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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2673

Public Diplomacy lesson for the ignorant in Third World nations:U.S. on eliminating ‘Trust Deficit’

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 19 June ( “If the United States wants to forge relationships with people around the globe – and this is absolutely critical to U.S. national strategic objectives – U.S. needs to understand people’s interests and aspirations, and form partnerships to provide them with information and services they value. That is the key to an enduring relationship.”The United States seems to have understood that it has a ‘credibility gap’ or in a simple and plain interpretation ‘Trust Deficit’.

What we quoted above was what the new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the U.S. Department of State Judith A. McHale declared on May 13 at her Senate confirmation hearing and thereafter addressing Washington’s Center for New American Security on June 11.

At her Senate testimony hearing Ms. McHale told Foreign Relations Committee what bothers Third World countries like the South Asian nation Sri Lanka. The president of Sri Lanka himself told the Western nations in general and the United States in particular that his country and the government were not prepared to listen to their lectures at a time the nation was battling a ruthless terrorist outfit which has threatened her territorial integrity and sovereignty.

What Ms. McHale said at the Senate hearing is worth for the State Department, its officials based in Washington and Foreign Service Officers assigned to other countries especially in the Third World nations to take note of and adhere to it.

This is what Judith McHale said: “The challenges we face today require a complex, multi-dimensional approach to public diplomacy. We have to listen more and lecture less. And we have to learn how people in other countries and cultures listen to us. We need to understand their interests and aspirations, and use our leadership to provide them with information and services they value. If we do this right, we can forge relationships that become part of their daily lives. They must see their relationship with us, the United States of America, our government, and our greatest asset of all – the American people – as essential to their ability to achieve progress and prosperity, and fulfill their dreams of a brighter future.”

She outlined the core principles of public diplomacy, and Third World nations that are interested in pursuing a global public diplomacy and strategic communication project to reach to policymakers, those who influence policymakers and professional bodies that work closely with nations of the First World should heed to Ms. McHale’s observations.

She outlined:

(Begin Quote) First, public diplomacy is an essential component of our foreign policy and must be integrated into the policy process at every level, from formulation through implementation. As Edward R. Murrow famously said, public diplomacy needs to be there at the takeoffs, not just brought in to clean up the crash landings. Our decisions must be informed upfront by sound research, and we must endeavor to provide the context to those decisions as they are rolled out rather than after the fact.

Second, our public diplomacy must be run strategically – not just in unconnected, unintegrated programs. An important lesson of recent years is that we must do a better job of thinking and planning strategically, with a clear mission and a steady eye on long-term global goals, accompanied by careful assessment of programs, personnel and expenditures. This will allow us to craft proactive, purposeful and integrated programs that further U.S. policy interests and resonate with foreign publics.

Third, rewards require risk. If we are going to develop new strategies, we must challenge the status quo, and create a culture that nurtures innovation and tolerates risk.

Fourth, new technology, used effectively and creatively, can be a game changer. Communications advances provide unprecedented opportunities to engage people directly, to connect them to one another, and to dramatically scale up many traditional public diplomacy efforts. They provide us the opportunity to move from an old paradigm in which our government speaks as one to many, to a new model of engaging interactively and collaboratively across lines that might otherwise divide us from people around the world. We must create an institutional framework that can take full advantage of new media, with an understanding that these tools must be carefully tailored to particular circumstances and always used in the service of a larger strategy.

Finally, public diplomacy is not something the government can or should do alone. We must tap into the spirit, optimism, and diversity of the American people, including our many Diaspora communities with their deep ties and networks spanning the globe. We face large challenges, and stretched resources. We must take full advantage of public-private partnerships, which can serve as significant force multipliers for our efforts. (End Quote)

The State Department’s newly appointed Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale identifies the potential of her country’s Diaspora domiciled in other countries and how useful they can be for U.S. public diplomacy and strategic communication to improve the country’s image abroad.

This is the area that most Third World nations have not tapped, the Diaspora’s potential, their ability to research and tap knowledgeable professionals and experts for the benefit of the Third World nations.

In her June 11 address to Washington’s Center for a New American Security titled ‘Public Diplomacy: A National Security Imperative’ she outlined public diplomacy as not a propaganda contest but a relationship race to rebuild America’s credibility and renew the U.S. engagement with the people of the world.

She said public diplomacy operates on two levels:

First, communication. This is the air game, the radio and TV broadcasts, the websites and media outreach that all seek to explain and provide context for U.S. policies and actions; and

Second, engagement, the ground game of direct people-to-people exchanges, speakers, and embassy-sponsored cultural events that build personal relationships.

She gave some sound advice to those who are yet to understand Public Diplomacy 101 McHale said “It is imperative that we improve on both levels, that we get smarter about how we communicate and more ambitious in how we engage.”

She said: “As we communicate with people around the world, we must move beyond messaging. We need to listen more and lecture less. We have to learn how people listen to us, how our words and deeds are actually heard and seen. And we need to explain our positions and policies upfront and not after the fact when opinions have already hardened. The more languages and venues we communicate in, the more respect we show for our audience, the more effective we will be.”

And then Ms. McHale went on to say: “At the top of my list is integrating public diplomacy into the policy process at every level, from formulation through implementation. Our policy decisions must be informed upfront by sound research and perspectives on possible impacts.”

In her June 11, 2009 speech McHale emphasizes the new (Obama) administration’s commitment to renewing US engagement with the world and restoring US credibility. McHale’s speech focused on the necessity of public diplomacy for national security. She assured the audience that the Obama Administration recognizes the importance of public diplomacy in 21st century statecraft.

McHale claims that due to new technology, we live in an incredibly interconnected world where people engage with each other more than ever before. Understanding the interconnectivity of our world is essential to successful foreign policy as increased communications allow the US to develop relationships around the world, therefore, diminishing threats by creating partnerships instead.

McHale refers to Secretary Clinton’s theory of “people to people” diplomacy in which we “build new partnerships from the bottom up.”

The State Department Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy promises a new approach to public diplomacy by declaring that, “this is not a propaganda contest – it is a relationship race. And we have got to get back in the game.”

In order to successfully engage the international community, McHale outlines a multi-dimensional approach that combines traditional outreach with new technology. Her plan for public diplomacy will operate on two levels. The first focus being communication, using radio, TV broadcasts, websites and media outreach to help explain US policy and action. The second priority is engagement; she proposes direct “people to people” exchanges, speakers, and cultural events to build personal relationships.

The approach outlined by Ms. McHale is food for thought for those in Third World nations how public diplomacy and strategic communication in a global setting need to be embarked on. And, it gives a hint how Clinton-State Department will operate in relation to its global reach.

- Asian Tribune -

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