The following statement is from the Public Diplomacy Foundation, a non-partisan, tax- exempt corporation established in 1988 to promote America's communication with foreign publics in order to bring about better understanding of America's ideas and ideals, institutions and culture, and national goals and current policies. The Foundation believes that understanding and influencing foreign public attitudes are essential to the conduct of U.S. international relations:
The President's decision to consolidate the organizational structures and programs of the Department of State, the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) creates a unique opportunity to establish the centrality of public diplomacy to America's international engagement in the 21st Century.
The Public Diplomacy Foundation welcomes this opportunity, convinced that direct communications with the people of other nations, as well as understanding and influencing public attitudes abroad, is essential to the conduct of U.S. international relations. Indeed, the exponential growth in instantaneous global communications--whether via the Internet, fax, cellular telephone or direct satellite TV combined with the rapid spread of democratic institutions and market-oriented economies in the wake of the collapse of Communism, only serves to emphasize the key role public diplomacy can and must play as part of America's overall foreign policy.
The merging of the three foreign affairs agencies should serve to underscore the fact that there is only one American diplomacy, under the direction of the President and his or her Secretary of State. But, as has been observed and reaffirmed over and over by its practitioners in the field, such as American ambassadors overseas, in today's world, 90% of that diplomacy is public.
Emphasizing the critical importance of public diplomacy also recognizes the reality that, in a more democratic world, people do have a direct influence on the positions, policies, and attitudes of their elected governments. Dealing with those people considering their views, and helping them to understand the history and ideals of the United States along with the full spectrum of its citizens' diverse opinions, is the Foundation believes, manifestly in the national interest.
The Foundation also believes, however, that the importance of public diplomacy in a restructured foreign affairs community can only be maintained--and, ideally, strengthened--by ensuring its programmatic and organizational integrity. Dispersing its various components throughout a vast and factionalized bureaucracy would mean the end of public diplomacy as an identifiable and coordinated discipline within America's overall diplomatic establishment. More than four decades of experience demonstrate the synergies and the benefits to the national interest resulting from administering informational, cultural and educational programs in conjunction, most especially in the long term perspective that is frequently overlooked due to the overriding need to respond to short-term crises.
Therefore, the Public Diplomacy Foundation strongly urges all parties involved in the foreign affairs restructuring to ensure that the integrity of public diplomacy is preserved in whatever structure emerges from the consolidation process.
Most especially, a new Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy must retain direct control over the funds, programs, personnel and other resources essential to the conduct of America's overseas public diplomacy. To do otherwise, as suggested above, would mean in reality the atomization and death of the one element of our foreign affairs apparatus that is truly suited to the times, the technology and the tenets of democratic governance for which the United States stands.
Maintaining the coherence of public diplomacy under the direction of such an Under Secretary of State would also avoid the temptation to redefine "public diplomacy" as "public affairs"-- the domestic dissemination of information and opinion designed to bolster support for any Administration's policies among the American public. While public affairs considerations are important and understandable factors in foreign policy implementation, the people and resources needed for a long-term "outreach" to the populations of other countries must not be drained to address short-term domestic pressures.
Preserving a distinct organizational structure and identity for public diplomacy also helps ensure that perhaps its most important practitioners--the American people themselves and their non-governmental institutions--will continue to act in partnership with government in the explication of American ideals. Private sector support and engagement are absolutely essential in the process of understanding, informing and influencing the people of other nations, and nothing will drive away that private sector faster than the perception that public diplomacy has somehow been "politicized" and subordinated to short-term partisan imperatives. Because of its firm belief that the attitudes and perceptions of the people of other nations play an ever-increasing role in determining the success of America's political and economic actions on the world stage, the Public Diplomacy Foundation is convinced that the restructuring of the foreign affairs community must enhance, rather than undermine, the effectiveness of the public diplomacy programs that have served the country and its people so well in the half-century since World War Two. To do less would be a historic miscalculation, and would miss an equally historic opportunity to position the United States for the interconnected and interdependent world of the next century.
Public Diplomacy Foundation, May, 1997
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