A New Take on UN Week in NYC

I have to admit, having been to my first UN General Assembly week in NYC for a few years–it was pretty exciting, for many of the reasons noted in this piece:

For years, there had been nothing to see at the General Assembly. It consisted almost solely of top diplomats meeting in back rooms while the press and the public stood behind security barriers. Now, there are numerous large events in which the public can participate.People could attend United Nations events by signing up for particular sessions or meetings. The Social Good Summit, founded six years ago, drew 1,800 participants, up from 1,600 last year. The Global Citizen Festival, which provided free tickets to the Central Park concert to those who had engaged in charitable efforts, attracted a crowd of 60,000.“It’s about turning U.N. week inside out,” said Pete Cashmore, founder and chief executive of Mashable, who helped start the Social Good Summit. “Rather than a few powerful people deciding the fate of the world, how do we get everyone involved and engaged in a dialogue?” For the first time, similar gatherings were held in Washington and London this year.

Source: Forget Coachella and Bonnaroo: The U.N. Is the Place to Be – The New York Times


Conference | The Future of Diplomacy with Diplomatic Courier and UN Foundation

Learn more about how digital diplomacy is evolving as an important mode of public interaction, persuasion, and engagement in person (D.C.) or online:

This half-day summit will explore the nexus between technology and social media and how they are changing modern diplomacy. These agents of change are acting as constructive disrupters by modernizing systems and by bringing new voices into old ones. The summit will bring together public diplomacy experts, leaders in policy and influencers in global partnerships to discuss best practices and offer engaging insight into the future of diplomacy and global issues. Follow @diplocourier and @DigiDiplomats, and #DiplomacySM and #DigitalDiplomacy on Twitter.

22 April, 8:00am to 12:00pm

Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center Rotunda

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20004

via Digital Diplomacy Coalition • The Future of Diplomacy Join the Diplomatic….

Hail Britannia, Soft Power Invasion

Admittedly Monocle is a great magazine for design, style, and a few other things–but not a likely candidate to end up in a footnote for your IR essay on soft power.  Bear with me then when their recently released survey shows the UK at number one.

For the first time, Britain has beaten the US to the top spot in an annual survey of global soft power. Coined by a Harvard academic in 1990, the term describes how countries use attraction and persuasion, rather than coercion or payment, to change behaviour.

Monocle magazine’s annual “Global Soft Power” survey, published tomorrow, ranks nations according to their standard of government; diplomatic infrastructure; cultural output; capacity for education; and appeal to business.

via Britain is now most powerful nation on earth – Home News – UK – The Independent.

To be fair–in a more serious publication–the “Harvard academic” quoted above, who will be at BYU in winter semester 2013 made the case back in 2004 that America’s soft power decline was an issue.

China, at Party Congress, Lauds Its Cultural Advances – NYTimes.com

The term for marshaling your cultural institutions, exporting them, and getting other countries’ population to like and adore you is “soft power”–explained most adeptly by Joseph Nye of Harvard’s Kennedy School.  China is in a competition not only for economic growth, but they also strive to dominate in this arena, as well.

“Guidance is the soul” of these moves, said Tian Jin, party secretary of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. “We always insist on political responsibility, social responsibility and cultural responsibility.”

Mr. Tian said some industries were facing challenges. For filmmakers, an agreement this year with the United States allows more American companies to distribute more movies and reap a greater share of the box office in China. He said that from January to October, box office revenues amounted to $2.1 billion. Chinese films, however, lost their dominance in their home market, accounting for 41.4 percent of this gross.

via China, at Party Congress, Lauds Its Cultural Advances – NYTimes.com.

Booklist | The Last Three Feet Now Only Inches Away

Interesting new book on both the strategy and challenges of volume facing public diplomats:

This very fact of reliance on social media points to another facet of 21st Century public diplomacy, the need to cope with an extraordinary volume of activity. Virtually every article speaks in some fashion of the issue of volume. In Shanghai the American pavilion had to cope with 50,000 visitors a day. Before a visit by President Obama to Ghana the Embassy sponsored “Ask Obama a question” on its website and got 300,000 responses. When Embassy Brasilia had a two-hour web chat 40,000 individuals participated. These are stunning numbers. It is, of course, beyond the capacity of any one embassy or indeed of the entire United States government to deal with 300,000 questions. The new technologies make it possible to reach extraordinary numbers of individuals; particularly among youthful age cohorts, but to make these technologies truly interactive is beyond our ability. Indeed just reading this volume of messages, let alone assessing the significance of the messages being sent would be a challenge for which there is no obvious solution. This is, of course, a core public diplomacy issue: how to measure success. It is easy to quantify the numbers of tweets sent and received, of postings on interactive blog sites or the numbers of Facebook friends of a particular Embassy. But what do these numbers mean and how can we be sure that we are reaching those who can impact American policies and interests or that we are changing attitudes towards the United States in a positive way?

A second constraining factor, which emerges in many of these articles, is the question of language. One of the final sentences of Walter Douglas’ piece on PD in Pakistan is telling. “English”, he says, “can be a pernicious influence” His Embassy had relied overly on the English language media in Pakistan and had ignored the Urdu media. He and his team changed that and set up a daily analysis of the vernacular media. Here, however, one of the key shortcomings of American PD becomes apparent. Embassy Islamabad must rely almost entirely on locally employed staff to do this monitoring and analysis. Similarly in the examples from Bahrain and Baghdad, while the Embassy has Arabic-capable officers working on PD, the managing of the social media falls on the local staff.

via Quainton | The Last Three Feet Now Only Inches Away.

The Challenges of YouTube Diplomacy | USC Center on Public Diplomacy | PD News – CPD Blog

Another angle on the turmoil embroiling some of the so-called “Arab street”–how to manage public diplomacy when messaging is hard to contextualize:

Particularly in Arab countries, where years of tensions and frustrations make hair-trigger responses common, the task for public diplomacy by the United States is exceedingly complex and is made more so by the borderless reach of social media. Diplomats must be as determined as are the troublemakers, maintaining a steady stream of information that is presented in ways that can compete effectively for audience. The U.S. State Department recognizes this and delivers high-quality public diplomacy programs, but much remains to be done. Given that online sites are increasingly turned to as substitutes for traditional broadcast channels, the State Department’s YouTube channel, for example, should offer timely, carefully designed content, not merely archival material.

What is so frustrating about the Innocence of Muslims case is that a few loopy hate-mongers can be perceived – even if by a relatively small number of people – as representatives of the United States. That illustrates both the power and the weakness of social media, and it underscores the challenges of YouTube diplomacy.

via The Challenges of YouTube Diplomacy | USC Center on Public Diplomacy | PD News – CPD Blog.

Jeremy Lin, international relations icon?

Jeremy Lin as a shared cultural moment in the US and China, a sports highlight (several, so far), and a chess piece in the world of diplomacy?  Shout out to Robert Wright at The Atlantic for that latter connection:

In any event, having heard a few interviews with Lin, my guess is that he’ll handle delicate questions gracefully, and that he won’t let international celebrity distract him from his on-court mission. And that’s all that’s really necessary; it’s not like he has to become a roving ambassador of good will in order to play a constructive role in international relations.

Of course, this whole conjecture about Lin’s diplomatic value presupposes that he’s the real deal–that he’ll be star for some time to come. My own guess (not that you asked) after watching last night’s game is that he will indeed hang on to star status so long as he gets better at hanging on to the ball in heavy traffic. So I’m cautiously optimistic that Jeremy Lin could wind up, so to speak, doing God’s work.

via Linsanity as a Diplomatic Asset – Robert Wright – International – The Atlantic.

For what its worth, the hype has met reality thus far–which is what makes this such an interesting subject for speculation.