Tag Archives: #week8

Struggles of Diplomacy

north korea satellite nasa lights OLD

How far can diplomacy go? With the recent release of the UN report detailing extensively the crimes being committed in North Korea, the UN is calling for greater international pressure on the nation and for the North Korean government to close its labor campus. But when a whole government is in denial anything is happening, what happens then?  Unfortunately, the UN has a poor reputation when it comes to imposing certain demands.

Additionally, beyond imposing more sanctions (which many can argue are not really that effective)  what else can the international community do? Now that the UN is willing to concentrate on more than just the proliferation of nuclear weapons in North Korea, does this mean anything for how people the international community approaches diplomatic efforts with North Korea now?  To exacerbate matters China’s veto power is hindering the international community’s efforts to do something more productive.

This is where diplomacy struggles, especially if a  entire government is in denial. It is astonishing that human rights abuses to the extent we see in North Korea  has been going on for over six decades. What role can diplomacy have now that there is an official report of the extent of these crimes? While I like to think that diplomacy can make a difference, this is where diplomacy becomes  a monologue where North Korea refuses to budge because it believes it has nothing to gain from opening itself up to dialog.  Military force is simply not an option ( nor is it something anyone wants to  risk doing). What can the international community do and should they do anything?  I am curious to know what others think.

Here is the link to the article: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/18/asia-pacific/long-road-to-hold-kim-north-korea-liable-for-crimes/#.UyiQAV5cui8


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.

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.


Wise Words as PD

Pope and youth

An Op–Ed in yesterday´s (27/02/14) edition of the New York Times titled “What would Kennan say to Obama?” mentioned the danger of ‘America´s exceptionalism’ in FP and PD strategies. It touched upon the notion that the US created its own moral demise by prioritizing military force over diplomacy and soft power. An interesting affirmation by the late Kennan highlighted why he believed it was more important to focus on domestic issues as a better tool to positively influence public opinion both at home and abroad: “We are ultimately dependent on the intentions, rather than the capabilities, of the adversary, the influence of which is primarily a political and psychological, not a military problem.”

Applying this affirmation to my case study on Pope Francis’ diplomacy, I realize how these words have echoed in the first year of Bergoglio’s Papacy. The Vatican, unlike any other independent state in the world– except for Japan, whose Self Defense Forces act as the country’s official “military”– has no military structure. Such a force would be incompatible with its very essence. In fact, the worst periods of the Church’s history are those tainted with the blood of Inquisition–like offensives.

Pope Francis’ revolutionary ways have touched the hearts of believers and non believers alike to transcend past hurts. He has brought his virtues into the very public eye, and he has employed them in his distinctive public diplomacy– or, should I say, soft power? A conference at Georgetown at the beginning of the month, The Pope, Politics, and Policy addressed Francis’ potential to influence not only the Catholic world, but the world at large.

In seeking to transcend the ‘Catholic Church’s exceptionalism’, he has publicly recognized and rejected shortcomings while pointing out to a refreshing pathway where the authentic teachings of Jesus are not only talked about, but vividly exemplified. In this sense, it is important to highlight his commitment to youth. The very fact that he would enthusiastically partake of a groundbreaking ‘selfie’ testifies as much. Francis’ words today underscored this: “In the same way, the young want to feel at home in Church. Not only must the Church open her doors to them; she must actively seek them.” At the end, he emphasized: “The youth are waiting for us. We must not let them down.” Wise words to reconstruct and transform traditional PD policies into a tangible call to action whose best weapon is genuine love and commitment to serve others.

Sports Diplomacy Program Evaluation


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