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

UNESCO's Declaration of Human Rights, held by Eleanor Roosevelt
UNESCO’s Declaration of Human Rights, held by Eleanor Roosevelt

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.”

The State Department’s “Smart Power” policy relies on UNESCO as a partner and facilitator for informing, engaging, and empowering people around the world, particularly in difficult places often low on the list of priorities.  Today, UNESCO has a role as an anti-extremist organization through developing civilian capacity and self-governance.  This mission fits in with and compliments the Departments efforts found mostly in the ever-expanding and increasingly central Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

It is unlikely the timing of the Chinese and Qatari contributions are coincidental.  Rather, they are surely taking the opportunity to gain influence with the U.S. withdrawal.  Last month, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice testified to Congress that a “loss of U.S. clout is the price for axing funding.”

Almost exactly sixty-six years ago today, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs William Benton also urged the House Foreign Affairs Committee to support the then-proposed international agency.  The State Department was vigorously supporting UNESCO.  Some in the Department even suggested the U.S. should drop the idea of establishing a cultural and affairs office, then being debated, in favor of relying on UNESCO.

At the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Benton presented a statement from Secretary of State James Byrnes that UNESCO was designed to carry out recommendations of the President and others for an agency “for consistent and thorough interchange of thought and ideas.” Benton listed three basic purposes of UNESCO:

  1. Stimulate the use of the media for mass communication to advance mutual knowledge and wide true understanding among the peoples of the world;
  2. Encourage schools and other educational institutions to build “defenses of peace” in the minds of children as well as adults; and,
  3. Cooperate in the growth and sharing of useful knowledge to the peoples of the world may strive together for a better life.

Today, the concept UNESCO appears to have completed a circle, moving away from the radical opposition of the past.  Once again, it is poised to have an important role in the struggle for minds and wills.

But with the U.S. withdrawal, the need to engage and empower people, and build more secure regions, has not gone away.  Neither has the need to have other actors do the work.  Are we safe in the implicit assumption that China and Qatar will support America’s interests?


(Note: a research paper on how UNESCO was transformed from supporting anti-communism to support communism might be interesting for public diplomacy. Did the East “capture” UNESCO due to poor strategy, possibly of focusing on governments rather than people?  Are there lessons to be learned today?)

The Future of Public Diplomacy, a USC conference

The 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.

Attendance to the conference is free, but you are requested to RSVP with the USC Association of Public Diplomacy Scholars by going to this RSVP link.

The phrase “public diplomacy” is variously viewed as a concept, a bureaucracy, and/or a practice. The community craves to see the word “diplomacy” follow the word “public” and debates when the phrase does and does not appear.  Is it something defined by the objective, as Betty Hanson eloquently asked this week? Is it defined by means, by the actor? Is the term “public diplomacy” itself problematic and self-limiting, suggesting an adversarial bureaucratic relationship with other agencies, a use of the softest of “soft power” to “win hearts” and be “liked”, or activities that “influence” rather than merely “inform”, or all of the above?

Unfortunately, I will not be at the conference but I look forward to the discussions and hope the students press the opportunity to engage the uniquely qualified speakers beyond the soft and fuzzy.

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.)

Continue reading “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Under Secretaries”

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:

In the new information environment world leaders are finding that they must communicate—effectively—with multiple audiences. This panel considers the range of approaches governments are using to meet this public diplomacy imperative as well as the diverse objectives behind these efforts. Hayden provides a comparative framework for analyzing how various power mechanisms are adapted to fit specific strategic requirements. Hanson focuses on one particular new approach, the use of social media, of one country, India. The main target audiences are youth at home and abroad, and the primary objective is to provide vehicle for Indian soft power. Corman focuses on changes in the information and communication environment that require a reconceptualization of public diplomacy and a reformulation of policies. Finally, Cull considers emerging trends and provides recommendations for the conduct of public diplomacy in the new information environment.

The panel chair is Robin Brown (PD Networks). The panel discussant is your author.  The panelists are:

  • Emily Metzgar: Building a Public Diplomacy Network: One JET at a Time
  • Craig Hayden: Audience, Mechanism, and Objective: A Comparative Framework for Soft Power Analysis
  • Betty Hanson: India Would Like to Be Your Friend: New Initiatives in Indian Public Diplomacy
  • Steve Corman: New Concepts of Audience for Public Diplomacy in the Information Age
  • Nick Cull: The Future: Tracking Forward Trends in Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy

If you’re there, stop by.

To single one of the many fine discussions that will take place, “Public Diplomacy and Power: To What End?” should be interesting.  Phil Seib chairs a discussion with Kathy Fitzpatrick, Ali Fisher, and Craig Hayden.  Scene settings questions include:

  • If public diplomacy is viewed as an extension of power over others, then how does relationship building fit within such a construct?
  • What does power mean in a collaborative public diplomacy context?
  • What influence does the relative power of nation-states (or other international actors) have on cross-border relationship building?
  • What moral aspects should be considered in discussions of power in public diplomacy?
  • Do links between public diplomacy and power define (or mask) public diplomacy’s purpose and value to nations and other international actors, as well as to global society?

See alsoDebating the Theory vs Practice of Public Diplomacy

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

Tara Sonenshine (USIP)
Tara Sonenshine (USIP)

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.

  • Michael A. Hammer to be Assistant Secretary of State (Public Affairs)
  • Anne Claire Richard, of New York, to be an Assistant Secretary of State
  • Tara D. Sonenshine, of Maryland, to be Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, vice Judith A. McHale.
  • Robert E. Whitehead, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Togolese Republic.
  • Larry Leon Palmer, of Georgia to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Barbados, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
  • Jonathan Don Farrar, of California to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Panama.
  • Phyllis Marie Powers, of Virginia to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Republic of Nicaragua.
  • Nancy J. Powell, of Iowa, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Personal Rank of Career Ambassador, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to India.
  • Frederick D. Barton, of Maine, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Conflict and Stabilization Operations), vice Bradford R. Higgins.

For Tara, getting started requires waiting for the President to attest (certify) the confirmation, then swearing in (mostly like at the Department, possibly by Secretary Clinton but possibly Under Secretary Kennedy, unless she has a specific individual in mind), and then she’s off and running.  She could start as early as Monday but Tuesday may be more likely.  It largely depends on the White House’s ability to turn around the certification and get it to State.

Congratulations also goes to State’s public diplomacy, including the people, bureaucracy, the practice and the supporters.  Having a strong leader like Tara confirmed for the job is long overdue.  

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 and global affairs. Information flows, which help shape public opinion, are critical to the power of diplomacy, the ability of the military persuade and dissuade, and to the health of the economy, including trade. There is little argument that the United States Government lags in its ability to effectively understand, inform, engage, and empower people in the conduct of foreign affairs and across global affairs.  The notable exception is domestic politics, but the role of public opinion appears to end at the water’s edge.   Continue reading “SAGE: independent strategic communication for America”

A Call to Action on Public Diplomacy

The Smart Power “Equalizer” by Matt Armstrong

Guest Post 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.  Continue reading “A Call to Action on Public Diplomacy”

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 foreshadowed 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.” Words and deeds needed more than just synchronization as public opinion could be leveraged to support the successful conduct of foreign policy.  Continue reading “The President’s National Framework for Strategic Communication (and Public Diplomacy) for 2012”