The Use of Public Diplomacy by Non-State Political Actors in the Arab World

Principal Investigator:
Lina Khatib, CPD Research Fellow, 2010-2012

Past Contributing Researchers:
Jacqueline Barkett
Mona El Hamdani

CPD Publications:
Hizbullah's Image Management Strategy CPD Perspectives on Public Diplomacy, January 2012

Public diplomacy has traditionally been viewed as being used by state actors rather than non-state actors. Most studies on public diplomacy are also more focused on examining its use by Western states than by political entities in other regions of the world. Yet, the Arab world is witnessing a rise in attention to public diplomacy techniques and strategies by different political actors, and increasing efforts by those actors to use public diplomacy to appeal to diverse audiences. While significant attention has been given to how political groups in the Arab world use the media to intimidate enemies and instill fear in times of conflict, the use of public diplomacy by local and regional actors in the region remains understudied. This 2010-12 CPD Research Fellowship project aimed to examine the use of public diplomacy by non-state actors in the Arab world, including Islamist groups. Those political organizations use public diplomacy to cultivate legitimacy, reach out to new allies, and win hearts and minds. This project assessed both the various public diplomacy strategies used, as well as the political motives behind this use. As such, it aimed to challenge dominant paradigms about public diplomacy, as well as find out what lessons can be learned through a close examination of public diplomacy strategies in the Arab world, particularly through analyzing the links between policy and public diplomacy on one hand, and those between words and actions on the other hand.