The ministry of foreign affairs is a fairly new invention in the world of diplomatic practice. Even though the first ministry of foreign affairs was created by Cardinal Richelieu in France it didn’t spread that much before the end of the eighteenth century, when the ministries were opened in countries such as United Kingdom and the newly independent United States. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century real importance can be put on the ministry.
The reason for the creation of the ministries has primarily been to standardize diplomatic procedures, create consistency in policies and provide analysis of reports received from the diplomatic representations. In many countries there has been a sharp distinction between the work of the ministry at home and the work of the representations abroad – often separate career paths within each sector. Smaller countries tend to have the areas mixed though. (Berridge 2005: 5-8)
Ministries of foreign affairs are usually the entity organizing and planning strategies of public diplomacy though they will also include several other organizations, institutions and other groupings. Below follows a more in depth presentation of public diplomacy and how it is practiced.
As it has been made clear above, diplomatic practice has always been centered on official bilateral or multilateral channels of communication between states and has usually been shrouded in secrecy. While this traditional diplomacy will continue to be essential for states to conduct their foreign relations, several governments have begun to realize that it is necessary not only to target foreign governments in their efforts to reach foreign policy goals. One of the most notable products of this realization has been the growth of public diplomacy – i.e. diplomacy targeted not at foreign governments but rather at selected segments of foreign publics. The practitioners of public diplomacy will utilize several tools in their efforts to clarify the policies of their government to avoid misunderstandings based on propaganda or lack of information in the hope of eventually winning the hearts and minds of foreign publics. This chapter will go in depth with the exploration of public diplomacy goals and tools. (Ross 2002: 75-77)
New public diplomacy is based on a number of principles which distinguishes it clearly from other related topics. These principles can help to give a basic overview of the concept and are as follows:
“dialogue, not monologue. To awaken understanding and wanting to understand
integration in the other diplomacy from the beginning
observer role, i.e. registration of other countries’ behavior in the area with later reporting back to the home country.”1 (Andreasen 2007: 38-39)
This diverse concept occupying the crossroads between communication strategy, propaganda, cultural diplomacy and traditional diplomatic practice will be presented and explored in further detail in this chapter. The aim of the chapter is to provide a thorough basis for a later analysis of this and related diplomatic/communicative practices in order to conclude whether it is a more effective means of reaching foreign policy goals or not.
Goals of public diplomacy
Public diplomacy can make impacts on several levels depending on how successful the public diplomacy initiatives are conducted, for how long they run and how many resources are invested in them. The possible achievements for public diplomacy are listed below in a hierarchical order:
“Increasing people’s familiarity with one’s country (making them think about it, updating their images, turning around unfavourable opinions)
Increasing people’s appreciation of one’s country (creating positive perceptions, getting others to see issues of global importance from the same perspective)
Engaging people with one’s country (strengthening ties – from education reform to scientific co-operation; encouraging people to see us as an attractive destination for tourism, study, distance learning; getting them to buy our products; getting to understand and subscribe to our values)
Influencing people (getting companies to invest, publics to back our positions or politicians to turn to us as a favoured partner)” (Leonard 2002: 9-10)
So the goals of public diplomacy can span a vast area from basically introducing the country to targeted audiences or dispelling any misperceptions they might have about it to actively engaging people with the country by attracting people there for sightseeing, studies or making investments or political deals. The hopes of what to expect of public diplomacy initiatives relies on how the relations already are and in which areas mainly are sought strengthened – be it political, economic or cultural relations.
Public diplomacy and propaganda
It can be tempting to see public diplomacy as a more easily digestible term for what has always gone under the name of propaganda. Although the concepts are related in that they both seek to affect the opinions of foreign publics they are, needless to say, very different too. Generally speaking, propaganda seeks to narrow down the horizon of people by trying to mould their minds through any means necessary while public diplomacy strives to open the minds of people through information and education. Public diplomacy of course has the motives to broaden the minds of people in what they see as the right direction and has a specific agenda but it can be more helpful to see it as counter-propaganda or the breaking down of prejudices the receiver has of the sender. Public diplomacy has furthermore borrowed crucial experiences from the conventional diplomacy – namely lies and disinformation is in the long run very counter-productive and should never be done. As soon as diplomatic practitioners are caught in spreading disinformation in any area it undermines all their work and the messages they have been trying to send out. (Melissen 2007: 16-19)
A final distinction between propaganda and public diplomacy is, while propaganda continuously spreads messages to its targeted audiences public diplomacy utilizes a two-way communication strategy. Practitioners of public diplomacy has to listen to what their audiences thinks and has to say about them and their governments, since this will provide them more credibility and opportunity to continuously tailor the messages they are sending out to have the biggest positive impact. The key is not the amount of information sent out but rather finding out the most effective way to deliver the correct message by the right means to achieve the best result. An understanding of the situation and general viewpoints of different segments of the target population has to be developed in order to achieve these results. (Leonard 2002: 46-49)