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Different Public Diplomacies for Different Problems

April 23, 2010

Sitting in the UK and occasionally running into representatives of the world’s best diplomatic organization (that’s what they tell me) and reading about the British version of PD you notice that what PD means here is different from the US.  In fact at the root of the differences are different images of the problems that PD exists to solve.

Lets try and identify the ideal type cases that exist in the two PD imaginaries

In the British case the imagined problem is something like climate change:  it is a global or regional problem that requires a complex coalition with lots of different types of actors ranging from individual citizens through NGOs/IGOs/MNCs to governments with the governments understood as made up of different agencies.  This is a pluralist (or plurilateral or polylateral) world.  I think that this perspective is reinforced by the extent to which British diplomacy is linked to multilateral forms (particularly the EU).  This type of hybrid diplomatic action takes on board ‘classic diplomacy’ dealing with governmental elites behind closed doors, ‘classic public diplomacy’ reaching members of the public with communication plus a whole range of quasi public activities engaging with organized groups and networks.

In the US the imagined problem is …the USSR or something similar. Essentially you have a downtrodden population with limited access to the outside world who need to be told about how great the outside is and how bad their own rulers are in the hope that the downtrodden will get rid of the rulers.

The consequence of these two problem images will be different approaches in terms of objectives and means.

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One comment

  1. […] seems to me that this fits with the ideas of diplomacy/public diplomacy fusion or hybrid diplomacy that grow quite naturally out of FCO thinking under the Labour […]



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