contend in the agora.
Other ancient civilizations shared the open forums that demanded oral skills. Vietnamese diplomat Van Dihn Tran shared the gift for wit and word of Vietnamese diplomats who participated in the word challenges in ancient China. In pre-Islamic Arabia, the poets of warring tribes battled with their gift of language in the public market place. The kingdoms in West Africa had girot and jedi who kept an oral history of the leader and his lineage through music and song.
Ancient civilizations also demonstrated and sought to preserve formal diplomatic communication in public forms. Hence the ancient public inscriptions, monuments, and gifts that remain to this day. Diplomatic scholars credit their knowledge about diplomacy during the Roman Empire from the standard practice of recording imperial diplomatic exchanges in stone inscriptions and placing them in public settings.
Globalizing the PD Field
If traditional diplomacy is really the new diplomacy, and public diplomacy is the old – really, really old diplomacy – this is new. And, deserves more research.
One often hears the criticism that public diplomacy is U.S. centric. This criticism has helped spawn comparative PD studies such as that by CPD fellow Craig Hayden and James Pamment . Such comparative studies are immensely important to developing and defining public diplomacy as an emerging field.
Yet, in much the same way the European experience established the assumption that diplomacy is private and written, public diplomacy developed from the U.S. experience may carry with it buried assumptions as well. Such assumptions may be implicit, but they set norms or expectations for what effective PD should look like – rather than foster an expansive vision of what PD can be.
Exploring public diplomacy’s ancient roots opens up new vistas of research that can help de-Americanize the PD field. Such research will give recognition to the valuable contributions of other heritages from around the world.
My hunch is the PD field will be richer and all stand to gain in learning from the insights in how to conduct diplomacy in the global, culturally diverse public sphere. And that relates to my second hunch. I suspect that the communication dynamics of the digital public sphere may have more in common with public diplomacy in the ancient world than contemporary traditional diplomacy in the modern era. Exploring that hunch is for a future Culture Post.
john brown on November 27, 2013 @ 6:01 am "With the increasing complexity of the commercial and political relations between the several [Greek] city states it became necessary to raise the standard of ... rudimentary diplomatic service.
The Greek city states from the sixth century onwards adopted the practice choosing as their Ambassadors the finest orators, most plausible forensic advocates, that the community could produce. The task of these envoys was to plead the cause of their city before the popular assemblies of foreign leagues or cities. They were not expected to acquire information or to write any reports on their return; all that was expected of them was that they should make a magnificent speech."
Sir Harold Nicolson, Diplomacy (Washington DC: Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, 1988), pp. 7-8
RS Zaharna on November 27, 2013 @ 10:56 am Thank you, Prof. Brown -- excellent example of the public dimension of diplomacy in the ancient world! Thank you for the citation and example.
SEOUL --- At a conference here sponsored by the Korea Foundation, several dozen scholars and practitioners grappled with questions related to Korea’s global and regional diplomatic posture. My own suggestions as a conference participant centered on two questions:
• How does public diplomacy relate to the strategic interests of Korea as a leader in East Asia and more specifically as a counterweight to Chinese influence?
• In what ways might new media be used to enhance Korea’s development of innovative public diplomacy programs?
Numerous governments and citizens throughout the world would like to see an effective counterbalance to China in East Asia. Korea, with its commitment to democracy, sophisticated economy, and long-established ties to the United States and other Western countries, is in a strong position to play this role, if it chooses to do so.
Shin Jung-Seung, director of the research center for Chinese Studies in South Korea National Diplomatic Academy, Han Chung-hee, director-general of Cultural Affairs Bureau in South Korea Foreign Ministry, and Tian Qi, deputy director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Information Department, attend the Sino-South Korea forum on public diplomacy.
Korea is already recognized as a leading exponent of soft power; its traditional culture and exportable technologies are widely recognized and admired, and even its “culinary diplomacy” is much appreciated in many places. The lifestyle of the Korean public is also respected, with benefits of new technologies and personal freedom providing the foundation on which prosperity is built.
In considering these attributes, which happen to be the ones that underscore the differences between Korea and China, I recommend emphasizing those that will have the most appeal to targeted audiences and will do the most to advance the national interests of the Republic of Korea.
This point about national interests is important. I advocate a harder-edged public diplomacy in which being “liked “is secondary to reaching goals grounded in global and regional realpolitik.
Some countries – the United States among them – have found alluring the concept of “soft power” and its emphasis on a state being “attractive” to foreign publics. But attraction is often transient and does little to secure broad and lasting support from those foreign publics. As a cornerstone of a state’s public diplomacy, being admired for being resolute and standing for something will likely be more valuable than the mere gestures that too often pass for substantive policy.
Particularly when facing China, which is committed to using public diplomacy as part of its larger foreign policy, this realism is essential. China finds its own efforts to rely on soft power and employ public diplomacy weakened by widespread suspicion of its motives. This suspicion is strengthened by the recognition that the Chinese public is denied certain basic freedoms.
China might argue that such suspicion is misplaced, and make the case that its citizens have benefitted greatly from the country’s economic advances. Also, China can claim to have restored balance to the global power structure, limiting the hegemonic inclinations of the United States. China nurtures the concept of an “Asian century,” which has appeal within the region. These factors, the Chinese might contend, give validity to China as the principal Asian exponent of soft power.
Nonetheless, an opportunity exists for another East Asian state to assume a role that encompasses regional leadership and global presence. Korea must decide what it wants: does it want to follow China’s lead in the new alignment of power in Asia, or does it want to assert itself as a competitor – note: not an adversary – of China?
If the latter, Korea should do more to establish itself in this position, in part by designing some of its public diplomacy programs to explicitly emphasize its leadership capabilities and contrast its attributes with those of China.
Part of this positioning would be accomplished by carefully planned use of social media. In this field, Korea has a great advantage over China and other countries with restrictive governments: social media use, including choice of venues, is intrinsically linked to the kinds of freedom that the Korean people enjoy and the Chinese public does not.
Korea already has considerable amounts of highly visible product on YouTube and other new media venues, but quantity means little unless there is a strategy behind it. To begin, Korea might contrast its openness with the restrictive regimes elsewhere in East Asia.
For example, a “KOREA=FREEDOM” rubric could help further shape global publics’ perceptions of Korea, its people, its politics, and its place in the world. Cultural freedom, as exemplified by Hallyu (Korean wave music), political freedom, and individual citizens’ participation in the social media campaign would be emphasized. Freedom is a public diplomacy tool that is underused and could be employed more explicitly.
These are just starting points for consideration. All these matters must be refined through careful planning. Most important: Korea must decide if it wants to avail itself of its opportunities to become even more of a regional and global leader in public diplomacy.
**UPDATE: On November 27, the BIE announced that the United Arab Emirates has been elected as the host country of the World Expo 2020**
WORLD EXPO 2020
Four cities are currently in the running to host the 2020 World Expo: Dubai, UAE; Ekaterinburg, Russia; Izmir, Turkey; and Sao Paulo, Brazil. On November 27, the Bureau International des Expositions will have a meeting of its general assembly to determine the winner.
Each city came up with their own proposed theme and objectives for the Expo; read on to find out more.
If chosen, Dubai 2020 would be the first World Expo to take place in the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia) region. With a proposed theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” planners envision an opportunity for participants to share ideas and technologies on three subthemes: sustainability, mobility, and opportunity.
The goal is to facilitate global connection and collectivity:
By connecting people, which lies at the heart of the UAE’s vision as a cosmopolitan nation, greater cooperation and understanding between peoples and cultures can be fostered. By connecting minds, our common aspirations are celebrated and together we can work to create a brighter future.
Ekaterinburg is Russia’s fourth largest city, located roughly 1000 miles east of Moscow. The city lies on the border of Europe and Asia, and serves as a major transport hub between the two continents. If chosen, Ekaterinburg’s will be the second largest site in World Expo history, after Shanghai 2010.
The city’s proposed theme is “The Global Mind”:
[This theme] will survey world opinion through seven universal questions with the goal of communicating the values, hopes, dreams and aspirations of people from every culture and nation across the world in a single discussion…The concept will be to take the theme of urban sustainability, which has been at the heart of recent Expos, and bring it to the global stage.
Izmir lies in the Aegean region of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, at the border of Asia and Europe. The proposed theme, “New Routes to a Better World/ Health for All,” reflects the region’s historical interest in healthcare, dating back to ancient times. Izmir 2020 would incorporate “scientific, social, and ecological approaches” to public health and quality of life issues. Expo planners explain that their objective is “to provide a meeting place for all mankind in harmony with all regions and cultures, and help to establish the basis for a better and healthier world.”
SAO PAULO, BRAZIL
Sao Paulo is the ninth most populous city in the world. Home to a diverse population of more than 70 ethnic and religious communities, the city’s bid to host Expo 2020 is an attempt to “consolidate its leadership role in the internationalization of the Brazilian economy and to become a continental crossroad for people and trade,” according to planners.
Sao Paulo’s proposed theme is “Power of Diversity, Harmony for Growth,” envisioned as a showcase for participating countries and cities to share their most innovative policies, programs, and technologies, with a focus on environmental sustainability. With an eye toward “the future of a world without borders,” planners for Sao Paulo 2020 hope to create an “historic educational, cultural and political legacy to benefit the international community.”
Since 2004, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has funded HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment programs credited with extending the lives of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, which has received the majority of PEPFAR funding, reaching more than $500 million annually. In a place where a positive diagnosis of HIV/AIDS used to be a death sentence, America brought hope for longer lives.
That’s why the Obama administration’s decision to cut South Africa’s PEPFAR budget in half by 2017 and transfer responsibility for its HIV program to South Africa has raised concerns among citizens worried that their country might not be able to sustain current levels of HIV/AIDS treatment without U.S. aid. In fact, as the New England Journal of Medicine recently reported, the impact of the cuts are already being felt, with the closure of specialized treatment centers created by PEPFAR, leaving patients to rely on government-run, community-based health care. Both the extent of future changes and the long-term implications of such changes on the health of South Africans are uncertain. A key issue is whether South Africa is adequately prepared to manage the prevention, testing, counseling, and treatment aspects of the program. Although past policies of South African leaders showed a profound lack of seriousness about the epidemic, recent changes both in government leadership and approach are far more promising.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and South African Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane sign the PEPFAR Partnership Framework Agreement
The long-term diplomatic implications of pulling back on an initiative that has contributed to overwhelmingly favorable attitudes toward the United States among the South African people are also unknown. But, if early public response is any indication, a program widely cited as one of America’s most successful diplomatic initiatives of the past decade may be at risk of losing the affection of those it was intended to support.
In April of 2008, I was driving north from Pretoria, going deeper into rural stretches and passing grasslands burnt by the African sun after having visited the largest HIV/AIDS dedicated hospital in the Southern Hemisphere. I had come to South Africa to report on the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. At the hospital, I saw grannies clutching babies and holding hands with little boys and girls whose mothers had been taken by a grotesque virus that had swarmed over and seized this arid land, making all seem defenseless. It felt like a world in a bubble, abandoned, even though I was in a U.S. State Department van, accompanied by a P.I.O. from USAID, and being guided to see how U.S. dollars were supporting orphanages for HIV/AIDS-infected children.
Images of the poor and struggling Africans stayed with me. That sense of a renegade virus that covered a land like a fog that had rolled in and remained. But on the plane back to the States, when I had some distance and perspective, I recognized that the immense and collective human effort that was being made by so many, from so many walks of life, to fight HIV/AIDS in South Africa was making a difference and a feeling of good will warmed me. This was a war. And I was proud to be contributing a small amount as a journalist, and actually quite proud as an American, that our country had come to war again, but this time against sickness and the nightmare of this epidemic. I returned home inspired by the many people I had met and interviewed and their determined battle on behalf of thousands of stricken South Africans.
This was the story I told in a documentary called “Lessons from South Africa” – a story of hope and progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. A story of how doctors and hospitals and U.S. aid workers and NGOs and foundations and public health experts and media and film makers and corporations came together to solve one of the world’s most urgent health problems.
The PEPFAR experience in South Africa shows the tremendous impact of U.S. sponsored aid on the health and wellbeing of the South Africa people. It also illustrates the effectiveness of collaborative public diplomacy that perceives global society as a network of interdependent communities with shared interests and common concerns. In this respect, the South African HIV/AIDS initiative provides a good laboratory for understanding how collaborative public diplomacy works and how it might work effectively in other parts of the world.
At the same time, the decision to roll back PEPFAR funding in South Africa raises questions about the long-term impact of public diplomacy efforts perceived to be short-changed by targeted publics. Questions about America’s credibility. Questions about America’s commitment to the South African people. Questions about responsibility. Questions about trust.
Although the United States government considers South Africa to be a strategic partner on the continent, the relationship is still evolving. Recent dialogues on such issues as law enforcement, trade, transportation, human rights, agriculture, energy and defense, as well as health, show signs of progress in strengthening official relations. However, if the work on HIV/AIDS is perceived to be left undone, the disappointment of South Africa’s people may well be felt in other areas.
Allan Richards and Kathy Fitzpatrick are associate deans in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University. Richards’ documentary “Lessons from South Africa” is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVYx0B8soMg. This work is part of an ongoing investigation of the campaign against HIV/AIDS in South Africa with the aim of better understanding the communication dimensions that contributed to the success of this collaborative public diplomacy initiative.
For all the growing interest in public diplomacy, the field still suffers from a lack of specificity in use of the term. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it is a source of confusion. A look at the CPD blog demonstrates the wonderful breadth of issues that fall under the rubric of public diplomacy. A survey of peer-reviewed literature from the last five decades yields more than 600 articles employing the term – each with its own understanding of public diplomacy. And the “public diplomacy” Google alert that appears regularly in my email inbox presents an even more dizzying array of the term’s applications. It’s all very stimulating.
But here’s the rub: government practitioners engage in public diplomacy efforts at posts abroad; non-government organizations and others engage in public diplomacy with citizens from all walks of life all over the world; and academics study public diplomacy when and where they can, given issues of access and the sometimes very deep chasm between abstract understandings of the term and real world applications thereof.
These are all valid, important, and fruitful endeavors. Such vibrancy contributes excitement to this period that Bruce Gregory described in 2008 as the “Sunrise of an Academic Field.” But such variations can lead to compartmentalization, resulting in divisions among people who are all passionate about the same thing, but who use different language to discuss it and who study and practice it in different contexts. It raises the very real question of whether all involved in PD endeavors are sharing insights with one another in a way that is useful for everyone who might be interested.
One way to address this question is to promote conversations that cross over the boundaries we have inadvertently constructed. What happens when an academic with an interest in public diplomacy interviews a practitioner? Or a policy expert? Or a senior statesman? Or other academics? That’s what I want to know, and that’s the motivation for a podcast series I’ve launched titled Passport PD. The goal is to straddle academia, non-government efforts, and the policy world in the interest of promoting a broader understanding of public diplomacy in all its manifestations.
The first episode of Passport PD features an interview with Congressman Lee Hamilton, longtime U.S. representative from Indiana, former president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission. In the course of our conversation, Mr. Hamilton considers the role of public diplomacy as part of a broader foreign policy strategy for the United States. He suggests that responsibility for public diplomacy might properly belong with the National Security Council, rather than the Department of State.
His recommendation acknowledges that in the current policy environment, public diplomacy does not always get the priority it deserves. While Hamilton speaks highly of the work of American diplomats and others tasked with implementing public diplomacy efforts, he expresses concern about both bureaucratic dynamics at State and the need for high-level interest from the White House in order to ensure that PD gets sustained attention and resources.
I’m delighted to launch the podcast with such a thought-provoking interview, and I welcome your feedback on it and others to come. I’ll post a new episode of Passport PD every few weeks and I’d be pleased to hear suggestions for future interviews. This is an exciting time for consideration of public diplomacy in all its manifestations, and I hope this podcast will make a positive contribution to the continuing discussion.
She lives in post-war Uganda and used her skills to create the necklace she’s wearing from recycled paper, a traditional jewelry art form in her country. The income she earns enables her to go to school for the first time at 27 years old, along with her children. As one of the designers of the 31 Bits team, she is reaching her once out-of-reach dreams.
I just purchased that necklace Jackie is wearing. I’m also 27 years old and value my education, but I live in the United States and have never been to Uganda. Yet I know Jackie and I play a small part in her success every time I wear the necklace she made. We are connected and mutually empowered through the exchange of fashion.
This Jackie you may already know. Like Jackie in Uganda, she also used fashion as a tool of public diplomacy. Through the power of her appearance as First Lady she communicated a positive image of the United States to the world, particularly on her Goodwill Tour to India and Pakistan in 1962. As a woman she used the value of a visual image in a way that increased U.S. soft power like no man ever could.
Initially admired for her superb fashion sense, she maintained her platform as a representative of U.S. foreign policy indirectly through attraction. The legacy of her husband’s foreign policy of graciousness, flexibility, and diplomacy lived on in her unwavering image. Her timeless style is still widely admired today and she is often cited as the standard for classic fashion. She proved that women can have both style and substance.
The very streets that Jackie Kennedy walked in India 50 years ago are some of the same streets young women are being rescued from human trafficking today. These women are given the tools they need to succeed by organizations like International Sanctuary that provide education, counseling, and vocational training through the ethical and sustainable production of fashion. Women are mutually empowered and connected across the world through transnational networks that include governments, NGOs, corporations, and media.
Appearance is powerful and fashion cannot be ignored in international relations and public diplomacy, as it is a tool of communication. Fashion is a cultural and economic force that can be used to transform a society. Furthermore, the economic empowerment of women is crucial for the success of local and global economies. Studies show that when women are empowered, society as a whole benefits.
Often, those of us who study public diplomacy forget about the hard work put forth daily by thousands of U.S. volunteers working as citizen diplomats. The activities of organizations such as Sister Cities International and the National Council for International Visitors not to mention the Fulbright Scholar Exchanges, are great examples of citizen diplomacy in action across America every day.
Many of these person-to-person programs are funded and coordinated by the U.S. State Department; however, non-governmental organizations also contribute to citizen diplomacy efforts. Dependent mostly on volunteers, citizen diplomacy organizations host international visitors in specialized cultural and professional programs in U.S. cities from Toledo to Tempe. Lifelong friendships, business, and educational partnerships are forged through the work of Sister Cities International via hundreds of local chapters. Professionals from myriad countries and industries around the world are hosted by internationally-minded Americans through the work of the National Council for International Visitors. Often overlooked are the hundreds of Fulbright Scholars in residence on campuses across America every academic year.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma a local non-profit called Tulsa Global Alliance does most of the heavy lifting for citizen diplomacy efforts as it assists the State Department with Sister Cities International and the National Council for International Visitors programs, among others, to implement citizen diplomacy programs at the local level.
Such citizen diplomacy activities are considered the “gold standard” in what Golan calls “relational public diplomacy.” While person-to-person exchanges and individual interactions with people of other countries can be expensive and limited in reach, they also can be enormously effective and long-lasting. Take, for example, one case – my case – in Oklahoma. During this semester, I’ve had the pleasure of attending an International Sister Cities conference in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, hosting three Chinese journalists in my home who were recipients of the State Department’s Edward R. Murrow Program, and helping to organize a four-day workshop in Oklahoma for 75 visiting Fulbright Scholars to learn about the American West. These on-the-ground examples of citizen diplomacy were enormously rewarding for me personally, but also contributed to a larger goal of public diplomacy: “informing and influencing audiences overseas,” one compelling conversation at a time.
American psychologist Gordon Allport proposed the Contact Hypothesis (also known as the Intergroup Contact Theory) in 1954 . Allport posited that interpersonal contact was one of the most effective tools to reduce prejudice and improve understanding between majority and minority groups in the United States. Research testing Allport’s theory consistently has shown that face-to-face contact reduces stereotypes, eliminates discrimination, and mitigates conflict between members of different groups.
Based on my experience with formalized citizen diplomacy activities, such as the ones mentioned above, as well as informal dealings with international students on campus or casual meetings with locals while traveling abroad, I think Allport’s Contact Theory applies to international relations and public diplomacy. There may be no better way to break down stereotypes and shape positive attitudes toward the U.S. among citizens of other countries than to have personal contact with them, whether during a conference, at a ballgame, or while enjoying a meal. Through intergroup contact, citizen diplomacy can strengthen our global relationships and enhance understanding of our neighbors around the world. Perhaps this was President Eisenhower’s vision when he founded Sister Cities International in 1956 to “promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.” Including Oklahoma.
BRUSSELS - European Commission President José Manuel Barroso was right. Had the European Union instead of the United States fallen into partial government shutdown, the world would not have hesitated to use this as an opportunity to berate Europe and its influence as a global leader.
The trade in caricatures about the EU is a favourite past time. World leaders stand ready to offer free advice to European governments and institutions that they see as having no capacity to lead.
Chinese pundits boast publicly that Beijing has a system of selecting rather than electing capable leaders that is far superior to Western democracy. Even the likes of President Cristina Kirchner from Argentina have joined the ranks of those offering lessons in leadership.
More than ever, the time is ripe for Europe to take its external image more seriously. This can be done through a greater emphasis on public diplomacy and a more positive leadership style in Europe.
Damage to Europe’s reputation in other parts of the world goes beyond critical images of European leaders with no capacity to lead, and over-burdened bureaucracies suffering from in-group stereotypes. Emerging powers are starting to challenge Europe in areas of its traditional soft power, where the EU is still going strong.
The ultramodern African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, funded and built by China, gives a powerful diplomatic signal about a changing world. Russia’s role in talking down the US over Syria is another example. Europeans realize that Brazilians, Indonesians, Indians and others often know too little about what the EU is all about, but they erroneously think this is merely about a lack of information.
They should worry more that ‘Europe’ is still largely lecturing previous colonies rather than listening to them as rising powers with their eyes set on the future.
No week goes by without European think tanks debating the impact of the ‘rise of the rest’, but this has not translated into an understanding on the part of governments that there is an urgent job to be done when it comes to Europe’s public diplomacy.
While the world tries to make sense of Europe’s struggles during times of crisis, 90 percent of the EU communication budget is still being spent on outreach to the EU’s own 28 member states. There are good reasons to ‘sell’ Europe at home, but are the overall priorities right?
Worse than foreign misperception, though, is how Europeans judge themselves.
Self-defeating and Myopic
There is a strong tendency for political leaders to be too critical of what they are trying to achieve through European integration. They publically create a prevailing image of self-doubt. People in other parts of the world with different political systems are often perplexed by such self-deprecation. They are not used to this kind of self-defeating, myopic leadership style.
When faced with a crisis – such as disagreement over Iraq in 2003, the failure of the Constitutional Treaty in 2005, or more recently, the Eurozone crisis – European leaders often project a lack of resilience and self-confidence.
The European Parliament, Flickr, Creative Commons
Sometimes circumstances are exceptional. But European leaders need to understand the importance of perception, especially during crises. If this is not understood not only does the EU’s image suffer, but also the reputation of its component parts. States, regions, and cities may see their global business interests harmed.
One irony of the EU’s early 21st century predicament is that the international peace associated with integration - Europe’s greatest source of soft power - is losing its previous appeal, even while political leaders around the world discretely admire it.
The economic crisis has complicated matters by spawning a cultural rivalry between leading EU members Germany, Britain, France. ‘Beggar thy neighbour’ economic competition between the states of Europe is undermining more enlightened practices of communication with foreign publics in favour of more simplistic promotional practices meant to target trade and investment.
Rightly or wrongly, this even creates an impression that Europe lacks progress when it comes to its communication with the rest of the world.
Not Everything is Bleak
Not everything is bleak. Europe can still pull itself together. With its highly-active populations, assertive regions, diverse member states, activist town halls, and attractive cities, Europe remains a mosaic of collective projection capacity without equal in the world.
Future public diplomacy should build on Europe’s evident strengths at the sub-national level, closer to civil society. European policy-makers must also wake up to the fact that maintaining the traditional separation of domestic and external communication spheres is completely out of touch with the reality of vast information flows that simply ignore borders.
Recurring criticism of EU foreign policy chief Lady Ashton has compounded difficulties for Europe’s diplomatic service to fight Europe’s negative image in the world. It is time to start trusting EU diplomats to develop new public diplomacy traditions that are also in the interests of states.
The EU External Action Service could be instrumental in moving away from the EU’s greatest shortcoming in public diplomacy: its tendency towards talking at others. Beyond such one-way ‘infopolitik’, internal image and external image are of course related.
When others start talking about Europe in a more positive light, Europeans themselves may even start believing that there is some truth to what they say.
Jan Melissen is a Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute and a Professor of Diplomacy at the University of Antwerp.
Before joining the Clingendael Institute, he was Director of the Centre for the Study of Diplomacy at the University of Leicester (UK). At Clingendael he held various management positions (2001-12). He taught at the College of Europe (Belgium) and has been a visiting scholar at China’s Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. Jan Melissen has done research and advisory work on diplomacy for various governments and he lectured in many countries in North America, the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. He is founding co-editor of The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, editor of the Diplomatic Studies book series with Martinus Nijhoff, and he is on the editorial board of various international journals. His current projects are on trends and innovation in diplomatic practice, foreign policy strategy and public diplomacy. He graduated in Politics and International Relations at the University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands) in 1988, and in 1993 he was awarded a PhD in Law from Groningen University (the Netherlands).
In October, I had the opportunity to take part in a unique project; creating a music video for a social action campaign. The project emerged from several conversations with fellow Annenberg graduate student Rotana Tarabzouni, a woman born and raised in Dhahran (an eastern city in Saudi Arabia). As a Saudi woman, Rotana grew up under a system that imposes restrictions on her individual agency. One of these restrictions is the ability to travel independently within her country, an absurd injunction when examined in a global context; Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.
The restriction does not have any basis in Islamic or state law and exists only in the form of edicts pronounced by senior government clerics and the norms that govern Saudi society. In recent years, activists protesting the ban have targeted the population’s normative behavior by challenging the status quo through symbolic protests. This has largely taken the form of individual Saudi women defying the driving ban and perhaps most importantly, drawing international attention to the issue by posting photos and videos of their exploits online. Protests are typically scheduled by a small community of activists and managed through various webpages and online forums. A group protest was scheduled for Oct. 26 and after a brief conversation with Rotana, we decided to produce a music video to support the activists fighting for the enfranchisement of women in Saudi Arabia.
From the beginning I knew that we would need help and that help came from Reagan Cook, a colleague in the Masters of Public Diplomacy program. Reagan and I had previously collaborated on visual media projects and we saw this as an opportunity to work within the relatively ill-defined space of grass roots advocacy and construct a strategic communications campaign that would punch above its weight by taking advantage of neglected resources.
Rotana laid out our group’s goal: create a message that would inspire and set an example for young Saudi women - the next wave of potential activists. With this in mind, we began to construct what would become the core tenets of success for the video:
1. Visual representation: In order to be successful, the video would need to express the inner aspirations of our target audience in a meaningful way. We wanted the audience to see Rotana as both an aspirational symbol (a Saudi woman pursuing her dream) and as a part of themselves.
2. Message association: The song Rotana chose to perform was ‘Team’ by Lorde and associated our project with an increasingly popular piece of music. Our message was designed to piggyback on that popularity and turn Lorde’s success into our success. Additionally, the age of Lorde’s fans (mostly younger women) made this cover an ideal choice given our target audience.
3. Message structure (Lyrics): The song’s simple and repetitive nature created a robust message, allowing communication to cross cultural boundaries. Because English is a second (or third) language within our target audience, simple lyrics were deemed more effective than complex ones. Additionally, Rotana restructured the lyrics to make them uniquely complementary to the cause. This added layers of meaning within the song and allowed our audience to “own” the message.
Dancin' around the lies we tell
Dancin' around big eyes as well
Even the comatose they don’t dance and tell
And everyone’s competing for a love they won't receive
'Cause what this palace wants is release
Dancin' around, our rights we yell
Dancin' around, our rights we yell
Even the comatose they'll hear the rights we yell
And everyone's competing for the rights we will receive
'Cause what this palace wants is release
4. Authenticity of performance: Generally, an amateur performance would be a weakness, yet in the context of the campaign, this weakness became a strength. Rotana’s performance commanded the attention of her viewers because the performance itself was inextricably amateur and aspirational.
5. Quality: A significant and perhaps underappreciated aspect of the message was the aesthetic beauty and quality of the video itself. Perhaps most importantly were the tools we used; the advantages of filming with a professional-tier HD camera cannot be overstated; high quality finished products directly translates to high quality distribution channels.
On Monday, October 21, 2013, we launched the video on YouTube and in two weeks we had received more than 100,000 views and over 300 comments. The video continues to grow at about 1,000 views per day and is currently the highest rated cover of ‘Team’ on YouTube (the second highest has 27,000 views). This is an impressive feat considering our original goal was to hit 10,000-15,000 views.
In addition to pushing the video through our personal networks, my team spent two days conducting a public relations campaign. We reached out individually to selected journalists, networks, and bloggers dedicated to women’s rights and crafted succinct and direct messages for the campaign. Our small PR investment had huge dividends, the video was first featured by several Saudi bloggers who we had reached out to directly before being picked up by the news aggregation website Buzzfeed which labeled the video, “The theme song of the protest.” Rotana was then interviewed by Mashable and from there the story seemed to spread to every source we had contacted. We were picked up by Upworthy, The Huffington Post and Bloomberg Radio news. Additionally, in a broadcast about the protests the music was briefly sampled by NPR.
PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IMPLICATIONS
Despite the United States' commitment to human rights in general and the enfranchisement of women in particular, this form of public diplomacy could never have been produced or distributed by the State Department. Such a campaign could obviously damage formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. It is also likely that a large investment of resources into this type of advocacy campaign (as well as the significant regulations that come with investment) would constrict and hinder the project. The success of this video and others like it demonstrates two acute advantages that small groups have over large institutions: nimbleness and agency. Small, individual groups are not bound by government regulations or organizational restrictions and are therefore capable of operating outside the boundaries of traditional public diplomacy actors.
Within public diplomacy, the limitations of advocacy for traditional actors and initiatives have been well defined. Large scale strategic communications campaigns undertaken by states and corporations are easily identified, analyzed, and evaluated. However, the non-state and non-institutionalized actors within advocacy work operate in relatively murky and amorphous spaces. By defining the strategy, networks and operations that my team utilized, we hope to provide a formula for campaigns on the non-traditional end of the advocacy spectrum. Furthermore, because our final product is globally accessible, we have provided a concrete example for future advocacy entrepreneurs who wish to operate within this space. It is my contention that due to changes in the structures of communication systems, small teams working around issue-based advocacy campaigns no longer face the hardship of limited exposure that hamstrung their efficacy in the pre-social media era. Citizen public diplomats unchained from governments or institutions are now only limited by their own creativity, resources, and time when conducting an advocacy campaign.
Gabriel Bernadett-Shapiro is currently a graduate student pursuing a Master's degree in Public Diplomacy from USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. His main research interest is the application of networking and organizational technology to reduce violence within cities. Prior to studying at USC, Gabriel attended Occidental College where he received a B.A. in Diplomacy and World Affairs.
It is always heartening to hear discussion of historical artifacts not strictly as museum pieces but as instruments that can transmit other cultural messages and interpretations of identity. The Cyrus Cylinder is an example of ancient cultural heritage that resonates with new meanings today. Inspired by the blogs by Jay Wang and Naomi Leight my interest was sparked on this subject.
As an art historian and museum professional who writes on the role of artifacts and their exhibitions as conveyors of messages, whether they be propagandist or otherwise, this subject is remarkably absent from studies of the history of propaganda and its dissemination through international exhibitions. Specifically, an art historical and museological approach that takes into account the history of the display of collections in the name of national prestige or, in this case, ideological branding is lacking. Fortunately, the field of museum studies is extremely holistic and trans-disciplinary. However, studying exhibitions can be a process fraught with pitfalls. The problem with “reading” exhibitions in general is that they may not say what their makers intended. Or, the intentions may be intellectually weak.
Flickr, Gary Stevens
Museum consultant Elaine Heumann Gurian frames a method for seeing the exhibition as a unified whole that takes into account the motives of the producer, the contents of the artifacts on display, and the viewer:
"In analyzing exhibitions, the roles played in the creation process by the producer of the exhibition, the content, and the audience need to be considered. An exhibition is a cultural artifact that articulates a producer’s visions, biases, and concerns. It also allows the contemplation of the exhibition content. In addition to the producer and the content, a silent participant—the audience— influences the creation of the exhibition."
Further, the effort to make objects speak from the grave can frustrate what art historian Thomas Crow would call the “intelligibility” of the event. And an attempt to make simple connections between an artifact and meaning can deny the particular essence of the artifact. A potential rationale subscribed to by many art historians is to teach the reader/observer to see beyond the tendency to isomorphize the historical phenomena—of simplifying the object’s meaning by equating it with the artist or specific historical causes.
Thus, a multifaceted reading of its significance can in the end make this artifact more intelligible, as an instance of branding, as a historical statement, and so forth. In our attempt to understand the socio-political history surrounding the Cyrus Cylinder students and practitioners of diplomatic history should not shy from examples of cultural heritage that can indeed instruct and shed light on a historical significance that spans millennia, from ancient Persia to modern-day Iran.
Finally, art historian Stephen Bann calls the exercise of interpretation of singular artifacts a process by which we “measure its participation in the multiple codes which govern the collective consciousness.” Professor Simon Knell has likewise proposed an alternative—or perhaps better phrased as—a corrective to focusing solely on the “exhibition as artifact” and its composition: “So rather than reading the order, which has survived in museums to the present day...we need to uncover the ‘looking’ (the interpretive frame) of the founders.” This exhibition, then, of the Cyrus Cylinder is ultimately a complex ideological symbol in which concepts of national identity and global cultural influence both coincide and clash.
Embassies generally busy themselves promoting their own culture and values, spending a large sum of their financial resources inviting cultural troupes from the countries they represent. What if, in addition to promoting their own culture, they could promote the culture and talent of their host countries without committing major financial resources? Wouldn't it be a masterstroke in the practice of public diplomacy and economy of resources?
B.P. Koirala Nepal-India Foundation in association with the Embassy of India, Kathmandu has been experimenting with four such innovative initiatives at the Nepal-Bharat Library in Kathmandu, Nepal to expand the horizons of public diplomacy since January 2013. These four programs are aimed at promoting Nepalese art, literature, music, and film; they also encourage and engage the younger generation of Nepalese to share their ideas, experiences, and stories.
The Conversations series began in January 2013 and its 11th edition is scheduled for this month. The idea behind Conversations is to get two writers to discuss their work and ideas with each other to get to the very core of their writing and dig out their deepest thoughts, philosophies and messages. These conversations between writers are followed by a Q&A session in which the audience members get a chance to ask questions. This monthly program provides a literary platform for Nepalese writers and readers to learn from each other.
The Conversations series has hosted eminent Nepali authors such as Krishna Dharawasi and Amar Neupane, both recipients of Nepal's highest literary award. Other Conversations included prominent artists such as Prakash Sayami and Sanat Kumar Wasti, comedians Haribansh Acharya and Mandan Krishna Shrestha, and best-selling authors and literary figures such as Buddhisagar, Nayanraj Pandey, and Abhi Subedi. Conversations has received wide media coverage in the mainstream media and has become one of the most popular literary events on Kathmandu's calendar attended by the 'who’s who' of the Nepalese literary world.
Poemandu, a monthly poetry recitation program was launched in March 2013 on the occasion of the World Poetry Day to provide a platform to the Nepalese poets to recite their verses. It was inaugurated by the National Poet of Nepal, Madhav Prasad Ghimire and Chancellor of Nepal Academy, Bairangi Kainla. Over thirty Nepalese poets participated in the inaugural edition of Poemandu, reciting their poems in Nepali to Hindi, Newari, Maithili, English, Awadhi, Urdu, and Bhojpuri languages. There have been six subsequent Poemandu with equally prominent poets reciting their works and creating a culture-based dialogue between Nepalese and Indian poets.
Cinemandu, the third innovation stemming from the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu is a celebration of the fine Nepalese films. A new generation of Nepalese filmmakers, directors, actors, and actresses are working innovatively to give Nepalese film industry a niche of its own. At Cinemandu, notable Nepalese films are screened, in presence of the cast and crew of the film who interact with the audience after the screening of the film. Cinemandu has screened some of the best Nepalese films such as Loot, Highway, Sanghuro, Shayad, Sunghava, and Kagbeni. Sunghava is Nepal's entry for the Academy Awards in U.S. this year.
Voices is the final program in this genre in which one or two Nepalese thinkers, scholars, journalists, and more, give a talk on their areas of expertise. It was inaugurated with two journalists of Nepal, Kunda Dixit and Narayan Wagle followed by Raghu Rai celebrated photographer, Sudheer Sharma, Editor of Kantipur Nepali Daily and Akhilesh Upadhyay Editor of the Kathmandu Post, Prateek Pradhan, Editor of Nagrik with Gunraj Luitel, editor of Annapurna Post.
Each of these four programs are open to the public and have been very well attended. They take place at the Nepal-Bharat Library where only one hundred members of the public can be accommodated. As a token of appreciation, the Embassy gives relevant books to the speakers at the end of each program and the audience enjoys refreshments such as samosa, coffee, and tea.
These programs have now become brands in themselves and are likely to be initiated in the five most populous cities of Nepal such as Pokhra, Nepalgunj, Birgunj, Biratnagar, and Janakpur. A large number of young people turn up for these events to learn from their elders as well as to share their ideas, opinions, and feelings with them and each other.
Public diplomacy in this context could be redefined as putting the other country, its people, and culture first.
The deteriorating security situation throughout much of the Arab world underscores the need to urgently search for nonviolent methods of achieving stability. At the heart of the current unrest are not only political issues but also economic failures that are wiping out the vestiges of hope that remain after the region’s recent revolutions.
In conflict situations, public diplomacy must be employed carefully. Sometimes the swirl of violence becomes so pervasive that it sucks up the oxygen needed for peaceful enterprise to survive. But in some of the Arab countries, future-oriented measures might take root amidst the present tumult.
It won’t be easy; long-enduring structures and practices will need to be changed. In a recent analysis piece in Gulf News, Libyan economist Hafed Al Ghwell describes how archaic economies are undermining post-2011 reforms. He writes that Arab countries “must engage in serious and deep reforms that can set the foundation for future growth, job creation, correction of the deep distortions developed over decades of entitlement programs, and a more competitive and merit-based environment for better private sector development.” Among the problems is overreliance on the public sector for jobs and fiscal leadership. No country anywhere in the world can prosper for long with that model, and the already weakened Arab economies, at just the time when they require new vigor, are crumbling under the weight of wage and pension commitments.
Al Ghwell offers useful suggestions based on measures that would improve job-oriented education and increase economic integration within the region. All these have something in common: they are well-suited for assistance from American public diplomacy programs.
The U.S. State Department’s public diplomacy leadership is turning over, and the new policymakers have a great opportunity to ratchet up the efforts to help stabilize Arab economies. This means helping Arab states redesign their economic infrastructure. Education and the job market must be more tightly linked. Entrepreneurs must be trained in ways to get their efforts off the ground. Regional cooperation must become more sophisticated. American business and education expertise in all these fields would be of enormous help in the troubled region, and without doubt the United States possesses the “people resources” needed for such efforts.
U.S. Department of State
If the purpose of American public diplomacy is to increase the respect accorded the United States, this practical path is the one to follow. It is worth remembering that the Arab uprisings of 2011 happened not because of the availability of social media or even out of a thirst for democracy, but rather because Arab families were decreasingly able to put food on the table, provide a roof over their heads, or find jobs that ensured a basic level of personal dignity.
Addressing those basic issues should be the driving purpose of U.S. public diplomacy in the region. Al Ghwell points out that as a starting point Arabs themselves must decide to undertake the reforms they need. Without doubt, America cannot cure all the Arab world’s ills, but it can do far more to help create the economic foundation on which a more hopeful future could be built.
This week at CPD, we hosted Dr. Timothy Potts, the director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, who discussed the Cyrus Cylinder as a cultural icon and museums as vehicles for promoting global dialogue. Potts shared with us the history and meaning of the Cylinder; a clay foundation deposit no larger than a loaf of bread inscribed following Cyrus the Great’s incorporation of Babylon into the Persian Empire in 539 BCE. While ancient rulers of the time had many of these foundation deposits inscribed and laid within their public edifices, the Cyrus Cylinder was, and is, different. What sets the Cylinder apart from this ancient tradition is one particular paragraph, sentences 28 to 34, which house a very important description of Cyrus’ Babylonian Conquest:
...I sent back to their places....I collected together all of their people and returned them to their settlements...
No other leader of the time boasted the release of people to go back to their homes, and worship the god or gods in which they believe. This phrase is now taken to be the first declaration of religious tolerance in history, and some scholars have gone as far as to say it’s the first declaration of human rights. Additionally, the Cylinder corroborates the Hebrew Book of Ezra's description of Cyrus the Great having released the Jewish people from their exile in Babylon and for sending them back to Jerusalem to rebuild Solomon’s Temple.
While world renowned museums like the Getty, Smithsonian, Louvre, British Museum and others serve as vehicles for our global cultural heritage, can the artifacts they hold lead to the betterment of state-to-state, people-to-people, and state-to-people relationships?
During the discussion of the power of museums as keepers and distributors of global culture, I thought that there was something more to be said about public diplomacy and the Cyrus Cylinder. Take a look at some of the loudest international rhetoric today, the proclamations by Israeli and Iranian leaders, and the enemy status the two countries place on each other. Glimpse back 2500 years to the beginnings of the Persian Empire. It was Cyrus the Great of Persia who released the Jewish people from exile back to Judah. Now in the 21st century it is the modern Persian government threatening the destruction of the modern Jewish state. It is Israel threatening attack in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But bring the Cylinder for a viewing by Persians and Jews, and they will both praise Cyrus as an ancient ruler who brought greatness to both peoples. Could this ancient artifact, a symbol of tolerance be a key to modern day dialogue?
One of the core tenets of public diplomacy is to share values. It is clear from the global public interest in the Cyrus Cylinder, and reverence shown by both Iranians and Israelis for Cyrus, that the Cylinder is the commonality that public diplomacy practitioners seek out and utilize as a jumping-off point for dialogue about international relations. Museums are not only vessels for understanding our ancient history, but also are tools for bridging divides between ancient peoples in modern times.
The Cylinder isn’t the only proof of shared values and desire for dialogue between the two peoples, just look take a look at the grassroots Israel Loves Iran movement.
This “We Heart You” campaign seeks to connect Israelis and Iranians through visual media, and creates a virtual protest to prevent war and create peaceful relations between the two countries. Could the Cylinder take the movement further? The Cyrus Cylinder could be used as a starting point for dialogue, and public diplomacy practitioners should look towards museums for creative opportunities to share values, reinforce mutuality, and bring about meaningful change for publics and states in conflict.
Cynthia Schneider on October 31, 2013 @ 7:45 pm Excellent, thoughtful article. We can always learn from the past, and that is clearly true in the case of the Cyrus cylinder. The British Museum used the cylinder to precipitate more dialogue and exchanges with Iran. When the cylinder was on view in DC, that did not appear to be the case here. But it is never too late to start learning from history.
Naomi Leight-Giveon on October 31, 2013 @ 8:56 pm Thanks, Cynthia for your comment. I completely agree, the more we can learn from, and then act in accordance to lessons in history, we prepare ourselves for a better future.
Debbie Trent on November 2, 2013 @ 4:37 am Thanks for your article, Naomi. To both you and Dr. Schneider, I can add that when my husband and I went to see the Cyrus cylinder in D.C., I identified with it similarly. Shared history and culture lead to dialogue, community, coexistence and understanding. We'll be talking about it in class next semester!
Naomi Leight on November 4, 2013 @ 12:17 pm Thanks, Debbie for your comment! I'm so happy to hear you feel the same, I'll be interested to hear what your students have to say.
The Cyrus Cylinder, a small clay object dated from the sixth century B.C.E. and covered in Babylonian cuneiform script of an imperial decree by King Cyrus of Persia, is considered by many to be a powerful symbol of cultural and religious tolerance. Its international touring exhibition, spearheaded by the British Museum, has drawn broad global attention and is, by most measures, a resounding success.
While the Cylinder show underscores the enduring significance of the role cultural institutions, such as museums, play in fostering international dialogue through historical artifacts, it is also a story of successful branding.
Despite skepticism about employing business and marketing principles in the realms of public goods, branding practices as embodied in the commercial world have received considerable attention in the wide-ranging nonprofit sectors, including arts and cultural institutions. The Cylinder exhibition offers an illustrative case of how cultural organizations can engage a broader public through effective branding and communication.
The two main components of branding are brand definition (i.e., the “content” of a brand) and brand communication (i.e., the “expressions” of a brand). The Cylinder exhibition manifests several key ingredients of successful branding.
First, as in any branding effort, storytelling with mass appeal is the foundation. The Cyrus Cylinder offers a unifying narrative of tolerance and respect that resonates across regions and throughout history. But the object is also imbued with multiple—and sometimes contested—interpretations by different peoples in different times. On the one hand, the Cylinder, as an object, is plain-looking, lacking any stunning aesthetical appeal. Yet on the other, the story of the Cylinder is layered and complex. It is indeed through such contrast that the object is dramatized and its story becomes compelling.
Second, branding the Cylinder show is not about selling a cultural experience, but to demonstrate how the exhibition helps to enrich one’s own understanding and perspective. Audiences invariably create their personal narratives with regard to an experience or an object. The Cylinder allows for such co-creation of meaning. These varying representations and narrative elements are, as in the words of rhetoric scholar Seymour Chatman, “correlative, enchaining, [and] entailing.” In this light, the Cylinder exhibition is not self-focused, but embraces audience participation.
Another important aspect of branding is the means by which organizations seek to engage the audience. In this case, the Cylinder exhibition has done superb media outreach. The show has received wide coverage in the international media, including The Economist, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, BBC, CNN, and ABC News. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, gave a TED Talk about the Cylinder and its many interpretations. The museums hosting the touring exhibition have also held events tailored to their specific communities. When the Cylinder U.S tour was launched at the Freer Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., it was reported to have generated 1.37 billion media impressions in 400 media outlets worldwide.
Some may argue that such branding is based on popular appeal and the engagement could be superficial. But the experience created by the Cylinder show is meaningful for visitors, and can even be transformational. It draws people into the story and serves as a point of departure for the broader conversation about cultural connections. Branding is never a be-all-end-all (not even in the corporate world). It is, however, crucial to making a cultural organization’s communication and interaction more compelling and engaging.
A new book by Naomi Sakr, Transformations in Egyptian Journalism (I.B. Tauris, 2013), should be required reading for American public diplomacy specialists who want to engage Egyptians through the media. Bilingual Sakr, a media policy professor at the University of Westminster and director of its CAMRI Arab Media Centre, draws on new research and decades’ experience tracking Arab media trends to offer a readout on how Egyptian journalists and their employers have been struggling and coping yet also innovating since the 2011 revolution. For those who believe that part of America’s public diplomacy strategy in Egypt should involve supporting indigenous media that share American values, Sakr’s book provides guidance on whom to engage and what types of support they need most.
Independently minded journalists and bloggers achieved notoriety in Egypt as early as 2005, Sakr writes, in the wake of Egypt’s rigged parliamentary elections. With the onset of revolution six years later, these voices tried to take advantage of the collapse of dictatorship to launch no-holds-barred media ventures, largely online, some of which relied on citizen journalists to provide reporting and footage which no state media venture would print or air. British-Egyptian actor Khaled Abdalla told Sakr that Egypt’s was the first revolution in world history to be “filmed by its people rather than by a news organization.” Meanwhile, state-controlled media briefly fostered the delusion that no revolution was taking place -- a scandal on par with the notorious state media claim back in 1967 that Egypt was winning the “Six-Day War” against Israel, American University in Cairo journalism professor Naila Hamdy told Sakr.
New media upstarts, many of whom had been experimenting with Web TV and other Internet-based ventures, faced a backlash after Mubarak’s fall despite widespread enthusiasm for their work. Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) moved to block all criticism of the military establishment and sow fears that local media were in cahoots with foreign elements. Among the international NGOs memorably shut down and raided by the army in February 2011 was the Washington-based International Center for Journalists, which had been providing training and capacity building to local media under the leadership of an esteemed veteran Egyptian reporter. The army move was of a piece with Mubarak-era clampdowns, which had also been sold to the public as a response to “foreign conspiracies.” But Sakr documents the extent to which Egyptian journalists, as well as their audiences, see through these bogus claims today: They appreciate American and other outside sources of support for local media and want more of it. Egyptian media interviewed by Sakr tend to disdain short-term training sessions offered by some international NGOs and prefer other forms of support -- such as pressure on the Egyptian government to liberalize media laws, and financial and strategic investment in nascent media companies to enable the possibility of eventual self-sustainability.
But what sort of media ventures should Americans engage as partners? The book counsels avoidance of shrill, point-counterpoint programming, which furthers political polarization without “expanding the amount of verified information citizens need to make sound choices.” It also advocates for Egyptian investigative reporting that shames government and the private sector into mending their corrupt ways. Missing from Sakr’s assessment, however, is recognition of the importance of positive coverage of those Egyptians who deserve it. In environments where government is weak, opaque, or lacks a separation of powers, it does not follow that the exposure of wrongdoing through investigative reporting will usually lead to its redress. Under such circumstances, reportage on corrupt practices by itself can sometimes have negative consequences: It may reinforce the public’s sense of powerlessness and defeatism, which in turn further enables corrupt forces to behave with impunity. Investigative journalism should be supplemented by coverage of present-day “heroes” of Egyptian society -- and there are many --who can provide hope and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. Developed democracies in the United States and Europe host numerous NGOs that can admirably train Egyptian journalists in investigative reporting, but tend to offer little support for other forms of journalism beyond the traditional “watchdog” role.
On the whole, Sakr’s sleek volume presents shrewd analysis as well as capsule profiles of dozens of Egyptian writers, broadcasters, and entrepreneurs who are barely known in the United States but well worth engaging.
A less interested American public makes some U.N. agencies more vulnerable to Congressional budget cuts. It appears that cuts to the U.N. and foreign aid are the “politically safer route” to meeting allocation U.S. budgetary constraints. Some U.N. programs have less reason to be worried than others. UNICEF, for instance, largely depends on private donations. However, UNICEF is a special case and Congress would probably hesitate before cutting its funds for one very relevant reason: UNICEF is the most highly-regarded U.N. agency among Americans. Its dependence on private donations makes it more public-oriented than many of the other, more obscure U.N. organs. UNICEF needs publics to be engaged with the precarious condition of children around the world. Some U.N. agencies are less public-oriented, and given their specialized scope are likely to be unfamiliar to the average citizen. It should be a priority for U.N. agencies heavily dependent on U.S. funding to raise the profile of their work to the U.S. public, otherwise they could face the consequences of a Washington gridlock. The case for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) illustrates this point. In 2011, following Palestine’s admission as a member state to the organization, the U.S. stopped funding the agency, citing a violation of laws passed in the 1990’s aimed at preventing U.N. agencies from admitting Palestine as a member state. Almost two years have passed since then, and UNESCO finds itself in the worst financial crisis in its history. Many of their programs had to be cut, and despite the advocacy efforts to waive the anti-Palestine law, the U.S. still refuses to pay dues to UNESCO.
For each of the U.N. specialized agencies in which the U.S. participates, U.S. contributions make up nearly 20% of their budgets. This situation has not changed for almost 27 years. In 1986, former U.N. Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar declared that “no single country should be in a position in some way to threaten or blackmail the United Nations." And yet no other member states’ financial contributions can compare to the United States’ – this gives the U.S. the most powerful leverage in the U.N., and Cuellar was very aware of its influence.
Budget cuts to the UN are not politically or morally costly to lawmakers because Americans are less concerned with international issues. As the Pew Center’s Kohut noted, “getting the American public’s attention, […] is as challenging as it has ever been in the modern era.” What stands out in Kohut’s analysis is that what affects the U.S. locally remains the priority. Would U.N agencies be less vulnerable to the U.S’ coercive power if they were more oriented to the American public? If so, what should be the public diplomacy approach agencies should take? And if so, what public diplomacy approach should agencies take? Perhaps if American citizens were more aware of the impact that the United Nations had on their daily lives, cuts to the U.N. and foreign aid would be politically costly. In this spirit, perhaps the U.N., as the global institution par excellence, needs to make very clear the local repercussions of its work to its largest financial contributor.
By demonstrating how their work directly affects the U.S., U.N. agencies can develop a different meaning for the American public. New perceptions and narratives can arise, countering those that portray the U.N. as an ineffective, biased, and anti-freedom entity. For instance, advocates for the U.S. to restart funding to UNESCO have stressed the direct impact of the agency’s programs on the local development of American communities. UNESCO’s World Heritage program increases tourism-related revenues, local spending from international visitations, and cultural heritage conservation funding for those communities hosting World Heritage sites. This, in turn, provides jobs for Americans.
Additionally, UNESCO’s local impacts originate in the entangled epistemic communities that comprise the U.N.’s networks for international cooperation. The platforms provided by the U.N. to develop exchanges between professional and technical experts result in transfers of knowledge valuable to American engineers, farmers, and scientists. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times tried to localize the global work of the United Nations.It told the story of an American entomologist in Ventura county who participated in a FAO** study in Turkmenistan on biological pest control. The entomologist believed that California cotton farmers could benefit from the project. There are countless similar examples which apply to many of the U.N. agencies.
Keeping the American public engaged with the U.N.’s causes is about making the global work of the U.N. relevant to Americans. But it is also about making visible the interconnectedness of our societies and the impact of global work on local environments. The isolationist drivers within American society could mean bad business for the U.N. But a United Nations agency with favorable views from the public of their largest contributor can mean greater leverage in both a local and global scope.
The increased tempo of Beijing’s public diplomacy activities in recent years, from Confucius Institutes to the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, have received poor to mediocre reviews internationally. Expensive projects have been received positively by the Chinese public, but have done little to reverse China’s continued international image problems. Although a narrative of crisis pervades international scholarship on Chinese public diplomacy, there appears little evidence to suggest that Beijing is concerned.
Is it possible that international audiences just don’t matter to Beijing, relative to the domestic audience? Does Chinese public diplomacy focus more on the domestic audience than international?
The Domestic Audience
Domestic publics are often absent from public diplomacy discussion, yet are increasingly conceptualized as having a degree of agency within public diplomacy. On one hand, citizens play a role in state-sponsored programs such as cultural and educational exchanges, and on the other, they are often viewed as playing a role outside of such programs. The role of citizens as tourists or as the hosts of foreign tourists, for example, is an ‘ambassadorial’ role that sits well beyond the control of state public diplomacy programs. But what about the role of domestic publics as the audience?
In the U.S., the recent passing of the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, repealed the ban on the domestic dissemination of information and material about the U.S. intended primarily for foreign audiences. It would appear this change is reflective of an increasing reality where social media, immigration, and citizen mobility have blurred distinctions between domestic and international audiences. Although domestic publics have not traditionally been viewed as part of the public diplomacy picture, as Ellen Huijgh (2012) observes, “in an increasingly mobile, virtually connected and interdependent world” this is no longer sustainable.
Such discussion tends to be based on an assumption that foreign publics are the main audience of a state’s public diplomacy efforts. What if this wasn’t the case? What if a state’s public diplomacy had domestic policy objectives that were just as – or even more – important than its foreign policy goals?
The Case of Chinese Public Diplomacy
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has traditionally viewed its audiences as two separate groups: the domestic and the external. The CCP’s public relations work has thus followed an internal (对内 duinei) / external (对外 duiwai) division.
Internal propaganda, considered stale and moribund just two decades ago, has modernized and assumed an unlikely competitiveness against the cacophony of voices cramming the Chinese advertising landscape. The public relations machinery of the Chinese state has emerged as a formidable force in the production of messages in what some have referred to as a post-communist era. This is due largely to an ongoing evolution in the ideology of the CCP accompanied by an adaptation of political party signs and symbols to the new advertising industry and media of the reform era.
China’s external public diplomacy work has been at the forefront of a massive soft power push in which Beijing has majorly invested in what many have described as an “international charm offensive”. This soft power push has nevertheless been the subject of wide-ranging criticism. Joseph Nye, for example, has recently asserted that China – along with Russia – just doesn’t get soft power.
Big investments in broadcast media and Confucius Institutes are seen to have delivered little return. Even the 2008 Beijing Olympics, widely hailed as a first-class sporting event, has failed expectations as an international public relations story. Not surprisingly, Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific Editor of The Australian newspaper, commented back in 2010, “During the past few years, Beijing has talked of projecting its soft power, its cultural influence. But that was either a feint or was destined to be a flop”.
Squashimono, Flickr, Creative Commons
Interestingly, the many aspects of Beijing’s international charm offensive that have arguably had limited efficacy among external audiences have nevertheless found public relations success domestically, celebrated as examples of China’s national rejuvenation and growing international clout. The Shanghai 2010 World Expo, for example, despite proving unremarkable as an international event, proved a massive domestic public relations triumph and served up with a thick coating of assumed international prestige to domestic audiences. Despite lively academic and policy debate in China between various definitions of soft power and approaches to public diplomacy, the incumbent approach appears largely set in stone.
Why is this the case? How are Beijing’s policy imperatives for enhancing China’s international reputation while domestically shoring up the image of the ruling CCP related? Is Beijing’s ‘primetime’ public diplomacy audience foreign or domestic? Is the main game all about winning over foreign hearts and minds or about ‘protecting’ against the infiltration of foreign values? Is it about allaying foreign publics’ concerns over China’s rise or about satisfying the domestic public that China is checking all the prestigious boxes as it continues on the international up-and-up? Or is the reality more complex than this? Ultimately, what are the implications for public diplomacy and international relations more broadly?
Please share your comments and add your perspectives to this unfolding discussion.
Andrew Chubb on December 6, 2013 @ 10:06 pm Good piece.
The domestic nation-building aspects of China's soft power push are crucial. Important official statements on the topic often contain a circular logic arguing that increasing national unity at home is good for making one more attractive abroad. Hence, domestic propaganda initiatives can be cast as increasing China's "soft power", while ostensibly externally-oriented "soft power" initiatives have to serve domestic propaganda imperatives.
I was actually swept into the bizarre PRC soft power tornado that is Chinese Bridge 汉语桥, back in 2010. I've co-written a paper on it, which looks at precisely this issue. It's coming out next year in a book on Chinese television edited by Geng Song and Ruoyun Bai.
Nicholas Dynon on December 11, 2013 @ 1:46 pm Andrew, many thanks for your comment.
I really like your observation about ‘circular logic’.
Interestingly, the new China Tourism Law, which now outlaws ‘uncivilized’ behavior by Chinese nationals holidaying overseas, is being talked about by Chinese officials as enhancing the country’s soft power. A similar logic around folks’ behavior, of course, was used in citizen etiquette propaganda efforts in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai World Expo.
It appears to me that China’s emphasis on ‘cultural soft power’ as the country’s key soft power vehicle leads to a reliance on domestic propaganda as a key ingredient. This is due to cultural production in China being regarded as part of propaganda work and the responsibility placed on cultural workers to guide public thinking. In this way, cultural exports are, by their make-up, propaganda.
I’m interested in exploring your comment that “ostensibly externally-oriented ‘soft power’ initiatives have to serve propaganda imperatives”, and would be grateful for any more thoughts or examples you have on this.
How does what we know about information and communication technology (ICTs) and persuasion help practitioners makes sense of how to integrate technology into the mission of public diplomacy? We know that ICTs can be:
A) Persuasive by its ability to facilitate or enable other attempts at persuasion.
B) Persuasive as a transmission vehicle (the medium endows some form of credibility or legitimacy).
C) Persuasive as a kind of context for communication - an intermediary - that enables the influence potential of social ties.
Have such insights been leveraged for U.S. public diplomacy? The State Department’s Office of Innovative Engagement, for example, has been busy probing the potential of such technologies for particular contexts. Their work aims to build up a pragmatic sense of the knowledge necessary for technology integration. For example, an embassy might make great use of Twitter, but not need a costly investment in a platform like Pinterest. This kind of “contextual intelligence” (to borrow from Nye), can make the crucial difference between building unprecedented connections to an audience and a pointless social media campaign.
U.S. Department of State
Yet some critics continue to point to the failures of U.S. public diplomacy’s use of “digital” diplomacy tools by how they are disconnected from strategic goals, as if the State Department is using such tools simply to be present on Twitter, Facebook, or some trendy platform. Likewise, these tools are themselves criticized for not directly facilitating a policy objective (as if a media platform should directly achieve an outcome).
Others question the worth of seemingly trivial online games, polls, or activities put on US websites to facilitate engagement. While yet others fear that the cost-saving advantages of virtual platforms might discourage funding of proven programs that accrue benefits (e.g. - the mutual understanding often tied to cultural diplomacy or education exchange).
While there may be some merit to the multiple critiques lodged against U.S. digital diplomacy efforts, I think they must be matched by a serious consideration of how publics live online, and, how this reality yields opportunities for what we might call “engagement” in ways that serve diplomatic ends. This kind of insight was expressed in the 2013 Office of the Inspector General report on the activities of the International Information Programs bureau, but the specifics of strategy were not articulated. Rather, the report indicated that there should be a strategy.
Thinking about practice
The kind of “probing” I suggest about technology can be accomplished by interrogating the expectation gaps between what policy-makers say about new media platforms and the insights gained from a practice-oriented approach to how audiences use such technologies in their everyday lives. “Practice” theorists, such as Nicholas Couldry, have championed ethnographic audience research that reveals the kinds of things we do with platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc. that sustain social ties, mitigate influence, and enable personal agency. These kinds of insights are also present in the cyberculture research by scholars such as Danah Boyd, Nancy Baym and many others examining how ICTs are enmeshed in the fabric of personal, communal, and larger network relations. This kind of research doesn’t upend the big social theory assumptions about politics, power, and human nature (the kind of claims Morozov is keen to debunk). Rather, it zeros in on the meaning-making practices that signal how communication technologies are important to people, and why. This is the kind of actionable intelligence that I think public diplomacy practitioners have always needed.
I use the term “expectation gap” to illustrate how the underlying assumptions about public diplomacy (what it can accomplish, its ethics, its best methods, etc.) become apparent in the failings or successes of a particular mode of technology. When we argue about the effectiveness of a particular technological platform for public diplomacy, we also implicate the ambitions of public diplomacy in the uneven, stratified, and often culturally-defined terrain of ICT diffusion among foreign publics.
What does this means for practitioners? It does not mean a retreat from tech. Yes, there will be hiccups. Integrating the insular, bureaucratic culture of communication within diplomacy, with all its disincentives for open and transparent communication, with the material culture of netiquette among foreign publics is not something obvious or easy. US public diplomacy has been dubbed a “cauldron of innovation.” To live up to this label, it must engage in more pilot programs, mine the localized knowledge of the communication infrastructure, and remain aware of the work being done outside the context of diplomacy. As an interface between diplomats and publics, public diplomacy must leverage knowledge of how people, publics, and organizations live increasingly mediated lives, where politics are shaped by media connections or facilitated by politics uniquely engendered by media contexts. Indeed, the history expressed in public diplomacy memoirs reveal Foreign Service officers doing these very things all along. Now, as before, public diplomacy practitioners and policy-makers need to be better consumers of knowledge production about media technology (though perhaps less so the systemic debates that define international relations theory). This is not new, and it’s admittedly a little unfair to heap yet more onto the plate of public diplomats struggling to thrive in a broader diplomatic culture that may not take for granted the necessity of public diplomacy. Yet, when an ambassador wants to start tweeting, we need better justificatory narratives and evidence that illustrate how and why technology matters to extend the potential of diplomacy, where it is needed, and importantly, where it is not needed.
And importantly, we need to be honest about the subjects of our critique. Is it about the deployment of technology or the strategy of public diplomacy itself?
If you’re of Pakistani origin, as I am, and if you long to see that embattled country right itself, the saga of Malala Yousafzai can drive you to tears. Not just tears of joy for the way she was a favorite for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Not just tears for how she captured the imagination of Westerners who want to believe the best about Pakistan’s hopes and prospects. More than anything, they are tears of frustration, caused by the manner in which many Pakistanis reject her.
Malala Yousafzai at the Global Education First Initiative Anniversary Event, Flickr
To be sober, to be realistic in the face of this, is to begin to wonder if Pakistanis’ dim view of Malala is a sign that our troubled homeland is becoming irredeemable, unwilling and unable to save itself.
Westerners who want to project onto all Pakistanis the resilient idealism of Malala will be disheartened to find that a good many Pakistanis believe that Malala’s thus-far triumphal struggle against the Taliban is merely a Western plot to subdue their country.
While Malala was triumphantly returning from a Taliban assassination attempt and delivering a powerful speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday this past July, ordinary Pakistanis were snidely dismissing the teen as a tool of the CIA and Western puppet-masters. Omar Waraich captured the toxic mix of Pakistani reactions in Time last summer:
The most troubling were the many voices that denounced Malala and her speech as “a drama” — a colloquial expression commonly used to describe a stunt or a hoax …
On Twitter, many denounced Malala as a “CIA agent,” then, in the contradictory traditions of conspiracy theories, said she had been “attacked by the CIA.” There were links to obscure blogs where elaborate tales were woven, while images floated around purporting to show that her wounds had been “faked.” There were those who said she hadn’t been hurt at all, while others were suspicious of her global fame.
Waraich and other Pakistan watchers have noted that Pakistan has long been an incubator of elaborate conspiracy theories—that 9/11 was a CIA plot to precipitate a war against Islam, that Osama bin Laden had died years before the U.S. claimed to kill him, that outside forces are looking for excuses to invade Pakistan and steal away the precious nuclear weapons that are viewed as its last safeguard against foreign tyranny.
This reveals an increasingly impotent society that howls about victimization when it instead needs to be taking control of its own destiny—in order to combat internal corruption, extremism, dysfunctional governance and massive economic problems.
The Malala conspiracy theories are perhaps the cruelest of all such theories. This determined and irrepressible symbol of the best of the human spirit has a chance to be Pakistan’s Gandhi, MLK and Rosa Parks all rolled up in one. To see her countrymen dismiss her as a Western pawn is to see them reject the best within themselves, at just the moment that they most need to summon the best within.
Some concerned voices press Pakistan to do better. Negative reactions to Malala are “a shameful display of how Pakistanis have a tendency to turn on the very people they should be proud of,” novelist Bina Shah wrote in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. Writer Josh Shahryar noted this week that the narrative must change. “Pakistanis can succeed,” he wrote. “ But first, this self-defeating narrative of ‘we can’t do anything on our own!’ has to be discarded.”
Our best hope can only be that Pakistanis begin to take rightful pride in Malala’s achievements and her noble goals, and join together in pursuing those goals. If they do not begin to do so in the coming months, Pakistan may face greater peril than ever before—yet it would be of its own making.
On Sunday, September 22, 2013, al-Shabab, a Somali-based al Qaeda cell unleashed gunfire on a Kenyan shopping mall, murdering 72 people and injuring over 200 others. The deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, the Kenyan mall shooting temporarily brought Africa to the forefront of U.S. news organizations like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, who typically ignore the continent. While the gravity of this event cannot be overstated, it also serves as the latest example of how Western media attention to Africa is too often born out of the exigencies of crisis. However, the range of YouTube videos, tweets, and phone calls originating almost instantaneously from the victims of the attack provide evidence of the ways in which new technologies offer new opportunities for content distribution. This allows for the circulation of events both within and outside of the mainstream media and between Western and African journalists. With so many sources of information, African stories are now easier to cover and African voices are more accessible .
Stories of tragedy still dominate; but over the past two years, another meme has emerged, that of Africa Rising . These reports remind us that in the face of a bleak global economy, Africa is home to some of the world’s fasted growing economies (e.g.Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Mozambique).
U.S. Army Africa, Flickr
Economists such as Jeffrey Sachs and Isis Gaddis credit Africa’s economic rise to the meteoric transformations in mobile and computing technology. While technology is never the only decisive factor, it is playing an increasingly significant role in shaping information flows in and out of Africa and providing critical infrastructure for the economic and cultural transformations taking place around the continent.
At first glance, these two sets of stories – the Kenyan mall shooting and rising African economies – may not appear to have much to do with each other or with public diplomacy. Africa, undoubtedly, is a vast and diverse continent, made up of complex social, political, cultural, and economic realities not generalizable according to a few news stories covered in the Western media. However, I argue that these stories provide apt illustrations of the current challenges facing U.S. public diplomacy towards the continent as well as potential solutions to those challenges.
First, particularly since the end of the Cold War, U.S. public diplomatic attention to the continent seemed to mirror these press cycles— it has been propelled by tragedy or promises of economic opportunity . There appears to be no sustained interest in engaging with sub-Saharan African countries outside of these themes. Second, developments in information technology have played a role in Africa’s dynamic economic and cultural landscape and provided more pathways for information flow in and out of the continent. These same technologies also provide a promising platform through which U.S. public diplomacy actors can seek sustained and collaborative engagement with countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, on the surface, in terms of U.S. diplomacy in general, public diplomacy more specifically, and academic attention to public diplomacy in particular , the African continent appears tangential. I would argue that is because U.S. foreign-policy elites have done much to invite this narrative. The Obama Administration’s lack of a clear African agenda obscures much of the dynamic forms of outreach taking place in the field. Currently, there are two U.S. public diplomacies toward Africa.
The Africa Void
At the executive level, we see a cyclical pattern of outreach and avoidance conditioned by the relative visibility of Africa in the global news cycle. President Obama’s Kenyan heritage heightened expectations both at home and abroad that he would expand and improve America’s presence in Africa. Five years later those expectations remain unfulfilled. Obama has only visited the continent twice, once in July 2009 and again in July 2013. In comparison, China's President, Xi Jinping, has already visited three African countries since taking office on March 14, 2013. During Obama’s latest visit, he was not invited to address a joint sitting of the South African Parliament; an honor customarily awarded visiting presidents. And headlines such as “Ujio wa Obama: WaKenya Wamenunaje?” (“Obama Visit: How are the Kenyans Sulking?”) and OBBO: “Africa Should Expect and ask Nothing of Obama” peppered press coverage of his visit. Of the 322 days Hillary Clinton spent overseas, only 25 (8%) were spent in sub-Saharan Africa. Many programs launched with great fanfare have quickly been discarded (e.g. AfricaLive). In 2010, the White House commemorated the 50th anniversary of 17 African nations’ independence, but no African leaders were invited. The list goes on and on . Some speculated whether Obama’s July 2013 visit suggested the start of a considered African agenda. However, as of yet, substantial outcomes appear to be limited to brokering deals for American biotech companies and providing support
for energy poverty solutions. Currently, we can point to no Obama equivalent to the Bush Administration’s PEPFAR (the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Launched in 2003, this program of AIDS-related health and development assistance as well as health diplomacy, while controversial, broke records as the largest single financial commitment to disease eradication on the continent.
Experiments in Public Diplomacy 2.0
Predictably, the Obama administration’s tepid Africa agenda has colored U.S. public diplomacy efforts in Africa. What many fail to recognize, however, is that Sub-Saharan Africa has served as laboratory for innovative outreach using new technology, or what has more commonly been referred to as public diplomacy 2.0. These experiments have typically been the offspring of practitioners working in the field, not Washington-based foreign-policy elites. The U.S. Embassy in Pretoria was one of the first U.S. missions to experiment with social media tools like Twitter and Mxit (a popular mobile-based South African social network). Foreign Policy ranked @USEmbassyPretoria (since renamed @USEmbassySA) among the top 100 Twitterati in 2012. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs maintains an Africa Regional Media Hub in Johannesburg, South Africa, which arranges interviews and media briefings and provides video and audio pod casts for African media outlets. In 2011, the VOA launched Congo Story: War, Women and Rape, a crowd-sourced website drawing on first hand testimonies from the women of the DRC to “drive awareness and accountability.” VOA-Mitaani has experimented with web and mobile delivery platforms. The Bureau of African Affairs also sponsored an Apps4Africa business challenge in 2012. These are but a few examples of public diplomacy 2.0 efforts taking place on the continent.
Of course, public diplomacy 2.0 can only go so far. These initiatives cannot and should not replace well-considered foreign policy. The tragedy in Kenya is still ongoing. In the ensuing weeks, the Obama administration’s response as well as follow up media coverage has been largely restricted to focusing on counterstrikes against al-Shabab operatives believed responsible for the attack. Regrettably, sub-Saharan Africa has once again moved to the margins of global news flows and American diplomacy.
Africa remains, however, a dynamic continent, one that deserves more consideration—from both the U.S. media and public diplomacy practitioners working at every level. The current range of public diplomacy 2.0 activities taking place in different African countries represent a first step in leveraging the opportunities for more sustained engagement wrought by the dissemination of new communication technologies across the continent. They may provide critical infrastructure, if and when the Obama and subsequent administrations decide to move away from short-term outreach based on crisis management or furthering U.S. economic or military interests and towards a long-term goal built on collaboration and dialogue with a diverse range of African publics. Understanding the current efficacy and potential applications of these forms of outreach in the African context is particularly important for those of us concerned with improving U.S.-Africa relations.
This is the first in a series of blog posts documenting a larger study on the role of U.S. public diplomacy 2.0 toward South Africa. In subsequent posts, I will expand on the questions raised here by documenting the results of an evolving case study that uses a combination of content analysis and hyperlink analysis to explore how South African issue networks propel and/or respond to this use of social media for U.S. public diplomatic outreach.
Ideally, as these flows intensify, journalists will make use of these information flows outside of crises and when Americans and other Westerners are not present (a factor that arguably played a large role in American coverage of the Kenyan attack).
This coverage, typified by the December 2011 cover of the Economist and the January 2012 cover of Time. “Africa’s Hopeful Economies: The Sun Shines Bright.” The Economist, December 3, 2011; Perry, Alex. “Africa Rising.” Time, December 2, 102.
During the Cold War, African public diplomacy was much more dynamic. Countless American jazz musicians toured the continent under what has been labeled Jazz diplomacy. In the 1980’s as concern over apartheid heightened, the National Security Council launched an interagency Special South and Southern African Public Diplomacy Working Group under the leadership of Ambassador Dave Miller. For more details on USIA activities on the continent, see: Dizard, Wilson P. Inventing Public Diplomacy: The Story of the U.S. Information Agency. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004.
There have been a few exceptions. See for example, Taylor, Ian. Unpacking China’s Resource Diplomacy in Africa. Working Paper. Hong Kong: Center on China’s Transnational Relations, 2007; Seib, Philip. AFRICOM: The American Military and Public Diplomacy in Africa. Los Angeles, CA: Figueroa Press, 2008.
Obama’s African record has been criticized ad nauseam. See for example: “Obama in Africa: Too Little Too Late?” BBC, June 26, 2013, sec. Africa; “Late but Not Empty-handed.” The Economist, June 22, 2013.
Should public diplomacy policy-makers turn to digital diplomacy tools for the future of practice? I ask this question to provoke some reflection among public diplomacy watchers beyond the quick criticism of tweeting ambassadors and social media campaigns. There seems to be some debate over whether or not digital media practices represent the future of US public diplomacy. Just check out the comments section on the announcement of Macon Philips taking over the position as Coordinator of International Information Programs. Philips brings his experience working in the Obama campaigns, which successfully leveraged social media to achieve a political objective (i.e. win an election). And yet, you get the sense from detractors that digital engagement advocates ignore how audiences have always been complicated, literate consumers of information - regardless of media platform. I am not sure what this amounts to: a critique of using new media forms for public diplomacy, or, a critique of claims made by its proponents about the requirements of influence today.
Still, I don’t think it’s right to dismiss the rhetoric of novelty surrounding digital diplomacy as simple faddism. Clearly something is happening in the field of diplomatic practice related to technology. Diplomats, NGOs, and other actors see digital platforms as a crucial element of how they shape and target the narratives they want to promote and the relations they want to cultivate.
Yet how we talk about the benefits, the dangers, and the misapplications of communication technology for public diplomacy is laden with implicit arguments of what can and should be possible through communication media in the service of public diplomacy: the enduring tensions between the competing imperatives of influence, understanding, and cultural relation-building.
Recent investigations analyzing the United States’ use of social media for public diplomacy suggest that we should revisit the assumptions that technology (i.e. information and communication technology) plays in the logics and practices of U.S. public diplomacy. By raising this question, I do not intend to provide yet another critique of diplomats using social media badly - such as questions raised about the use of Facebook by the U.S. Bureau of International Information Programs. What I find interesting about such concerns is how wide-ranging the critiques are. It’s too expensive. It’s ineffective. It’s somehow antithetical to the purpose of public diplomacy. Such arguments reveal that the strategy of public diplomacy (still) remains an open field to speculate over norms and purpose - with ample space for anyone with an agenda to let loose on public diplomacy practitioners.
But as USC argumentation scholar G. Thomas Goodnight contends, the spaces of controversy are generative - meaning we should look at them to understand how the meaning of the terms involved are being defined, argued, and stabilized (however tentatively). The semantics of public diplomacy coalesces from the blogs, reports, legislation, and importantly, practices that inform debate over how the U.S. should engage with foreign publics. Part of this debate inevitably involves attention to technology - the media platforms of relation-building, advocacy, and influence. What has emerged from discussion about public diplomacy and social media that might tell us something about the persuasive qualities of technology? A questioning of technology invites a larger inquiry into the nature and purpose of public diplomacy itself, and represents a good place to start questioning how we are thinking about the meanings attached to technologies lifted out of their social context, and into the realm of foreign relations.
It is tempting to approach the question with skepticism. For example, Evegeny Morozov’s extensive critique of technological rhetoric spans a range of topics, including public diplomacy. What I think is important about his work is his attention to how so-called “affordances” are rhetorically endowed upon technologies like the “Internet,” and that there are broader social consequences to the academic theorization about such technologies. Morozov heaps much of his critique on those academics who position technology as a pivotal (and often ambiguously described) catalyst in contemporary social and political theory, that is ushering a host of profound changes to how we govern, forge relations, and sustain markets. For this kind of rhetoric in public diplomacy, read Alec Ross’s speeches. Regardless of whether you buy into Morozov’s agenda wholesale, an important aspect of his critical view is that we should pay attention to the discourse that defines the powers of technology in ways that displace, efface, or otherwise transform social institutions.
Tarlton Gillespie’s article on the “Politics of Platforms” nicely highlights this kind of thinking.For Gillespie, the rhetoric of significant stakeholders in the communications industry works to shape the floating signifier of “platform” in ways that privilege market position and relations with the government. Technology “platforms” are as much a rhetorical construction as they are applications, infrastructures, and programs. They are packed with enthymemes about a technology’s purpose, values, and effectiveness - unspoken conclusions we have accrued over time about how important these platforms are. Social media technology in public diplomacy, to borrow from Alexander Wendt’s over-used constructivist catch-phrase: “is what you make of it.”
Ok. Back to the question. Does technology persuade?
Technology matters, regardless of whether you believe in the hype that surrounds its use for public diplomacy. In service of critique, it may help to start questioning how technology’s anticipated powers get in refracted through the lens of those who would seek to extract benefit. One way to answer the question would be to follow Gillespie’s advice. Facebook, for example, is not prima facie “persuasive” so much as it is actively built up by a variety of vocal actors as central, pervasive, and otherwise important to public life. It may also be persuasive, because network or audience analysis reveal some form of impact on the flow of influence between people or groups.
What I suggest is to probe a little more into the assumptions about how a technology “persuades” - in order to think more clearly about how platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) carry inherent capacities to persuade as much as the expectations we place onto these platforms. Then, we can revisit the question of whether technology persuades in ways important for the purposes of public diplomacy.
The question “does technology persuade” is admittedly ambiguous, as is it implies the need for at least two clarifications. One the hand, it means that technologies enable persuasion - it is a vehicle or medium somehow separate, yet imbricated, in the transaction that results in someone being persuaded. On the other hand, technology could also be persuasive in itself. For example, we believe messages because we receive them from friends via text messages. Or we saw an argument on a trusted blog. These may be hard to disentangle. Technology could persuade through the concatenation of “message” with the procedure encoded into how the medium is used (something video game theorist Ian Bogost describes as “procedural rhetoric”).
S. Shyam Sundar, Jeeyun Oh, Hyunjin Kang, and Akshaya Sreenivsan argue in a literature review that social scientific attention to how technology impacts persuasion is “surprisingly slim.” It represents either a “channel” (a term that evokes information-based models of communication), or it is a “bundled environment with inherent constraints.” We’re back to the key tension. Do messages (arguments, stories, images, etc.) become more likely to produce an effect given the medium of delivery? Or are they thus more likely to “persuade” because technologies are so embedded in social relations that have their own structural quality to produce an influence effect. To paraphrase James Carey, we might reframe the question: does technology persuade because of its “transmission” capacities, or, because of the “rituals” we engage on a daily basis on Twitter, Facebook, our smartphone, etc.
Social scientists have explored a number of what we might call peripheral or contextual impacts. For example, a message that could appear more “participatory” (like a blog post with a comments field) might be more attractive as a result of some cognitive heuristic prompted by the delivery platform. Communication technologies might also be more persuasive because they allow more user agency with the information, or possibly because they offer more vivid environments within which users might “self-persuade.”
Since I’m not usually in the business of experimental design, I am not seeking any definitive statement about the relationship of technology to persuasion - as there are clearly a number of ways that inducement manifests across how we communicate with each other. In the case of public diplomacy, however, the question of persuasion and influence becomes more complicated by the pressures that policy-makers put on public diplomacy. The question of whether technology persuades conceals the assumptions that get freighted onto what policy-makers expect public diplomacy to accomplish with new communication technologies.
Practitioners confront increased pressure to demonstrate impact and effectiveness. But as much of the public diplomacy scholarly literature reveals, public diplomacy in practice can mean a lot of things: Relation-building, attitude change, the consideration of alternative information, the building of social capital, political warfare, etc. Resistance to advocates calling for more technology in public diplomacy can rightly decry the air of “solutionism” that often pervades calls for US digital engagement. But at the same time, there should be a more serious introspection over (a) how “traditional” public diplomacy practices can be legitimately augmented by new media platforms and (b) how qualitatively new forms of diplomatic practice might be emerging in ways that challenge our definition of “public diplomacy.”
TALLINN --- Estonia’s capital seems a peaceful place. Tallinn’s cobblestoned streets are lined by medieval walls and towers, and tourists stroll amid churches and coffee shops. But Estonians live in a rough neighborhood; their eastern neighbor is Russia, which has never fully accepted that Estonia prefers the company of EU and NATO countries.
The Annual Baltic Conference on Defense took place in Tallinn last week, with principal focus on how soft power and hard power might be combined as smart power. Discussions featured the president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of the U.S. European Command. Although their comments touched on conflicts ranging from Mali to Afghanistan, the threat of Russian adventurism was a persistent subtext, particularly among representatives of the Baltic countries. (The conference was conducted under the Chatham House rule, so information in this article may not be directly attributed to anyone in attendance.)
As one of the few Americans participating, I realized quickly that the physical distance between the United States and Russia has made us nonchalant about Russian power and intentions. We allow ourselves to be distracted by ploys such as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s venting on The New York Times op-ed page, while his near neighbors feel the pressure of “soft coercion” applied by Russia. During recent months, Russian military exercises have included simulated air strikes and electronic warfare against Sweden and substantial troop movements near Poland and Baltic states. NATO will hold its own exercises later this year, but they will be considerably smaller in scale (and menace) than those conducted by Russia. If the former Soviet satellite states feel neglected by the West, nerves will be on edge and chances will increase that during a military exercise a tragic mistake might occur and lead to bloodshed.
One way to avoid this is for the Baltic countries to rely on soft power to build the kind of international support that would make the Russians act more carefully. Few in the West, particularly in the United States, understand that these states, which have been free from Soviet control for only about 20 years, have become natural allies for the West’s major powers. Not everything about the governments of Eastern Europe is perfect, but most of these countries have come a long way since Soviet days.
Paula Soler-Moya, Creative Commons
Soft power, channeled through public diplomacy, could better establish the political and cultural identities of these states in ways that would help them build international constituencies. If other countries’ publics feel that they “know” the Baltic nations, they might pay more attention to them and be inclined to support them in disputes with Russia.
For that matter, NATO itself could do more to reach the publics of its member states and others. NATO seems to take for granted that its member countries’ publics recognize its value and will continue indefinitely to provide NATO with resources. That is a hubristic assumption that fails to recognize the sometimes fickle nature of public opinion, particularly when that opinion is not consistently nurtured.
NATO and Russia have abundant hard power at their disposal, while the Baltic nations on their own have little choice but to rely on soft power. That does not mean that these countries operate from a position of weakness. Those wishing to wield soft power through public diplomacy can find plenty of venues for doing so. Among these, the ever-expanding media universe provides forums for courting global publics. These media tools are the great equalizers of today’s world. Using them wisely as part of broader public diplomacy efforts could help bring some much-needed balance to the politically tense Baltic-Russian relationship.
Stanislav Budnitskiy on September 26, 2013 @ 8:33 am It is interesting how Putin's use of "the ever-expanding media universe for courting global publics" (via the NYT op-ed) is outrightly dismissed as "distraction" / "ploy" / "venting," while the advice given to the Baltic States is precisely to "wield soft power through public diplomacy."
What is the difference here, where do we draw the line? Is public diplomacy an instrument reserved only for the chosen (allied) few? Or only when one agrees with its content/message?
While there's no denial of the persistent issues in the Russia-Baltic relations, Russia remains one of the top trading partners for all three countries of the region. Wouldn't it be more productive and far-sighted for the Baltic States to wisely use PD to improve relations with Russia, their geographical neighbor with great and mutually beneficial economic potential, instead for "consistently nurturing" faraway publics in an attempt to portray the situation through the Cold War metaphors?
It is only in working democracies that an election would mean a real fresh start for the citizens of a country. This seems to be true about Iran. Since the election of the moderate Hassan Rouhani in June 2013, the voters inside the country and statesmen across the world have expected a relatively new Iran.
Rouhani won the election on the platforms of "hope" and "moderation." The background of Iran's president is a testament to what he adheres to. It might be true that he is a Rouhani (Farsi for the clergy) and comes from the rank of the Ayatollahs, but he is also a scholar and holds a PhD in Law from Scotland's Glasgow Caledonian University. In addition, he comes from the very inner circle of reformist power in Iran. He served on the war committee during the Iran-Iraq war where he was a close confidante of the moderate former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and later he served as the national security advisor to Iran's former President Khatami (also a reformist).
http://www.rouhani.ir/, Creative Commons
He has only been in office three months now and yet during this period of time he has brought a new sense of hope to Iranians. Members of his ministerial cabinet represent both reformists and moderates of the Khatami and Hashemi era. His cultural and economic policies are also a blend of both Khatami and Hashemi approaches. Rouhani has released a number of political prisoners and has begun to replace former presidents' governors, presidents, and heads of offices. His smooth tongue and mellow movements towards change are all signs of a reformist-moderate president in action.
Rouhani has also made a positive impression on the politicians in the West. Exchange of conciliatory letters between him and Obama led The New York Times to write "Obama Finds a Pen Pal in Iran." Other statesmen like German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and former British Foreign Minister Jack Straw also welcomed the new president as a person "we can do business with."
This week, Hassan Rouhani is going to address the world as the new face of Iran at the UN General Assembly. There is even a chance for him and Obama to meet during Rouhani's visit to New York. Politicians around the world, especially in the Middle East and Europe, will be eagerly listening to what the moderate Rouhani says. However, the world will wait to see if Rouhani will actually implement the change he has promised.
Mostafa on September 24, 2013 @ 10:13 pm So we're just waiting through the end of story to see what these reformers you mentioned could do and hopefully good news!
saranaz on September 27, 2013 @ 7:18 am I think you are right about the moderate tone of Mr. Rouhani and how people have become more hopeful. I was in Iran during the elections and most Tehranians seemed to believe that this president is a game changer. However, I can't help to sense a kind of disconnect between what Mr. Rouhani shows to the west and how he acts within the borders of Iran. I think the whole "Holocuast" issue this week was a good example of this . I believe their is still so much he needs to get done before we can actually trust the tweeting and his charming smile to the west.
PhD student , UMD
Javad on September 27, 2013 @ 7:56 am @Saranaz, Since "Moderation" will be the path, one should perhaps scale down their expectations.
BUCHAREST --- When public diplomacy issues are discussed, focus tends to be on major powers that are particularly active in this field – the United States, China, Israel, the United Kingdom, Russia, and a few others. But Romania has now announced that it wants to join the big guys’ club, and it is taking purposeful steps toward doing so.
A new public diplomacy program has been created within the office of Romania’s president, Traian Basescu, who has put his personal clout behind its efforts. At a conference in Bucharest last week marking the beginning of the new public diplomacy venture, Basescu said, “Romania is proud of itself,” and he criticized the common depiction of Romania as the source of other countries’ crime problems. This reputation is at least in part a product of racism directed toward Romania’s Roma, or Gypsy, population, members of which are actively discriminated against throughout much of Europe.
European People's Party
Migration of workers continues to be a contentious issue within Europe, and to some extent Romania’s new emphasis on public diplomacy is responding defensively to this, saying in effect, “We cannot let others define us; we must do so ourselves.” That is merely a stop-gap approach, lacking the breadth of outlook that public diplomacy, like other elements of foreign policy, requires. To be fully beneficial, public diplomacy must be strategic, not tactical, and must convince European publics that Romania is a solid citizen of the community of Europe. Romania’s public diplomats will need to work on this.
Former foreign minister Cristian Diaconescu, along with his colleague Dan Dima, is directing the public diplomacy effort, which he defines as “the management of external perception…that aims to offer to the international realm the necessary arguments for a solid structuring of our credibility and reputation abroad.” For those tempted to think Romania just needs a new “brand” identity, Diaconescu said that perceptions of Romania “cannot be magically created out of imaginative promotion, but must be built on policy.”
All this is encouraging, but Basescu’s team is in the midst of domestic political battling that is far nastier than anything seen these days in Washington. The president and the current foreign minister belong to different political parties and are so at odds that the foreign ministry chose to send no representative to the kick-off conference. This needs to be fixed. In any country, successful public diplomacy requires a long-term commitment that transcends partisanship.
Keeping that cautionary note in mind, Romania’s new emphasis on reaching out to foreign publics – not just other governments – should be considered a useful step forward in a number of ways. It is likely to benefit Romania’s regional stature and it will widen the circle of public diplomacy practitioners. In Europe, the collective political blood pressure tends to reach dangerous peaks. Public diplomacy may prove a helpful antidote.
Russia’s diplomatic intervention in the Syria crisis has received much praise from politicians and media outlets around the world. In a sense, the praise is deserved: by finally pushing the Assad regime into negotiations, Russia has halted – at least for the time being – a universally undesired military action.
Although previously Russia had blocked all UNSC resolutions which sought to impose sanctions on Syria (while simultaneously providing heavy weapons to the Assad regime), there are many reasons why the U.S. decided to accept the Russian-led plan. Withering domestic support for military intervention and the possibility of an expanded conflict were significant concerns. In conventional diplomacy, pragmatism is not a bad fallback position, and at times it is an essential strategy for making the best of a bad situation.
In the Russian media, Putin’s diplomatic initiative was presented as a moral triumph over America, as if it was due to his tactful diplomacy that the superpower backed off its guns. From the American perspective, however, an agreement with Russia was not about ideology but about forging the best possible deal given the circumstances. As Obama’s statement that "this is not the Cold War, this is not a contest between the United States and Russia" indicates, the President wanted to keep the Syria crisis apart from a debate on U.S./Russia relations.
However, Putin’s op-ed, which appeared in The New York Times on September 11, 2013, showed that from Russia’s perspective it is a contest after all. By directly addressing the American people in this, a piece of carefully drafted public diplomacy, Putin attempted to alter the way his diplomatic victory is perceived in America. Whereas in conventional diplomacy, decisions can be based on pragmatism, the very nature of public diplomacy does not allow pragmatism. Engagement with foreign publics through creation of dialogue and appeal to common values and emotions always entails a normative component. With the op-ed, Putin has begun an ideological battle – one that, as I will argue, has little to do with the issue of Syria itself, but concerns Russia and the United States.
The White House
Putin’s article in The New York Times seemed to both attract and repel his audience. At one point he chastised American policy and American exceptionalism, at another he drew on shared values to promote the importance of improved communications and partnership between the two nations. There is no doubt that American readers found Putin’s op-ed a little bizarre. Since when do foreign leaders take the time to lecture the American population in The New York Times? Moreover, American readers had difficulty reconciling the professorial tenor and language of the article with images of a shirtless, corrupt, authoritarian leader. Nevertheless, the discussion in the media and re-posts on Facebook and Twitter show that the op-ed received significant attention among the American public.
Both the careful choices of timing (publication on 9/11/2013) and target audience reveal that this was a carefully planned message intended to have maximum emotional impact. Putin appealed to the strong sentiment of opposition to another U.S war prevalent among the American public. Putin’s argument addressed the wide critique of U.S. interventionism among Americans, and the domestic crisis of American exceptionalism resulting from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The prolonged nature and international unpopularity of these wars have led especially the younger generation of Americans to view America’s armed involvement in foreign countries critically.
In fact, it was the very culture of political criticism which Putin exploited. Freedom of opinion and the importance of limiting government are two of America’s core values. Putin’s article, which appeared on a national day of self-reflection, stated a number of viewpoints already popular among the American public. Most importantly, the article appeared at a moment when the public was expressing frustration with their government when faced with the prospect of yet another war. Putin’s ideas were so sensible and appealing that for many readers the author became secondary.
Indeed, reading Putin’s arguments about the need for international peace, one could easily forget that it was under his leadership that Russia has been directly involved in – and in most cases instigated - every armed conflict in Eurasia in the last two decades (Georgia, Kosovo, Chechnya, and Nagorno-Karabakh). After all, these events are not common knowledge in the United States. It is also easy to overlook how Russia exerts economic and political pressure on countries like the Ukraine and Georgia to prevent them from moving closer to the West. Or that Putin has de facto extinguished any political opposition in his country. Further, one may not realize that while the free press allowed Putin to insert his public diplomacy initiative into one of America’s top newspapers, under his rule in Russia journalists who criticize the government tend to die under suspicious circumstances (e.g. Anna Politkovskaya).
The wide public engagement with the article shows the effectiveness of Putin’s method. By appealing to the “hearts and minds” of the American public, Putin showed that Russia’s diplomatic achievement was not only pragmatically but also ideologically superior to the path proposed by Obama. In this particular instance, public diplomacy is much easier for Putin than for Obama. Russia does not bear the same responsibility in the case of Syria as America, which faces criticism by the international public no matter what response it takes to the use of chemical weapons.
By no means does this imply that all American readers were convinced by Putin and were not critical of his comments. However, the public’s interest in the article and concessions by readers stating that it “made good points" show that this public diplomacy campaign was success. The fact that the American public is willing to engage in a discussion on their country’s international policies with a foreign leader, a former KGB agent, a known authoritarian ruler and a human rights violator in his own country, is a tremendous achievement on Putin’s part.
Why did Putin bother to seek an ideological victory when he already got his way on Syria? I argue that the true reason lies far beyond Syria. As he says in his piece, it is “alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States” and this kind of foreign policy should not be “America’s long-term interest.” Indeed, if America wanted to flight every dictator who violates human rights or straighten any international injustice, Putin himself would be next on the list. Of course, with Russia’s energy supplies and nuclear arsenal, Putin’s position is far too secure for that to happen. Nonetheless, America is currently the only power keeping Russia in check. Due to the EU’s dependence on Russian gas, only the U.S. can exert enough pressure on Russia in the event of a conflict with a neighboring country, be it of an economic, political, or military nature – providing, of course, that the U.S. has the willingness to do so.
With Putin, already in power for nearly 13 years, tightening his grip both over his own country and those nearby, it is likely that we will see another case like Georgia in 2008, i.e. a country in conflict with Russia asking the West for help. By creating in American readers’ minds the image of a peace-loving Putin who prevented a war with Syria, the Russian President hopes that the American public will be more reluctant to call for action in such a situation.
The “Syria analogy” which Putin tried to create in his article aims to undermine more than America’s right of military intervention. His arguments targeted the broader – already very much shaken -- concept of American exceptionalism: the idea that because of the values it represents, America has a right, or even a duty, to interfere in the affairs of other countries. Showing his readers that this time it was not America but Russia who resolved a crisis and prevented a war, Putin intended to undermine the perception of American moral superiority over Russia and establish the two nations as ideologically equal partners. This might not be the Cold War, but the Russian leader’s use of emotional words to paint America black, while presenting Russia as a peaceful nation, certainly brings back memories of Soviet propaganda speeches.
In June of 2013, reports revealed contemplation by the United Kingdom to impose a £3000 (US $4,715.4) bond on visa applicants from some five countries; India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ghana, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. According to the plan, this bond program and the visa applicants from the target countries will participate in a pilot scheme of a broad plan aimed at checking illegal immigration into the UK.
Promoters of the policy explain that the bond is targeted at high-risk first time visitors to the UK who are more likely to overstay the six month visa with which they entered the country. This plan indicates that this idea is part of the UK government’s response to tackling immigration challenges facing the country, an issue the Conservative Party promised to handle during the 2010 campaign. However, the tide of public opinion has risen against this proposed policy. The bond idea has drawn strong opposition from governments and citizens of the targeted countries, with Nigeria for instance, threatening reciprocity if the policy is brought into effect. Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Olugbenga Ashiru, had summoned the in-country British High Commissioner to warn of the consequences of its implementation.
Reports that the policy will be implemented beginning in November drew a more vociferous threat of a counter, forcing the UK High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Andrew Pocock to embark on some damage control measures. He clarified that the bond policy is not yet a fait accompli. The High Commissioner told a Nigerian newspaper in August:
"We don't know...whether this will happen at all, but if 150,000 Nigerians travel to the UK every year, this scheme will probably only affect a couple of hundreds, which is a very small proportion of 150,000. So it's not a catastrophe coming down the road....there is no policy; it is simply something that is being discussed in the UK. If we do need to set up some kind of policy, there will be a pilot scheme, a very small scheme to see how it works and to see if Nigeria is one of the countries. But even if this bond scheme is put into practice, it will affect only a tiny fraction of the travelling public of Nigerians."
But not many in Nigeria were impressed with Mr. Pocock’s assurances. Opposition has continued to gather momentum with Abuja merely echoing the mass discontent of Nigerians with the visa bond proposal. Abike Dabiri, Member of the House of Representatives and Chair of the Diaspora Affairs Committee, described the plan in harsh words, saying it is capable of affecting diplomatic relations between Nigeria and the UK. Dabiri stated, “I think it’s ridiculous. I know they’re saying it will only affect a small percentage of ‘high risk’ Nigerians but who defines these criteria?”, the lawmaker queried.
Another issue lawmakers and politicians have addressed is the trade relationship between the two countries and how it could be damaged. Nigerians have always found Britain a destination of choice for tourism and business, despite the hurdles placed in front of travellers; including proof of adequate ties to the home country before a visa will be granted. While most visas require proof of residency in the home country, for Nigerians travelling to the UK, in some cases, provision of proof includes demands for papers indicating economic circumstances, employment status, marital status, and the likes may not be as important as the disposition of a consular official assigned to treat the application.
But having scaled these impediments to get entry visas, the majority of Nigerian travellers often deploy lots of resources and goodwill to the benefit of the host country in sectors as diverse as education, medical tourism, and commerce, among others. A Nigerian Education think tank, Exam Ethics International, in a 2012 report, claimed that Nigerians spend 80 Billion Naira (U.S. $500m) on educational pursuits in the UK.
A recent Financial Times article cited the report of a study by UK-based tax-free shopping specialists, Global Blue, placed Nigerians as the sixth largest spending nationality of luxury goods buyers in the UK. The report gave graphic statistics of the generous shopping prowess of Nigerians on London’s High Street and elsewhere thus: “Global Blue’s data show Nigerian spending rose 17 percent in the first six months of 2013, measured against the same period last year, with the average spend per head rising to £628 from £505.”
These substantial contributions by Nigerian citizens to the UK economy are what proponents of the £3000 visa bond policy tend to have glossed over and want to jeopardize. Worse still, the implications for Britain’s image, brand, and public opinion of the general Nigerian populace, as well as people of the other countries targeted, do not seem to mean much to those pushing this ill conceived policy.
The David Cameron-led Conservative coalition may push the bond policy through regardless of the public diplomacy backlash it portends. But the government should know that imposing a down payment for a visa is not a foolproof way to address immigration troubles. Desperate immigrants determined to remain in the UK could decide to forgo the £3000 bond and stay put as if to suggest that the money deposited is payment for illegal immigration. At the end of the day, the problem intended to be solved remains unsolved, if not further compounded.
And then an avoidable diplomatic brick-bat is set off. Because as far as Dabiri, the Member of the Nigerian House of Representatives is concerned, “Nigeria must not only bark; it must bite. The principle of reciprocity must be applied, and even more can be done....Yes, we have challenges, but that is not a reason for Britain to treat us this way. If Nigeria does not stand firm on this, it would be a shame to our nation and our people.”
It is not only in the targeted countries that opposition to the visa bond has arisen. Within the UK political establishment itself, the plan has received some flak. UK Business Secretary, Vince Cable, pointedly told Downing Street to perish the idea. Cable told the Financial Times that the policy gives the impression that Britain is closed for business.
Additionally, a report by Bloomberg detailed a high degree of angst among a broad spectrum of Indians on the bond proposal with some commentators calling for the Nigerian-style response of reciprocity. Ambassador Kishan Rana, India’s former envoy to Germany, was quick to call on his country to impose a reciprocal scheme on British tourists seeking to come to India.
Given the wide-scale disapproval that has trailed the bond policy, the Cameron Administration may do well to avoid public diplomacy crisis by thrashing the plan which was described in the Bloomberg article as a “a move that seems to combine inefficacious policy, obtuse public relations and moral tastelessness.” The £3000 visa bond gambit clearly portrays the downside of Downing Street’s public diplomacy.
Putin is known for the love of strong language and a questionable, if not inappropriate, sense of humor. This has not changed over his nearly 15 years in power. Russia’s head of state ascended to the presidency in 1999-2000 famously promising to “waste terrorists in the out house, ” and most recently dismissed Assad’s chemical attack claims as “utter nonsense,” raising some eyebrows in the West.
The latter expression was far from diplomatic or helpful – especially given the level of complexity, controversy, and tensions surrounding the Syrian conflict these days. Turning to overly aggressive and provocative rhetoric is hardly the way to resolve this conundrum. Fortunately, Putin realized this, authoring a calm and well-reasoned piece in The New York Times on September 11th, titled A Plea for Caution from Russia.
Putin’s opening remarks are particularly telling of the changing communication environment and the growing role of public diplomacy in contemporary international politics, as he acknowledges the importance of direct communication with foreign audiences. Putin stated:
“Recent events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.”
To some, the evidence of Assad’s chemical warfare is obvious, to others – dubious. Realistically, the absolute majority of us are not in a position to come to an informed conclusion on this issue, having to rely on the media, our pre-existing political beliefs, and simply gut feeling.
World Economic Forum
In these circumstances, the role of direct dialogue and clear communication between all parties involved—including the publics—is of vital importance. Yet, this is precisely what is, for the most part, missing in the mainstream’s media coverage of the issue. Assumptions, one-sidedness, and sometimes plain hysteria seem to be dominating the discussion.
Putin is no pacifist or impartial peacemaker. Just like Obama, he is a commander-in-chief and head of state, naturally, pursuing a certain geopolitical agenda. It is still encouraging to see him turn into a public diplomat on the pages of The New York Times, hopefully giving diplomacy another chance at a time when “cases for blowing things up” are prevailing within the U.S. information landscape.
It is Tokyo, after all. It was nearly 6am when a few thousand supporters gathered at Komazawa Stadium, one of the key venues for Tokyo’s 1964 games, exploded in celebration as International Olympic Committee Jacques Rogge held up the winning envelope marked “Tokyo 2020." With Madrid ousted at the first round, the Tokyo-Istanbul competition boosted the hopes of the Japanese bidders that eventually took the final vote by a large margin: 60 to 36.
Tokyo had been seen as the favorite in the race for a while. As the situation in Istanbul and neighboring Syria deteriorated, the Japanese case surged in confidence despite the concerns over the Fukushima disaster. The media response, as well as most of the official questioning at the IOC, was focused on the challenges brought about by these security concerns. News reports on the Olympic bids echoed with the government’s crackdown on protesters in the streets of Istanbul, the stalling Syrian crisis in the Middle East, the growing concern about radioactive waters and health safety caused by the never-ending Japanese saga with the nuclear power plant. These themes will no doubt remain part of the “Tokyo 2020” reports for the weeks to come. Yet it might, amid all of the discussion, be worth taking a quick step into what the games mean for the city and for the world of spectators and visitors that will be engaging with the Japanese capital.
After half a century, the Olympics are back in town. Downtown to be precise. As the games are set to head for the largest urban area in the world, a record that Tokyo has held since 1955, media and bid officers have started calling the event the “downtown games." The vast majority (28 of 33) of the venues and activities will be located in the Tokyo Bay zone, within an eight kilometer radius from the centrally located Olympic village. The main stadium will be situated in the city’s heritage zone between the imperial palace and town hall.
Tokyo is promising the most urbanised games, in the most urbanised city, for the most urbanised century. Needless to say, such a vision poses mammoth challenges even for one of the most efficient metropolises in the world. Although most of the core infrastructure will be completed well ahead of the event, the city will need to deliver crucial improvements in transportation and environmental conservation.
Flickr, Creative Commons, Ryan Alexander
Second-time lucky Tokyo had taken a pragmatic approach to this bid: keep the best of the (failed) 2016 bid plan, and “improve the rest” to offer a more effective call for the games to head East twelve years after Beijing 2008. Tokyo’s bid built extensively on the experience of London 2012, highlighting the “global city” connection between the two metropolises, stressing the importance of urban retrofit versus new development, and having a strong emphasis on recasting some of the parameters of daily life in the city.
With London, the games brought a greater push for green spaces, non-motorised mobility routes and intersected substantially with initiatives designed to shape the everyday life of Londoners in the long term.
London invested more than £11 million in walking and cycling routes leading to games venues, and has been promoting an Active Travel Programme managed and delivered by Transport for London (a body part of the Greater London Authority) aimed at enhancing sustainable alternatives to public services such as cycling.
Tokyo follows suit by referencing these developments directly across many of the candidature files and initiatives that, devised for the 2016 Games, took new life in the winning bid. For example, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government established a Bureau of Sports aimed at implementing the “City of Sports – Tokyo” program that seeks to allow “anybody, anytime, anywhere" to enjoy sport in the city. Yet the focus of the Olympics in Tokyo will be even more centered on the role of the city as a vehicle for development, celebration, connectivity and more generally as the future of humanity. The Olympics offer a unique window for sub-national authorities such as the Greater London Authority or the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, allowing for substantial public diplomacy initiatives. While the UK had pledged to make London 2012 a “cutting edge example of sustainability,” and the “greenest games ever,” Tokyo promises us to allow people to “discover tomorrow” in a celebration of “dynamic innovation.”
The games offer a window of opportunity for Tokyo, that has for the past few decades taken a secondary stage in promoting this global city leadership for environmental, social, and economic challenges, at least relative to Western giants like New York and London or emerging Global South voices like Mexico City and Rio, to reassert an East Asian, urban voice. If Tokyo 2020 will truly have to be the “downtown games” it is then time for the city to demonstrate what challenges and opportunities the urban century reserves for us. The bid is a hopeful start, but much more work lies ahead to take the world downtown.
Michele Acuto receives funding from the UK's Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for the project "Urban Connections: City Leadership for Global Governance."
Here’s some news that will probably get buried amid the debates on Syria in the House of Representatives today. The Swedish Migration Board earlier announced that all Syrian refugees will be granted permanent residence. This means that the 8,000 Syrians who have currently been granted asylum on a temporary basis, together with any of the millions of currently displaced Syrians who can make it to Sweden, will be able to settle there and bring their families. While other countries are bickering over whether to intervene with force, Sweden is the only country in the European Union to simply do the right thing, quietly and decisively.
Why is this interesting from a public diplomacy perspective? Last year, Sweden developed a new PD strategy in which aid is a key component. Yet, when I dug around looking for examples of what this meant in practice, there was a degree of uncertainty within PD circles. Swedish PD has had a trade remit for the past eight years or so, as you might expect for a small, exporting country. The aid organization SIDA has its own communications setup and isn’t on the national promotional board. The Migration Board works mainly to the domestic public. The parts of the foreign ministry that deal with aid and communication are in separate buildings and don’t work together on aid-related PD. Basically, things aren’t set up for aid to be a central component of PD.
Fredrik Malm, Creative Commons
But Sweden is also one of the most generous countries in the world, giving 0.99% of GNI as aid. By comparison, the United States gives 0.19%, although obviously the levels of cash donated are astronomically higher. The point, though, is that Sweden gives more of what it has than all other countries in the world (bar the tiny tax haven of Luxembourg). No wonder they want to better communicate that.
Sweden’s bold stance on Syria – besides being the right thing – is a reputational masterstroke. It tells the world that the choice isn’t just between military action and inaction, but that there are alternatives based around compassion. It doesn’t seek revenge on a corrupt regime, and the risk associated with violent intervention, but rather invites the victims of atrocities into a safe shelter, and offers them the possibility to build a new future. This isn’t the time to discuss the problems with Sweden’s integration policies (there are plenty), nor to go into the other risks (such as security and human trafficking). The point is this: Sweden is providing a genuine alternative to the Anglo-American debates of this week and last, and it’s doing so in a way consistent with its brand and its aims for national promotion.
I spoke in a previous blog posting about how we need alternative metrics to money and power. Doing the right thing, helping in a time of profound need, offering a future – these are all intangible when compared to trade and investment figures, but there importance is not diminished as a result. This is an example of a third metric at work.
Nonetheless, Sweden needs to get better at getting the political messages across. For decades, neutrality was famously a mainstay of Swedish diplomacy. So was silence. In my opinion, there remains the persistent belief among the older generation of Swedish diplomats that diplomatic integrity and public communication are mutually exclusive; you can’t be a trustworthy partner if you are engaging in public debates at the same time as secret discussions. The rise of PD during the past decade was a compromise hinging on the perceived need to push trade objectives, and there was far less political advocacy or diplomatic public communication taking place than perhaps seemed. I’ve no doubt that Sweden’s Syria policy has been shared with allies behind closed doors, but shouldn’t they have used public diplomacy methods to attempt to influence the terms of debate in Britain, France, and the U.S.? Isn’t this something to advocate to other European publics, as well as to governments? Yet, I find no mention of this story in the rather unscientific sample of news sources I just looked through, outside of the Swedish press.
Sweden likes to assume the role of honest broker, but this often comes at the cost of its ability to advocate specific points of policy directly to foreign publics. Its stance on Syria demonstrates that there is a role for it to play in public debates around the world. Shifts in its PD policy suggest that this could all come together in progressive, caring, authentic, open, and innovative ways (as the brand values assure us). The case of Syria, perhaps more than any other in recent years, demonstrates that Sweden must complement its quiet diplomacy and clever branding with public diplomacy.
Paul on September 4, 2013 @ 2:42 am Very good piece, tack for sharing!
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I spent the past few weeks in the Dominican Republic with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), witnessing workers’ grassroots efforts to further basic human rights in the workplace. Conducting cultural diplomacy, American college students of USAS also work closely with Dominican workers to reform corporate social responsibility
(See my previous blog post for background information).
As I interacted with Dominican laborers, I saw the stark economic reality that often evades international news and media. The DR’s largely unregulated job market, especially in free trade zones, doesn’t correct labor rights violations, oppressing the social mobility of the impoverished and widening the gap between the wealthy 10% and the poor.
Money is unevenly distributed to the corrupt government, not to the workers who drive the economy. Many extraneous government positions enjoy high salaries, and a majority of Dominicans, Haitian immigrants, and Haitian-Dominicans live in poverty. According to the World Bank, 40.4% of the population lived at the national poverty line in 2011. Meanwhile, the government fails to provide sufficient public services and address high unemployment, raising taxes on a growing disillusioned public. Throughout my stay in Villa Altagracia and Santa Domingo, power outages were frequent, and running water was scarce. This speaks to the government’s unaddressed infrastructural issues. Still, citizens hold their breath for Medina’s inaugural promise to abate poverty and solve the power shortage.
The Alta Gracia factory bustle with business, completing their newest order of Starbucks bags.
I spoke with a call center worker in Villa Altagracia. He referred to several scandals that abused public money: Banco Intercontinental President Figueroa’s money laundering during Mejia’s presidency  and Mejía’s $800,000 increase in personal wealth during his presidential term . He commented that part of the problem is lack of public knowledge and resources to target government corruption and inaction; many people are uninformed about their rights as citizens, let alone their rights as workers.
The Dominican heavily relies on manufacturing, which is 24% of the national GDP. In 2003, about 85% of Dominican garment exports to the United States faced increasing competition from free trade zones in developing Asian countries, such as China and India . Because Dominican free trade zones constantly compete in a global market and largely depend on exports to the United States to fuel the economy, manufacturers cut production costs to attract United States corporations. Although CAFTA-DR was intended to alleviate competition from Asian free trade zones, it has allowed manufacturers (and companies that contract them) to dodge labor laws and pay below minimum wage in the DR.
Living in the free trade zone of Villa Altagracia, I witnessed workers in the garment industry starting to self-enforce their human rights. Meeting with workers in the Alta Gracia garment factory, we witnessed the budding local movement towards collective organizing. In this region, workers typically make less than $1 an hour. Alta Gracia workers used to be employed by BJ&B, a Nike manufacturer, who mistreated them and shut down production after USAS helped workers form a union. Now they’re employed by Alta Gracia, the DR’s first ever living wage factory that provides almost three and a half times above the region’s minimum wage, ergonomic chairs, a healthy work environment, and a democratic workplace for a union voice.
Meeting with Alta Gracia garment workers (many of which are women and single mothers), I was inspired by their stories. With a living wage, one worker was able to take out a loan with her husband to start a laundry-mat business. Yenny, the union treasurer, successfully paid for her daughters’ university education. Alta Gracia elevates females’ social statuses through economic independence.
Alta Gracia empowers other workers in the region to form unions. Contrary to negative stigma about unions, all the unions we met didn’t have any political affiliations. Alta Gracia workers and USAS met with SitraGildan workers in Bayaguana, who are enduring a 5-year fight against the factory’s fake yellow union. The factory authorized a yellow union through the courts in an attempt to block out the union formed by workers. Going to court, the workers pushed against the yellow union, gaining a 17% increase in salary.
A call center union, Sindicato Uneca, also faces the same obstacles with its company’s yellow union. Before Sindicato Uneca’s formation, one female worker developed kidney stones, because guards stopped workers from entering the bathroom. Other women, who didn’t know their rights, thought it was normal that managers asked for sexual favors. Finally, one worker tried to organize a union. In response, the company created a yellow union with false signatures to skew their membership numbers. When workers took the yellow union to court, the company bribed the union leader with large sums of money. One manager even threatened to cut a union member’s head off. They’re gaining better working conditions, but every day they face new forms of oppression.
Despite corporations’ attempts to squelch union formation, DR workers unite through local education and exchange. Alta Gracia, Sindicato Uneca, and SitraGildan educate workers about their rights. In an exchange, one female factory worker said that she didn’t get maternity leave. An Alta Gracia union leader promised to provide her support and advice to assert her rights.
The workers’ movement demonstrates that word-of-mouth knowledge and unified action drives progress. This grassroots labor movement promotes CSR, although the Dominican government and manufacturers for American corporations avoid responsibility. When asking workers what the role of the local government was, many echoed: “Workers don’t have local government accessibility, and if there is a local government, they’re not involved.” So far, the government has failed to play any role in protecting workers. Widespread change has started, as Dominican workers join with Fedotrazonas (an umbrella organization for unions in the DR), USAS students, NGO’s, and worker populations abroad. Perhaps legislation and government intervention proves ineffective in enforcing Dominican labor standards, as we see more local and foreign publics promoting CSR.
The Alta Gracia factory has ergonomic chairs, allows bathroom breaks, and provides safe and healthy working conditions.
There is also potential to engage the significant Dominican diaspora population in the United States. About 1.5 million people of Dominican-descent live in the U. S., with populations concentrated in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Florida. Creating public diplomacy ties between Dominican workers and the United States’ Dominican population can better influence American corporations’ economic and social responsibility throughout the Dominican.
Counteracting the Dominican government’s conservatism, Dominican workers and USAS use extreme measures to enforce CSR, pushing American universities nationwide to sell more ethically-produced clothing, such as apparel manufactured by Alta Gracia. USAS campaigns until universities sign sweatshop-free clothing contracts and force their apparel companies to abide by new Codes of Conduct, enforced safety regulations, and unbiased factory monitors, such as the Workers’ Rights Consortium. We want American students and the national public to demand and require CSR on companies and their manufacturers.
As James Pamment described the new public diplomacy school’s “contemporary expectations of accountability,” USAS helps Dominican workers shift the implementation of CSR towards an international business standard. CSR is often abused as a company’s branding strategy to attract ethically-conscious consumers. If Dominican unions gain international attention through various online and media avenues, companies and manufacturers labor violations can be held liable on a global level for human rights infringements. And furthermore, the Dominican government and diplomats might be forced to evaluate and re-construct the country’s image – paying more attention to citizens’ well-being and demands, as well as the lack of internal controls on government corruption.
Fitzgerald, M. (2003). Figueroa feels the heat. Editor & Publisher, 136(22), 24. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/194315385?accountid=14749
Ribando, C. M. (2005). Dominican Republic: Political and Economic Conditions and Relations with the United States. The Library of Congress.
Dominican republic economy: DR-CAFTA goes into effect. (2007). New York: The Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/466571382?accountid=14749
Huffington Post readers may be familiar with Arianna Huffington’s campaign to redefine success away from the two metrics of money and power toward a third which includes well-being, wisdom, and our ability to wonder and give back. The old, masculine signifiers of success lead to burnout, sleep deprivation and general grumpiness. Businesses should instead take care of their workforce, and indeed encourage their workers to take care of themselves. A healthy, happy, motivated workforce should be a symbol of success in its own right.
Why am I telling you this (besides the fact that it might inspire you to go home from work early)? Because the mysterious bundle of practices we call public diplomacy are also heavily determined by the same two metrics of success: money and power. Let’s be clear about this - our field is littered with euphemisms for these two terms. Influence? Power, indirectly. Soft power? Do what I do, please. Information? This is how it is. Engagement? I want to talk to you about something. Dialogue? What do you think about what I just said. Collaboration? We’ll pay for everything if you sign here. Persuasion? Oh, go on. Promotion? Hey, why don’t you buy our stuff. Attraction? Buy our stuff, you know you want to. Reputation? Buy our stuff, you know it’s good. Public diplomacy is, at the bottom-line, about money and power, power and money.
But I think the reason students and scholars are attracted to explore these practices is precisely because of the unavoidable feeling that there is a Third Metric at work. Isn’t public diplomacy about doing good, increasing peace, generating goodwill, and improving lives? Didn’t it win the Cold War, heal the civilizational rift post-9/11 and ensure China’s rise was peaceful? As Woodrow Wilson suggested nearly a century ago, wouldn’t the world be a better place if every nation explained itself and its policies through open public discourse, in an international system of peaceful dialogue rather than selfish belligerence? Public diplomacy stands for all of these things, but it seems to me we spend more time talking about what it could be rather than what it is.
Over the summer, a number of PD scholars published blog postings on the situation in the Middle East. Phil Seib recently contended, ‘Nothing less than a new regional economic structure is needed …, and public diplomacy can help make it happen.’ Rhonda Zaharna wrote, ‘In an increasingly interconnected global environment public diplomacy practitioners need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the relational dynamics.’ Guy Golan added, ‘the United States should revamp its international broadcasting strategy around a systematic, research based, mediated public diplomacy approach.’ Spot the similarities? Public diplomacy is (rightly) seen as a solution for major, complex problems in world affairs – but for it to be a solution, public diplomacy must change. It’s a bit like unrequited love for that boy/girl in high school who never noticed us: they’d be perfect if only they shared our interests, had a different group of friends, and got rid of the nose ring. Public diplomacy could solve some of the world’s most significant problems, if only it was completely different to how it actually is.
As Ms. Huffington might put it, public diplomacy’s big problem is in the disjuncture between the ultimately unhealthy and unsustainable metrics of power and money, and the third metric of doing good, being wise and giving back. We want public diplomacy to be a force for good in a healthy international system. We can see how it might happen, if only practitioners would start using it in different ways. We’ve had plenty of theories of change within public diplomacy, but relatively discouraging evidence of changing PD practices. So why the disjuncture between theory and practice?
There are a number of possible schools of thought among different styles of PD scholarship that each approaches the problem in different ways. For some, PD is an apologist for money and power, fostering the illusion of inclusiveness, wisdom, and giving back. We might call this the critical school, characterized by its anti-capitalist, anti-branding positioning. In this case, any sense of a Third Metric is nothing more than a smokescreen for practices that reinforce existing international political economic structures, and therefore there is little point in attempting to engage with practitioners.
PD could also be considered a neutral tool currently deployed in the service of money and power, but that could potentially be used to instead support other goals. We might term this the historical school as it is the favored position of many scholars with a background in propaganda research. In this case, shifts towards the Third Metric are found in the decisions of practitioners and policymakers, and are expressed through organisational cultures and political objectives. The integrity of individuals in positions of power is key to changing PD practices, and hence PD education programs are a tool for effecting change over time.
For others, PD is considered a work-in-progress, something we all have to help nurture into its optimal form under difficult constraints. This might be termed the recommendations school, on the basis that these scholars contribute policy-relevant research with suggestions for how to improve policy. In this case, we can all participate in shaping a PD based around the Third Metric by analysing real-world problems and suggesting solutions. By sharing the terms of practitioners, incremental change is possible.
Lastly, PD could be considered the partial opening of closed, secretive institutions in line with contemporary expectations of accountability, participation, and transparency. This might be termed the new public diplomacy school. In this case, organisations are being compelled by outside forces to consider the Third Metric if they want their communications to appear relevant. Hence we are all PD actors with a stake and responsibility in PD’s intentions and practices.
Each of these approaches carries the potential for the analysis of different aspects of the Third Metric. I wish, therefore, to make one simple point to students and scholars of PD who want it to stand for something more than simply the first two metrics. If we are to edge the field closer to the vision of public diplomacy so many of us share, we need to demonstrate how and why the Third Metric is a practical complement or even an alternative to the first two. In our investigations of past, present and future campaigns, there is no hard and fast rule that determines the criteria we use to analyse them. The metrics used by PD practitioners do not determine the metrics used by students and scholars. They may be focused on money and power, but we retain the right to analyse PD campaigns according to criteria such as fairness, inspiration, wisdom, generosity, and well-being. While I do think PD research is better when it accurately represents the perspectives and problems of practitioners, one of the most important contributions a PD scholar can offer the field is alternative metrics rooted in reliable data. This may help us go beyond the suggestions of a Third Metric that drive our community to more concrete examples of how and why it works.
The recent senseless shooting of Christopher Lane, an Australian student athlete who was on a baseball scholarship at a small Oklahoma state university, is so sad and disturbing that it shakes our souls. It is hard to imagine the horror and sadness that his family and friends in Australia and Oklahoma must be experiencing at this moment. Nothing can explain why three “bored” teenagers would randomly kill a young man while he was jogging down a quiet road on a late summer day in an otherwise peaceful, small Oklahoma town. As a mother, an Oklahoma college professor, a jogger, and a baseball fan, I’m rattled by this crime like no other in recent years.
Beyond the individual atrocity, the comments made by the former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Tim Fischer, on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live” on August 20, 2013, raised this terrible crime to a public diplomacy concern. Among other statements about the statistical likelihood of being shot in America versus Australia, Fischer said that Australians should think closely about going on vacation to America given our lax gun laws. This remark is just the opposite of what the U.S. government through the newly formed Corporation for Tourism Promotion is preparing to tell Australians in a soon-to-be launched tourism advertising campaign.
The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 established The Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private partnership that was later dubbed Brand USA.
The bill created a multi-million dollar global marketing effort to promote the U.S. as a travel destination. The resulting campaign was first launched in May 2012 in the UK, Japan, and Canada. The centerpiece of the promotional effort is a 60-second music-driven commercial known as “Land of Dreams.” According to Brand USA’s August newsletter, plans to roll out Land of Dreams in Australia are under way.
Is this an appropriate time to invite Australians to visit America, and “discover this land like never before?” Probably not. Hopefully the executive team at Brand USA will be sensitive to this international dilemma and postpone the advertising schedule.
What does this mean for public diplomacy? Obviously the random individual murder of one Australian studying in the United States won’t disrupt the excellent political relationship the U.S. enjoys with the Australian government. But, how does news coverage of the incident impact opinions about America among Australian citizens, those who may have considered traveling here and those who may never travel?
In a study to be published in next month’s issue of American Behavioral Scientist titled, “Strategic Uses of Mediated Public Diplomacy: International Reaction to U.S. Tourism Advertising,” ) my research partner Alice Kendrick of the Temerlin Advertising Institute at Southern Methodist University and I investigate one aspect of this question. In this study, we not only explored whether the Land of Dreams commercial increased desire to travel to the United States, but also if Australians expressed more positive views about America after seeing it. According to our findings, it worked on both fronts.
Results showed that people who see the tourism commercial felt more favorably about the United States, even if they never intend to visit. In the study, the Brand USA commercial appears to do double-duty for government and industry – both in terms of the intended effect of piquing interest in travel to the U.S. and as a catalyst for goodwill. We conclude in the article that tourism advertising may be a form of mediated public diplomacy.
Of course, this was all before the shooting in Oklahoma.
Despite the positive results of the Land of Dreams advertising among Australian audiences found in our study from last fall, advertising there now would be a mistake. In this case, a lesson from the brand management literature may be useful. In the face of a crisis involving the brand, regular brand advertising should be suspended.
Mary Jones on August 27, 2013 @ 12:18 pm Interesting post, Jami. Australians are definitely paying attention to what is happening over here. Our long-time family friends in Australia regularly comment on my Facebook about our current events (i.e. Sandy Hook & gun laws, election of Barack Obama, even tornadoes in Oklahoma, really everything.) In fact, I learned of the murder of the baseball player from a friend in New South Wales the day after it happened. So if Americans think that this sort of foolishness flies under the radar, we can think again. This stuff sticks. Incidentally, these friends of ours were exchange students to my house, back in the 80's -- Would their parents send them here now?
Monkey on August 27, 2013 @ 11:13 pm Nice work Jami, however, no matter how sad, I don't think the news would stop people traveling to the U.S. but agree that the advertising should be dalayed as a matter of respect for friends & family in Oz!
Jami Fullerton on August 28, 2013 @ 9:05 am Unfortunately many fewer people are traveling to the US. After the 9/11 attacks international travel fell sharply. US market share in 2011 was only 6.4%, compared with 7.5% in 2000 and down more than 32% since the peak in international travel to the US in 1992. America only welcomed 11 million more international visitors (mostly from Canada and Mexico) in 2011 than it did in 2000, despite the much weaker dollar and the fact that there were 38 million more long-haul travelers worldwide My numbers came from the Office of Travel and Tourism.
Bottom line America needs to win back some tourism market share. Horrible incidents like this one only work against that goal.
Gayle Kerr on September 13, 2013 @ 5:51 pm We, Australians, love to traveI. We have an in-born desire to grab a backpack and venture forth, knowing that just about anywhere we go won’t be as safe as home. Just this week a group of trekkers in Papua New Guinea were attacked by machete-wielding tribespeople. And certainly Australians are keenly aware of gun violence in the US. The murder of Chris Lane brought this into sharp focus, because it made no sense to us, on any level. Like our media, we followed the story with intense fascination and morbid disbelief, from the incident to the funeral. And our outrage that someone could do this to one of our own was replaced by admiration for the courage of his family and friends, who refused to talk about the issue of gun violence and only about the wonder and great achievements of their son or friend. Will it change our travel plans? I don’t think so. But unfortunately, it confirms our perception of the US as gun-crazed society and makes us glad to be Australian.
As a committed advocate for soft power and public diplomacy, I look for ways other than military force to address even the most pernicious international behavior. Usually, talking is better than fighting and wise use of political power can make unnecessary the reliance on “kinetic action,” as military thinkers refer to combat.
But there are times when a state’s actions are so outrageous and have so little chance of being altered by peaceful means that soft power measures should be set aside. On occasion, blowing things up is essential.
Such is the case with Syria today. Bashar Assad has calculated that he can, literally, get away with murder. Intelligence and military officials have little doubt that he is responsible for the use of chemical weapons on civilians, and yet the Syrian regime pays no price for this except the international opprobrium that bothers Assad not at all. If Assad can prolong his fight for survival – and perhaps even prevail to some degree – his use of chemical weapons is likely to continue and maybe expand.
In an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia, published on Monday, Assad warned that if the United States launched military action against him it would result in “failure just like all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day.” For the United States to become fully involved in another Middle East war would be unwise and would not be supported by most Americans. But a clear distinction exists between going to war and using crisp punitive measures in response to presumed crimes against humanity.
Past failures to act remain as stains on the global conscience. To take just one example, Rwanda 1994: approximately 800,000 people were slaughtered while the world’s most powerful nations refrained from using the controlled lethal force that might have stopped the massacres. President Bill Clinton and others later apologized for their inaction, but that did not reduce the number of dead.
Flickr, Creative Commons, Freedom House
What will people say 20 years from now when they look back on today’s events in Syria? Will they apologize for doing nothing while chemical warfare was employed?
The United States and its NATO allies possess the precise military capability to cause significant damage to Assad’s war machine. Perhaps the source of the chemical weapons could be hit, and if that is not feasible due to the danger of releasing chemical agents into the atmosphere, airfields or other military facilities could be targeted.
The point of all this is to show Assad – and the rest of the world – that certain behavior, even in wartime, will not be tolerated. Some would argue that this kind of action is a mere gesture and that Assad will find other ways to kill Syrian civilians. Perhaps, but that is not a reason to do nothing at all.
Despite the allure of soft power as a way to deal with international disputes, there is no getting away from the sad reality that hard power is sometimes needed. Forceful action will speak to global publics as its own kind of public diplomacy. It is time to blow up at least part of Assad’s capability to slaughter innocents.
-also fwiw the architect of the surgical strike plan being pushed forward doesn't think it will work:
"Tactical actions in the absence of strategic objectives is usually pointless and often counterproductive,"
Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said. "I never intended my
analysis of a cruise missile strike option to be advocacy even though some people took it as that."
Philip Seib on August 27, 2013 @ 8:53 am No perfect answer/policy exists. But doing nothing -- failing to punish the perpetrator -- implies tolerance for the behavior.
Matthew Wallin on August 27, 2013 @ 10:55 am While I am a realist in that I firmly believe in what hard power can accomplish, in this case, I think it will be very little without a strategy behind it---as Harmer, and Paul highlight above.
If we don't know what we want the strategic outcome to look like, then tactical operations that don't actually advance that strategic objective serve little purpose.
I just don't see a scenario developing which benefits the U.S.
I find it funny the method by which we determine what's no longer allowable. What's the trigger for military action? Forget killing 100,000 people. Now it's using a particular type of weapon to do it. So it's not killing people that matters, it's just how you do it.
Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich on August 27, 2013 @ 3:08 pm Mr. Seib should not be an educator. Aside from the fact that he is giving credibility to media lies (perhaps his students are too young to remember the false lies we are in the habit of repeating - i.e. Iraq, Operation Tailwind, Yellow Rain, not to mention the chemical weapons Iraq used against Iran with help form the US), but aside from the misinformation he is saying America needs to kill the Syrians, not Assad! Shameless drivel from a professor. http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2013/08/27/americas-battle-cry-lines-and-lies/
Philip Seib on August 27, 2013 @ 4:05 pm Matthew, I agree with much of what you say, particularly that the United States cannot emerge from this in a beneficial way, but I think the nature of the weapon does matter. It is not the only trigger, but should the world simply shrug while chemical weapons are used?
Akbar Montaser on August 28, 2013 @ 12:12 am Instead of war, we favor effective negotiations with the belligerent parties, with the support of Russia and China, to bring peace to the warring parties. There exists not a speck of evidence or confirmation that the Assad government was liable for the alleged chemical attack.
Here are the facts: (1) Carla Del Ponte, a United Nations Human Rights investigator, has declared that the Syrian régime has not used chemical weapons. He found the rebels used chemical weapon. (2) In May, twelve supporters of the Syrian militia were detained in Turkey for having 4.5 pounds of Sarin, the suspected neurotoxin gas used in the latest assault. (3) A prominent British newspaper, the "Daily Mail", reported in January that the Syrian rebels were planning to deploy chemical attack to blame the crime on the Syrian régime only to warrant U.S. involvement. (4) The Syrian rebels nonstop are taking direct weapons and funding from the United States, despite ample evidence of carnages (counting murder, torture and rape) by the rebels. Based on the United Nation, rebels are actively enlisting juveniles. (5) Dr. Ake Sellstrom, a member of the United Nations inspection team, has openly confirmed his doubts about the chemical attack by Syrian government, indicating the reports of the alleged attack are "suspicious". (6) Contradictory reports have been presented: 1,300 slain versus 350 and 200. Thus, the numbers are uncorroborated. (7) "Doctors Without Borders", by their own admission, received their report from a Syrian rebel group! (8) Prior to the attack, Videos of the contended dose were posted on the internet by cronies of the Syrian rebels! (9) The weapons experts have questioned the integrity of the Video because the people treating victims are not dressed in proper equipment.
Ziza Kamal on August 28, 2013 @ 12:41 am we back the Al-Qaeda rebels against Assad ??? !!!
Paul on August 28, 2013 @ 8:59 am Soraya, if you want to be a public diplomat, learn to show a lil respect and use your powers of communication not obnoxious rudeness.
Matthew Wallin on August 28, 2013 @ 12:39 pm If this is about whether the "world" shrugs, then the world needs to respond. It shouldn't be the responsibility or expectation of the U.S. to do so. Now if the world actually has a strategic plan with a strategy (and contingency plans) for an endgame, that may be different. But the last decade of warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya has proven we're not very good at figuring out what to do after we drop the bombs.
If we are going by the standard that chemical weapons should not be used, then there should be a standard for responding to states that use them. Clearly, few states can agree on a standard, even if most of those states (not including Syria), belong to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
If it does not benefit the United States, why should the United States do it? Do we think that dropping a few bombs in Syria will accomplish anything? We tried that kind of stuff for over a decade in Iraq prior to the invasion.
I too am abhorred by the use of chemical weapons, but I do not support piecemeal solutions to bigger problems.
RS Zaharna on August 31, 2013 @ 12:17 pm Interesting discussion, thanks for starting the ball rolling, Phil.
I am concerned with the idea that violence is being used to punish the use of violence.
Seems that PD must be more imaginative than only one choice or no choice.
At some point, the post-revolutionary Arab states will emerge from the self-destructive madness that has them so tightly in its grip. While Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Tunisia deal with varying degrees of instability, the future should be kept in sight.
The key to an improved future in the region is less political than it is economic. Democracy is a worthy goal, but it will be reached only slowly. The shriveled economies of many Arab states (they are not all oil-rich) were the most significant factors behind the uprisings of 2011. People were not clamoring for political freedom as much as they were demanding jobs, decent places to live, and the ability to put food on the table for their families.
If America’s overall foreign policy and its public diplomacy efforts are to be effective in the Arab world, they must address economic issues above all else. Despite the ongoing upheaval throughout much of the region, American policymakers should be working with their Arab counterparts to design ambitious new measures that will stabilize economies and raise living standards.
The Marshall Plan, which did so much to restore post-World War II Europe, is often cited as a model for helping the Middle East. It is important to recognize that the Marshall Plan involved far more than the United States delivering direct aid. The U.S. assistance was effective because it required European governments to devise transnational economic integration mechanisms. Those governments were made responsible for the heavy lifting – constructing a new Europe on the financial foundation the United States provided.
World Economic Forum, Creative Commons
In the Arab world today, too much reliance exists on ad hoc aid provided by the richest countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Such help is valuable as short-term relief amidst crisis, but it does little to build a sustainable economic environment in the region. The United States and other relatively wealthy nations could do more to develop a durable framework that would give Arab economies a chance to grow. Free-trade agreements and other measures that would foster economic community among Arab states are certainly worth trying.
That is what should be done at the macro level. Meanwhile, public diplomacy programs should be directed toward business councils and trade associations that will be essential players if grand plans are to be successful. Public diplomacy officers at embassies in the Arab world already work on such matters, but their efforts should be accelerated as part of a cohesive plan that is backed up by substantial funding.
Today’s Arab world is very different from 1947 Europe, where all the economies had been ravaged by the war. The Marshall Plan had to be sustained by American dollars. Today in the Middle East, the affluent Arab states and neighbors such as Turkey should bear most of the financial burden for straightening out the economic mess in their region.
Successful public diplomacy is not dependent on massive spending. In the Middle East, American public diplomats can offer expertise, explaining the elements of new regional economic structures at micro level. If they are successful, the people they reach can provide the political impetus needed to make such structures reality.
During these days when the news from the Arab world is almost wholly about vicious internecine conflict, worrying about economic issues might seem pointless. But if the region’s future is to be brighter than the present – if stability is to ever be more than an illusion – people in Middle East must be able to hope that they can improve their families’ circumstances. Nothing less than a new regional economic structure is needed for this, and public diplomacy can help make it happen.
Watching the events unfold in Egypt over the past weeks has been akin to watching a slow moving train wreck as two powerful forces – the army and the Muslim Brotherhood – collide together. Both have strong wills, resources, and high stakes in the outcome. Whereas social media played a pivotal role in uniting the Egyptian public during the January 25 revolution in 2011, it appears that mass media may be playing the critical role in dividing the Egyptian public during the current events.
This crisis situation is an opportune time to underscore the need for a new lens for analyzing communication scenarios and developing creative options. The “relational turn” in the “new public diplomacy” is not just about how to build positive, mutually beneficial relations with publics. It can be a valuable analytical lens for understanding the dynamics and options when relations start to fray and become confused, tense, and even adversarial.
David Shamma, Flickr Creative Commons
Over the past decade the surge in public diplomacy scholarship has helped greatly to outline the contours and limitations of the lens used in traditional public diplomacy. That lens privileges messages: what is our message and how do we tell our story. It is media based, usually mass media but also social media. And it is instrumental or goal-driven, such influencing behavior of the target audience or political context.
Viewed from this traditional message-centered influence lens, the PD picture in Egypt is grim with few apparent options. One of the reasons why the lens and model is so limp is that effective messaging rests on credibility. Without credibility is it very difficult for a source to exercise influence. With the sides in Egypt so polarized it is highly unlikely that either side within the country may be able to secure credibility in the short term. Countries outside are likely to be perceived as extensions of the confused and divisive internal state.
Using traditional PD lens to determine “Whose story wins” in this communication scenario is unlikely to produce a definitive winner. Who wins the media frame may not necessarily win on the street. The continued struggle for information dominance may only serve to further polarize rather than stabilize the situation.
The limitations of one analytical lens heightens the need to explore the potential of other lenses. In the case of Egypt, it is time to sharpen the relational lens as an analytical tool for public diplomacy.
What are the relational dynamics among the parties? What do these relational dynamics say about possible public diplomacy options? This line of reason, advanced by public diplomacy scholar Robin Brown, turns conventional PD diplomacy on its head. As Brown argues, rather than public diplomacy being used to define relations, public diplomacy options are circumscribed by the relations between states. And, as Egypt illustrates, relations between states and publics.
Tadashi Ogawa applies a similar nuanced view of relational dynamics in his analysis of the cultural interventions of the Japan Foundation during conflict situations. Pre-conflict scenarios exhibit relational dynamics that are particularly favorable for specific types of cultural interventions to diffuse internal tensions. Post-conflict situations feature another relational dynamic and call for different interventions to address a public’s anger at and isolation from the world community. These differing relational dynamics provide clues on creative and effective interventions.
Underlying relational dynamics were at play in post 9/11 U.S. public diplomacy with Arab and Islamic publics. The aggressive drive to get the message out without first analyzing the relational dynamics had the unintended consequence of fueling rather than stemming anti-American sentiment. Strategies focused on information dominance were not effective because information was not the determining factor; relations were. Politics and culture helped shape relations then. They continue to do so for U.S. public diplomacy today in Egypt, and indeed across the region.
Moving ahead in the current situation in Egypt requires PD scholars to analyze the multiple layers of entwined relations. In an increasingly interconnected global environment public diplomacy practitioners need to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the relational dynamics. They need to shift from thinking about what messages may work (unilateral messaging strategies) to imagining collaborative relational strategizing. It is not just whose story wins, but who is connected to whom – and why that connection matters in the public arena that PD operates. Defining the relational connections is key to identifying public diplomacy options and developing creative, non-linear strategies for Egypt today and the time ahead.
Last week, for the first time ever, there was a panel dedicated to discussion of public diplomacy at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Held in Washington, DC the conference, and this panel in particular, offered an opportunity for scholars to talk about the emergence of public diplomacy as a subject of study in the discipline. The session was well attended and the audience was populated with both scholars and practitioners interested in advancing discussion about public diplomacy in both theoretical and applied contexts. The panel consisted of six scholars, each of whom offered a different perspective for the discussion.
Kathy Fitzpatrick of Florida International University set the tone with an introduction to the many ways public diplomacy is relevant to journalism and mass communication research. She offered an impressive list of the ways in which journalism and mass communication scholars can contribute to understanding about public diplomacy: international broadcasting, ethics, culture, politics, publics, branding, history, strategy, measurement, propaganda, persuasion, image, reputation, framing, agenda-setting, media effects, issues management, crisis management, rhetoric, policy, and structure. She concluded, “All these issues that we look at in our research all apply to public diplomacy.”
Guy Golan of Syracuse University continued with discussion of mediated public diplomacy and its direct relationship to both political communication research and the real world context.
Raluca Cozma of Iowa State University addressed the importance of the historical context and highlighted the ways in which past research, particularly that concerning foreign correspondents, can be understood in a public diplomacy framework.