Tag Archives: week 12

Princess Sheikha Mozah: Qatar’s Untapped Soft Power?

Sheikha Mozah

Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the wife of the former emir of Qatar, is a woman below the radar of many mainstream Westerners; but on full display to fashion world. So is such a fashionista that, Vogue Italia once labeled her their “Obsession of the Day.”

However, her notoriety does not extend far from the runway. Sheikha Moza has failed to become a well-known name or royal “brand,” the way Diana once was, and the Duchess of Cambridge and Queen Rania have become. Which begs the question, why?

Sheikha Mozah, like her counterparts, is not only a fashion trendsetter but: highly educated, beautiful and a philanthropist. She uses her public stature to promote education, science, and community development. She executes her royal duties just as well – if not better- as any other royal.

The Daily Beast attributes Sheikha Mozah’s lack of fame due to her conservative dress and religious observance. She the second wife of three, never seen in public bare-legged, and always wears a hijab. The Daily Beast goes on to suggest that this makes it hard for Western women to relate to her and her culture.

I however see her distinct style as a way to communicate to the world who she is and what her country and religion are all about. With a good communications team, she could revamp her image and propel herself onto the international stage. Brand her, not as another woman oppressed by her religion, but a woman empowered by her religion.

She could use her stature to demystify Islam and open the door for cultural exchanges with the undertone that Muslim women are not trapped by their religion, but choose practice their faith. To have a woman with her education, wealth and influence change the tone about what it means to be a Muslim woman others will begin to gain a better understanding of the religion and its culture. Increased understanding of the Muslim world would do a lot to build partnerships, increase prosperity and maintain security in all regions of the world.

Why You’ve Never Heard of the World’s Best-Dressed Royal

Cherry Blossoms and Botanical Diplomacy

Yesterday, I took a walk near the tidal basin to enjoy the sight of the blooming cherry blossoms. The history of the trees reminded me of this week’s readings about Japanese soft power and public diplomacy. Not only does the blossoming represent the start of spring in DC, but also the lasting relationship between Japan and the United States.

Cherry Blossoms in DCThis diplomatic initiative began before the first trees were planted. Through much opposition and several setbacks, the initiative began to bloom. Over 100 years ago, in March 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gifted the United States capitol a thousand Japanese cherry trees, where they remain today. A sign along the tidal basin path describes the goodwill nature of both countries. Forty years after the first trees were planted, the U.S. shipped budwood back to Japan to help restore the original cherry blossom grove. Japan shipped more trees back shortly after to help expand the capital’s current trees.

Every year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival takes place to foster “a growing understanding and appreciation of each nation’s culture.” Japanese and American artists present their work and perform for the festival. Tourists from around the world come to DC to visit these iconic trees and partake in the celebrations. Its success blends Japanese culture with American history and the joint public diplomacy is truly inspiring.

Also, through my research, I came across a neat NPR interview regarding the DC cherry blossoms, if anyone is interested: http://www.npr.org/2012/03/26/149394945/cherry-blossoms-as-botanical-diplomacy 

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.