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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

Evoking Godwin’s Law: War of Words in Asia

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For those of us who use the internet often,  Godwin’s Law is all too familiar in social media. For those unfamiliar with the so-called law, it simply states that  by comparing someone to Hitler or something to Nazism, it  shuts down the discussion completely.

While Godwin’s law tends to refer to internet discussions, it, unfortunately, seems to be applicable to real diplomatic efforts ( and  frankly, failures) between countries. President Aquino of the Philippines has recently been criticized for basically comparing China to Nazi Germany. When rallying support against “China’s claims to its nearby seas” he stated: “At what point do you say: ‘Enough is enough’? Well, the world has to say it. Remember that the Sudetenland [ Czechoslovakia] was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”

Read the full story here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-26048500

We mentioned a few times in class that really image is everything. But what about words? What politicians say  ( in addition to what they do) unfortunately can really undermine one’s credibility., especially in an age of information, ( why do you think people get so upset over the usage of “your” and “you’re” on Facebook? Kidding aside there is a danger to name calling and extreme comparisons).  President Aquino’s statement may only serve to alienate the Philippines further from potential diplomatic ties with China. Whatever side of the issue one may stand on, for the President to release this kind of statement  is  dangerous in a PR standpoint and strategically will likely hurts its position in the region. By evoking such a comparison in cyberspace and the real world, the action tends to ignore  real concerns  and issues that have nothing to do with Nazi Germany.   I am sure President  Aquino has valid concerns  regarding China’s claim to the islands. However comparing this dispute to that of Nazi Germany and France and Great Britain undermines the reality what WWII was.

Additionally, the statement may only serve to create an ever widening gulf between potential diplomatic relations in the region.  There are better ways of addressing these territorial issues, but until people can move away from eliciting certain events that have historical and emotional context completely separate from current situations, there will never be real discourse. Words have power, particularly in this day in age where certain statements stand out more than others, for better or worse.

 

“Qatar is off the message”… And so is FIFA

world-cup-logo

This post builds off as a reply to Alona’s insightful comment on Qatar’s PD with respect to labor related deaths in construction of the 2018 World Cup stadiums. I have created a separate post as I extend the analysis into the realm of FIFA and the World Cup itself.

Qatar’s disastrous management of the labour–related deaths scandal, besides raising concerns of blatant human rights violations, profoundly shatters confidence in and support for one of the world’s most popular sports and its most widely watched event. Certainly, it destroys enthusiasm for the next World Cup, at least to the extent to which it appeals to the conscience of billions of fans worldwide, torn between the love for the sport and the demands for respect of human rights. Thus, it is very ironic to analyze this phenomenon, in so far as sports have been identified as a potential vehicle for positive public diplomacy amongst nations.

The World Cup, besides being a thrilling event of passionate matches and displays of genius from the planet’s new and old show offs, is as much an opportunity for nations to come together in “fair play”, not merely showing but exemplifying the values of respect, camaraderie, fraternity, and sportsmanship. Soccer players become ambassadors for their countries at the prelude and during the games. So do their fans, ranging from recognized personalities such as heads of state to outstanding fans that charmed their way into the media, becoming symbols of their respective country’s exoticism. (Paraguay’s Larissa Riquelme, from South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, is a case in point.) One has only to remember the songs that have been recorded for the tournaments throughout the years (the most recent ones being “The Love Generation” and Shakira’s “Waka Waka”), to agree, at least to some extent, that these were songs that spoke of happiness, of forging lasting friendships, of peace, of hope for a better world. It is no coincidence that the song for the upcoming 2014 World Cup is called “We Are One.” (Cultural diplomacy in the World Cup is also played out through music– it’s all about forging global bonds that converge in mutual passions.)

This is what makes the deaths by forced labor in Qatar extra despicable, to say the least. However, Qatar’s compliance notwithstanding, it is important to point out that a big component of abuses committed in preparation for the World Cup can be traced to FIFA’s own power management. FIFA is a very powerful organization, led by a very powerful leader. Joseph Blatter often employs a hard soft power, (building on the notion that soft power is not soft as it involves coercion) shrewdly used to impose his interests and those of his acolytes. The fact that soccer is such a beloved sport for millions throughout the globe makes it an ideal space for the contradictions of power to flourish. However, it also offers a unique opportunity for grassroots movements– the new actors with the potential to transform the PD arena in fundamental ways– to advocate for absolute compliance with and defense for human rights.

Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations

With this week’s readings focusing heavily on the role and impact of culture on public diplomacy, there were a few times that writers referenced Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ thesis. This is not surprising, as Huntington’s seminal work on the issue arose at a time when many were scrambling to make sense of the world of international relations following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many theories at that time were submitted concerning how the new world order would unfold, and Huntington’s ideas received significant attention by academics practitioners alike. Though this is not a typical subject for a blog entry, I thought it important enough to address within the broader framework of understanding the importance of culture within international relations.

In the interest of space, I will attempt to briefly rehash Huntington’s thesis into a few sentences. Huntington utilized the notion that conflict driven by ideology formed the foundation of international relations from post-World War II until 1990, as the world was essentially split between the Western capitalistic champions of free market on one side against the communist, command-economy states led by the USSR on the other. With the victory of the West over the USSR, Huntington argued that the role of ideology as the main instigator of conflict within international relations would diminish and be replaced by culture and religion. Furthermore, the concept of nation-states would be subsumed into seven distinct civilizations (Western, Latin American, Slavic-Orthodox, Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, and Hindu), and that future wars would occur between these civilizations.

As one who places great emphasis on cultural identity, I strongly disagree with Huntington’s crude reductionist arguments that attempt to partition the world into these monolithic unions. Although he was correct in predicting that culture and religion would once again play an important role in international relations, he completely missed the mark by incompetently bunching up countries and regions that only superficially share similarities. Huntington failed to acknowledge the nuances and complexities that exist within regions that ostensibly share a culture, and which would prevent them from becoming unified into a Huntington-esque ‘civilization’. Van Ham’s article this week highlights this flaw, as Huntington’s concept of the Western Civilization, which would comprise the US, Canada, and Western Europe, contains fragmented states which have no interest in uniting on a cultural level. States within the EU, in particular, are extremely resistant to the pervading influence of America’s ‘low’ culture. There are numerous examples that can be brandished here (grouping all Muslims into one category is one that stands out), but suffice to say Huntington’s vision of the future will not be occurring anytime soon.

With this being said, though, an interesting topic that comes to mind whilst analyzing Huntington is the relationship between state and culture. This relationship engenders numerous paths of discussion concerning how a state defines its culture, whether a state recognizes multiple variations within its boundaries, how tolerant it is to these variants, how states identify external cultures, etc., which then provides a solid foundation to build upon discussing how a state manufactures its public diplomacy and calibrates it for foreign consumption.

Unoffical Allies

a022_main

The following articles published in Nippon.com high light the increasingly positive yet complex relationship between Japan and Taiwan. http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a02201/ & http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a02204/.

Despite not having an offical diplomatic relations since the 1970s, Japan’s popularity has risen in Taiwan and vis a versa.  Appreciation for Japan in Taiwan has grown so strong, it has even been given a name, hari. The attitude was perhapes highlighted the most when Taiwan gave about 20billion yen to Japan after the Tohoku earthquake.  Considering Japan’s  rather rocky relationship with other countries in the region  it has managed to garner a support in a small nation that for all purposes has not had any kind of formal relations since the 1970’s.

This has been driven by the desire to stay on the PRC’s good side but at the detriment of official relations with Taiwan.  Ultimately, it is the public on both sides who are driving the relationship. Japan hosts about 1 million Taiwanese tourists each year and Taiwan gets about the same number annually ( it has been fewer lately due to the decreasing value of the yen however).  As both articles allude to it is the culture of both nations that drive them to each other. Japan’s history in Taiwan may also have some amount of influence which the articles touch on but don’t go into too much detail. It is interesting that despite how recent the history is, the overall relationship is relatively positive, but of course that is not saying everyone is supports this sentiment. Hari Kyoko explains how the Taiwanese media has been to heckle people who show appreciation for Japan.

What was interesting from the article was that despite the lack of official diplomatic relations, the appreciation of each others culture through their music, food, attractions, business etiquette, values is what it ultimately at the heart of public diplomacy. PD does not always have to be about forging official ties, it can be as simple as appreciating another culture. This is one facet of soft power. In one of our past readings we discussed how it can be hard to determine what “success” in PD ultimately is.  Personally I believe that a large part of PD, intentional or not, is to show that that the other is human.

 

 

 

“The Revolution will be Tweeted”

SOSvenezuela

The days are unfolding and Venezuela’s situation becomes critical. As the government fights the students and opposition groups in the Latin American country’s main cities, resulting in 3 confirmed deaths and countless injured, the world is watching. Not through the traditional media, though, for it has been subjected to the upmost control by Nicolas Maduro’s special powers, granted to him by the National Assembly at the end of last year. In fact, a controversial decree has warned that any media outlet reporting on Venezuela’s economic crisis, its shortage of basic products, and its alarming standing as one of the world’s most dangerous cities in terms of homicides, will be harshly sanctioned for “instigating popular revolt” and “seeking to destabilize the government”, most likely with the endorsement of the CIA and the US, as well as popular scapegoat Alvaro Uribe, Colombia’s ex–president. Making matters worse, when peaceful protests by Venezuelan students broke out last Wednesday, the government forced Colombian news outlet NTN24 to stop its coverage, and there have been reports of journalist’s equipment being destroyed or robbed. Maduro’s response to the protests has clearly further deteriorated an already worrisome situation for freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and it has exacerbated polarization.

So what is going on? Basically, Venezuela is awakening from months (if not years) of popular discontent with shortages, inflation, lack of freedom, and violence. The opposition wants a change. Some, under the guidance of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, whose arrest has been announced by the government, ask for “La Salida”– the ouster of President Maduro. But the prominent ex presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, has warned against this move, pleading with his compatriots that although peaceful protests are necessary to ask for change, the time is not right to ask Maduro to leave, much less force him out. Maduro, for his part, has already denounced the protests as an attempt at a Coup d’Etat. The result: an increase in violence and radicalization from both the opposition and the government.

How have citizens reacted? By taking to online media without hesitating. As all traditional information outlets were shut, Venezuelan netizens organized themselves to create the rapidly–caught on hashtags #PrayForVenezuela and #SOSVenezuela, calling on the nations of the world to react and pressure the government to stop the repression on its own people. They are trying to avoid a massacre, trying to avoid what their brothers and sisters lived, and are still living, at the outset of the Arab Spring. They are trying to appeal to our indifference, so that this time we might react in a timely manner, supporting freedom, peace, and respect for human rights. These hashtags have already mobilized thousands on Twitter and Facebook in a matter of days. One of the remarkable traits of this feat has been the outpouring support they have received from their compatriots and expatriates living abroad. From Paris to Rome to New York and DC, passing through cities in Latin America and beyond, Venezuelans and others who share their concern have posted messages decrying the government’s repression and calling for peace. They are living out their online revolution through a touching support system. Their actions have already garnered support from prominent leaders and regular citizens from neighboring countries. However, to date only two presidents from the region have issued direct statements condemning violence and asking both the opposition and the government to avoid confrontation and find a peaceful path to peace. It remains to be seen how this civil society initiative will ultimately influence leaders and netizens around the world to hold Maduro and his allies accountable for finding a peaceful solution and responding to the people’s fears and doubts, a fundamental human right in any democracy. Of course, Venezuela is no true democracy, and it has not been for a long time. Therefore, it is imperative to be alert and support this PD initiative stemming from a crucial moment in Venezuelan’s lives. How we choose to react to this will ultimately decide the course of events in a way that will have an impact upon the world, even if for no other reason than the fight for freedom and the triumph of peace and respect over violence and repression.

 

The “world’s best loved country?” South Korea: public diplomacy in the service of like-ability or national interests?

hallyu

Last week, during the beginning of our discussion on soft power, there was an interesting debate on the extents of the effectiveness of this power. Questions were raised about the uses of public diplomacy/cultural diplomacy: should their effectiveness be measured by their ability to further national interests? Or is the diffusion of a nation’s soft power internationally, even when it is not backed by a specific, strategic plan, always something good for that nation in and of itself? Although our discussion revolved around the disconnect between the “hard power” and “soft power” efforts of great powers like the United States, I found myself thinking about it again in the context of middle powers when reading the article for this week on the Korean/Hallyu Wave by Wu-Suk Cho.

Cho lauds his country, with good reason, for the sustainability and universality of its cultural exports (ranging from kpop to TV dramas to food to rising interest in the Korean language). Cho mentions the wide global spread of the Hallyu Wave: Korean dramas are particularly popular in Southeast Asia, India, China, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. In a Nippon.com article on a recent symposium on soft power in East Asia, Kwong Yongseok, a Korean professor teaching in Japan, claims that South Korea is “aiming, through its public diplomacy, to become the world’s best loved country.” (http://www.nippon.com/en/features/c00721/)

This raises a question: is being “liked” an adequate goal of public diplomacy? It seems interesting that in many of the  countries mentioned by Cho where Hallyu has become popular (besides China),  South Korea, as a middle power, seems to have less national interests at play (for example, in Latin American or Eastern European countries). On the other hand, Ogura Kazuo (former Japanese ambassador to France) believes that in Japan, a country with which South Korea has ongoing national security issues, the influence of South Korean pop culture has faded recently, as historical tensions have come to the fore. Kazuo believes that while cultural, knowledge, and material exchange has increased dramatically between South Korea, Japan, and China, favorable views of each other have not increased. He believes that an abundance of “national sentiment” and historical distrust (especially of China and South Korea vis-a-vis Japan) between the countries has neutralized some PD efforts, and created a domestic atmosphere that makes politicians unwilling to enter into “negotiations to improve relations.”

In an article on Korea’s PD efforts on the USC Center for Public Diplomacy blog, Philip Seib also advocates for a harder line use of PD in which “being ‘liked’ is secondary to goals grounded in global and regional realpolitik.” (http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/cpdblog_detail/korea_is_redefining_its_role_in_public_diplomacy/) He believes that South Korea would do well to present itself in contrast to China as a leader in the East Asian region by emphasizing the cultural, intellectual and political freedoms enjoyed by its citizens. He believes that the high visibility of Korean cultural products on social media such as YouTube can be used to point to this freedom, but that the quantity of these products means little “unless there is a strategy behind it.” At the end of his article, Cho makes a similar argument, calling for the intervention of government and diplomatic officials to make a “long-term strategic plan” for the Korean wave.

Finally, discussing the places where Korean PD has fallen short, Kwong bemoans the sometimes egocentrism of Korea’s efforts to promote its culture abroad. He believes that in the future, PD efforts should transition to “learning more about other cultures.” On this topic, it is interesting to note that a few days ago, a South Korean publisher,  RH Korea Inc, launched the first comprehensive Korean magazine on Japanese culture, called Boon. (http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001010161, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/07/national/south-korean-publisher-defies-strains-issues-japanese-culture-magazine/#.UwJdS7R0p8s) The editorial team of the magazine insist that the magazine is even more necessary because of the recent bilateral tensions between the two countries, with the editor-in-chief, Oh Sok-chul, claiming that if people are steady in their enjoyment of another country’s culture, they will be less “shaken” by political problems with that country.

Competence and Soft Power

Putin

I fear this might be one of a dozen Sochi posts this week but I just wanted to try and look at the current media attention surrounding the event in the context of this week’s soft power (henceforth SP) readings.

A lot of the time, when we look at a country’s image abroad, we focus on things such as that country’s foreign policy and stance on human rights. However, I would like to bounce off Nye’s text and say that a state’s competence is equally valuable.

What I mean by this is that morality aside, people are drawn towards states that can provide for their citizens and somehow excel on the world stage. In the case of the United States, it has the world’s largest military, a high GDP/capita and the epicenter of the English-language entertainment industry, among other things.

While I’m still a big proponent of geopolitics and the ‘hard’ elements of power, I would argue that public perceptions of state competence has a great potential to shape interstate relations. Rumblings of a ‘Beijing consensus’ came about to a large part due to the near-collapse of the U.S. financial system.

So back to Sochi.  Putin could have chosen one of so many other ski-friendly places to hold the Olympics but chose a place a stone’s throw from where it went to war with Georgia during the 2008 Olympics. Was this an attempt to show how far the country has come since its embarrassing struggle to put down Islamist militants in the 90s? And what does it mean if the (so far) violence-free games are overshadowed by shortcomings in basics like accommodation and infrastructure?

China’s Cultural Power

chinese new year in londonLast week, I briefly addressed my Country Profile topic in our discussion by including an article that describes one of China’s public diplomacy programs known as the China-Africa Think Tank Forum. This past week, China has made the news once more for the notable increase of diplomacy, or more specifically “soft power,” that is popularizing Chinese language and culture all over the world. In China, the meaning of “soft power” not only carries diplomatic and economic objectives, but a consistent spread and revival of culture takes an unprecedented precedent. Pamment discusses the “diplomatic strategy for exerting influence” as a means of “developing relationships” through different channels, i.e. key media sources in order to reach large publics. He then adds, conveniently enough, a Chinese Proverb which basically says involving others is the best form of perpetuating mutual understanding. At the end of chapter 3, he addresses the topic of “cultural diplomacy.” He describes this area of PD as a way to use culture as a communication tool. China is in many ways capitalizing on its increased ability to promote its culture through not only the media, but the diaspora populations of Chinese people throughout the world also perpetuate the growth of a foreign understanding of Chinese influence.

As China’s economic power continues to grow, this emphasis on culture and language as a means of influencing both foreign and domestic perspectives is China’s way of making itself a more attractive nation. This is important in order to substantiate the increasing number of Chinese public diplomacy programs around the world. For example, there are now more than 50 Confucius Institutes in Africa alone. One of the elemental ways this is down is through the spread of Chinese language. Popularizing the use of Simplified Mandarin not only corroborates public interest in Chinese culture and history, but more predominantly makes China “valuable” in the world’s flow of information. Undoubtedly, these establishments such as the Confucius Institutes are meant to aid relationship-building between the countries; but for China, this is an equally economic endeavor (I’ll get into this further is my following posts on my Country Profile). My blog today was inspired by this article: http://rt.com/op-edge/growing-chinese-soft-power-638/

 

New P.D. and the Restructuring of “Traditional” Communication Models

As a communication masters student, I bet it comes as no surprise that studying and analyzing communication systems theory is a large interest of mine. Thus, this week’s reading of the conclusion in Pammet’s Introduction chapter inspired an internal debate on how developing technologies, and their effects of international diplomatic involvement, has entirely reshaped what we know of as traditional communication models.  In face-to-face communicaiton, the senders and encoders are synonymous, and that is also true of the decoders/receivers. In what Pammet describes as “old PD,” international actors had already begun to divide these traditional communication roles in that the encoding and decoding responsibilities more often than not take place within media outlets and other public forums that allowed political leaders to expand the reach of their message as well as their potential audience. Today, as social media and digital communication narrow the geographic and intellectual gaps between governments and citizens, the traditional roles of encoding and decoding take on entirely different, multinational structures which allow instantaneous feedback. The beauty and curse of these development is where culture, or perceptions of reality, are the last step in transmitting messages from one institution to another, regardless of size. Thus, with a new interactive and interconnected forms of communication systems, how is it possible to predict what encoding and decoding channels our public diplomacy and foreign policy initiatives will either aid or detract from the overall message and strategy? How powerful can the use of “soft power” be when as number of mediums through which the messages must pass in order to effectively influence the hearts and minds of those from entirely different cultures grows exponentially? is it possible to be that culturally pluralistic? Or must we need to accept what my mother has been trying to tell me since middle school that “you can’t make everyone happy”? I digress…I’ve attached the link to a really great article discussing the evolving role of soft power, specifically in regards to the developing transnational BRICs community. It carries similar sentiments and questions that I previously proposed about how we should approach obstacles in public diplomacy:  “a more constructive approach to this dilemma of expanding BRICS influence through soft power means should not lie in adopting new concepts to project their power but rather to focus on building intra-group trust between the BRICS.” The article emphasizes soft power as a necessary and increasingly important topic in supporting the growth of the BRICs, but so far their efforts and means of adjusting it’s diplomatic goals through communication and media systems has shown that internal restructuring or an introspective approach is equally elemental in successfully and effectively implementing international “new PD.”

http://allafrica.com/stories/201401170646.html?viewall=1