ISA Workshop on Public Diplomacy

I”m still wrapped up with the beginning of the academic year but I thought that I’d just advertise that registration for the International Studies Association  Workshop on Public Diplomacy: Interdisciplinary Research, Teaching, Practice is now open here.  The workshop will take place before the Montreal ISA Convention in March next year.

From Perception to Partnership: Shifting UK Definitions of Public Diplomacy

Last week I posted the definition of public diplomacy that is currently on the FCO website it’s interesting to compare with the definitions used in two relatively recent British official reviews of PD

From the Wilton Review of March 2002

that work which aims at influencing in a positive way the perceptions of individuals and organisations overseas about the UK, and their engagement with the UK’. In consequence, impact (or outcome) is the positive difference which the work makes to those perceptions and engagement.

From the Carter Review of December 2005

work aiming to inform and engage individuals and organisations overseas, in order to improve understanding of and influence for the United Kingdom in a manner consistent with governmental medium and long term goals.

The current definition

Public Diplomacy is a process of achieving the UK’s international strategic priorities through engaging and forming partnerships with like-minded organisations and individuals in the public arena.

The definition evolves from a broad effort to influence perceptions of the UK to a narrower focus on achieving strategic priorities.   The intended level of engagement develops from perception to partnership.

It’s worth pointing out that the British Council defines what it does as ‘cultural relations’ and wouldn’t subscribe to this definition – this is how the FCO labels its own activities.

Africa As a Brand

It’s intro week at the University so not too much time to blog this week.

However..  the Nation Branding  Blog has a piece on a conference that aimed to develop a brand for Ghana and another on branding Africa.

Simon Anholt said

“Brand Africa, with its simple message of ongoing catastrophe, is promoted by aid agencies, international organisations, donor governments and aid celebrities like Bob Geldof and Bono … not as 53 countries in various stages of development and struggle for independent existence and identity, but as a uniform, hopeless basket-case”.

It’s an interesting point that African countries are in a sense in a brand contest with the aid industry.

Erasmus Programme and the EU’s Cultural Diplomacy

A few weeks ago the President of the European Commission Barroso gave his first “State of the Union 2010” speech in which he said that “Europe must show it is more than 27 different national solutions.” This made me think about the EU’s efforts to promote European cultural integration and the importance of it in shaping citizens’ attitudes towards the EU. One of the most successful EU-wide programmes aimed at strengthening educational and cultural cooperation in Europe is the Erasmus programme. With an annual budget of 450 million EUR it makes possible for around 200.000 students a year to study and work in another European country. There are many benefits of this programme for students, staff and universities, but one I find especially interesting in the public diplomacy context is the broad cultural impact it has on participants – it helps to promote a shared idea of Europe, understanding of which becomes crucial when citizens have to vote. Among other things Erasmus is said to give “students a better sense of what it means to be a European citizen”. It is probably true that when it comes to identity most people will feel German, Italian, Spanish etc. before identifying oneself as European. Nevertheless getting to know another culture by living in that country can contribute to a better understanding of what being “united in diversity” (motto of the EU) is really all about. If EU topics are sometimes hard to communicate because of the proverbial lack of interest for them, success of such programmes gives a nice example of a good practice in making the EU closer to its citizens and promoting mutual understanding.

The Transformation of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

H/T to John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review

On the Finnish MFA website there is a transcript of a speech by Claus Grube of the Danish foreign ministry given at a seminar on 40 years of diplomatic training .

Given the comments that I’ve been making on the development of the FCO I was struck by a couple of  points.

40 years ago the foreign service of a Scandinavian country was still primarily focused on its bilateral relations. We were at that time still adapting to the challenges and possibilities of the new multilateral structure created after the Second World War. Today the balance has changed. And although we – as mentioned before – right now are experiencing unrest and disorder in the multilateral structure this fundamental change will not be reversed…

…For countries like Finland and Denmark that are members of the EU the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the Union is now our main channel for influence in the world…

…as the Union is a global actor we have also been forced to have a global perspective in our foreign policy that would have been inconceivable four decades ago. In 1970 Denmark did not have an East Timor policy. We have today.

An element of the response to this is a reorganization of the ministry

The central element in the reorganization was a change from a vertical pillar-structure concentrated around a geographical division with a North- and a South-group to a more thematic and functional defined and much more horizontal organization with 11 centers.

When we decided to change the pillar-structure it was also with the wish to try to create a more unified organization breaking once and for all with the culture and traditions of the old semi-independent parts of the ministry

The Foreign Office and Strategic Communications

    Earlier this week Ingrid d’Hooghe asked me about the relationship between public diplomacy and strategic communications at the Foreign Office.  This caused me to scratch my head a bit and then start rummaging through the pile of FCO documents on my desk.I think that the first point is that there is a lot of ‘strategic communications’ in British government.  This goes back to the 2004 Phillis Report on Government Communications.  At the time this report was seen as something of a critique of the role of government communications under Tony Blair, particularly in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.  While the report is critical of the emphasis on media relations (spin) under Blair and Alastair Campbell it actually affirms the central role of communications in the process of democratic  government.  The report advocates the professionalization of communications and emphasizes the importance of communications activity other than media relations.  The consequence is that almost every UK government agency has departments and jobs with ‘strategic communications’ in the title.  Strategic communications posts can involve communicating with the public or they can be part of the intra-organization communication function.  Of course ‘strategic communications’ on your business card looks a lot cooler than ‘communications’. 

    If we go to the Foreign Office website the Communications Directorate is listed as part of the ‘Central Group’ of functions including IT, Strategy and Planning and the legal advisors.  The organization structure on the website  lists the functions of the Communications Directorate  as

    Press office

    Speech writers

    Internal communications

    Digital diplomacy

    Strategic communication

    UK stakeholder engagement

    However, it we look at some of the correspondence between the FCO and the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee it’s apparent that the organization of the Communications Directorate is slightly different (also on this version of the FCO Organogram Dec 2009)
    Press Office

    Digital Diplomacy

    Strategic Campaigns Unit (my emphasis)

    Public Diplomacy Unit

    Corporate Communications – includes UK stakeholder engagement

    Digital diplomacy manages the web presence of the FCO.  The Public Diplomacy Unit focuses on the PD ‘partners’; the British Council, the BBC World Service and the Wilton Park conference centre.  The campaigns unit organizes and coordinates campaigns on priority issues (these are identified within the FCO Strategic Framework  – more on the question of planning and targets in a later post).  Within the unit there are strategic communications teams.  This advert for a strategic communications consultant from 2009 is quite helpful in laying out the relationship between policy, campaigns and strategic communications.

    I think that the point is that the campaigns are intended to involve all the instruments available to the FCO, including conventional diplomatic activity so that strategic communications are a part of the campaign.

    The coordinating structures consist of daily meetings between the Units within the Communications Directorate,  meetings with the ‘partners’ every six weeks and twice yearly meetings of the Strategic Communication and Public Diplomacy Forum chaired by the Foreign Secretary.

    I think that the take away from this is that in FCO terms ‘strategic communications’ should be seen as a tool that exists within the context of a broader concept of diplomacy and public diplomacy.  The contrast is with the way that in the US ‘strategic communication’ seems to be being used as the overarching concept (for instance in the White House 1055 Report).  Public Diplomacy becomes the State Department’s contribution to strategic communication.  Given the tendency to treat communication as an add on I’m not sure that the this is the best way forward.

    I’m going to stop there for the moment. Thanks to Ingrid for asking the question.

New Report on Chinese Foreign Policy Making

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute have just issued a report on New Foreign Policy Actors in China.  This is mainly concerned with the interaction between state, party and military in shaping foreign policy but it also gives attention to other actors including the news media and internet enabled public opinion.     This all points to the growing complexity of the policy process in the People’s Republic.

Great Moments in Vatican Diplomacy

The Pope is arriving in the UK today.  The coverage over the past 24 hours has been dominated by comments by the cardinal who is responsible for relations with the Anglican Church that Britain is a like a ‘third world country’

This is a bit unfair to many third world countries.  They are a lot more religious than Britain is.

UPDATE: Of course this might just be revenge for a great moment in British diplomacy

The Foreign Office and Post International Politics

I’m working my way through a big pile of documents on British diplomacy at the moment hence the UK centric nature of a lot of the recent postings.

In developing public diplomacy studies it is important to build up a picture of how different countries conceptualize the field.  Over the past 10 years the UK has developed a very distinctive approach, one that now appears to be evolving in a different direction.

The approach has been rooted in an analysis of the world that would be familiar to readers of James Rosenau or Ferguson and Mansbach, basically we are in an era of post-international politics.

The analysis set out in white papers and annual reports goes something like this.

We live in a world of global issues, eg climate change, terrorism, illegal immigration.  Individual states cannot deal with them in isolation;  these problems require global solutions.  This is understood as the formation of international regimes to provide appropriate regulatory structures and the capacity to strengthen governance within states.  The traditional diplomatic role of managing relations between states becomes less important.

Therefore, the appropriate role for the Foreign Office is the construction of coalitions (or partnerships or networks) that can manage these global challenges.  These networks take in other UK government departments, other countries, international organizations, civil society groups, business etc.   This leads to the blurring of distinctions between diplomacy and public diplomacy.  This also leads to the reallocation of resources from countries or regions to issues.

The logical consequence of this analysis is a focus on issues and multilateral organizations not on relations with countries.  If anything in early iterations of the approach such as the 2003 White Paper UK International Priorities:  A Strategy for the FCO there is an assumption that it is possible to influence state behaviour by getting international organizations to adopt the UK’s preferred regimes.  The route to influence is by using the ‘international community’ to impose norms on its members.

Even in 2003 this analysis overstated the capacity of the UK to achieve its aims.  What has become clear since then is that countries like China, Brazil, India, Russia are much more attached to traditional Westphalian models of diplomacy (the axis of sovereignty is a nice turn of phrase here).   The ability of the UK (and the west more generally)  to define a problem in such a way as to generate an international consensus has declined.  I think that this is part of what lies behind the emphasis that William Hague is giving to strengthening bilateral relations with countries like India.  The emphasis on issues means that you lose focus on the relationship with the country.  The thought seems to be that in order to manage the issues we need to manage the relations with the country ie diplomatically.  The result is that, to some extent at least,  PD will reallocate resources to building relations with countries rather than building issue based coalitions.

One of the motifs in writing about post international politics is the diffusion of power from states.  The rise of the axis of sovereignty points to a different logic of the shift in influence  from one group of states to another.