Ryan J. Suto's Blog

03 February 2011

Diagramming Public Diplomacy, ver. 2.0

My previous post on this concept was almost purposely not thought-out. After I ran the idea by a few professors, colleagues, and fellow bloggers, I feel better that this diagram is an elegant way to represent the basic relationships which involve public diplomacy.

Below the important institutions are represented by boxes; governments and non-governments. The first group is limited to Westphalian states, where I will ignore federal systems for simplicity. The second includes pretty much anything that isn’t a Westphalian state. That includes individual people, NGOs, corporations, interest groups, etc. We’ll call them publics for short.

(It is worth noting that is diagram is unintentionally similar to one discussed in: McDowell, Mark. "Public Diplomacy at the Crossroads: Definitions and Challenges in and 'Open Source' Era". The Flectcher Forum of World Affairs. Vol. 32:3 Special Edition 2008. Great minds think alike!)

            Communication between these institutions is shown by double-sided arrows. This is showing the two-way symmetrical communication that—in theory—occurs. Thus, the communication between governments is traditional diplomacy. This usually consists of state visits, summits, and diplomats communicating to each other. The arrows from a government to its people is called public affairs in the U.S. federal system (as well as many state systems), and simply is how publics communicate with their government, and vice versa.

Finally, we get to the good stuff: public diplomacy. The three remaining arrows are under the label of public diplomacy.
The diagonal arrows show the communication that occurs between governments and foreign publics. This occurs through official educational and professional exchange programs, cultural and tourism promotion, etc. from the government end. But, as this is a two-way model, how do publics communicate with a foreign government? I suppose by expressing opinions on the internet and demonstrations when foreign heads of state visit.
The last arrow shows the communication that occurs between publics of different Westphalian states. This occurs with private-funded exchanges, tourism, popular culture, commerce, migration, etc. In public diplomacy, much of this communication is not direct; it goes through the news media. Things such as the ‘CNN Effect’ or now the ‘Al Jazeera Effect’ influence these relationships by providing more indirect communication between publics and foreign governments or publics than there would likely be direct communication otherwise.

Now, it must be admitted that relying on the Westphalian state is a Euro-centric approach. Note that whether the communication is between a Westphalian state and foreign publics, or just two foreign (to each other) publics, it still is considered public diplomacy. There remains, however, an actual question of Euro-centricity: If two groups communicate—which do not qualify as Westphalian states, but nonetheless traditionally hold themselves as traditional sovereign nations—is that considered public diplomacy? For example, we have two tribes whose laws, traditions, values, etc. are quite different from one another and both consider their tribal leaders as their only source of civil authority. These tribes could either both be in places like eastern Sudan, Afghanistan, Oceania, or the Americas. Assuming neither tribe qualifies as a Westphalian state and both exist within the same Westphalian state, would communications between tribal leaders be considered traditional diplomacy? Would communication between a tribal leader and the people of the other tribe, or communication between the people of both tribes, be considered public diplomacy? While a strict application of my graph would answer in the negative, I feel this is a grey area. As many concepts are necessarily fluid, I feel this presents the middle ground between intrastate cultural relations and public diplomacy.

This diagram does not aim to describe the tactics, goals, or effectiveness of any particular public diplomacy organization or objective. By creating it, I simply wish to communicate an easily understandable framework for the field, so as to avoid an overly lengthy piece which drones on about the boundaries of the field and the implications of those boundaries. Seeing that this blog post clearly failed in avoiding that, I only hope that the diagram helps to orient those foreign to the concept as well as clarify the goals of those most familiar with it.


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  2. I got some great comments tonight about the veracity of this diagram... what about influential third parties, or NGOs with no national affiliation? For example, how would the UN, UNICEF, or UNDP be represented in this diagram?

    1. yeah i was about to ask exaktly the same question n plzz tell me that hw the NGO`s are affecting the imptnce n job of traditional diplomats who sit in ambessies ..... thank u n ths was awsomeee it helpd me alot sir thank u , 1ns again !!!

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