New PD Related Papers at Clingendael

Clingendael have just put out three discussion papers that will be of interest.

Engaging the Arab World through Social Diplomacy

Rianne van Doeveren


As the winds of change sweep through the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Western governments need to reconsider their public diplomacy strategies in order to jump through this window of opportunity and improve their relationships with the people, not just with governing elites and their associates.

This Clingendael Paper aims to contribute to this goal by addressing the challenges and opportunities for Western countries in the light of current fundamental shifts. For public diplomacy to be legitimate and effective, the paper argues, it has to serve a broader purpose than narrow national interests. This has become most apparent in the Arab world, where the West needs public diplomacy most but where it finds it hardest to pursue. Meanwhile, new actors, most notably from civil society, have emerged on the scene. They have proven much more effective in fostering relationships, containing crises and improving mutual understanding in a process that can be called social diplomacy. This paper takes the first steps in combining public and social diplomacy approaches in a customized approach to the MENA region, as much by conceptual clarification as by making recommendations for Western governments.

Rianne van Doeveren has undertaken research on the social diplomacy approach, in particular related to challenges and opportunities in the Arab world, during her time as a research fellow at the Clingendael Institute. Before joining the Clingendael Institute, she gained experience as an intern with grassroots NGOs in Israel/the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon. She is currently working as a management trainee, but continues to develop further her research into public diplomacy and the Arab world.

Also new at Clingendael

Jan Melissen, Beyond The New Public Diplomacy

Ten years into the 21st century, this short survey of current developments and trends in public diplomacy gives evidence of a growing recognition of the importance of diplomatic engagement with people. Governments realize that their country’s overseas attractiveness requires reaching out to transnational civil society, and think tanks and universities quickly understood that they could have a say in this. More than five years after publication of the The New Public Diplomacy (2005), Jan Melissen takes a fresh look at public diplomacy’s evolution, in the Western world and beyond. His reflections on the subject recognize the potential and the limitations of public diplomacy, and the author places its practice in the context of fundamental change in the wider process of diplomacy. This paper helps governments to think critically about a key aspect of today’s diplomatic practice and it summarizes lessons learned during the past decade.

Shannon Jones, Apology Justice for All

Shannon Jones looks into how reparative justice in recent years has been used increasingly as a mechanism of diplomacy and reconciliation, while the best known case studies remain those of Japan and Germany after the Second World War. However, even in the context of the same atrocity, some victims receive apologies and material compensation and others do not. This ‘acknowledgement gap’ casts doubt on whether reparative policies are sincere expressions of guilt and remorse. This paper investigates how states make decisions about whether or not to provide reparations for victims in an effort to compensate them for violations of their human rights. It examines the conditions that influence the type of reparative justice -material or symbolic -that a state is most likely to offer. Reparative policies, while cloaked in moral rhetoric, are the outcomes of political bargains. Reparative justice is most likely when a state believes it can enhance its security by restoring diplomatic relationships with offended neighbors, removing barriers to economic cooperation, or enhance its international prestige by demonstrating a commitment to its purported values.


Links to all of these papers are here



British Council Corporate Plan 2011-15

Talking about the British Council as I was earlier I thought that I would check whether their new corporate plan had appeared- and here it is on the website.  I can’t tell when it appeared and there doesn’t seem to have been any media coverage.  As with a lot of these documents it probably needs to be read in conjunction with the annual reports and the previous plan.

Management and the British Council

Public diplomacy sits between communications, politics and organization.  I think that the organizational dimension is essential in explaining why PD activities turn out the way that they do rather than following the dictates of strategy or the prescriptions of effective  communication.

With this in mind this morning’s offering is a pointer towards a couple of papers on the management and organization of the British Council.  I’ve written before about the emphasis on plans, management and strategies in British Government.  In a 1995 paper J.M. Lee discussed the impact of ‘the new public management’ on the BC. Lee’s point is that the Council’s move towards a more  ‘strategic’ language about it’s activities was driven not by an analysis of the changing international environment but by the changing culture of British government.  The result of this was a concern with value for money, efficiency and explicit management strategies.  The BC had to be able to present itself in a way that gave it credibility with its funders.  Although there a language of strategy it is organizational strategy not public diplomacy strategy.  The new managerial model  creates an incentive to ‘follow the money’ even if this pulls in a different direction to an externally oriented PD strategy.  I think that this tension between strategy as a tool of organizational management and as a way of influencing the external world is still not fully recognized in UK government.

The second paper by Venters and Wood looks at the BC’s efforts to deploy information technology to build a networked organization in which ‘communities of practice’ shared good practice across the globe.  To put it more simply how could it get it’s country directors to talk to each other? The basic answer is that they couldn’t.  In the pre internet era the country director had a link back to the central British Council but didn’t talk to other countries.  The new more businesslike  BC sought to shrink the centre of the organization, empower the country offices and encourage horizontal linkages.  Venter and Wood find that as centre shrank it became less useful to the Country Directors who used their improved access to IT to a)google for the information that they needed instead of asking the centre and b) develop  ‘communities of expertise’ with people outside the organization.

In thinking about effective PD one issue to keep in mind are the incentives that actually operate for organizations and the people within them.

Lee, J.M. (1995) ‘The Reorganization of the British Council: Management Improvisation and Policy Uncertainty’, Public Administration, 73: 339-55.

Venters, W., and B. Wood (2007) ‘Degenerative Structures that Inhibit the Emergence of Communities of Practive: A Case Study of Knowledge Management in the British Council’, Information Systems Journal, 17: 349-68.

Do the Origins of PD Programmes Shape their Long Term Development?

Earlier this week someone tweeted a link to this story about press conference by Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa president  of the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority.  He outlines the steps that Bahrain is taking to ‘to project the truth abroad and debunk fallacies and lies’ including launching a new satellite channel and posting ‘media consuls’ overseas.  Presumably the driver for this is the negative publicity that Bahrain is attracting over its repression of anti-regime protests.

In looking at the development of national public diplomacy efforts it’s noticeable that countries initiate or innovate in what they do not based on abstract understandings of a changing media and political environment but in response to quite concrete problems. They do so based on their national contexts but also on PD models that exist ‘out there’ – in Bahrain’s case a media city like Dubai and a TV channel like Qatar (see also John Brown’s comment on how China seems to be copying the US)

Sweden provides a nice example of how PD institutions grow out of the attempt to deal with specific problems..  At the end of the Second World War the Swedes saw that the US was likely to be the dominant force in the post war world and that because of Swedish neutrality during the war the US was not well disposed  towards them.  The identified solution was cultural relations work conducted via a new organization, the Swedish Institute. The study that gave rise to the Institute was referred to at the ‘America Inquiry’ (Glover 2009).

This raises the question of the extent to which origins shape the way that countries practice PD.  Once you establish a set of organizations they will be tend to preserve themselves and to develop particular ways of defining problems and addressing them.   The nature of the approaches that are chosen grow out of national contexts and ways of thinking about them.  The result will be a national PD style one that it may or may not be appropriate for new or future challenges.  While we all like to comment on the persistence of the cold war model in US public diplomacy what is really needed is investigation of the extent to which this ‘path dependency’ is actually a more general phenomenon in PD – certainly there are styles at work.

Glover, N. (2009) ‘Imaging Community: Sweden in “cultural propaganda” then and now’, Scandinavian Journal of History, 34: 246-263. .

Strategic Communication for National Security

I mentioned that I was reading the Chatham House Report on Strategic Communication and National Security.  I don’t seem to be making progress with the big post I was writing so I’ve decided to split it up.

I’ve commented before that I think that the SC concept is expanding its reach in unhelpful ways. The Chatham House report argues that public diplomacy and domestic government communications organizations should be subordinated to a national strategic communication strategy.  OK I can see the logic of this within the terms of the report but I think that the report forgets that what it is really tallking about is national security strategic communication or strategic communication for national security and that this is only part of the UK communication effort.*

One of the first actions of the Coalition Government was to establish a UK National Security Council and documents like the Chatham House report grow out of this development with its emphasis on joining up government around an agenda of defence, security and counter-radicalization.   The rhetoric of security documents always has security as the nation’s number 1 priority and this tends to give SC talk an expansionary aspect.

But ….if we look at how the UK government as a whole talks its  number 1 priority is actually the management of the economy and reduction of the national deficit .  If this is the case the real external  strategic communications priorities are 1) communication of the government’s resolve to tackle the deficit in order to maintain market confidence 2) export promotion 3) promotion of foreign investment 4) tourism promotion.

Although the Cabinet Office is supposed to be working on a National Strategic Communication Strategy my view is that it would make more sense to have a National Communications Strategy that would encompass all national communications objectives and activities.  If there was a need for a separate National Security Strategic Communications Plan it would operate within the framework of the national plan.  This would ensure that National Security Communications didn’t undermine other national priorities.

* One of the reasons that I found this report so hard to digest it that it doesn’t acknowledge that the term strategic communication has a much broader application in PR or government communications than in defence or national security contexts.  There are many strategic communications units on Whitehall org charts that have nothing to do with national security.

Strategic Communication and Foreign Office Libraries

I’m sorry for continued lack of activity here.  We still don’t have an internet connection at home and I’m still holding out for 30mbs if a certain well known cable company can hook me up without digging up too much of the neighbourhood.

In the meantime Louis Clerc added a fascinating comment on my post on the dissolution of the Foreign Office library – pointing to the Quai D’Orsay’s decision to open it’s library to researchers and what library lending records can tell you about the sources of policy.

Also Chatham House put out a report on Strategic Communications and National Security – which has caused me to start on another post or series of posts on the shapeless, voracious and ever expanding monster  that is stratcom. More soon.