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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

With U.S. Absent, China and Qatar step-in at UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, was established over six decades ago to be the public diplomacy organization of the West, countering the influences and false promises of Communism.  Last year, the U.S. cut its funding to UNESCO resulting in a severe budget shortfall and program elimination by the agency.

Defense News reports that immediately after the U.S. cut, China stepped in with “a first-time $8 million funding for the U.N. agency’s education program, while Qatar chipped in $20 million.”

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The Future of Public Diplomacy, a USC conference

APDSThe Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars at USC has their annual conference tomorrow, April 6, 2012.  The conference will provide a discussion on new technologies and emerging actors in the amorphous “thing” sometimes called public diplomacy.

The Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars invites you to join the discussion, with a half day of panels and speakers from around the world. The conference will feature an opening address by Dr. Nicholas J. Cull, director of the Master’s of Public Diplomacy program at USC, and keynote speaker Ben Hammersley, the U.K. prime minister’s ambassador to East London TechCity. We will also have panelists from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, United Nations Global Pulse, Facebook, Carleton University, the South East European Film Festival, the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, and the Brazilian Consulate in Los Angeles.

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The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Under Secretaries

By Brian Carlson

The following originally appeared at the Public Diplomacy Council and is republished here with permission.  

Tara Sonenshine was confirmed Thursday night by the Senate, and she will probably take office officially early this week.  (She can be sworn in privately by some current official and begin work, even as a more formal ceremony is planned for a few weeks hence.)

It is a new beginning down at Foggy Bottom.  Tara becomes only the seventh Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs since the job was created upon the merger of USIA into the Department in 1999.

It is a propitious time to consider what habits lead to  success at the State Department, as well as what experience teaches about being the nation’s Olympic spear-catcher when they think we’re being out-communicated by some guy in a cave.  Here are a few suggestions for how to succeed at this job, all gathered from my time working directly with five of the six previous Under Secretaries.  (I had no contact with Margaret Tutwiler.)

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Winning Hearts and Minds in the Information Age at ISA

There will be a healthy (and impressive) number of panels and roundtables at next week’s Annual Convention for the International Studies Association (ISA) in San Diego.  These include: Understanding Public Diplomacy in Different Contexts: Issues of Culture, Science and Power;  Public Diplomacy 2.0; Public Diplomacy and New Media in the Information Age; and others.

I’ll be at ISA Sunday through Tuesday.  Besides attending various panels, I will be the discussant for one, “Winning Hearts an Minds in the Information Age.”  This panel starts at 8:15a Tuesday, April 3, in the Hospitality Suite #1501.  About the panel:

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Congratulations Tara Sonenshine! confirmed to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs

Congratulations to Tara Sonenshine, who was confirmed this evening to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs!

Also confirmed was Mike Hammer as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs (finally dropping “Acting” from his title).

Below is a list of all State Department.

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American Avatar: The United States in the Global Imagination


One of the most important public diplomacy books you have never heard of is American Avatar: The United States in the Global Imagination by Barry Sanders.  An adjunct professor of Communications Studies at UCLA, an international corporate lawyer, President of the Board of Commissioners of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Barry provides a unique, fascinating, and worthwhile exploration of the opportunities and risks of American global engagement.

In American Avatar, Barry looks at narratives, their foundations and  trajectories.  ”Now more than ever,” Barry writes, “foreign views of the United States also affects its national security.”

As a panelist at the November 2011 meeting of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Barry explained that stories at the heart of everything: the study and practice of law, movies, group membership, and more.

Barry was in DC to discuss his book earlier this month.  Watch this meeting and read a discussion here.

I recommend Barry’s book for students and practitioners of strategic communication and public diplomacy.

SAGE: independent strategic communication for America

Public opinion has always had a major role in foreign policy, national security, and a strong economy.  And yet, there is little argument that the United States lags in its ability to effectively understand, inform, engage, and empower people in the conduct of foreign affairs.  The notable exception is domestic politics, but success in the global arena has typically been the product of a few smart people often working around the system.  Call it public diplomacy or strategic communication, the ability to communicate and empower is essential to diplomacy, development, and defense, all of which are the foundation for any country’s, or organization’s, physical and economic security.

Strengthening America’s Global Engagement, or SAGE, is intended to provide America a “flexible, entrepreneurial, and tech-savvy partner” that can work in situations and other partners that the U.S. Government cannot or should not to “collaborate, support, and enhance initiatives” of engagement.

Yesterday, the business plan for SAGE was publicly released at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  Speaking were Jane Harmon, Paula Dobriansky, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Brad Minnick, and Goli Ameri.

Download the final plan at MountainRunner: SAGE: creating an independent strategic communication organization for America (PDF, 1.3mb).
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A Call to Action on Public Diplomacy

By Morris “Bud” Jacobs

The mission of public diplomacy is generally described as seeking to “understand, engage, inform and influence” foreign publics and elites in support of national policy objectives. Public diplomacy has been practiced, in one form or another, for a long time – think Benjamin Franklin in France, charming the nobility to garner support for the American colonies in their struggle for independence. Its modern origins include the first broadcast of the Voice of America in February 1942 (VOA celebrates its 70th anniversary this spring) and the establishment of the Office of War Information in June of that year.

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The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012

It should be common knowledge that the “information consequences of policy ought always be taken into account, and the information man ought always to be consulted. This statement, from 1951, is reflected in Eisenhower’s dictum of the next year that “everything we say, everything we do, and everything we fail to say or do will have its impact in other lands.” It was understood then that words and deeds needed more than just synchronization: public opinion could be leveraged to support and further the execution of foreign policy.

What was true then is more so in a modern communication environment of empowerment. The interconnected systems of Now Media, spanning offline and online mediums, democratizes influence, and undermines traditional models of identity and allegiance as demands on assimilation fade as “hyphens” become commas. What emerges is a new marketplace for loyalty that bypasses traditional barriers of time, geography, authority, hierarchy, culture, and language. Information flows much faster; at times it is instantaneous, decreasing the time allowed to digest and comprehend the information, let alone respond to it. Further, information is now persistent, allowing for time-shifted consumption and reuse, for ill or for good. People too can travel the globe with greater ease and increased speed.

It is in this evolving environment that the President issued an updated “National Framework for Strategic Communication” for 2012 (3.8mb PDF, note: the PDF has been fixed and should be once again visible to all). This report updates the 2010 report issued last March that was little more than a narrative on how the Government was organized for strategic communication. The report is required under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009.

Some highlights from the 2012 Framework:
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