Giving the Power Back to Governments? The Essence of Transformational Public Diplomacy.

Copeland (2009) advocates for the need to restructure the Foreign Service and integrate the classic diplomacy with the public diplomacy dimension in order to better serve purposes of development, security and long-term strategic relationships between states. Interestingly, to me it seems like a call for utilizing public diplomacy to give decision-makers the power they have lost with the rise of globalization and public diplomacy.

I think that the diplomatic efforts in Syria and Iran are a good example of growing unpopularity of war and an increased focus on diplomatic dialog. It seems that the framework of the talks tried to bond together issues of development in these countries with security concerns on the other side, just as suggested by Copeland. However these efforts do not fall under the framework of public diplomacy, rather it’s simply a new age where dialog is preferred to war (because of undesired financial and social consequences of warfare). The governments and not the people are still the ones managing this dialog. Moreover for now these efforts did not produce particularly positive outcomes.

Also, issues concerning security and development require vast financial resources and a high degree of cooperation on behalf of regulatory agencies. This can hardly be achieved by PD. Advocacy and networking are very important in the process but the essential decisions still go back to the governmental level. The root causes of underdevelopment and inequality remain historical governmental policies that can be changed mainly at the higher rank of decision-making and not by diplomats becoming better at networking with local populations.

So from my perspective it seems that the concept of transformational public diplomacy is essentially about using advocacy to empower governments to take actions on issues of development and security. Until now PD was mainly used to promote a rather shallow dialog between populations, focusing on softer issues. TPD is trying to make PD relevant to the more crucial decision-making, but still, between governments.

Germany and educational exchange

My first major interaction with another country’s public diplomacy program occurred when I was 16, studying German in high school. I was selected to take part in a program run by the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst, which is a bit of a mouthful and therefore normally referred to as the PAD. The program basically entailed an all-expenses-paid trip to Germany, spending two weeks with a host family and another two weeks in a group travelling around the country. At the time, I thought it was just a nice thing that the German government did, but I can now look at the program with fresh eyes in the context of public diplomacy.

I turns out that the PAD is a collaborative effort between the 16 state governments of Germany to promote international exchange and cooperation in the education sector. What also didn’t occur to me is the double-edged benefit that the program achieves—it not only improves education outcomes in other countries, but it also enhances the education systems of the respective states.

While I was already studying German in high school, the PAD trip cemented my affinity for Germany and its language. German became not just something I did at school, but rather what I used to converse with friends that I’m in contact with some eight years later (many members of the student group spoke only German and their mother tongue, so English was not the lingua franca).

I think PAD’s program is is a good example of the kind of knock-on effect of collaboration guest lecturer Aimee Fullman was talking about. I learned more about Germany, but also about Kazakhstan, Finland and many different places. It also gave German students we interacted with the chance to take their English out of the classroom and become young ambassadors for Germany.

Public Diplomacy Hypocrisy in Uzbekistan

With the deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, there are many questions to be answered about the Northern Distribution Route that runs through Central Asia. Unfortunately for these 5 ‘stans, when the Northern Distribution Route stops flowing, so will the aid.

During the past five years, the U.S. has almost completely ignored humanitarian violations by the Uzbekistan government, mainly perpetrated by President Karimov, because of their reliance on the supply route through the region into Afghanistan. The U.S. has a placed aid sanctions on countries that commit human rights violations, however, they have kept their relationship with Uzbekistan despite the government’s violations.

In a recent article highlighting these political problems, U.S. public diplomacy is making the case that if they need a country’s help badly enough, then human rights violations can be overlooked.

“’While U.S. officials make it clear the bilateral relationship cannot deepen absent improvements, there is no element of public diplomacy that signals there are red lines Uzbekistan can’t cross,’ as Steve Swerdlow, Human Rights Watch’s Central Asia researcher, puts it.”

If the U.S. cannot provide a steady policy for public diplomacy toward countries that are clear human rights violators, then it puts diplomats in the difficult position of trying to justify why one country receives aid and another doesn’t. The U.S. has also promised to leave behind non-lethal (debatable…) military gear behind in Uzbekistan when it departs. It is willing to give military aid to a country that has suppressed and killed its citizens in the past. What diplomatic message is this sending to countries where the U.S. doesn’t have any interests?

Uzbekistan is a slippy slope for U.S. public diplomacy and one that has not received much media attention. However, as the troops withdraw from Afghanistan, pay attention to the amount of aid and military-to-military assistance that is provided in Central Asia. It will be telling to determine whether or not this is a practice that the U.S. will continue to adopt in the future or not.

International Student Exchanges and Diplomacy

For this week’s blogging assignment, I have decided to delve into the realm of international education and exchanges, and how they relate to public and cultural diplomacy. Not only am I going to be studying educational exchanges as part of my group project this semester, but I also feel a personal connection to the topic, as I spent close to seven months interning for NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

The New York Times posted an article entitled “Helping Foreign Students Thrive on U.S. Campuses” a couple of days ago which deals with the shift that has occurred with respect to foreign students studying in the United States (Fischer, K. (2014). Helping Foreign Students Thrive on U.S. Campuses. New York Times: Americas: International Education. Retrieved from  Fischer explains that the emphasis has gone from recruiting international students to focusing on the actual needs and experiences of the students while they are studying in the U.S.

Fischer argues that there is not a lot of information or studies available that delve into international student retention and fulfillment. However, she cites that this is slowly changing, and reveals the results of a recent study conducted by Mr. C.K. Kwai, director of international programs at the University of Maine at Orono. One of the interesting elements Mr. Kwai found in his study was that on-campus employment usually led to higher retention rates, which implies that international students may feel more invested and integrated within the university by working on its campus.

Fischer states that NAFSA is currently partnering with World Education Services (both are nonprofit international education organizations) in order to conduct a nationwide study on the factors which are associated with the retention of foreign students and the success of their study abroad experiences. The results will be released at some point this year, and I look forward to reading the study and seeing what they have found on the subject.

Fischer also claims that most universities are not equipped or properly trained to address the needs of international students once they actually arrive and begin studying at their institution. It is extremely important that the needs and wants of the international students be met. David L. Di Maria, director of international programs and services at Kent State University, rightfully stated that “The best recruitment strategy is a good retention strategy” (Fischer).

International education exchanges have become increasingly important in today’s globalized and interdependent arena. From the theoretical knowledge I have gained from taking cross-cultural communication classes here at AU, as well as with my firsthand experience interning for NAFSA, I strongly believe that international education is an intrinsic part of cultural and public diplomacy, and should be treated as such.

Richard T. Arndt states that cultural diplomacy begins “[…] when a nation-state steps in and tries to manage, to whatever extent it can, this natural two-way cultural flow so as better to advance national interests, preferably on both sides of borders” (Arndt, R.T. (2010). The Hush-Hush Debate: The Cultural Foundations of U.S. Public Retrieved from Blackboard). One way to achieve this type of cultural exchange and collaboration is by pursuing international educational exchanges. This can help promote respect, understanding and communication among citizens from different national and cultural backgrounds – which in my opinion is an important component of diplomacy itself.

Nick Cull explains that cultural diplomacy is a form of public diplomacy, “[…] one method by which an international actor may conduct its foreign policy through engaging in a foreign public” (Cull, N. (2010). Jamming for Uncle Sam: Getting the Best From Cultural Diplomacy. Huffington Post: Arts & Culture. Retrieved from Blackboard). As I mentioned in class when I was leading the discussion on Pamments’ “Perspectives on the new public diplomacy,” cultural diplomacy can be distinguished from public diplomacy for many reasons, one of which is that, as Cull reiterates, cultural diplomacy has more long-term goals and endeavors.

As a final thought, one of my tasks at NAFSA was to listen to webinars on various issues related to international education, and verify that there were no typos in any written courses or textbooks. One of the webinars I found most interesting was on Chinese students in the United States, and how to integrate them within the university, both academically and culturally. This is a topic I’m extremely interested in, and one I look forward to learning more about as I pursue a career in diplomacy.


Conflict Kitchen: Dialogue Through Food

This is a very interesting TED talk about “gastrodiplomacy,” cultural diplomacy through a country’s culinary delights. Among the several gastrodiplomacy examples she raised during the lecture, I’d like to focus here on “Conflict Kitchen.”

Conflict Kitchen is a takeout restaurant in Pittsburg, which only serves food from countries that the United Stated is in conflict with. Previously, they served food from Cuba, Afghanistan, Iran, and Venezuela, and now they are serving North Korean food.
What is appealing about this project is how they prepare and serve the food. They worked collaboratively with North Korean defectors to create the menu and to develop the recipes. And the food is served packaged in wrappers, which include interviews with North Korean people on the food, culture, and politics of their country. Each interview section includes multiple perspectives and sometime they contradict to each other; it also includes criticisms about their government. That is, the customers not only get a tasty meal from little-known countries but a chance to get a broader view about the country “outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines,” and to start discussion.

Both their planning process and the way the food is served involve interactive activities. Although they rotate the menus every few months in relation to current geopolitical events, the project itself seems to have no or very little governments’ involvement.
Distant from political control and interactive structure are the two characteristics described in Gienow-Hecht’s argument about successful cultural diplomacy.


Global Ties U.S.


For my contribution this week, I will take to heart Dr. Trent’s appeal to incorporate more personal experiences into the blog by introducing the organization with which I currently intern. This will hopefully constitute a series of blog posts, as there is a lot of content for which I can discuss. This week I wish merely to briefly introduce Global Ties U.S. and the IVLP.

Known as Global Ties U.S., it is a non-profit, privately-sector organization that is responsible for managing the International Visitor Leadership Program. The IVLP is the flagship program funded by the Department of State which brings in international professionals and government leaders, nominated by the respective U.S. embassies in their countries, for short visits to the United States to learn best practices from their counterparts. The IVLP is a successful program for its participants because of this collaboration between the public and private sectors. The Department of State selects the participants and provides the funding for the program (which is dispersed throughout organizations within the network run by Global Ties U.S.), and private-sector organizations, either National Program Agencies (those with a national scope i.e. IIE, World Learning, Cultural Vistas) or Community-Based Organizations (local in scope i.e. WorldChicago, International Visitors Council of Los Angeles), take care of the programs for participants while they are in America. Global Ties U.S. acts as the liaison, in essence, between the DOS and the private-sector organizations.

The program is successful because the public sector provides the monetary capital to ensure the program is operational, but the private sector, whose interests may or may not align with those of the government, is in control of what the participants do, see, and experience whilst in the States. This prevents the government from enacting a program that is pro-state at the expense of domestic reality. This increases the amount of credibility and cache of the program (an idea constantly addressed by Joseph Nye in some of the earlier readings we had this semester), which ultimately benefits the participants in allowing them to achieve their goal of learning best practices from counterparts in the states while gaining a more comprehensive and complete picture of what America really is.

Going Deeper on the Situation in Ukraine

Hello, All.

Some may be familiar with Stephen Cohen, recently emeritus at NYU and Princeton. I have read him for decades, but in recent weeks find most helpful his commentary on the political turmoil in Ukraine, and Western/Global Northern responses to actions by the Ukrainian and Russian governments. Because we have discussed the PD implications of these dynamics, and some have blogged on the topic, I thought you might like a link: .

As folks who study IR well appreciate, the politics are very complicated. I think that the media that we most tend to turn to (NYT, WP, NPR, WSJ, Economist…) are providing superficial if not inaccurate coverage. Analysts including Cohen are much more reliable sources. Whether, as recent class readings suggest, his blogging will have an effect is another matter, but I am going to turn increasingly to him and other analysts (easy enough to identify via the AU library databases/reference librarian’s help).

“Who run the world?….GIRLS!”

Most of you probably get the Beyonce reference in my blog post title, if not, all that needs to be said in order to make sense is that it is also the lyric in a song about progressive women being at the center of civilization. Moving forward, my blog this week focuses on a recent interview in Women of China with Sun Ping, Exec.Director at Renmin University Opera Center on the Chinese woman’s innately dominant role in Chinese public diplomacy. Although (according to Hofstede), China consists of a predominantly “masculine” culture with large power distances in societal hierarchies, Sun Ping’s sentiments help to reframe these sweeping cultural generalizations and unveil the contributions Chinese women provide in both the social and political infrastructure of the country. In a collectivist society like China’s, the importance of family and honor for one’s family takes immense precedence in their culture. Sun Ping places women at the core of this basic societal foundation: “If woman can endeavor in promoting morality and civilization of family, serious incidents will reduce in the society because a woman’s role is IRREPLACEABLE.” I believe the female tendency to have polychronic time orientation as well as greater realistic empathy have time and again shown how these predisposition can aid relationships building cross-culturally.  Sun Ping’s interview concluded with her emphasis on making family as well as work, equally important priorities. The family unit social structure, high levels of collectivism and power distance, have been weaknesses in creating cultural synergy with cultures beyond China’s borders. However, the Chinese government as well as its many fine academic institutions are making large advances towards public diplomacy education AND implementation.

It was as recent as last week that Renmin University began a research institute on public diplomacy that brings together the university’s Schools of Communication, International Studies, Journalism, and the Peking Opera. This development reflects the country’s growing interest in enhancing not only their national image, but international diplomatic literacy as well. Sun Ping reiterates this growing interest and importance, but additionally, her emphasis on gender roles, I believe, is reminiscent of the continuity of strong cultural values which once kept women subservient to now be seen as a unique advantage.

Article link:


Update for Week 8 – Cultural Diplomacy

Greetings, All.

I’m mindful of the possibility of intense weather and increased potential for losing electricity/internet connections in the next 24 hours, so I wanted to post this soonest.

As mentioned last week, Aimee Fullman will be our guest speaker this Wednesday. You can read about her work at .  Ms. Fullman cautions that the website is in need of updating, but on Wednesday she will share a very interesting, tailored slide presentation and more on her multi-faceted story working in the field of cultural relations. With her presentation during the second half of class, and several students leading discussion on readings, an inspiring class is in store.

Please also monitor Blackboard announcements and AU mail for updates (as long as I have electric/internet connectivity).

-Debbie Trent

Multi-track, public, and integrative diplomacy

For over two decades, a system of layered-to-networked “multi-track” diplomacy has been evolving. The Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy ( has been at the center of this important effort, pursuing nine tracks, including peacebuilding through diplomacy between governments and global publics to peacebuilding through media organizations. As I review your first batches of blog posts and peruse the latest issue of IMTD’s online journal (, it strikes me that our frame for global and comparative public diplomacy should include multi-track diplomacy. This system reflects the diversity of diplomacy’s public dimension as well as the increasingly integrative nature of international diplomacy overall.