All posts by pf1805a

Does the U.S. have something to learn from Japanese PD in the M.E.?

Tonight I lead the class discussion on Tadashi Ogawa’s article, “Origin and Development of Japan’s Public Diplomacy.” While most of the chapter was a historic overview of Public Diplomacy in Japan from the 1860’s to present day, there were some nuances that I pointed out which I would like to reiterate.

While reading the chapter, I couldn’t help but think about the significance of the fact that global publics mistrusted Japan the more the nation excelled in and promoted its hard power (in their case in reference to economic power). Because of this criticism and misunderstanding, Ogawa explained that Japan ramped up their public diplomacy efforts, creating the Japan Foundation (which operated under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to foster cultural exchanges and Japanese language studies.

I also found Japan’s approach to PD in the Middle East to be quite fascinating. Ogawa explains that the Japanese approach advocates for allowing a period of healing for the countries in the M.E. in order for them to regain their dignity as a group of citizens. The Japanese believe that only then can you begin to guide the M.E. with culturally appropriate PD programs (especially in cases when these programs are being lead by nations strong in hard power).

Another thing I thought was worthy of note was Japan’s program to educate the Japanese people on the homeland about the cultures of the M.E. I thought this showed a lot of cultural sensitivity and was a good long-term way to foster connections and respect between the two cultures.

We had a very good discussion in class on the question I posed of whether or not we can draw comparisons to between Japan’s PD and the future of U.S. PD in relation to what we have done in the middle east. The responses were a bit divided, but I would love to continue the discussion here. So what do you think? Do we have something to learn from the Japanese approach, once we have had a chance to look back and access, and move forward with PD programs?

Sports Diplomacy Program Evaluation

chartstats

In class we have discussed the State Department’s inability to produce program evaluation reports because of a lack of access to scholars to review programs. I have expressed my disagreement with this notion, and recently received a Department Notice in my inbox that backed up my stance on this matter.

Per this Notice, “The Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs (ECA) completed an evaluation of the SportsUnited Division’s three sports diplomacy programs: Sports Envoy, Sports Visitor, and Sports Grants. The study, commissioned by ECA’s Evaluation Division and covering the years 2002 to 2009, incorporates international participant survey data and field work including interviews with coaches, alumni, and embassy staff in China and South Africa.”[1]

Before I delve into some details of this Sports Diplomacy Evaluation—which is quite interesting—I would like to provide some insight to the evaluation process conducted through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the Department of State. ECA is a Bureau nestled under R, and this Bureau has staff who conduct large scale evaluations to assess “outcome achievement and long-term impacts, with respect to overall State Department, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and program goals.”[2] These evaluations usually take a year and a half to two years to complete and are retrospective in nature, utilizing standard IR research and evaluation methods. More information of existing and ongoing evaluation reports can be found here: http://eca.state.gov/impact/evaluation-eca/evaluation-initiative/completed-evaluations.

I provide this information to follow up on a point I made in class, that perhaps the State Department does not need to lessen security and open its doors with a blanket invitation to private sector researchers and scholars, because they have civil service staff, on-site, who are tasked with evaluating their programs. I personally believe that using these on-site staff members is more efficient/economical, as well as more appropriate, for many reasons. Some of these include the fact that DoS employees have the correct clearances to know what can be made public and what cannot, and furthermore, I believe that individuals who have been present during the planning and implementation stages are better suited to evaluate said programs.

Now on to a more exciting topic—Sports Diplomacy! This report covered three programs spanning the years 2002-2009 which seem to have been quite a success. The programs were initiated with the supposition that sports are a good way to foster cross-cultural understanding based off a universal passion for athletics. Through sports, individuals can bond regardless of language proficiencies and differences in culture and social status, merely because they are participating in the same activity and working as a team. A particularly interesting finding from the report was the fact that participants in the programs learned from their mentors how these activities can help the problems of youth in society, and took these programs home with them to implement for underserved groups in their communities.[3]

I’ll conclude with some stats from the report that show some findings from the evaluation and highlight the success of the programs:

  • 92% of respondents report an improved view of Americans.
  • 87% of respondents shared their experience from the exchange with others back home.
  • 81% of respondents rated their knowledge of free speech and freedom of the press as moderate or extensive after the program.
  • 69% of the coaches and program administrators surveyed indicate they organized new activities or assumed a leadership role in their community[4]

As Murray notes at the end of his essay on the successes of Sports Diplomacy,  “Done correctly, sports diplomacy can ease international tension with a game of cricket. It can overcome imperial sterotypes and bring old enemies together… Through sport and mega-events, billions of public perceptions can be altered, ping-pong can create alternate pathways and, more often than by war and violence, sport does move people and nations beyond the negotiation table, uniting so-called strangers through a love of the game—of sport” (Murray 195). I believe that in the case of these programs run through ECA, we indeed see evidence that Sports Diplomacy helps unite people that might traditionally not get along and move them towards mutual understanding and respect, that we would hope translates on a national level.


[1] http://mmsweb.a.state.gov/asp/notices/dn_temp.asp?Notice_ID=20752

[2] http://eca.state.gov/impact/evaluation-eca/evaluation-initiative/completed-evaluations

[3] http://eca.state.gov/highlight/sportsunited-evaluation/?utm_source=eDeptNotice&utm_medium=Link&utm_content=SportsEvaluationHighlight&utm_campaign=SportsEvaluation

[4] http://mmsweb.a.state.gov/asp/notices/dn_temp.asp?Notice_ID=20752

Keeping up with the Saudi’s

Prince Charles dons traditional Saudi garb for a sword dance while on official royal tour.

Yesterday, BBC News reported that Prince Charles was visiting Saudi Arabia while on an official royal tour. According to the article, “the prince was taking part in the annual Janadriyah Festival, a celebration of Saudi culture and heritage” marked by the men  wearing traditional garb and dancing with swords, a tradition usually practiced at Saudi weddings.

I think this incident and the press that surrounded it was a very smart move by the United Kingdom. It shows cultural acumen and sensitivity as well as providing a great photo-op for the press. Prince Charles showed that western people can relate to and have camaraderie with the middle east, as well as strengthening the relationship between leaders of the two nations.

I think it was significant that this was “his second visit to the two nations in just under a year and his 10th official trip to Saudi since he first toured the nation in 1986.” It makes me wonder whether or not this is a way to “keep your friends close”…and well you know the rest. Not that the UK has any official issues with Saudi Arabia, but it is widely suspected that Saudi officials fund many activities the west has been trying to combat—if you catch my drift. So I wonder if this is the UK’s way of saving face and keeping up the appearances of friendship and solidarity. I could be totally wrong.

What is most definitely true is that participating in a cultural event such as this one is a great way to segway into what the “British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Jon Jenkins had said in a statement prior to the prince’s visit– that the royals were expected to discuss the need for reconciliation in the region and their hopes for its future.” Once you have made an effort to meet the host country half way, they might be more willing to compromise later.

I would argue that this is excellent Public Diplomacy on the part of the UK—it makes them seem very culturally sensitive and aware, something that can only help UK-Saudi (and hopefully Western-Saudi) relations moving forward.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26252091

Ban Ki Moon’s Blunder: #repost from Bb

This week Ban Ki Moon made a major diplomatic blunder. The issue revolves around the second round of peace talks regarding Syria and the Assad regime. According to Amia Nakhoul and Khaled Yacoub Oweis of Reuters, “Ban said Iran’s foreign minister had told him Tehran accepted the 2012 statement [from the first Geneva conference peace talks], which includes a requirement that Syria set up a transitional government.” Officials in Tehran denied this premise and “the Syrian opposition threatened to pull out of the conference and Western countries demanded Ban withdraw the invitation.”1 So that he did; a move that further highlighted the weakness of this second round of peace talks, calling into question how much good they can actually accomplish.

This is not an unfounded critique of the UN peace talks—Reuters correctly reported that it has been a year and a half since the first Geneva conference concluded without a compromise. Since then, all other diplomatic endeavors have also failed. To me, this forces us to question whether soft power approaches to conflict resolution can succeed in combatting hard power problems. As a student of International Communication and Diplomacy, I would like to think they could—but situations like this call these idealistic hopes into question.

Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote on this topic recently. She urged the UN to remember the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Doctrine, and focus the peace talks on getting the different factions to agree on allowing humanitarian aid access to civilians and to stop targeting medical personnel on the ground. Slaughter goes further, asserting, “If Assad’s Ba’ath party cannot uphold that responsibility, it forfeits its own legitimacy as a participant in any future government.”This would in fact solve the political aspect of this conflict by ousting Assad, but a resolution only has as much power as the signers and backers give it. If the Assad Regime does not support the R2P Doctrine, then they have no reason to delegitimize their own authority.

Bringing the debate back to U.S. Foreign Policy, Slaughter implores President Obama and his administration to “put the credible threat of force back on the table.” She asserts the only time in this three-year civil war that diplomacy has succeeded was when the U.S. made the credible threat of missile strikes. This threat, however, is no longer credible if there is no power behind the punch. Thus, Slaughter suggests, the U.S. and regional partners need to be willing to follow up and strike the Assad Regime if (read—when) this second set of peace talks fails.3

Will diplomacy win? Only time can tell. But from what we have witnessed so far, you cannot broker peace with individuals in the business of terror.

 

[1] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/21/us-syria-un-iran-idUSBREA0J01K20140121

[2] http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/anne-marie-slaughter-proposes-three-steps-to-maximize-the-chances-of-success-at-next-week-s-geneva-ii-peace-conference#TzwfZjkakupXlbuY.99

[3] http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/anne-marie-slaughter-proposes-three-steps-to-maximize-the-chances-of-success-at-next-week-s-geneva-ii-peace-conference#TzwfZjkakupXlbuY.99