Posts Tagged ‘Public Diplomacy’


Nationalisms at Work: British and French views of Public Diplomacy

August 20, 2014

A few months ago I was writing about the development of public diplomacy in the 1970s and I was really struck by the contrast between British and French responses to the deteriorating economic situation of that decade. To simplify, the British had a series of enquiries and started cutting everything that couldn’t be tied to a narrowly defined priority. In France there was an effort to not just keep things the same but to do more even as money got ever tighter. Eventually at the end of the decade there was a comprehensive review of the cultural effort but it still doesn’t cut back. Putting economic performance or institutional differences to one side the French are clearly much more attached to engaging foreign publics than the British are. Why is this?

One observation is that British discussions of public diplomacy are always (and have always been) instrumental: we do this to achieve some other end.  Every 10 or 15 years there’s a call to focus on what the FCO would call ‘commercial work’.  Yet for France there’s always been a view that France’s influence in the world is tied to the projection of its language and culture, for all the more recent discussion of a diplomatie d’influence this remains the case. The French discourse is pretty obviously about the nation in the Herderian sense: language-culture-nation-state may not be identical but are closely related.

This created a puzzle – why don’t we get a similar pattern in the UK? Here Greenfeld and Eastwood (2005) offer a two dimensional typology of nationalism.  Firstly how do you join? If you can choose to join or leave the nation your dealing with civic nationalism, if you’re stuck with the nationality you are born with it’s ethnic. Secondly, if the nation is composite (a collection of individuals) or unitary (imagined as a single entity). Although this should give you four combinations in practice you get three. The most common version of the nation is ethnic and collectivist but France and the UK fall into the rarer categories of civic/collectivist and civic/individualist. The French nation is civic because anyone can join but it is collectivist in that FRANCE exists separately from the individuals who compose it, when General De Gaulle talked about FRANCE he wasn’t talking about a collection of individuals.

A civic/individualist version of the nation – which Greenfeld and Eastwood attribute not just to the UK but also to the US – is much less visible. C/I countries also tend to be bastions of liberalism thus the collective identity tends to dissolve into a universalist political language.   The collective aspect becomes clear in comparison with other countries. Policies have to justified in terms of concrete benefits. Nationalism is expressed in terms of universal claims. Minxin Pei made the point a few years ago that Americans are extremely nationalistic but don’t actually notice it in themselves or understand how it works for other countries.

Seeing British concepts of the nation in these terms explains why Britain is so relaxed about people leaving ie membership is an individual decision.  It also explains a few other things – why the British debate on the EU usually turns into a discussion of economics. It’s also noticeable that the debate on Scottish independence is exactly the same – anyone can be a member of the Scottish nation and you might have an extra pound or two in your pocket (or not) – Scottish nationalism is still civil and individualist.

I’ve got more to say about why public diplomacy research and International Relations more broadly should pay more attention to the implications of nationalism but that’s enough for now

Greenfeld L and Eastwood J (2005) Nationalism in Comparative Perspective, in Janoski T, Alford R, Hicks A and Schwartz MA (eds) The Handbook of Political Sociology: States, Civil Society and Globalization, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 247–265.


EEAS and EU’s diplomacy

January 12, 2011

The European External Action Service (EEAS) entered into a new phase on January 1st with transfer of staff from the Council and the Commission to EEAS. The new service, which was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, should help the EU to speak with one voice and conduct a more “ambitious, effective, coherent and visible” foreign policy. This is what Catherine Ashton said about EEAS in the press release

“The service will mark a new beginning for European foreign and security policy as we bring
together and streamline all of the Union’s existing resources, staff and instruments. We will also receive a fresh injection of talent and skills as we incorporate Member States’ diplomats into our team. This combination of staff and resources will be more than the sum of its parts: we will be able to find synergies and develop new ideas, which will enhance our ability to act more creatively and decisively in an increasingly challenging world.”

An interesting observation about the role of EEAS and the public diplomacy component was made by David Hannay in this article where he comments that

“the demands of public diplomacy are clearly overtaking those of the more classical diplomatic tasks, and will require an effective response from the EEAS if it is not to find itself playing second fiddle to national diplomats who have increasingly been getting to grips with this new dimension.”

The idea behind EEAS is not to replace but to complement EU member states’ national embassies. With regards to small states, it will be interesting to see how EEAS will affect the (public) diplomacy of smaller EU members and how will smaller states be represented in this new structure.

More about EEAS, its role and challenges it faces can be found in this article published by Clingendael Institute.


Public Diplomacy: The Foreign Office Definition

September 10, 2010

At the moment I’m doing quite a lot of work on the development of UK concepts of diplomacy and public diplomacy over the last few years and as a result spending quite a lot of time on the FCO and British Council web sites.  In doing this I noticed that Public Diplomacy is now right there on the front page of the FCO web site under ‘what we do’.

So how do they define PD?

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.

It 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 government.

In the next few days I’m going to write more about the evolution of British diplomatic thinking over the past decade or so and in particular about the changing emphasis under the coalition government.


Danes Go PD2.0

July 6, 2010

Cristina ‘The Ninja’ Archetti has drawn my attention to this short piece on the webpage of the Danish Embassy in London about their use of Facebook to communicate about the Danish role in Afghanistan.  Interestingly enough the group includes members from Denmark and other countries as well as the UK which  speaks to the need for consistency of approach in a networked environment.

Link is here


Public Diplomacy vs Political Campaigns

June 17, 2010

Reading the Lord and Lynch CNAS report about Obama’s public diplomacy strategy crystallized a couple thoughts about the differences between public diplomacy and election campaigns.

  1. (Some) Election campaigns have a lot more money.  On the first page of Battles to Bridges Rhonda Zaharna says that the US Shared Values advertising campaign in the Islamic World in 2001-02 cost $12m.  The Obama Campaign spent $730m to influence a much smaller number of people.  (Yes I know I’m not talking constant dollars)but this comparison is misleading because political campaigns are much easier than public diplomacy.
  2. Election campaigns only have one objective: to produce a victory on election day, having said that campaigns regularly fail because of their inability to focus on the objective and maintain a coherent strategy.  Public Diplomacy frequently lacks such a clear focus.  Lynch and Lord list seven objectives of the US engagement strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  3. Producing an action (voting) is often easier than changing somebody’s attitude or opinion.  A vote cast by somebody acting on impulse or out of ignorance counts just as much as one cast on the basis of a rational consideration of the alternatives. The effect of an electoral campaign can be quite short lived by still effective.

In considering PD activities the relationship between the desired effect and the necessary resources is a central strategic question.


Thinking Relationally about the IR of the Koreas

May 2, 2010

If you use social network analysis software you realize that the way that the programme draws network maps  is not ‘objective’:  there are lots of different ways that you can  visualize the same data.  One of the most common ways of doing this (for instance in Pajek or Visone) is using a ‘stress minimization algorithm’. What happens is that the software treats the relations as if they were a set of steel springs and tries to  minimize the stresses that would exist within the physical system.  What then tends to happen is that you (at least me) begin to think about relations as springs…..

I was reminded of this when I saw this piece about the relationship between the two Koreas and China.  [A disclaimer: I’m not an expert on the international relations of the Korean peninsula I’m just using the story as an example of a relational way of looking at things so if the story is wrong the post is wrong] The previous South Korean government sought to build up economic  and humanitarian ties with the North.  The current Southern government changed direction and tried to put leverage on the North by cutting back on these ties.  In response the North cut political relations with the South.  From a network perspective this creates a structural hole in the political relationships of the two Koreas.  China gains the advantage because both Koreas have closer relations with the PRC than with each other.  The North becomes more dependent on China  while the South forced to try and use China to put pressure on the North even though its leverage has declined. Read the rest of this entry ?