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.