Our round-up of news, notes, tips and tweets exhibiting how public diplomacy affects the world each and every day.
According to Foreign Policy, legislation was agreed on in the House to overhaul Voice of America (and consolidating RFE/RFL, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network) as an explicit public diplomacy tool. Translation: new VOA mission to promote U.S. foreign policy goals rather than provide objective global reporting.
The new legislation tweaks the language of VOA’s mission to explicitly outline the organization’s role in supporting U.S. “public diplomacy” and the “policies” of the United States government, a move that would settle a long-running dispute within the federal government about whether VOA should function as a neutral news organization rather than a messaging tool of Washington … Besides clarifying VOA’s mission, the bill reorganizes the federal agency responsible for supervising U.S.-funded media outlets, the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Instead of being led by a group of part-time board members, the bill establishes a full-time, day-to-day agency head. It also consolidates Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network — other foreign-facing broadcast outlets — into a single non-federal organization, and aims to save costs by downsizing the number of federal contractors at the outlets in the years to come. [Foreign Policy]
— Maharet Bloom (@MaharetBloom) April 30, 2014
Belated post: ZunZumeo was far from the only USAID attempt to foment foreign political discussion via self-made social media networks.
The United States built Twitter-like social media programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, like one in Cuba, that were aimed at encouraging open political discussion, Obama administration officials said Friday. But like the program in Cuba, which was widely ridiculed when it became public this month, the services in Pakistan and Afghanistan shut down after they ran out of money because the administration could not make them self-sustaining. In all three cases, American officials appeared to lack a long-term strategy for the programs beyond providing money to start them. Administration officials also said Friday that there had been similar programs in dozens of other countries, including a Yes Youth Can project in Kenya that was still active. Officials also said they had plans to start projects in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Some programs operate openly with the knowledge of foreign governments, but others have not been publicly disclosed. [New York Times]
Under Secretary Richard Stengel penned a piece for DipNote calling out Russia’s propagandistic tactics.
Moscow is subjecting Ukrainians, Russians and the rest of the world to an intense campaign of disinformation that tries to paint a dangerous and false picture of Ukraine’s legitimate government. Russia Today, the Moscow-based TV network financed by the government, is a key player in this campaign of distortion. Along with its Russian operation, RT operates an English-language broadcast out of Washington. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry referred to RT as a “propaganda bullhorn,” which was promoting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “fantasy.” The result was a predictable howl of protest from RT’s editor, who claimed the State Department knows little about what is really happening in Ukraine today and had the audacity to request an apology. [DipNote]
Interesting piece on the potential of the Coursera-State Department partnership.
The State Department-Coursera partnership gives embassies overseas a fantastic outreach tool. The partnership highlights the best features of American higher education: openness, rigorous standards of scholarship, great teaching, and top thinkers. Admittedly, a single online course is no substitute for a university education. However, the Learning Hubs program has the potential to inspire students to pursue a particular course of study, to seek further study opportunities in the U.S., or simply to spark their curiosity or challenge their thinking of the U.S. [CPD Blog]
Here is a detailed breakdown of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s January speech that vowed to boost China’s soft power and cultural diplomacy efforts.
The president indicated that promoting China’s soft power and improving its image would be a primary focus of the Chinese government. He noted that the country should publicize the “Chinese dream,” a term Xi coined to refer to “the Chinese people’s recognition and pursuit of values, the building of China into a well-off society in an all-round way and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” In addition, he called for the continuation of domestic reforms that advance China’s culture, creativity, and socialist values. [Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy]
— APDS (@USC_APDS) April 29, 2014
Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, writes an op-ed for The Malaysian Insider celebrating Australian public diplomacy initiatives toward ASEAN nations.
The new Australian government has adopted a policy of “economic diplomacy” as a key platform of our foreign policy, to ensure that we unlock the productivity-enhancing benefits of closer trade and investment ties in our region. Just as traditional diplomacy aims for peace, economic diplomacy aims for prosperity. It is timely that we reflect on Australia’s partnership with Asean, as we reach the milestone of 40 years of bilateral relations this month. [The Malaysian Insider]
Stellar compilation of Twitter reactions to hashtag diplomacy via John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review.
photo credit: Foreign Policy