The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy 2010:
“Culture, Globalization, and International Relations over the next Two Decades” – Berlin, May 23rd 30th, 2010
The International Symposium 2010 will be split into three complementary parts. The program will begin by looking in greater detail at culture and identity and how these terms are used and understood today. During this part of the program participants will have the opportunity to experience Berlins famous “Carnival of Cultures”.
The second part of the program will build on these components by considering the role that culture plays in contemporary international relations and the process of globalization. During these three days the concepts of cultural diplomacy and soft power will also be explored in more detail.
The final part of the program will apply these discussions to one of the key issues that will determine global politics over the coming years: Afghanistan and stability in Central Asia.
The Symposium will be split into the following three parts:
“Defining and Understanding Culture in an International Context” : 23rd – 25th May)
A Three Piece Puzzle – “The Relationship between Culture, International Relations and Globalization” : 26th – 27th May
“Understanding Afghanistan and Central Asia: Supporting Democracy and Stability – The Path Ahead” : 28th – 30th May
This final part is being held in cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the German Marshal Fund (GMFUS), UNESCO, the European Commission, the US State Department and in partnership with leading international organizations.
Further details about the event can be found at the icd website:
The Inaugural Media Operations and Public Affairs Symposium
9-10 June 2010
Venue: Defence Academy of United Kingdom
“Winning the communications war: new thinking and new practice ”
The battle for ideas, hearts and minds is back in centre stage in twenty first century military operations. Experience in engaging the local populace in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown that well-executed public communications are critical to shaping operational and strategic outcomes. As a result, ad-hoc approaches to military PR are giving way to deliberate strategies developed using innovative planning approaches and supported by analysis and effects monitoring techniques. New cross-disciplinary thinking is emerging from both academia and government, focused on coordinating and maximising the power of messaging in counter- insurgency, anti-terrorism and global security. A revolution in military communications is underway, transforming the way governments and militaries communicate. Against this backdrop the Defence Academy is presenting the inaugural Media Operations and Public Affairs Symposium. A networking forum for stakeholders from across the communications spectrum, this new symposium is designed to showcase cutting edge thinking alongside innovative tools and techniques.
Over two days, the tactical, operational and strategic aspects of communication will be explored: Identifying best practice in recent Media Operations; developing supporting theory for the emerging discipline of Strategic Communications; examining new approaches to both Media Operations and Strategic Communications and application to current conflicts. The current operational context in Afghanistan is of special interest and raises a number of questions which the symposium will explore, for example: How can strategic communication objectives be pursued whilst working in a media environment with shortened time horizons and intense tactical engagement? How can two way models of communication be adopted and accommodated within the new information environment? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses of competing media and information strategies in Afghanistan? What is the role of local media in Afghanistan?
For further details Contact Caroline Dawson on:
T: +44(0) 1793 785268
or visit the website http://www.symposiaatshrivenham.com
See below some wise words from Major Mehar Omar Khan (Pakistan Army) from his article “Afghanistan: Seven Fundamental Questions” found at Small Wars Journal (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/319-khan.pdf)
Who should the coalition try to impress: Afghans or rest of the world?
While the pressure to present tangible results in terms that sound familiar to domestic and global audience is understandable, lives of young men should not be ‘wasted’ in pursuit of hollow ideals and empty slogans that mean woefully little to the people of Afghanistan. While there is essentially nothing bad about transparent ballot boxes, soap opera television, Afghan movies and a few dozen bold and beautiful women in the legislative assembly, the Afghan people look wearily at all these things. They are not impressed with these ‘achievements’, not just because they have an outdated mindset, but because it means so little to them in terms of alleviating some of their most basic concerns like hunger, malnutrition, disease, violence and fear. Coalition soldiers should not have to die for anything less noble than helping the people of Afghanistan forge a new future and a new destiny for themselves – a destiny that they will themselves determine in ways that they feel comfortable with.
Here are some ideas.
One, please understand the hearts and minds that you are trying to win. Most of these minds are illiterate, unschooled and locked in the last century. Most of these hearts are raw, romantic, sentimental and pure as a pearl. Help them start where they actually are and not where you want them to be. At their present level of socio-economic development, Afghans do not truly need a majestic parliament building, a palatial house for the president, five star hotels and nicely suited dummies as rulers in Kabul and Kandahar. They need small schools, clean drinking water, some pills for that headache which refuses to go away, some money to buy food for their kids and some assistance to kick-start their farming or that little shop in a mud-hut. People want their liberators to know that they need ‘electricity before they are asked to destroy their kerosene lantern’ and that they need to at least be able to read names before they are asked to choose one out of a long list of people vying to be their President.
Two, coalition must refuse to lock itself in a fight that tramples the people. This will involve some sacrifice in the short term but huge dividends in the long term.
Three, people need soldiers that respect their values and their traditions because, however outdated they may be, these are their values and their traditions. This land belongs to a ‘people’; it’s not the property of ‘a state’. In this context, is it not fair to ask how much of an effort, in terms of resources, has gone to ‘Afghanistan the state’ and how much to ‘Afghanistan the people’? How much of the money and resources and security has stayed and stagnated in Kabul guarding criminals and drug-lords; and how much of it has actually reached a far flung Helmand village caught in the center of the storm? How much of attention has gone to people most bitter about being ousted from power (Pashtuns) and how much of it has been lavished on communities that have generally always enjoyed a relative peace? Asking the right questions is the true test of honesty. Giving the right answers is a test of leadership. Questions carry their own correct answers as well as consequences for wrong answers.
Interesting snippet caught on Newsnight last night (28/04/09) about energy and climate change issues in the US. Ethical man Justin Rowlatt covered Powershift 09 as part of his series. But the crucial communications aspect of Powershift seems to be that a green activist movement, normally shunned by mainstream governments, is being seen as a method of encouraging and persuading American voters of Obama’s climate change agenda, using activists (seen being trained in how to resist arrest) as ambassadors for a government policy.
Now this proximity of traditional enemies is not new – Shell and BP have taken considerable steps to be seen as green through apparent (and only occasional) connectivity with activist groups like Greenpeace, although emnity is deep and remains for obvious reasons. And there are many political groups who will support political pitches, including that of the incumbent government. But the use of strident activists to promote a government policy against a generally accepted stance i.e. the fossil fuel economy, seems to be a new leap. This is not Astroturf but using genuine activism for policy endorsement.
The circumstances may be unique to the cap and trade issue in the US, but this approach does beg several questions – are there other circumstances where political policy can be matched with vocal activists against a form of accepted, conventional wisdom? And further, are there circumstances in developing and post-conflict countries which can be used in a similar way?
This is not necessarily countenancing covert support to student groups under totalitarian regimes, but where foreign agencies are already engaged (be they UN, NATO etc) do we make full use of grass roots activism (as limited as it may be) to achieve policy goals, or do we still tend to go down the route of mainsteam key leader engagement because it’s easier, more straightforward (relatively!) and more in line with our conventional
Western way of doing things? Are developing embryonic government institutions, struggling with democracy, encouraged to look towards the power of activist groups or are they merely maintaining their traditional opposition towards them? Are they, and therefore we, missing a trick?
After all, most governments have always had difficult relationships with autonomous grass roots organisations, unless, of course, they’re onside already. As ever with trying to improve the performance of public diplomacy and foreign policy communications in a rapidly changing information environment, the above requires some serious unconventional and politically risky thinking.
But that thinking, at the very least, should be done.
A head of state being casually interviewed on a television show that people actually watch, a comedy show at that – the mere thought would send shivers down spines of staff in Whitehall, the Elysee Palace, the Bundestag and all manner of institutions in Brussels. But some chap called Barack Obama had a little chat with Jay Leno last night on an extremely popular talk show – how refreshing!
Now, the Obama crew will no doubt have realised that it was an extremely risky strategy – but that’s the point, there is always risk in political communication, it just has to be assessed. Undoubtedly, there will be some aspects of President Obama’s comments that will come back to haunt him, but the very fact that he is willng and able to present himself and his ideas so openly to so many, in a forthright and understandable manner, will pay dividends several times over. Love him or hate him, at least his constituency will have a much better understanding of him than his predecessors, or colleagues in other states, contributing to the capacityof citizens to make informed decisions, the bedrock of democracy.
In a similar vein, Obama chose to give a interview to Al-Arabiya within days of his inauguration, presenting himself and his intentions to the Arab world in a way unknown during the Bush Era. If public diplomacy is seen as communicating directly to the citizens of foreign countries, as opposed to merely talking behind diplomatic closed doors, then here is a prime example. And as an example of laying the ground for soft power, the administration’s recent offering of ‘a fresh start for Iran‘ is a sound follow on to the Al-Arabiya interview, representing the end of the US abject refusal to deal with, or at least engage with, one of the world’s most strategically important states – Iran. Engagement was a notion bandied about the Clinton administration, but the Obama team’s use of communication in this direction (call it PR, public diplomacy, stratcomm whatever) takes the concept to a new level.
This brave embracing of communication channels, be they comedy chat shows or twitter or facebook (now in Arabic), by people of gravity (i.e. those who in the eyes of the audience matter), to inform domestic and foreign publics, is risky but will pay dividends for all. Political communicators now all talk of using new media, websites, twitter etc but it takes real guts for the major players (once again,those who in the eyes of the audience matter) to step up to the plate and really use these capabilities effectively. Obama’s major advisors in this area, such as David Axelrod, Ellen Moran and ‘Rahmbo’ Emanuel are shaking up the box, in terms of approaches to communication. Just as many are learning from the web-based aspects of Obama’s presidential campaign, there are lessons also to be learnt from the Al-Arabiya interview and last night’s Jay Leno show – spines should be tingling in Whitehall, the Elysee Palace, the Bundestag and all manner of institutions in Brussels.
There’s a perception within many foreign policy establishments that public diplomacy is definately not public relations. Last year’s publication by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), entitled Engagement: Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World, is definitive. On page 10, Jim Murphy MP, then Minister for Europe, exhorts that:
“… foreign ministries must stop seeing public diplomacy as a form of public relations, shouting out core messages and top lines, louder and louder, in the false belief that they haven’t been heard clearly enough. To succeed in today’s world, we need genuine engagement, not clumsy propoaganda.”
The US has a specific problem in this regard, but that appears to be borne of a more restricted view of PR than that of the Brits (however, CB3 does agree with the sentiment of Montainrunner’s blog), and several constitutional issues surrounding PD, such as the Smith-Mundt act. Currently, the Obama Adminstration is raising the very issue of what PD should be, but many in the US tend to bunch PR in with advertising, marketing and branding, unlike in the UK, where a clearer delineation can be made.
Yes, with regard to PD and PR, there are differences, but only in context. Even CB3 recognises that PD isn’t quite public relations, but only in the sensitivities, audiences and proximity to information operations. The similarities? Engagement, dialogue, symmetry, vision, relationships – these are espoused by Public diplomats, and just happen to also be the cornerstone of PR ideology, as taught by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).
Indeed, CB3 challenges any ethical PR practitioner (certainly those trained in the UK), to see massive differences in the ideals, practices and objectives between PR and PD. Academic studies by Signitzer and Coombs, Yun, even Grunig himself, indicate a real convergence of PR and PD in an era of global information. The resistance of foreign ministries to accept synonymity seems borne of a lack of understanding of contemporary PR (as opposed to mere publicity) and fear of being tarred with the negative connotations of PR (often brought about by publicists). It is moot that many reviews of PD indicate that it is also hampered by the regime of one-way, conveyor-belt traffic – an accusation often levelled at PR.
Does it really matter? It is just a question of semantics? Well, to a degree. But there is a danger of artificial firewalls being established between practitioners of public diplomacy and public relations. The debate is good, and we must understand the nuances of each but, let’s face it, we’re all in communications, and have a lot to learn from each other. To use a cliche, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.
When the miltary do their business, they regularly ‘engage targets’. When a missile is thrown into a surface-to-air missile site, it is very much a one-way transaction, precisely designed to prevent two-way transaction of fires! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having the ability to put steel onto a target rapidly, precisely, decisively and overwhelmingly – hard power has its place. But the very wording of this phrase causes problems for those in military public affairs, media operations and public diplomacy.
Engagement should be, and is in political and foreign policy circles, a two way process. Further, when communicating in military interventions, peacekeeping, post-conflict reconstruction and development, all too often we refer to ‘target ‘audiences, normally referred to as ‘publics’ amongst public relations professionals. However, a target is something to aim at, to attain, to achieve; it infers a one-way, omni-directional action. Referring to an audience as a ‘target’ encourages, in the a parlance of PR Guru James Grunig, one-way communication. Even if military or foreign policy communicators do conduct two-way asymmetric communications,i.e. conduct deep research and cultural analysis, before conducting comms campaigns, they often still end up aiming at a ‘target’.
The cornerstone of effective communications relies not only in knowing what those ‘publics’ are about – how they think, what makes them tick – but also what they want and need (eg, marketing will fail utterly if the product is not what the publics/consumers want or need, no matter how good the product is). This requires two-way symmetrical communications, or dialogue, with people, not targets. Otherwise, one ends up communicating messages, ideas and products that simply will, at best, not resonate and, at worst, produce animosity.
Strategic communication itself is a multi-facted beast, which includes internal conversation in order to distil one’s raison d’etre. Without that essence, strategic guidance and objectives will be ill-formed, creating inefficiency, even harbouring unseen but certain failure. Without understanding what can be achieved – in other words finding those objectives which serve both one’s own and the concerned public’s (in this case a foreign population’s) needs – achieving policy aims will always be hampered. Vague, unachievable objectives, as a result of a failure to broach coincident needs after neglecting to engage in a dialogical communications, are harbingers of policy disaster. The targeting mentality of communications can only encourage this. As a practical example, such results are summed up by a US Civil Affairs officer:
‘We have built so many schools that the Iraqis do not need. You
know what happens to them? They get blown up, because no
teachers show up, because no students come, no books are there,
the [mujahideen] walks in, they blow them up. It happens time
and time again, we give them something they do not ask for, they
do not need, because it’s something that we can do.’
They may not have asked for them but did anyone even hear what they did ask for? A little bit of dialogue with people, not dictating to targets, would go a long way to prevent such policy failures.