What is Public Diplomacy?

From 7-9 June 2010, Wilton Park hosted a conference for government practitioners, academics and other experts from around the world to discuss public diplomacy policy and practice. The conference was opened by Jeremy Browne MP, UK Minister of State for Public Diplomacy, and Judith McHale, US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Both highlighted the increasing importance of engaging people and organisations beyond governments in global affairs. Discussions covered a range of themes including military involvement in soft power; the role of corporate and faith groups; digital media; cultural relations and partnerships; and engaging through sport.

The exact discussions took place behind closed doors, but we wanted some definitions from the practitioners about what on earth we were talking about. Here’s the first instalment, please let me know what you think:

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Attia Nasar

That video was amusing! As a student in a ‘Public Diplomacy’ program at Syracuse University, this question has been asked multiple times and everyone you speak to will provide varying answers. I have come to define public diplomacy as:

“Multifaceted communications and civic engagement through education, dialogue and creative collaboration, in hopes to resolve conflicts, improve governance, promote social and economic development and build mutual respect and understanding between those involved.”

I am narrowing that even further with my interest in “digital diplomacy” (or “public diplomacy 2.0”) which I refer to as “interactive environments though the virtual world; this can include interactions through a multitude of sites such as, Twitter, Skype, Facebook, blogs and Second Life.”

Would you agree or disagree?

Jimmy Leach

From our own digital diplomacy definition:

Digital diplomacy is solving foreign policy problems using the internet.

What does that mean?
It’s conventional diplomacy through a different medium. Through the web we can listen, publish, engage and evaluate in new and interesting ways. Crucially, we can also widen our reach and communicate directly with civil society as well as governments and influential individuals.

Why are we doing it?
Because we have to:
those whose ideals and objectives we oppose are active and highly effective at using the web. If we don’t take up the digital debate, we lose our argument by default
many of our partners, particularly those outside government, have an established digital presence, engaged audiences and expertise in achieving goals online. If we don’t work with them, we’re missing a huge opportunity. Our shift from one-way web publishing into active digital diplomacy reflects the changing way we all use the web – as a multi-way social medium as well as a source of information. We lose credibility and cannot claim to be an open organisation if we don’t take part.