Public Diplomacy Forum - USIA

About This Site - The Public Diplomacy Forum

From Spotlight Issue 1, April 8, 1998

"About This Site-The Public Diplomacy Forum" outlines the features viewers can find on PDForum, with hyperlinked descriptions of each section. Additionally, this piece includes examples of USIA programs and the work of public diplomacy.

Each section of Public Diplomacy Forum contains material about current international events, educational and cultural programs, and links to sites that offer information resources and ways to get involved in public diplomacy activities.

Do you have an interesting story about dialogue between Americans and people of other countries? Send in your story for posting on PDForum.

About "Public Diplomacy Forum" and USIA's Public Diplomacy Programs

  1. A Tour of this Site
  2. What is "public diplomacy?"
  3. U.S. "public diplomats" overseas
  4. USIA's Community and Nongovernmental Counterparts
  5. PDForum administrative notes

1. A Tour of this Site

The Public Diplomacy Forum (PDForum) is a foreign affairs resource site of the United States Information Agency (USIA) homepage. The PDForum is designed to provide Internet users with current information about USIA's work and the issues of public and citizen diplomacy.

The intended audience for this site includes the foreign affairs community within and outside of government; teachers, analysts and students of international relations; interested citizens; and private-sector organizations concerned with international affairs.

Spotlight This section -- containing this message -- presents new features and articles about public diplomacy, USIA's international work and exchange programs in the U.S., and projects with our private sector counterparts.

The Rostrum features comments PDForum receives about public diplomacy and resources on this site, as well as personal accounts of "citizen diplomacy" sent to us via e-mail. If you see information on this website that you would like to respond to, or to debate another message, e-mail your comments to the Rostrum!

To send a message to PDForum, please note the following guidelines:

  • Describe how the international experience came about, whom you met, organizations that facilitated the exchange, and long-term benefits of the dialogue;
  • If you are responding to an article or message, identify the original feature;
  • List your hometown and state, and school if applicable;
  • Be brief: one-half to two pages;
  • Inflammatory messages will not be posted;
  • Note that messages may be edited for length, style, and content.
  • Send e-mail to: PDFORUM

Citizen Diplomat Links This section highlights Internet links to other organizations concerned with international affairs, education and mutual understanding. You can find links to international exchange programs, education resources, and non-profit organizations. Citizen Diplomat Links also include the Further Reading section, with on-line links to journals about diplomacy and USIA.

Public Diplomacy Nationwide Community-level involvement lies at the heart of public diplomacy. This section lists international events in all fifty states that bring together Americans with visitors from other countries, who are gaining firsthand experience of American values, institutions, and hospitality. Additionally, this section summarizes by region USIA programs conducted overseas, demonstrating the public diplomacy work of USIS offices.

Foreign Media Reaction This section calls up USIA's daily summaries of international newspaper and magazine commentary on American society and policies, translated by American diplomatic posts worldwide. The reports change daily, and contain thoughtful, though sometimes critical, analyses of U.S. policy as seen from around the world. Foreign Media Reaction reports are managed by USIA's Office of Research and Media Reaction.

Public Diplomacy Calendar This calendar, updated weekly, lists major international conferences, expositions, and events around the world and in the U.S. Many events listed are hyperlinked to the sponsoring organization. The Public Diplomacy Calendar is managed by USIA's Office of Strategic Communication.

"There is no region so sensitive and no issue so hard-edged that it does not benefit from public diplomacy...[these] programs not only advance the understanding around the world of U.S. policies, but, equally important,
U.S. values and ideals."
- Joseph Duffey

" programs encourage democratic principles and international understanding when foreign visitors meet Americans from diverse backgrounds in formal and informal settings."
- Joseph Duffey

USIA foreign service officers abroad build bridges of communication between the United States and the host country. They practice the art of public diplomacy as they explain to foreign audiences both the complexities of U.S. society and culture and the U.S. Government's foreign policy agenda.
2. What is "public diplomacy?"

Public diplomacy seeks to promote the national interest through understanding, informing, and influencing foreign publics and broadening dialogue between American citizens and institutions and their counterparts abroad. America's public diplomacy is the primary responsibility of the the U.S. Information Agency, which manages this website.

USIA explains and supports American foreign policy abroad and promotes U.S. national interests through a wide range of broadcast, information, educational and cultural exchange programs. USIA maintains 190 "posts" in 142 countries. At American diplomatic posts overseas, USIA is known as USIS, the U.S. Information Service. USIA's International Broadcasting Bureau includes the Voice of America, WORLDNET TV, and specialized radio services. Since many of USIA's programs are intended only for international audiences, as mandated by the Smith-Mundt Act, USIA links on this site are for domestic programs only. Dr. Joseph Duffey has served as USIA Director since June 3, 1993. More: USIA's Strategic Plan

USIA Director Duffey outlined the goals and purposes of USIA and public diplomacy in his budget presentation to Congress on February 28, 1998:

One of USIA's fundamental tasks is to make sure that the world knows and understands what our policies are, what our values are on which we base those policies, what we think and why we think it. This is the job of public diplomacy.

There is no region so sensitive and no issue so hard-edged that it does not benefit from public diplomacy. In short, wherever U.S. interests are at stake, USIA is there.

In areas of great sensitivity and in countries where our relations are strained or where, in fact, we have no formal diplomatic relations at all, public diplomacy offers an opening, a channel of communications useful to our policy interests. Let me give you some examples of what I mean:

    USIA, for example, is the only U.S. presence in the volatile and politically-sensitive Kosovo region of the former Yugoslavia. Our USIS Center in Pristina is the front line in America's engagement.

    Late last year, USIA arranged an event that many long-time observers of the Middle East might have found improbable. We brought together 16 members of the leadership of the youth wings of the Palestinian Fatah Party and the Israeli Likud Party. After initial apprehensions were overcome, the group pledged to "widen the circle of supporters committed to a solution to the conflict."

    To help reduce tensions between India and Pakistan, USIA arranged a "traveling seminar" for editors and journalists from both countries to cities in both India and Pakistan. One participant subsequently founded a new magazine dedicated to improving relations among South Asian countries.

    USIS officers in Havana seized the occasion of Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Cuba to put visiting reporters in touch with independent Cuban journalists.

    Last year USIA arranged for more than 2,400 high school students from the NIS to study in the United States. Overall, in any given year, our Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs conducts exchange programs which involve 20,000 leaders and future leaders from around the world.

Public diplomacy programs not only advance the understanding around the world of U.S. policies, but, equally important, U.S. values and ideals. Public diplomacy fosters an appreciation of our institutions and culture, as well as our national goals and policy priorities.

Public diplomacy during the 1997-98 Iraq inspections crisis
The United States Information Agency is best known for its educational, cultural, and professional exchange programs. But USIA also plays an important role in explaining and advocating U.S. foreign policy to overseas audiences. The role of USIA and USIS posts during the 1997-98 crisis over UN inspections in Iraq is an example of how public diplomacy supports U.S. foreign policy and the national interest.

3. U.S. "public diplomats" overseas

At American Embassies abroad, public diplomacy is conducted by "public diplomats" of USIS (USIA's overseas offices), who communicate with a wide range of non-governmental, government, academic, media, and cultural leaders. USIA's offices in Washington, DC, plan and conduct exchange and information programs in close coordination with the USIS posts. Many American citizens participate in USIA programs, in the U.S. or overseas, as scholars, speakers, local volunteers, and hosts of professional programs.

The overall management of an Embassy's USIS office is in the hands of the Public Affairs Officer (PAO). The Information Officer (IO) is charged with media relations and explaining and defending U.S. foreign policy. The Cultural Affairs Officer (CAO) oversees educational and cultural exchange programs; and presents to foreign audiences a fuller picture of the American values, beliefs, and principles which influence domestic political life and foreign policy decisions.

The work of a USIA officer is varied and demanding. It involves a high degree of work across a wide spectrum of endeavors, dealing with the independent media, government ministries, universities, cultural and arts institutions, libraries, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations. A USIA officer must be resourceful, politically sensitive, and flexible, with the ability to understand a culture quickly. Intelligence and strong interpersonal skills are vitally important for success in public diplomacy.

Through international visitor and professional exchange programs, a cross-section of Americans have the opportunity to converse with key foreign decision-makers in both the public and private sectors, and to hear foreign perspectives firsthand.

4. USIA's Community and Nongovernmental Counterparts

Citizen involvement and public-private partnerships are at the heart of public diplomacy. International exchange programs in the U.S. bring about tangible benefits to particiating American communities.

A broadening of a community's understanding of the world and its people results from visits by foreign professionals to local organizations, such as grassroots associations, schools, small businesses, local government, and radio and TV stations. Information-sharing among business professionals, academics, and local governments can lead to future professional relationships. Foreign professionals visiting the U.S. also learn about the cultural environment in which American companies, schools and governments operate.

American "speakers and specialists" travel under USIA sponsorship to participate in conferences, to conduct lectures, and to lead workshops and seminars. Additionally, exchange programs encourage democratic principles and international understanding when foreign visitors meet Americans from diverse backgrounds in formal and informal settings.

USIA's exchange programs develop international grant projects with non-profit American institutions, including voluntary community organizations, professional associations and universities. These programs involve thousands of Americans and foreign visitors who take part in exchanges at the grassroots level both in the U.S. and overseas. The thematic emphasis for these grants may include the rule of law, freedom of press and expression, American culture and the arts, sustainable development, U.S. foreign policy and international security, and the development of free-market economies and trade.

Click here for Citizen Diplomat Links to see examples of exchange organizations and resources, many of which work with USIA.

5. Administrative notes

Disclaimer: Links to nongovernmental organizations through this site do not imply the endorsement of their contents by USIA.

No material covered by the Smith-Mundt Act, restricting USIA program materials from domestic distribution, is included or directly linked at this site.

This site is managed by USIA's Office of Public Liaison with support from USIA's Information Bureau. Credits: Editor, Kathryn Gunning, Office of Public Liaison; Creator, Paul Kreutzer; Designer, Tim Brown, Information Bureau.

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