Archive for October, 2010


Public Diplomacy and Democracy Promotion

October 22, 2010

At the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace blog Thomas Carothers has posted an article (plus two responses)  on the relationship between democracy promotion and development aid.  He points to a convergence between the two activities but also continuing tensions not least in the reluctance of development practitioners to discuss ‘politics’

I think this raises the question for me about the extent to which PD can operate simultaneously as part of the diplomatic process and as part of a democracy promotion activity.  It could be argued that in these two activities often undercut each other.


More on UK Cuts

October 20, 2010

Statements from the British Council here and the BBC on the implications of the spending review.


FCO Budget Cuts

October 20, 2010

The results of the comprehensive spending round have been announced and it is cuts nearly all around.  Interestingly the Foreign Office seems to have got off relatively lightly.  The headline cut is 24% but a large chunk of this actually offset by the transfer of BBC World Service funding to the BBC from the 2014-15 financial year.

The press release with details is reproduced below.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Over the course of the Spending Review period the FCO will see a 24% real terms reduction in the resource budget, and a 55% real terms reduction in capital spending. The Department’s Administration budget will be reduced by 33%.
The settlement provides for an increase in the FCO’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) spending to help meet the Government’s commitment to dedicating 0.7% of Gross National Income to ODA by 2013 – the FCO’s contribution to UK ODA spending will increase from around 2% in 2010/11 to around 2.4% in 2011/12.
The settlement also continues to provide grants to both the World Service and the British Council, though at a reduced level. From 2014-15 the BBC World Service will be funded by the BBC, but the Foreign Secretary will retain his veto over any decisions to cut language services.
Once the additional resources from the BBC are taken into account the rest of the FCO budget will only fall by 10% over the period.

  2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
Resources 1.4 1.5 1.5 1.4 1.2
Capital 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1
Total 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.5 1.3

Figures in £Bn
The FCO will manage these reductions by:
• Continuing to simplify, standardise and streamline support and corporate functions to reduce the burden on front line activities. This includes cutting the cost of management and support work through increased outsourcing, an increase in the tasks carried out by local staff, and a consolidation of financial, human resources, procurement and other activities regionally or within the UK;
• Reducing the costs of our overseas estate and looking for opportunities to reduce our estate in London. This includes looking to co-locate and rationalise the Government’s different operations overseas, for example moving into single premises in countries where the FCO, DfID and other government bodies are in separate buildings;
• Looking for savings through improved procurement practice including, where appropriate, co-procuring with other Departments and greater use of central framework contracts; and,
• Reviewing the FCO’s global and programme expenditure to ensure it is in line with the Foreign Secretary’s three priorities of safeguarding Britain’s national security, Building Britain’s prosperity and Supporting British nationals around the world.
The Department is looking to rationalise different overseas functions including functions such as HR, IT, finance, transactions, and procurement with other Departments. This idea was suggested through the Governments Spending Challenge process. We will also look at other common ways of operating, including terms and conditions of service for local staff.
These reductions come after a 10% reduction in real terms spending power over recent years caused by the abolition of the overseas price mechanism (OPM) under the previous Government. To give the FCO the budgetary certainty that it needs to operate and plan effectively the settlement provides for a new foreign currency mechanism (FCM) to better manage exchange rate risk. Under this system, the Foreign Office will be compensated for falls in the pound, but will have to return money to the Treasury when the pound rises, giving the Foreign Office certainty over the value of its budget.
A proportion of FCO spending contributes to the government’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) objectives. ODA spending includes resources to support fragile states, to prevent conflict and to promote stability in critical regions. All FCO ODA work will meet the international OECD criteria and be properly reviewed.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said:
“Reducing the huge deficit left by the last government is essential to getting Britain back to recovery. This settlement ensures the Foreign Office will play its part, while also maintaining our global reach and forging a distinctive British approach to foreign policy. The FCO’s global network is key to building our prosperity and to strengthening our security, as set out in the National Security Strategy earlier this week.
“The settlement also overturns the last government’s disastrous decision to end exchange rate protection for the Foreign Office budget. That change led to a 10% fall in FCO spending, with our foreign policy determined by exchange rate fluctuations, not a serious assessment of Britain’s place in the world.
“The BBC World Service and British Council are and will remain fundamentally important parts of Britain’s presence in the world. The transfer of BBC World Service funding to the Licence Fee in 2014-15 will enhance and safeguard the World Service’s vital role, allowing the BBC as a whole maximum scope to exploit efficiencies while also maintaining clear safeguards for BBC World Service funding and impartiality.”


New World Service Funding Arrangements

October 19, 2010

Breaking news is a bit unusual for this blog but….

The BBC is reporting that in future the World Service will no longer be funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but from the license fee.

The background to this is that the domestic UK is funded by a tax on televisions (the television license –  currently £145.50) that generates £3.45 Bn per year.  The World Service is funded by a grant of £272m from the FCO.  It now looks like the BBC has been negotiating over its contribution to the national austerity programme  and has been forced to accept a six year freeze in the level of the license fee, the funding of the World Service and of Welsh language broadcasting that has been funded by a separate grant.

Three quick reactions.

1. There has been criticism that the BBC has been running two parallel news organizations and that there is scope for a greater integration.

2. In terms of credibility the World Service has always been vulnerable to the fact that it is funded directly by the government so this merger might be advantageous.

3. Given the greater efforts to give a strategic direction to UK public diplomacy over the past few years it will be interesting to see how the relationship with the FCO will be managed.

We should get more information in the next day.

UPDATE: The story is now on the BBC website


It’s Strategy Week in the UK

October 19, 2010

Yesterday the government published a new UK National Security Strategy (NSS)  document and today we have the publication of of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).  Obviously the new government has been doing some deep strategic thinking… except that tomorrow we’re getting the results of the latest Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) which will announce major cuts in government expenditure so not surprisingly the assumption is that it is the CSR that has driven the NSS and the SDSR.

Tomorrow we should have an idea of how much the foreign affairs budget will be cut by even if we don’t know precisely where the axe will fall.


PD-MAP and Political Realism

October 19, 2010

Matt Armstrong and Craig Hayden have both weighed in on the  LBJ School PD-MAP paper on evaluation in US public diplomacy (there’s a copy of the report at the bottom of Matt’s post).   I’ve just been reading Hans Speier’s 1948 paper The Future of Psychological Warfare and I was struck by the continuities between the two papers.  In looking at the practice of psychological warfare during the Second World War Speier makes the comments that

weaknesses resulted from the imperfect coordination of the improvised propaganda agencies and their various branches…and the imperfect coordination of the propaganda offices with the established authorities that made political and military decisions

Most available academic studies were retrospective , and centered around the psychological aspects of the problem without regard to its political implications

One of the resulting shortcomings of American propaganda during the last war was the lack of political planning beyond the news of the week.  The dissemination of news was regarded as the primary task

…the civilian agencies did not officially spread propaganda, but “information and the truth”

To the extent that The Office of War Information

Went so far as to deny categorically that the OWI was engaged in any attempt at persuasion.  The OWI “does not try to persuade people to like the United States; it tries to help people to understand the United States, on the assumption that the more the truth about America is known, the more the nature of American civilization is understood the better for all concerned”.

Speier’s argument is there needs to be greater coordination between communications and policy. What struck me was the reference in footnote 7:  EH Carr, The Twenty Years Crisis – one of the seminal texts of classical realism.  Carr’s central theme is the failure of the democratic leaders of the interwar period to recognize the centrality of power in international relations.  This failure meant that they naively clung to what he regarded as the obsolete 19th century doctrine of ‘the harmony of  interests’  that is the belief that the economic and political system can be made to work in everyone’s interest so conflicts have no objective basis – they are basically rooted in  misunderstanding.  Like Hans Morgenthau Carr had consumed a hefty dose of Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia and taken away the lesson that statements of political and social doctrine should be read as ideological expressions of underlying material interests.  The British (and American) embrace of liberalism and free trade was rooted in their interests even as they proclaimed its universal, scientific validity.  For Carr it was natural that other countries would reject this doctrine.   This opposition was based on interests not  in misunderstanding.  By clinging to the doctrine of the harmony of interests the leaders of the democratic countries were taken in by their own propaganda and failed to recognize the reality of the world they were operating in.

Of course there are lots of critiques of political realism (it’ s only interested in power, it rejects ethical behaviour etc)  but I would take away four lessons that provide a counter balance the liberal assumptions that underpin a lot of public diplomacy discourse.

  1. Realize that other people/groups/states exist and their interests aren’t the same as yours.  The world is different for them.
  2. Remember that your truth is probably going to look like ideology or propaganda to other people.
  3. Power is ever present and agreements are always based on the distribution of power.
  4. Diplomacy (including public diplomacy)  is the art of managing difference not of making everyone the same.

So how does this relate to the PD-MAP? In looking at the development of US (and  to a considerable extent British public diplomacy)  It seems to me that the basic theory of public diplomacy that underpins a lot of official discussion is the harmony of interests.  If we can get people to understand America better then we will solve the problem.  The PD-MAP report presents this in a particularly distilled form.

Not being an American I particularly like the idea that people needed to tested on their ‘comprehension’  of American policy, values and culture and that foreign leaders should be tested on their ‘compliance’  with American policies.  The suspicion realists like  Carr and Morgenthau (and  Walter Lippmann and Reinhold Niebuhr)voiced was that it was Americans that didn’t understand their own policy not the foreigners.  There’s a lot more than can be said about the approach of the PD-MAP study but if the basic underpinning social theory is problematic then what you are measuring is going to be of questionable value.

Carr, E.H. (1946) The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan.

Mannheim, K. (1936) Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology Of Knowledge. London: Routledge and K. Paul.

Speier, H. (1948) ‘The Future of Psychological Warfare’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 12: 5-18.


Soft Power: The Consumer View

October 16, 2010

We tend to talk about soft power as a property of a country, eg America’s soft power.  This hides the fact that soft power lies in the relationship between the country and the person who is being influenced.

So what does soft power look like from the consumer side?  In recent usage soft power is understood as ‘attraction’.  Attraction has at least two components.

Firstly, there is imitation.  We think that a country (or aspect of a country) is admirable in some sense and want to be associated with it or choose to be like it.  In itself this can cover a whole range of things from watching Japanese anime or trying to copy the Chinese development model.  Who you imitate depends on what you are exposed to and to the range of models that are available and acceptable within our social context.

Secondly, there is opportunity.  Do we think that a country actually has something concrete to offer us for instance a business or educational opportunity, can it offer us some concrete help?

These two elements can reinforce,  undermine or compensate  each other:  a country is admirable but won’t give us a visa or a country that we don’t particularly admire offers us a scholarship.  It seems to me that imitation will have a wider reach but opportunity will have a stronger impact on particular individuals.  The perception of opportunity will encourage imitation.

This analysis tells us that soft power is not simply about looking admirable it’s about being and looking successful in a way that’s relevant to the person or group who are ‘buying’.  As new models of success emerge in world politics the market for soft power will become more competitive and more fragmented.