All posts by alonav

Making Cultural Cooperation Popular

As we discuss different approaches and practices for successful public diplomacy, Japan’s concept of ‘cultural co-operation’ seems particularly interesting and underestimated in its power.

Described by Ogoura for the Journal of the East Asia Foundation, cultural co-operation implies “activities as helping developing countries to stage theatrical performances, providing them with lighting or recording equipment, furnishing showcases for museums and giving them technical assistance in arts management”. As Ogoura points out, in Japan’s case, this type of public diplomacy proved especially effective, positioning it as a strong international player on the stage of cultural diplomacy. The highlight of this strategy was the establishment of a special fund within UNESCO, dedicated to preservation of cultural heritage in developing countries.

It seems that the concept of cultural co-operation is particularly powerful and does not get enough attention in discussion about public diplomacy. Usually, when cultural diplomacy is discussed, the context implies use of a nation’s culture to attract attention and leverage the public image and the soft power of that nation on the international stage. However from a ‘giving is receiving’ perspective, it is a brilliant strategic move to invest in other nations’ cultures.

As we discussed in class, culture is an inherent and usually very emotional part of every national identity, that influences values, perceptions and behaviors on individual as well as on collective level. Therefore encouraging and strengthening cultural diversity is likely to buy a country powerful positive image and support from publics, as well as spark an interest towards that country’s culture in an indirect, subtle fashion.

Buying Hearts and Minds?

This week I came across an interesting article by Professor Philip Selb for the Huffington Post. The article discusses the power of economy in public diplomacy and specifically various economic initiatives conducted by the US in the Middle East and their public diplomacy value.

Selb’s argument states that there is no better way for winning hearts and minds than “buying hearts and minds”. Selb is convinced that successful public diplomacy is based on fulfilling the needs of various foreign audiences and therefore developing a positive attitude towards the donating country. Specifically in the Middle East, various initiatives that provide jobs have proved to be extremely successful in creating stability and establishing partnerships with foreign publics.

This is an interesting perspective on how to craft public diplomacy. Creative initiatives could be born by mapping the needs of various societies and looking at the competitive advantage of a specific country with regards to those needs. Relevant organizations or governmental agencies within the ‘giving’ country can then address these needs through initiatives that provide jobs, healthcare, agricultural assistance, etc. The ‘giving countries’ can benefit not only from positive PD outcomes such as good image, stability and favorable public opinion among foreign audiences, but also from clear economic benefits of new partnerships and networks.

I might be wrong but I sense that today we have a certain ‘pool’ of public diplomacy activities such as academic exchanges, informational tours, exhibitions, etc. and the new initiatives are created within that pool.  As discussed in class, China’s investment in Africa is somewhat different and serves as a good example of Selb’s suggestion. The “needs paradigm” could be an interesting shift in the way foreign ministries and organizations begin their thinking about public diplomacy.

 

 

 

 

UN Launches New Campaign Targeting American Audience

This week I stumbled upon an new campaign effort by the United Nations- The Better World Campaign. Interestingly, it seems to reflect the exact suggestions made by O.C. del Collado (2013) on the CPD blog, which we have discussed during week 7.

Just a quick reminder- Collado argued that: “A less interested American public makes some U.N. agencies more vulnerable to Congressional budget cuts.”  Collado pointed out to the lack of public diplomacy efforts on the side of the United Nations, leading the organization to unstable financial position and decreasing legitimacy and centrality. Since the US remains the most significant financial contributor to the UN system, Collado suggested that it has to target American audiences by putting an emphasis on issues that have direct impact on Americans. Only than will the American public raise its voice in favor of UN funding and prevent Congress from further financial cuts of its support.

And just as someone in the UN read Collado’s post, the Better World Campaign is “Dedicated to a Strong US-UN Relationship”. The campaign is focused on US’ funding of the UN peacekeeping,  pledging American citizens to force the Congress into supporting President’s Obama budget request for funding the organisation’s peacekeeping missions in several African countries. The bottom line of the campaign states: “Sending UN peacekeepers to fulfill these dangerous missions – the missions we’ve asked for – is one-eighth the cost of the U.S. going it alone.”  In times of growing unpopularity of direct military  interventions among the American public, this seems like a brilliant message.

Of course we shall wait and see if Americans are convinced. But whether this move was really inspired by Collado’s blog or not, it sure should encourage people to offer policy solutions via blogging!

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.

Offering Direct Legal Benefits to a Country’s Citizens as a New PD Strategy?

Is it possible that some governments came to a conclusion that granting citizens of other countries special benefits is a good technique for winning hearts and minds? It sure looks like it in two news pieces that drew my attention this week- Germany and Russia.

This week Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived with an official visit to Israel. The biggest headline of this visit was a signing of two very progressive agreements- one gaining young Israeli citizens an automatic provision of temporary working permits when visiting Germany and the other offering Israeli citizens consular services through German embassies in countries with which Israel doesn’t have diplomatic relations (unfortunately there are quite a few). Though officially marketed as a mutual progressive agreement between the two governments, to me it looks much more as a “Forget all the bad we did and come and like us!” call for young talented Israelis with potential to contribute to German economy, who might still have their doubt due to historic residues.

Second somewhat similar act appeared on the website of one of the largest Russian News agencies (unfortunately I can’t seem to find a source in English for now): Russian Parliament is  considering a bill granting automatic citizenship to every Ukrainian citizen who chooses to claim one. Here it seems like an even more brutal act of reaching out directly to citizens and trying to attract them to the country. Of course the long shared history of these states and the predominant nature of Russia in this history explain the case.

So could this become a phenomenon? I think that this is actually a genius technique of reaching out to people directly even if it’s done by signing agreements between governments.  As opposed to other PD techniques we explored that usually target specific audiences within a nation, here we are witnessing acts that reach out to the whole population creating potential for a more significant and direct impact.

And here are the articles:

http://itar-tass.com/politika/1004761

http://www.ansamed.info/ansamed/en/news/sections/politics/2014/02/24/German-consulates-assist-Israelis-worldwide_10134193.html

Qatar is Off the Message

 

FBL-WC2014-QAT-FIFA-TROPHY

As I start my research on Qatar’s public diplomacy strategy, I was surprised by this week’s reports following the death of an Indian worker in the 2022 World Cup host preparations. What surprised me was not the fact of the death or the subsequent statistics revealing high death rates and a range of abuses against migrant workers in Qatar, but rather the hesitant and unsatisfying reactions by Qatari officials.

Scholarly literature that I had reviewed so far  (Azran, 2013; Barakat, 2012; Peterson, 2006) suggests that Qatar has skilfully adopted some of the main principles of public diplomacy and soft power. Qatar makes smart use of PD techniques, frames its messages and avoids contradictions between domestic communication and mediated diplomacy, a technique suggested as especially important by Enthman (2008). However with the case of the Indian worker, it seems that Qatar has lost its grip of clever PD. It started by denying the reports, moved on to claiming the death figures to be ‘normal’ and continued with making completely unconvincing statements to reason the numbers such as: “Indians make up the largest community in Qatar… twice the number of Qatari nationals” (Ali Bin Sumaikh al-Marri, the Head of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee).

My personal thoughts on this are that Qatar, as many other states including the US, forgets that public image is a sum of various variables. While it’s important to focus on specific issues where a state possesses competitive advantage (Qatar focuses strongly on mediation), other issues should not be overlooked. In case of Qatar there is definitely not enough focus on addressing and framing its questionable human rights practices inside the country.

To read the story:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26260765

Super Bowl 2014 and the Power of Partnerships

‘Invisible’ by U2

For those who watched the Super Bowl last Sunday, it was hard to miss the huge campaign by U2 and Bank of America. During the game U2 have performed and released their new single for free download within 24 hours after the game, while for each download Bank of America donated one dollar to an organization cofounded by Bono in 2006 to combat AIDS. The campaign proved a tremendous success raising $3 Million for AIDS fight.

In light of recent discussion in class about the significance of partnerships, this campaign is a great evidence for growing importance of cross sector partnerships when it comes to raising awareness and/or funds for a cause. It is hard to imagine a government-led campaign of the same scope becoming equally successful. Moreover this is a perfect win-win situation in which both- the Bank of America and Bono significantly leverage their social presence while an important cause is being supported.

Continue reading Super Bowl 2014 and the Power of Partnerships

The Need for Synergy in Modern-Day Diplomacy

This week I found some of Kelley’s (2010) ideas slightly corresponding with my post from week 1 where I suggested that public diplomacy doesn’t really change the rules of the diplomatic ‘game’, but rather adds a publicly available dimension to it and creates an illusion of power in the hands of the people.

Kelley implies that public diplomacy has created a plethora of messages by non-state actors that forms various networks and alliances. There are big gaps between the positions of these different actors and between their positions and the official diplomatic messages. Despite the clear benefits of this more democratic form of conducting diplomacy, Kelley stresses the need for synergy in order to direct the power of separate actors to a concrete action. The best way to coordinate positions and create this synergy remains the official diplomatic channel that can unite the non-governmental actors and communicate the message to the relevant policy makers.

Moreover Kelley suggests that ‘big’ decisions such as signing of international treaties or legislation towards creation of new norms are still executed almost exclusively by official policy makers communicating through official diplomatic channels. Here as well, it implies from the article that the best way for the ‘new diplomats’ (p.293) to communicate their messages is still by joining forces with “their official counterparts” (p. 293).

So it looks like the essential power yet remains in the hands of the ‘old diplomats’ (ibid). The new types of diplomacy such as public and cultural diplomacy are important in filling in the gaps in governmental actions, however the new ways do not appear to replace the classic diplomatic communication between states. 

Is Economy the New (Old) Game in Town?

This week I find it relevant to discuss the concept of economy as the new (or renewed) focus of public diplomacy initiatives. It is hard to forget Clinton’s famous ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’ campaign slogan. Recently financial issues became particularly central to states’ rhetoric once again. Economy as public diplomacy strategy is broadly discussed in the course readings and in the media this week.

The first big economy and development headline this week was Bill Gates discussing his annual letter in interviews across media outlets. Gates focused on the importance of foreign aid and the great progress he sees the humanity making towards abolishing poverty and enhancing economic self-sufficiency.

Simultaneously big debates on economy are happening at the Annual World Economic Forum in Davos. One article at the Foreign Policy Magazine this week (http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/01/22/at_davos_developing_countries_advertise_themselves_more_than_companies_do) discusses few particularly interesting examples of how developing countries are trying to advertise themselves focusing on the economic opportunities they have to offer.

Finally Heng (2009) discusses the focus on economy and development as a leading public diplomacy strategy for Japan: “Japan sees its’ economic influence reflecting attractive values…Tokyo, in May 2008, doubled its aid targets to Africa by 2012.” (p. 290). China and Japan, along with many other states work to strengthen relations with developing countries and use strategic communication to portray themselves as trustworthy economic powers.

And so as the world remains affected by the financial turmoil, issues of economy seem to be a great prescription for effective public diplomacy strategy.

And if you haven’t seen Bill Gates promoting his letter virally, here it is:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ye_W7ZsRYM&feature=youtu.be]

Public Sphere and Public Diplomacy- New Addition to an Old Framework?

Hi,

Today, as we embark on the journey of deepening our knowledge about public diplomacy in the 21st century, I’d like to consider one particular idea that keeps coming to my mind: Is public diplomacy really a new working sphere for diplomacy and conduct of international affairs or is it just a new dimension in the long-existing framework?

The idea came to me with the publication of the NSA scandal and the revelations that have been coming since then. It seems to me that Snowden has shown us how very little do we know about the ‘real’ diplomacy and the ‘behind the scenes’ of international politics. I believe that current revelations are just the tip of the iceberg and that (unfortunately?) conduct of state affairs remains mainly in the hands of politicians and state actors while secrecy still dominates this conduct.

Across the readings for this week of the course (Hocking, Cull, Pamment) the need for wise conduct of relations with foreign publics is emphasized as a key to successful public diplomacy. It is true that public image of a country has become significantly more important than in the past and the social media, as well as the existence of non-governmental players and interests groups push the states and their diplomats towards more openness, accountability and public engagement. However in my opinion what we are facing is just a technical change. In politics, just as in private business, the public arena now plays an important role. Yet issues decided openly through this public arena are ones of low urgency or danger. Decisions regarding wars, big money, significant social changes, as was revealed by Snowden, are still conducted away from the public eye.

As globalization continues and the power of non-governmental players and interest groups rises, we might witness a change. Nevertheless for now public diplomacy seems to be just a new dimension of diplomacy, handled by adding a public affairs officer to a typical embassy team.

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