citizen diplomacy

Diplomacy, until recently, was reserved for diplomats. As official ambassadors of governments, it has traditionally been the near-exclusive realm of diplomats to impose visa bans and financial sanctions, advise executives on how to defend national interests and ideals, persuade foreign governments to change behaviors, argue for international energy or trade deals, and negotiate treaties. Today, these activities are increasingly being undertaken by citizen diplomats who force the hands of governments on foreign policy issues, rather than follow their leads.

When it comes to diplomatic achievements, often common citizens can be even more effective than foreign relations specialists. In all likelihood this is because, at the grassroots level, interaction on the basis of pure friendship is possible; whereas in relations between professional politicians, words and actions tend to be determined by national interests.

July 24, 2012

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Current challenges

To meet the challenges of the 21st century, the approach to public diplomacy will increasingly focus on smart networks of influencers who can convene, connect and mobilize communities. This collaborative approach will support and aggregate the impact of smart, committed individuals around the world.

The friendly sister city relationship between Vallejo and Jincheon-Gun, South Korea, has made progress, promoting friendly ties with one another over the past 10 years. Both cities have envisioned a friendly world where everyday citizens are empowered to act as ambassadors of their cities, connecting with one another to create good friendships and exchange cultural traditions.

Confronted with the shortcomings of international political processes many scholars and diplomats have frequently turned to the non-governmental sphere in search of more practical action on global challenges. It is not uncommon to find today calls for global civil society engagement, public-private partnerships, and citizen diplomacy in almost all contexts of international relations.

When I hear from people about the relative advantages of cultural diplomacy, they often point to the apparent “neutrality” or “apolitical” basis of, say, cultural exchange. Coming from an anthropological background, this often advanced claim has always puzzled me.

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