What makes regional public diplomacy efforts a success?

hawaiiI first thought I was going to write something on a public diplomacy effort of a “supra-national” actor, the European Union, but as I started looking around for interesting articles, I came across this Huffington Post article about the “sub-national” public and cultural diplomacy efforts of the U.S. State of Hawaii: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-rockower/aloha-diplomacy-hawaiian-_b_4633759.html. I find the interest of “paradiplomacy,” or diplomatic relations carried out by sub-national actors, such as regions, states, and cities, to be of particular interest because often times it seems as if they have a greater chance for success than public diplomacy campaigns carried out by nations. I believe this is probably true for two reasons: 1) the scope and aims of public diplomacy campaigns by regions and cities are often smaller and better defined than those of nation-states: usually, to increase exports of their goods and to promote tourism, and 2) the campaigns are possibly less controversial because they are not tied, as nation-states’ public diplomacy often is, to overall foreign policy goals and especially military measures.

It remains to be seen what makes particular regional public diplomacy efforts such a success? In Paul Rockower’s article, he describes the exciting success of a tour around Brazil (sponsored by the State Department) of a Hawaiian slide guitar expert and hula master. Unsurprisingly, the unique music and dance of Hawaii and its so-called “spirit of Aloha” were much appreciated by Brazilians, according to the author. He goes on to list various other countries where he believes Hawaiian public diplomacy efforts would be successful, especially in East Asia, where Hawaii is benefitted by its already existent cultural ties, especially to Japan. However, as the author points out, Hawaii already is “blessed” with “the most distinctive brand in the” USA. This begs the question of what exactly could be the aims of Hawaii in embarking on public diplomacy campaigns? To attract more foreign tourist dollars? (The reasoning is not discussed by the author). It might be too easy to look at the case of public diplomacy of an already wildly popular and well-known place such as Hawaii, and conclude that international public diplomacy campaigns are a good idea for all sub-national actors.

Much of the discussion of public paradiplomacy focuses on large municipalities, especially on cities who work to improve their brand in order to attract high profile events, such as the Olympics and the World Cup. In some cases, this city diplomacy is used as a way primarily promote the national brand, as typified in the case of the public/cultural blitz surrounding the Beijing Olympics, which functioned more to soften and expand international views of China and the CCP (http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/index.php/newswire/media_monitor_reports_detail/public_diplomacy_and_the_beijing_olympics_narratives_and_counter_narratives/). On the other hand, in the case of the London 2012 Olympics, the city government’s efforts to promote “green public diplomacy” (by promising to be the “greenest” Olympics yet) actually allowed the city to leverage this diplomacy in order to implement green initiatives and infrastructure in actual practice. In this case, the public diplomacy campaigns allowed and promoted by the city’s media because of the Olympics actually allowed it to make substantive changes at home, not just in the hearts and minds of people abroad (http://www.academia.edu/3058677/World_Politics_by_Other_Means_London_City_Diplomacy_and_the_Olympics). Finally, sometimes sub-national public diplomacy and branding campaigns can be seen as promoting an image contrasting the nation’s brand, as could be argued is the case with the city of Barcelona, which presents itself outside of the Spanish cultural brand (http://placesbrands.com/city-diplomacy-a-new-alternative-to-branding/).

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Transforming Arms into Art

Transforming Arms into Art

Throne of weapons. © Kester 2004

Throne of weapons. © Kester 2004

After the Mozambique civil war, millions of weapons left in the country. In 1995, the Christian Council of Mozambique started Transforming Arms into Tools project, which offered people farming equipment and tools in exchange for guns. Then a group of Mozambican artists turned them into sculptures.

I wonder this is a part of the ‘new’ public diplomacy Pamment describes.

Firstly, it says the project is supported by the Mozambique government. Exhibitions of the sculptures were held in twelve countries. Furthermore, I found that an exhibition came to Japan last summer, which was realized by a Japanese professor of African studies, who learned about this project and asked the artists to create new artworks to display.
In the BBC website, Carey from British Museum says the sculpture speaks the will to “overcome violence through practical and creative means which resonates with people at a personal and collective level.” Also, the article describes the sculpture, “unusually for such a commemorative piece,” it “speaks to us of hope and resolution.” Moreover, an audience of the exhibition made a comment on the website that he was so impressed that he’d like to help teach people to make sculptures in Africa.

According to Pamment, while the ‘old’ public diplomacy has been a “one-way flow of information”, a ‘new’ public diplomacy” is “two-way engagement with the public.” He also mentions that audiences are now “active and greater emphasis is placed on how they make meaning and how they feed back into the communication process.”

This project seems to have been quite successful in physically transforming the weapons into artworks, and changing the negative image of violence into peace. The project also generated two-way engagement of the public, which eventually brought new artworks to Japan, and might bring an audience to Mozambique to teach people to make sculptures.

Emi

——

Other related articles I referred to:

-“Transforming Arms into Tools”, ALMA,

http://www.almalink.org/transtool.htm

-Mescla, the website of a furniture designer Carla Botosso, who have been involved in the projects.

http://www.mescla.dk/projects.html

-The article about the exhibition of the sculptures in Japan

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201307110071

-“A History of the World: Throne of Weapons,” BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/97OnxVXaQkehlbliKKDB6A

Analyzing China’s Struggles With Its Soft Power Initiatives

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Last week I submitted a comment briefly centering on Taiwan’s complicated history and how it affects its current PD strategies, and this week I’ll focus on the efficacy of China’s current public diplomacy attempts (yes, yet another blog piece about China). I hope not to pigeonhole myself into writing solely about these two interconnected though distinct nations, but comparing and contrasting the nature of their PD strategies offer salient points for understanding the core values of public diplomacy.

Recently it was through reading this article as well as having a few conversations with other like-minded individuals that enlightened me to recognizing another face of public diplomacy. Last week we discussed sparingly about the differences, if any, between public diplomacy and propaganda. Although I still stand by my assertion that they are essentially one and the same in their basic goal of disseminating information with the goal of influencing decision-making processes, I also recognized the similarities between public diplomacy and marketing strategies. Both attempt to sell an image or brand to be consumed by target audiences.

As the article I linked to mentioned, understanding PD from this interpretation can explain why China constantly experiences failures with its soft power initiatives. China has attempted in recent years to convincing the world, especially the West, that it is committed to peacefully integrating itself into the current world order as it rises in economic power and political clout. But every soft power effort is undermined by aggressive tactics like naval confrontations in the South China Sea / Senkaku Islands and the recent ADIZ announcement (not to mention petty actions including their paltry aid contributions to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan as punishment for South China Sea conflicts). Thus consumers have a difficult time separating the image of China as an aggressive, authoritarian state from that portrayed in their soft power efforts as a peaceful nation, which is why consumers are so reluctant to embrace this peaceful image of China. As the article also mentions, China does not help itself through its heavy censuring and control of any information released internationally as well as inability to target its core audience (Millenials) due to blocking of integral social media sites like Facebook.

Although I do apologize for contributing yet another piece about China, it really should attract a good majority of our focus as students of public diplomacy because both it and Taiwan offer strong, relevant case studies in how countries struggle with separating their hard power images from their public diplomacy efforts, how public diplomacy strategies are evolving in this Age of Technology, and what constitutes the basic core of each nation’s public diplomacy (hint: cultural identity).

Perceptions Abroad

 A large portion of PD is about branding or what kind of messages we send out about ourselves. Hayden linked PD to the idea of “soft power” or “affecting others to obtain the outcomes you want” (6). One of the three major characteristics of soft power as Hayden describes it is the “attractiveness” of an actors culture and institutions” (6).

This article from the Huffington post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mario-machado/service-as-diplomacy-the _b_3937024.html?utm_source=Daily+Media+Digest&utm_campaign=8907ea41ec-Media_Digest_9_23_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e87ea75dce-8907ea41ec-215172549 written by Mario Machado highlights some of  images that the US tends to portray of itself, in particular those that come from the military and of the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, as Machado describes, the most powerful  and lasting image of the two is that of the US military. The US  as it is pictured abroad is not necessarily seen a peaceful, despite the efforts of  the  Peace Corps or other organizations who offer humanitarian aid to developing nations.

To a large extent, both the Peace Corps and the military are the face of US  around the world, and all to often that face or image is conflicting. As Machado explains the “first function of the Peace Corps Volunteers is that of cultural ambassadors.” Despite the Peace Corps efforts, there is limit to what can be done to improve the US’ image abroad, particularly because of our tendency to get involved militarily.

 If the US wants to make the Peace Corp mandate something people abroad associates more with the US ( i.e. 1) Help meet the needs of developing nations for trained personnel 2) Provide a better understanding of Americans on the behalf of other peoples, and 3) Provide a better understanding of other peoples on the behalf of Americans ), then the US should make an effort to pursue and promote  values that don’t necessitate military force. Or at the very least the US should recognize what kind of influence certain  perceptions of the US have abroad and whether or not it undermines the US’s PD efforts.

-Stacey Massuda

Safety at the Olympic Games

This is the link to a piece written by Micah Zenko, which appeared on the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) website. http://blogs.cfr.org/zenko/2014/01/26/why-the-u-s-and-russia-wont-cooperate-to-protect-the-sochi-games/

Zenko reveals the obstacles and lack of cooperation between the United States and Russia in ensuring safety and protection at the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, in the face of terrorist threats made by Chechen militant groups. The lack of cooperation between both nations stems from what Zenko describes as “the reciprocal distrust between Russia and U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence agencies.”

The article explains that Russia and the United States are both reluctant and unwilling to provide certain information or intelligence which could help stop terrorist attacks, such as jamming technology which would disable radio-signal car bombs, because both nations fear that any information they provide could be used against them by the other.   Clearly, this is an issue that policymakers on both sides need to consider and a greater level of cooperation must be reached in order to keep people safe.

In his second chapter, Pamment delves into the realm of public diplomacy by studying its historical role as well as its future in an age of globalization and interdependence among nations, transnational organizations, and other non-state actors. Pamment argues that cooperation amongst these entities is extremely important, particularly in the case of international security. He states: “Concerns to international security such as terrorism and climate change demand multilateral action through coalitions of like-minded nations and transnational groups” (p. 28).   

How should US policymakers proceed in ensuring the safety of Americans who will be in Sochi for the Olympics, without compromising vital intelligence? Americans, both athletes and tourists traveling to Russia, are encouraged to not display signs of being American (Olympians are told to not wear their US team jackets out in public, for example). What else has been put in place, or should be done, in order to ensure people’s safety? Should transnational organizations get involved in this issue, with the idea that safety and security are the quintessential elements to consider? I am interested to hear what you all think!

HuffPost launches WorldPost

 

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On January 8th, the Huffington Post announced the creation of WorldPost. This is how The Guardian portrayed it: “The 1% are about to get their own publication. The digital media titan Arianna Huffington and the billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen on Wednesday announced the launch of World Post, a comment and news website that looks set to become a platform for some of the most powerful people on the planet.” (http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jan/08/world-post-news-website-launches-huffington) World Post was officially launched at Davos, during the World Economic Forum. This was no coincidence, considering it is the hub where many of the world´s most influential leaders, entrepreneurs, practitioners, and policy-shapers converge. These are people with vast power to shape our everyday lives. Now some of them, including former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and both Microsoft’s and Google’s masterminds, will seek to influence our minds through the soft power of the media. They will be some of the big names contributing to the HuffPost’s latest expansive project. However, what the creators of this joint venture insist makes it different is that it will be a space as much for the powerful as for the ordinary people like you and me. They are seeking to establish partnerships with local media institutions around the world, in addition to the team of correspondents already in action in 10 countries, and the creation of new correspondence positions across Beirut, Beijing, Cairo, and more locations. 

This organizational scheme is supposed to be based on cooperation amongst the different actors for the common purpose of giving life to the World Post. Indeed, it is supposed to mirror the structure already in place, whereby the HuffPost maintains alliances with key international media editors and agenda-setters. Considering the growth and reach of Huffington Post in the last couple of years, it makes sense how they would grab this opportunity to spread their interests and perspectives further. In words of its global news editor, Peter Goodman, “We have an incredible opportunity to use the pieces we already have on the board to speak to our existing audience and grow that audience simply by embracing the fact that we are an international entity.” There’s never been a better time for them to do it, taking advantage of the media revolution, the importance and influence media channels such as these hold over citizens and governments worldwide, and the nature of our interconnected world. 

As soon as I saw the headline announcing the creation of World Post, I thought “there goes an authentic PD effort.” The statements issued by Huffington, Berggruen, and the rest of the staff underscore this. Without a doubt, here is an example of how international communication venues, the mass media, non-state actors, and even states themselves, even if indirectly, come together to shape a PD initiative. As Gilboa mentioned in his critical article, there is no single definition to PD. More than ever, it must be seen as the increasingly interdependent, interdynamic phenomenon it is. It is no longer possible to separate its parts from its purpose. The creation of World Post is, in my opinion, the very reality of what public diplomacy is. I find it hard to further elaborate this point, as I feel that what World Post is and symbolizes speaks for itself. Undoubtedly, it will become an essential actor in the shaping of international perspectives both at home and abroad, both about the US and about the rest of the world. This actor is not merely restricted to its role as a powerful media outlet (and thus, an agenda setter), but also as a representative of public opinion, civil society, influential non-state elite members, the powerful within (Western) states, and those alternative, still unknown voices fighting for a chance to practice PD too– their public diplomacy. Hence, it will be interesting to monitor and critically analyze how PD plays out coming from the same venue, but not from the same sphere of power. There is a new opportunity for the “common citizens” to engage in dialogue and influence with broader actors across the world. It remains to be seen whether their voices will exercise considerable pressure upon the NPD practiced by the more recognized members of World Post, their audiences, backers, and sponsors, and end up creating a need for even more updated, interdisciplinary paradigms of what NPD is and can be in the 21st Century. 

For more on this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/covering-the-world-introducing-the-worldpost_b_4637990.html 

FYI: New Clingendael Report on Peacebuilding and Other Possible Resources

Hello, All.

One of the PD Links along the left side of the blog home page is to Clinendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations.  This link — http://www.clingendael.nl/publication/internal-and-external-dilemmas-peacebuilding-africa — is to a new report that some may find of interest, and here’s a more general link: http://www.clingendael.nl/page/news

-Debbie Trent