During my internship at the Danish Embassy in Tokyo in 2007 I learned that public diplomacy is one of the most important concepts in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the moment. This is underlined by the recent opening of the public diplomacy division in the ministry, who orchestrates the total public diplomacy effort by the foreign ministry in close cooperation with the representations abroad. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark)
At the embassy public diplomacy was mentioned on a daily basis, but when asked directly nobody could really give a fulfilling answer for what it constituted and what aspects it included. There I later found out it was often mixed up completely with nation branding initiatives and advertisement in general. This lack of complete understanding for a topic everybody talked about but nobody seemed to be able to define completely sparked my interest to go deeper in the topic.
This tendency is not restricted to Denmark alone. Public diplomacy is increasingly gaining importance in several ministries of foreign affairs especially in the more economically developed countries – notably Canada, Norway and the United States all have a very well developed public diplomacy. The United States has it for quite obvious reasons as it has the biggest foreign service and because they are often engaged deeper with several different areas around the world than many other states. Norway and Canada on the other hand are more interesting in this relation as they both have comparatively smaller foreign services yet they have chosen to become among the leading trend setters in relation to public diplomacy. Furthermore France is noteworthy as they have the world’s largest funding for cultural diplomacy – which is a close relative of public diplomacy.
The reason for the increasingly central placement of this former niche area of the diplomatic effort has been the recognition of the value of winning the hearts and minds of the people and the growing importance of civil society in international relations. So the ministries of foreign affairs have to widen their focus and not just concentrate their efforts on foreign government offices and the multilateral diplomacy. (Melissen 2007: xvii-xxii)
A concept linked to, yet very different from, public diplomacy is that of nation branding. This is an approach where governments and the foreign services have been inspired by modern marketing concepts such as brand creation. The thought is that it is possible to mould people’s perception of a state or organization by using some of the same tools as commercial enterprises use to sell their products. Even though the approach seems increasingly popular amongst western states it is difficult to come by solid proof that it is working or that it is beneficial to use commercial approaches like this in politics.
It is quite symptomatic that focus to a higher extent Is moving away from the traditional approaches of the ministry of foreign affairs. There is a wide tendency to ‘think outside the box’ in conducting foreign relation policies – with very varying degrees of success. Furthermore the ministries of foreign affairs in a wide range of countries are trying to combat previous stigma of being closed, secretive and elitist and there seems to be an increasing awareness of the importance of mass media and public opinion.
The thesis will try to uncover why these new approaches to conducting diplomacy and maintaining or creating good foreign relations have emerged and how significant a role they are and will be playing in international relations. Furthermore it will be explored whether the importance of the ministries of foreign affairs can be deemed as increasing or decreasing. The problem formulation of the thesis will be as follows:
“Why have several ministries of foreign affairs lately made moves to reinvent themselves and have been introducing several new ways of conducting diplomacy? Is the increased focus on mass media and public relations more successful in reaching foreign policy goals compared to the traditional means of diplomatic practice and can this constitute a breakthrough in international relations?”