Archive for April, 2012

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The Four Paradigms of Public Diplomacy: A Longer Version

April 16, 2012

At the International Studies Association I presented a paper based on the four paradigms of public diplomacy concept that I blogged about here.  The paper is here: ISA 2012 v4

In the paper I argue that one way to improve our understanding of public diplomacy is through comparative studies but in order to do this we need ways of talking about national approaches.  Hence the four paradigms (extended diplomacy, national projection, cultural relations, and conflict mode (or political warfare) and the balance between them tends to give distinct national approaches.  In the paper I go further and suggest that we should map the paradigms onto national organizational fields (this is bit underdeveloped but I will come back to this.)  The final part of the paper applies these ideas to the UK, France, Germany and the US.  Looking at the balance between concepts and at the way they map onto organizational fields provides a way of talking about the ways that different countries approach external communications activities.

In terms of findings I argue that France and Germany models have been strongly marked by a concern with culture although institutionally the French model has had a much greater degree of foreign ministry steering. In both cases over the past 15 years there has been a greater interest in alternative models. Across all four countries there has been a growth in the influence of economically motivated projection (branding activities).  The US is summed up as ‘political warfare and its critics’ the Second World War, the Cold War and the War on Terror have had a strong impact on American models although it can be argued that PD2.0, 21st century statecraft etc are indicators of strengthening of a view of PD as an extension of diplomacy.   As soon as you start to make comparisons you are forced to try and explain the similarities and differences the become visible so this is has been an extremely fruitful exercise for me.

The response to the overall approach and argument of the paper has been extremely positive although Nick Cull and Ellen Huijgh raised some important questions about aspects of the US and French cases that will be addressed in the next iteration.

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Parliamentary Committee Gives the FCO a Kicking

April 13, 2012

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee has just put out its latest report on the work of the Foreign Office, the BBC World Service and the British Council.

The headline is that the Committee is impressed with the job that the FCO has done given that they don’t have any money.

Many of the specific points in the report won’t surprise readers of this blog

On the cuts

In this context, we conclude that the lack of detail provided by the FCO and the BBC World Service as to exactly how the spending reductions target set by SR2010 will be met is disappointing. While there is no doubt that meeting the targets set by the Spending Review will be challenging and will require much planning and forethought, it is equally disappointing that the FCO has not yet planned how a reduction of £40 million, or over one-third, of its programme spending will be achieved

Translation: ‘The FCO won’t tell us how it’s going to meet its financial targets and we suspect it’s because they haven’t got a clue.’

The FCO is trying to reshape its network of posts without incurring an overall cost by selling existing building and buying new ones in priority areas

We conclude that the FCO’s internal target of achieving £60 million of assets sales per year, and reinvesting this sum back into the overseas network, must be considered extremely optimistic; for this target to be reached, the FCO will need to sell, every year of the spending review period, properties with a total value three times the total value of those properties sold in 2009-10. We believe that the FCO will not be able to reach this target without inflicting serious damage on its overseas network.

Translation: ‘We don’t believe you can do this’

 The “Diplomatic Excellence” programme, and the consequent emphasis on increased skills for UK diplomats, is welcome. However, we question whether it will be able to reverse the long-term trend for the FCO to emphasise “management” over “traditional” diplomatic skills.

If you read the reports from the FCO to the committee appended to the report you will certainly get the impression that managerialism is alive at well at the FCO

The committee is unimpressed with efforts to save money by reducing overseas postings for younger diplomats by relying more on locally engaged staff, combined with the FCO encouraging staff to take secondments to the European External Action Service the result will be a smaller and less capable service.

The committee also echoes points made here about the future of the BBC World Service  and the British Council as parts of the UK public diplomacy effort

‘Public diplomacy’ and ‘strategic communication’  don’t get a mention anywhere in the report although soft power comes up in a couple of the evidence sessions.

Despite the headline the report is less than optimistic about the state of UK’s foreign policy capability.