Friday, February 21, 2014

February 17-21

Abbreviated Edition

"Public diplomacy lacks obvious benefits to states."

--Ian Hall, Senior Fellow, Australian National University; image from


Are Political Appointees the Only U.S. Diplomats Who Haven't Been to the Country to Which They Are Assigned? - John Brown, Huffington Post: "[W]ould it not be ideal for an FSO who hasn't traveled to the country where she is assigned, to live for several months in that country -- preferably with a non-English speaking family -- before beginning her official duties? ... As a result of such on-site exposure, FSOs -- if not all of them can be included, then at the very least those involved in political affairs/public diplomacy should be -- would then have greater knowledge of where they are assigned before working at/for the U.S. Embassy."


In Vienna, U.S. and Iran Inch Toward a Better Future - Reza Marashi, Huffington Post: "The enormity of the task at hand sometimes overshadows the historic backdrop of the Vienna talks: efforts to build confidence and resolve conflict have been openly supported President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. By backing the interim nuclear deal in Geneva, they provided an unprecedented foundation from which a final deal can grow. If these negotiations are to successfully avoid falling prey to fractious domestic politics in both capitals, it will be necessary to provide a degree of political cover for both leaders.

To that end, securing a final nuclear deal will require a bit of Public Diplomacy 101: Washington and Tehran will need to lower expectations publicly while raising them privately though compromise and verifiable follow-through on their respective commitments. Rhetoric from both sides downplaying the odds for success should come as no surprise. But words should not overshadow facts: diplomacy would not be taking place without Obama and Khamenei's direct involvement in the process." Image from

Iranian Students in the U.S.and America's Public Mandate - Sepideh Saeedi, Huffington Post: “A few days ago the Washington Institute for Near East policy published a report on  the situation of the Iranian students who seek higher education in the U.S. each year. This report has been prepared mainly through personal interviews and surveys from an unknown number of Iranian students currently studying in U.S. educational institutions. ... The report makes some sensible recommendations about easing up many challenges confronting the Iranian students, who, as the author puts it, have ‘strong enough nerves’ and manage to pursue their higher education in the USA. However he emphasizes that it is necessary for the U.S. government to go through with these changes mainly in order to uphold its public diplomacy mandate aiming to reach out to the Iranian people and bring them democracy and human rights. ... Through a very instrumentalist perspective, this report recommends that the application and visa issuance for the Iranian students be eased up in order to secure and strengthen the ‘goodwill’ of the Iranian people to the U.S. and advance its public diplomacy. Needless to say that all these recommendations to policy makers in the U.S. government are long overdue and this lag has already put many of these students including myself, through countless unnecessary hardships. But naively simplifying the multitude of goals, aspirations and interests among these few thousand Iranian students is equal to bluntly stripping them from their human agency. The author believes that all these Iranian students enter the country with blank minds and automatically absorb 'American experiences and values,' although the report stays vague about what exactly these experiences and values are. Consequently, even if they are qualified enough to find a job in U.S. and successfully manage to stay in the country, or in case they have to return to Iran (due solely to the inability to find a job in the U.S.), through maintaining professional contacts and personal relationships among fellow American-educated graduates, they can serve as a critical part of the public diplomacy ‘follow-up’ and help share the internalized American values to their countrymen.” 

How the Pivot Reinforced Asian Disputes - Richard Heydarian, "After eight years of perceived foreign policy misadventure under the Bush administration, President Barack Obama promised a new era in America’s relationship with the rest of the world. Initially, his approach to international affairs was more about decoupling from the legacy of the previous administration than shaping a brave new world. Resetting relations with the Muslim world, especially the Middle East, was at the heart of the Obama's emerging strategy.  In operational terms, ending the grinding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan became the centerpiece of Washington’s new foreign policy doctrine. No degree of public diplomacy, despite Obama’s eloquence, could have concealed the ubiquity of American boots straddling the region — a great source of animosity among the Muslim world's population toward Washington.

Even more profoundly, ending the conflicts was about redressing America’s strategic overreach. The fiscal and humanitarian burden of the two wars became politically untenable for much of the American public, especially in the aftermath of the 2007-08 Great Recession. Now, it was time to refocus on the home front.  It did not take long, however, for Washington to reveal its new strategic focus. After a single roll of the dice in its nuclear diplomacy toward Iran, the Obama administration swiftly shifted its attention to an emerging and strategic region: East Asia. It soon became clear that much of Obama’s inclination toward disengaging from the Middle East had to do with his growing anxieties over China’s rising assertiveness, and the economic opportunities in the booming markets of the Pacific Rim." 
Uncaptioned image from entry

Meeting the Challenge of Chinese Expansionism on the East Asian Littoral [review research report by Dean Cheng, Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation] - John Sylvester, American Diplomacy: "As could be expected, Mr. Cheng criticizes Secretary of State Kerry for 'neglect' of East Asia. His own policy prescriptions include: More public diplomacy on our part in East Asia, including more American cultural centers in Asian universities, in the fashion of China's Confucius Institutes here. I hope Congress will take his advice and increase the Department of State budget for such."

BAC Announces Development of Sustainable Field School in Pakistan - "The Boston Architectural College is pleased to announce a major step forward in achieving the teaching, learning, research, and cultural awareness goals of the partnership between the BAC and National College of Arts-Rawalpindi (NCA) sponsored by the United States Department of State, Public Affairs Section, and U.S. Embassy Islamabad, Pakistan in their University Partnership program. One of the major objectives in the partnership is to develop a sustainable field school for architectural materials conservation education.

Facilitated by the BAC/NCA partnership, on December 26, 2013 a memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Fatima Jinnah Women's University and National College of Arts that signs over the stewardship of the historic Haveli Sujan Singh located in the old city section of Rawalpindi to NCA. ... 'When Pakistani and U.S. Partners work together to find a common purpose that brings out the best in each, and builds on the knowledge of all, clearly public diplomacy principles are at their propitious best,' stated Judith Ravin, Acting Country Cultural Affairs officer or U.S Embassy-Islamabad, in a letter dated December 28, 2013 to Dr. Nadeem Omar Tartar, Director, National College of Arts Rawalpindi." Uncaptioned image from entry

US committed to supporting Pakistan academia: Olson - "US Ambassador in Pakistan, Richard Olson paid a visit to Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur on Monday. Speaking at an interactive dialogue session with students and faculty members, Olson expressed delight at being on the varsity, the premier university of upper Sindh. He opined that in relations between US and Pakistan, both have experienced many challenging situations. Recently, successive governments in Pakistan have desired and initiated a mutual strategic dialogue. ... Ambassador Olson said, 'We remain committed to support the academia in Pakistan through our special focus on teachers training, exchange programs, Fulbright and undergraduate programmes. Also, that our special attention is for the improvement of primary health and education in the remote areas of Pakistan including Upper Sindh.' ... Olson said adding, 'We encourage for the establishment of US Universities in Pakistan with the public private cooperation and partnership.'

Also, that education is of crucial importance in Pakistan. He announced to establish TOFEL and ILETS Centre at Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur. This would go a very long way in facilitating aspiring students and scholars from the region to well-prepare, appear and qualify in these examinations. Country Director of USAID Pakistan Mr. Greg Gottlieb also enlightened students and faculty about the various projects under process in Pakistan especially the Faculty of Education at Shah Abdul Latif University. It will impart teachers training and quality education at a cutting edge level. Michael Dodman, US Consulate General, Karachi briefed that they are providing the nascent talent of high school and college students through micro English access programme and more than 70,000 students have successfully completed this programme. The highly advanced hospital complex comprising 300 beds was coming up fast at Jacobabad duly assisted by USAID." Olson image from

Ventspils, A U.S. Embassy Staff [Google "translation" from the Latvian]- "13th February Ventspils work visited the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Attaché Catherine Džīlza-Diaz and Regional Information Resource Officer Fenguss Wang

with his delegation. ... U.S. Embassy representatives meet with Ventspils University Rectors Revalde Gita, as well as high school students will present a lecture on 'U.S. Public Diplomacy.' After that, visitors from the U.S. embassy attend the Ventspils Main Library and Pārventa and the International Writers 'and Translators' House. Libraries scheduled to meet with the Ventspils City Council izpilddirkeoru A. Abel Ventspils Library Director Bud A. and I. Pārventa library directors of the Rings." Image from entry

U.S. Department of State Hosts Superheroes@State, Web Chat on Comics, Superheroes and Shared Values - Media Note, Office of the Spokesperson, Washington, DC, February 18, 2014: "On February 19, the U.S. Department of State’s Alumni Affairs Division will host a Superheroes@State web chat with Comic-Con International, at 7:30 a.m. EST. Participants will discuss comic books and superheroes as they relate to shared values in countries around the world. The Alumni Affairs Division is partnering with the Bureau of International Information Programs’ CO.NX team to create a virtual space to engage foreign publics in an interactive exchange of ideas. This is the latest in a series of web chats that promote dialogue on topics of interest to previous participants of exchange programs and their peers. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) Evan Ryan will moderate Superheroes@State, and David Glanzer, the Director of Marketing for Comic-Con International, will join her in the CO.NX studio. Exchange alumnus Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, the creator of the comic series THE 99, will participate remotely from Kuwait. Dan Panosian, the illustrator for THE 99, will select his favorite art submissions from an earlier art contest during which exchange alumni and the public submitted their own sketches of superheroes.

To learn more about the virtual event, and art contest, please visit the International Exchange Alumni Facebook event page. CO.NX is an online diplomacy team in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Information Programs that engages audiences around the world through interactive webchat programs. Comic-Con International is a nonprofit education corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms. Annual Comic-Con conventions host hundreds of thousands of comics fans, industry specialists, filmmakers, and actors." Image from, under the heading, State Department webchat to focus on superheroes

Time’s Latest Assault on Sochi and Putin: Ungodly Constructs - Phil Butler, "Somehow I knew it, about the time the Senate confirmed former Time editor Richard Stengel as chief propaganda minister for this US administration, the old 'one-two punch' of below the belt detente with Russia would continue. By 'one-two' I mean the administration appearing one way, while all media cannons continue to fire at the Putin and the Sochi games at the same time. Another case of Olympic style mud slinging, Time’s Simon Shuster turns preacher against the heathen Orthodox in Sochi, at Cathedral of the Holy Face of Christ the Savior.

The only thing left to criticize Russia about now is her past. Oh, somebody already did that too. ... Now get this, Time’s former chief honcho (Stengel) was just made Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. I guess we are supposed to believe somehow that he was appointed for his way with words, or because of a mean tee shot or tennis backhand. Meanwhile, back at the spin factory Time has become Shuster is hell-bent-for-leather to round up every negative critter he can to talk about in Sochi and in Russia. From Russia canceling homework to watch the Olympics, to a wounded and bleeding Russian hockey team staggering at losing a hockey game, this guy is the poster child for Russophobia. Or something even worse." Image from entry, with caption: Christmas services at the Church of the Acheiropaeic Image of Christ the Saviour near the Sochi Olympic Park – Kremlin Press Office

Tito — Personal Reflections - Walter R. Roberts, American Diplomacy: "In 1960, the United States Information Agency (USIA) where I was then responsible for American information and cultural programs in Central and Eastern Europe assigned me as Public Affairs Officer to the American Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. ... The space program was of particular interest to the Yugoslav hierarchy. We had the feeling that the Yugoslavs loved the idea that John Glenn was able to accomplish a task that Yuri Gagarin had achieved a year earlier on April 4, 1961.

When the actual capsule in which Glenn had orbited the earth arrived in Belgrade for exhibition at the Belgrade Fair, it was driven on a truck bed through the streets of Belgrade. We could not have asked for better public diplomacy coverage. Tito came to the Belgrade Fair for a relatively extended visit. I found him well versed in the space program expressing satisfaction that the United States was able to repeat the Soviet exploit of a year earlier. Looking closely at the capsule, I remember him saying that he would have to lose many kilos to squeeze into it. In this connection, I told Tito this joke: “After Gargrin’s [sic] exploit, he was received by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev who asked him: Comrade Gargarin, when you were up there near heaven, did you feel that God exists? Gargarin replied: Yes. Brezhnev sighed and said: I was afraid of that. A few months later, Gargarin visited the Pope. During their conversation, the Pope asked Gargarin: When you were up there near heaven, did you feel close to God? Gargarin replied: No. The Pope sighed and said: I was afraid of that. I was told that Tito repeated this story to his associates. Image from entry, with caption: May 1962. Capsule in which John Glenn orbited the earth arrives at Belgrade airport.

Nato: delegazione parlamentare italiana a Bruxelles - "La NATO infatti e' un'organizzazione che non ha solo una specificita' militare, ma contribuisce alla crescita delle istituzioni democratiche, nella consapevolezza che la sicurezza non e' mai un traguardo acquisito e scontato, ma richiede di essere costantemente alimentato, in una dimensione piu' complessiva, a partire dalla tutela dei diritti e delle liberta' fondamentali, e dalla promozione di condizioni di crescita e di sviluppo economico, sociale e civile. Per questo la NATO conta non solo sugli strumenti piu' tradizionali di interesse militare, ma anche e sempre piu' sul soft power e sulla public diplomacy. La vera sfida del dopo-2014, infatti, sara' quella di saper comunicare come le dimensioni della sicurezza siano tutte strettamente legate e vadano nell' interesse della collettivita' globale."

What Ukraine’s Crisis Means for the EU - Judy Dempsey, "Poland and Sweden, the two EU member states that spearheaded the Eastern Partnership, are attempting to force the EU’s hand over Georgia and Moldova. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, have concluded that the EU’s policy toward the region needs a radical overhaul if the bloc wants to avoid the mistakes it made in Ukraine. In early February, the two ministers presented papers on the Eastern neighborhood to their EU counterparts. Their message was clear: the EU must go on the offensive in Georgia and Moldova if it wants both countries to go through with signing the association agreements.

The Swedish document, entitled ‘20 Points on the Eastern Partnership Post-Vilnius,' proposes that the EU should embark on an intense public diplomacy campaign in Georgia, Moldova, and the other Eastern Partnership countries. The paper, already approved by a dozen other EU countries, pushes for a more open Europe that would allow student exchanges and greater opportunities for travel within the EU. ... The Polish paper looks at how EU funding should be increased and disbursed more quickly. It also argues that in the more repressive regimes, the EU should focus more on civil society. That is one of Poland’s main interests. The two papers are important because they convey a sense of urgency. They call for the EU to act now, instead of spending months issuing tenders for communications experts to carry out public diplomacy, or shifting around funding for the EU’s Eastern neighbors. On closer reading, the papers are also about countering possible Russian mischief. The two foreign ministers’ proposals—a combination of public diplomacy, more funds, a focus on concrete EU projects with a particular emphasis on civil society—are instruments aimed at opposing Moscow’s influence." Image from

In Ukraine will kill dozens of people and the alternative non-violent - Mark Perduca, Huffington Post [Google translation]: "Do you remember the 'Orange Revolution'? Do you remember the hundreds of thousands of people by the end of November 2004 through January of the year after they occupied Maidan square in Kiev to protest against the election that just before Yanukovych had elected to lead the country with a series of fraud? Do you remember the rivers of ink that was spent in support of political leaders who, for various reasons, became the representatives of that wave of popular discontent? Do you remember Viktor Yushchenko? Do you remember Yulia Timoshenko (perhaps that is)? Do you remember the dozens of academics who greeted the dawn of a new way of doing politics through peaceful demonstrations and cashed in a mountain of money to organize study groups, master, field visits, writing essays on soft power, the public diplomacy, the new dawn of the regime change, the new involvement smart CIA and the Foreign Office , the tentacles of philanthropist George Soros, et cetera? I do not think you remember them. And do you know why not remember them because, as often happens, the background, the sound takes precedence over substance going to put on a pedestal who is more capable of handling public relations rather than who genuinely attends and helps the square with the proposals policies backed by a reputation of consistently done so rooted in the principles of struggle, in this case those of non-violence policy, as the objectives to be pursued in this case, the liberal-democratic reforms for the common good. ... What you need to create a permanent mechanism for the mediation of disputes whether involving a superpower (Russia, China or Iran that is)? Or that we need to invest in non-violence? ... They are all issues worthy of national debate, but also of the general political debate, especially in a year that will have to be renewed Parliament and the European Commission."

Strategic communication at best: Sri Lanka's Amza does it again - Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune: "Sri Lanka’s Head of Mission to the European Union, Ambassador Amza has a remarkable gift of cogently presenting facts, while separating fiction, listing in a methodical manner Sri Lanka's

case largely misunderstood by the international community (meaning the West) because of this South Asian nation's utter inability to use the basics of public affairs, public diplomacy and strategic communication. ... We have proven the critics wrong, said Ambassador Amza." Image from entry, with caption: Sri Lanka’s Head of Mission to the European Union Ambassador Amza

Russian Fund for Public Diplomacy Support named after A. Gorchakov to cooperate with Civil Society of Central Asia - Anna Muratova, "The Russian Fund for Public Diplomacy Support named after A. Gorchakov intends to collaborate with the Kyrgyz Civil Society and other countries of Central Asia, the Head of the Fund Programs Natalia Burlinova, who visited our country for the

first time, reported at the meeting with non-governmental organizations representatives (NGO) of the KR. She said that the Fund implements programs on supporting youth dialogues on the Former Soviet Union republics, familiarization with foreign policy of Russia and informing of participants about possible collaboration in the sphere of public relations. " Image from

Moscow’s Customs Union Pitch Falls Flat with Bishkek Students - "The Kremlin wheeled out its soft power machine this week to make the pitch for Kyrgyzstan to join its Customs Union trade bloc. But if a recent talk by Kremlin evangelists at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek was anything to go by, the machine could use some grease. The main speaker at the February 19 event was Semyon Uralov, editor of a website close to United Russia, Vladimir Putin’s political party. While Putin has tried to assure potential members that the Customs Union – Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia – is not a Soviet Union redux, Uralov seemed to do the opposite. Quoting Engels, Marx and Lenin during a forthright speech in which he extolled the virtues of state-sponsored industry, Uralov responded to a complaint about his tone: 'I don’t hide it. I am an imperialist.' ... Uralov cited privatization of state assets in Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Ukraine – the three countries the Kremlin is pushing hardest to join its Union – as key to their economic failures. He derided Kyrgyzstan’s dependence on a significant re-export trade – one of the reasons Bishkek is thought to be stalling on entry – as something which kept Kyrgyzstanis back mentally as well as economically.   Instead of describing benefits of Customs Union membership (the body is scheduled to become the Eurasian Union next year), Uralov painted a bleaker and menacing alternative: 'Does Kyrgyzstan have the strength to preserve its own statehood? If not then I fear the corporations will arrive. Perhaps British corporations, perhaps American corporations, I don’t know.' Apparently unaware that Kyrgyzstan’s political instability and corruption is driving a downturn in foreign investment, Uralov warned that the country could face the fate of ‘our black brothers in Africa,’ where he said foreign companies had taken over the functions of governments. ... Freedom of speech ... is a 'European' principle, he [Uralov] said. 'In Eurasia we have another principle: be true to your word. When I read Ukrainian and Kyrgyz news websites I don’t see freedom of speech. I see chaos and provocative articles.' The talk was part of a series of events organized by the Moscow-based Gorchakov Foundation for Public Diplomacy. Set up in 2010 on instructions from then-President Dmitry Medvedev, the foundation describes itself as a 'unique mechanism for state-society partnerships in the sphere of foreign policy,' conducting research, leading public discussions and 'providing support for media outlets and information resources oriented toward the stated goals of the fund.'”

Comment: Hard lessons in soft power: Social media and public diplomacy are spinning a web for worldly Asian states - James Giggacher, "According to ANU researcher and international relations expert Dr Ian Hall and his co-author, Sydney-based Dr Frank Smith, states have cottoned on to the power of social media and its ability to make us all look good.  Much like Asia’s supersonic ascension to the top of the global pops, Hall and Smith argue that it’s a trend that’s on the rise in the region, with states investing in public diplomacy to help shape the opinions of foreigners. 'There are two arms races in Asia today; one for military capabilities and another for the weapons of what international relations writer Joseph S Nye famously termed ‘soft power’ – the power to attract rather than the power to coerce,' says Hall, who is based in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. 'Today, Asian states are investing in public diplomacy, through Facebook, Twitter, traditional media and academic and cultural exchanges, to build soft power.

These tools are being used by states in order to make themselves appear more attractive to people overseas and thereby increase their ability to influence international relations in their region.' Hall says that China is leading the way. But how does one take a selfie that fits in one billion people? 'China began in the late 1990s, and now stands as the region’s largest investor in various supposed instruments of soft power,' he says. 'In the space of about 15 years, it has created new foreign language TV stations, revamped its management of the foreign media, surged its student exchange programs, founded some 320 Confucius Institutes at overseas universities (with plans for another 1,000), and played host to a series of major events, including the Olympic Games.' And like most things social media, China now have their imitators. Hall says other Asian states have responded in kind. 'Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have all started spending significant sums on various aspects of public diplomacy,' says Hall. 'Even Myanmar has set up English language TV stations and acquired a social media presence. South Korea is expanding the number of King Sejong Institutes, tasked with promoting Korean language and culture, from about 35 to 150 by 2015.' ... But like a poorly thought out camera photo in the bathroom that reveals a little too much, controlling your image is harder than it looks. Often states suffer from social media smack downs and Facebook faux pas. According to Hall, the more governments try to manipulate their images, the more they alienate rather than attract foreigners in the region. ‘This is particularly true for China,’ says Hall. ‘The evidence shows that, despite all of its expenditure on public diplomacy, China has not improved its standing in foreign public opinion inside Asia. Indeed, most poll data suggests that China’s reputation in the region has worsened rather than improved. Furthermore, when we look at other states in the region, we see no favourable or obvious relationship between spending on public diplomacy and soft power status.’ According to Hall, it all leads to a big fat ‘unlike’ in soft power terms. He says that quite clearly the mix of social media and public policy isn’t great for winning new friends. ‘Public diplomacy lacks obvious benefits to states,’ says Hall. ‘Instead, what I would suggest, is that foreign public opinion in Asia, as elsewhere, is influenced more by what states do than by what they might say about themselves.’” Image from entry

Pak govt should increase education budget: Danish ambass[a]dor - "Ambassador of Denmark to Pakistan, Jesper Moller Sorensen here on Monday, highlighting the importance of education in building of a nation, suggested that Pakistan Government should increase its budget for education as this shall be the best future investment. ... Danish Ambassador said that his country was engaged in public diplomacy here at different level of the society including media- to-media contact. In 2015, his country will arrange cultural programs in Pakistan to promote people-to-people contact. He said 25,000 Pakistanis are living in Denmark which has only 5.6 million population and is spread over 450 small islands. These Pakistanis have been actively participating in the social and economic sectors there. Besides significant presence at the local governments level, one Danish of Pakistani origin is the member of Denmark parliament."

DFAT dismisses claims over thorny Aussie volunteer program - Lean Alfred Santos, "After a long wait, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade — which now oversees all foreign aid programs — finally released over a week ago the evaluation report on its controversial volunteer program, hounded by allegations of overspending, ineffectiveness and lack of support, among other issues. The document, published along with an avalanche of other reports that were supposed to be ready some time last year, dismisses most of these claims and insists the program is doing good.

'The evaluation confirmed that [the Australian Volunteers for International Development program] is making an effective contribution to Australia and partner government development objectives … It is also an effective public diplomacy mechanism.' Despite the program’s ability to add more visibility to the country’s aid efforts, 'it comes at a modest cost relative to the annual budget.' Budget for the volunteer program in 2013-2014 is around AU$65 million, up by around AU$2 million from the previous year and representing around one percent of the overall aid budget. For the core partners of the AVID program, this is a welcome development that reaffirms the effectiveness of the volunteer programs they handle. The AVID core partners include Australian Volunteers International, Austraining International and the Australian Red Cross. ... Despite the generally rosy outlook of the evaluation report, some issues that question fundamental aspects of the volunteer program raised before still remain. Among these is the government’s alleged overspending for Australian volunteers that, according to a local volunteer program previously funded by the state, defeats the purpose that volunteerism wants to achieve along with cost-efficiency and effectiveness. Local reports claimed that on average, the AVID program spends almost $60,000 per volunteer per year — an 'overboard' figure that poses the risk of losing the meaning of volunteerism in the process, according to Roger O’Halloran, executive director of Palms Australia. ... To improve the program, DFAT laid out 7 recommendations: 1. Consolidate the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program with the AVID program to avoid confusion and streamline the whole volunteer efforts. 2. Consolidate number of countries involved and explore options for managing and contracting for service provision. 3. Ensure more involvement in planning including funding, number of volunteers and host organization evaluation. 4. Implement formal support networks for volunteers and host organizations. 5. Refocus the AVID program to develop long-term capacity of host organizations. 6. Consult and seek expert advice and work together to market and promote the unified AVID program. 7. Develop and implement an effective performance-monitoring system." Image from entry, with caption: A member of the Australian Volunteers for International Development, a program criticized for allegations of overspending and ineffectiveness

Malaysia to enhance trade opportunities with Australia: Anifah - "Malaysia will enhance various opportunities in business and investment with Australia after the enforcement of the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (Mafta) on Jan 1, last year. Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said he welcomed more Australian trade missions to explore and seek the wealth of investment opportunities in Malaysia.

'Among the potential areas are financial, insurance, telecommunication and the manufacturing industries,' he told reporters at a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop . ... Earlier, Bishop, who is on her first official visit here, had made a courtesy call and held a bilateral meeting with Anifah. ... Anifah said other topics discussed at the meeting included Australia's new government foreign policy which would focus on economic diplomacy and public diplomacy via its flagship initiative, the new Colombo Plan." Image from entry, with caption: Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman (right) receives a courtesy call from Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop

Water torture for the Palestinians: Water discrimination is another tool being used to wear down the Palestinians socially and politically - Amira Hass, "The reality of disjointed Palestinian enclaves that Israel is creating is emerging – through a different patchwork of laws and to different extents on either side of the Green Line – from the seizure of land and water sources, and the denial of freedom of movement. The religion of security, which is used to justify the land theft, checkpoints and blockade, has yet to come up with an explanation for why a Palestinian child is entitled to less water than a Jewish child. What can the public diplomacy experts say? That in Jenin the average per-capita allocation is 38 liters for home consumption, because the city is a stronghold of Islamic Jihad, which threatens our small country? That in the summer there is no regular water supply because the Shin Bet security service is busy uncovering cells of armed militants, and that in Gaza, more than 90 percent of the water is unfit for drinking because the Hamas chiefs are planning terrorist attacks in the West Bank? Even the Jewish communities most dedicated to Israel will have a hard time justifying the discrepancies. And so the establishment has come up with a four-part plan of attack: 1. Bombard the media with partial and faulty statistics; 2. Blur the starting point: Israel controls the water sources. ... 3. Rely on the Israeli home front, which dismisses Palestinian reports and ignores reports from organizations such as B’Tselem – the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories ... 4. Count on most Israelis not troubling to just take a look for themselves at the actual situation."

Hard-line stance on Iran making Israel irrelevant, official says: World powers set to demand Tehran cut centrifuges and shutter Qom facility, but Israel wants zero enrichment; top US negotiator to visit Israel Sunday - Marissa Newman, "Final-status nuclear talks between six world powers and Iran are set to kick off in Geneva on Tuesday, but some Israeli officials fear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line stance may have left it unable to wield any influence among negotiators . ... The prime minister’s stance, which constitutes Israel’s official policy on the subject, came under fire a few weeks ago in a meeting on the public diplomacy regarding the talks. In the discussion, a National Security Council representative suggested revising the formal position, in light of information that the negotiating countries are not even considering demanding

complete dismantlement, according to Maariv. However, he was informed by Netanyahu’s representatives that this position constitutes both Israel’s public relations strategy and its political diplomatic approach and would not be changed. This was confirmed by a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office to the newspaper. 'Israel’s public relations effort derives from the clear-cut [political] diplomacy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established according to which Iran, the largest terror state, must not have the capability of making a nuclear weapon. The prime minister explicitly said this means zero centrifuges and the dismantlement of Iran’s other enrichment capabilities,' the statement read." Image from entry, with caption: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Memory’s messages [scroll down link for item] - Dvora Waysman, Letter to the editor, Jerusalem Post: "Uri Savir parrots the propaganda of our enemies as the solution to our 'Not so splendid isolation' (Savir’s Corner, February 14). The problem, for Savir, is the 'occupation' of a land that he doesn’t believe is ours, and the 'persecution' of another people. A 'two-state solution,' he writes, will take us 'away from the messianic illusion of a Greater Israel.' Having been the chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords, his illusion is that 'territories for peace' and 'withdrawal from the West Bank' will 'reinstate us as a respected member of the family of nations, strengthen our strategic alliance with the United States as well as our economic ties with the European Union.' It will also 'give us internationally recognized borders.' My memory

tells me that we were much more isolated and boycotted before we possessed a single centimeter of this God-given, historic land. My memory tells me that giving away territory gives us not peace, but terror. My memory tells me that Abba Eban called the pre-1967 lines 'Auschwitz borders.' What does Savir’s memory tell him? ASHER ISRAEL Jerusalem Spokespeople needed Sir, – Our hasbara (public diplomacy), or lack of it, is becoming increasingly worrisome. ... We need proactive reporting that tells the world the real story of Israel. We need spokespeople in every country who are articulate and fluent in the local language. They should initiate TV and radio appearances, and write for the papers. We have so much to be proud of, yet it remains a secret. Israel is the miracle on the Mediterranean, but only the ugly side is promoted to the world while the Arabs spend millions of dollars to sway public opinion about the 'poor Palestinians.' Unless we act decisively and intelligently, we will have no friends left in the world." Image from

Forget Sodastream, it’s all about Black Coffee - Benji Shulman, Jerusalem Post: "BDS activists learned that a well-known South African House DJ by the name of Black Coffee had included Tel Aviv on his European tour. Black Coffee had already visited several cities and was due to play in Israel the following night. ... Black Coffee has a reputation for being serious about his music, having won awards both in South Africa and with MTV Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East. This was not a person making a political statement; this was a serious cultural worker who was going where his music was most appreciated. For this reason, and this reason alone, he was targeted by the boycott movement. It was bullying, pure and simple. All the normal 'reasons' that the boycott movement give for their actions were not part of the agenda. It was not about settlements or because the Israeli government was funding the event, nor was it about hasbara (public diplomacy) regarding the territories or other politically controversial questions. In fact in an interesting resonance with his unity message was his performance itself; a German DJ at a Tel Aviv nightclub reputedly owned by an Israeli Arab. ... [T]he following appeared on Black Coffee’s Facebook page: 'I’m coming here [Israel,Tel Aviv] to perform and I hope my visit will help the process of change and promote equality, through the message of peace and love that lives in my music, if we can dance together we can live together...We Are One.' DJ Black Coffee went on to play to an entirely satisfied Israeli crowd."

How to fight Islamophobia in France? - Emre Demir, "[I]n recent years, some governments in the Muslim world -- including Turkey -- have started to exploit the fight against Islamophobia by simply using it as a public diplomacy tool to counter Western criticism on human rights violations in their own country. For example, French Muslim associations and intellectuals are often invited to state-run symposiums on Islamophobia organized in Muslim countries. In fact, this political instrumentalization does nothing but further stigmatize Muslim minorities in their own country.

To put it clearly, this way of fighting Islamophobia is legitimate. But it is limited and sometimes inappropriate. Many French people are afraid of Muslims because they simply do not know them. And many French politicians like Marine Le Pen shamefully choose to feed this fear because they simply have nothing else to offer. But it firstly belongs to French Muslims to build bridges in order to transform conflict into healthy diversity and to invest in education by developing a more pro-active and constructive discourse for this long fight." Image from entry, with caption: Marine Le Pen, a French politician and the president of the Front National (FN), notorious for her virulently Islamophobic rhetoric

Internet Freedom Just for 4 Hours - Alparslan Akkuş, Huffington Post: "One of Turkey's respected newspapers, Radikal, has started to remove its online content every four hours from its website. This is due to show what would happen if a controversial governmental bill crimping Internet comes into effect after presidential approval. It also puts a banner counting down how many days left for president's decision. Besieged by a graft probe, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is poised to introduce a new form of censorship to the Internet with a proposal included in the omnibus bill. ... Ragged by already tight regulations on the Internet, Turkey seems to suffer more since the new legislation allows government officials to block sites they deem violate personal privacy within four hours, without obtaining a court order. The government claims the new laws help to protect individual privacy, but critics and journalists consider them as an attempt to prevent leaks from the corruption investigation.

Turkey's Public Diplomacy office has sent a notice to the newspapers explaining what the new laws bring in as they come into effect saying the government pays great attention to personal privacy of its citizens. Its violation, the statement says, causes incurable harm for the subject person and must be handled promptly so as to secure the personal privacy. Whatever the office of  PD says, it is clear that the new Internet laws are tarnishing Turkey's image abroad since its Internet freedom rank drops to the level of Iran and North Korea." Image from

Speaker Al-Ghanim''s visit to Tehran successful- Amb. - "The current visit by Kuwait's National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim and his accompanying delegation to Tehran was very successful, said Kuwaiti Ambassador to Iran Majdi Al-Thifiri on Wednesday. The ambassador told (KUNA) in a statement that Al-Ghanim's participation in the ninth session of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States (PUOICM) emphasized the influence of the State of Kuwait and its ability to ensure the success of the conference and to enhance dialogue among Muslim countries. This visit came within the framework of compatibility between formal diplomatic and public diplomacy to strengthen Kuwait's regional and international role, he added."

Itamaraty's Mission - Guilherme Casarões, "One of the few certainties about Brazil’s political landscape is the timeless quality of its foreign service. The Brazilian Ministry of External Relations (also known as Itamaraty, the Modernist palace designed by Oscar Niemeyer where it is housed in Brasília) often prides itself on having some of the world’s most professional diplomats. ... Thanks to the greater complexity of Brazil’s global agenda, diplomacy went on to become, in the last two decades, a subset of foreign policy—surely, the most important one, but struggling to maintain its centrality in a context of rapid social, economic, and political transformations at home and abroad. ... Guided by the long-standing motto 'the best tradition of Itamaraty is to be able to renew itself,' several institutional adaptations were undertaken within the ministry to keep up with these changes, such as increasing the number of diplomatic positions, improving recruitment mechanisms and bureaucratic structures, as well as enhancing transparency through public diplomacy, social media, and academic publishing. For many years, the ministry’s slow but inevitable opening to democratic forces was enough to shield diplomacy from public attack, mostly so because Itamaraty still enjoyed a great deal of prestige among presidents and within the public administration. Nevertheless, with the dramatic weakening of the foreign office in the Rousseff years, it is possible to suggest that the ministry could not live up to the growing pressure to which it has been subjected—irrespective of the achievements of the institutional reforms.

The symptoms were many: from high-ranked officers being charged with misconduct to allegations of unconstitutional 'super salaries' being paid to ambassadors overseas, Itamaraty has been exposed like never before. ... Apparently, given the confluence of challenges the Brazilian diplomatic structure has to face, the time has arrived for a decisive change in how Itamaraty addresses the idea of a 'democratic foreign policy.' With improved accountability mechanisms and a renewed reputation among the general public, the Ministry of External Relations may find the necessary leverage to overcome the so-called crises and to live up to the challenges of this new century, while remaining the cornerstone of our national aspirations." Image from entry, with caption: Itamaraty Palace, Brasília, March 22, 2010

From Syria to São Paulo - Monique Sochaczewski, "The notion that Brazil’s Arab and Jewish communities are fully integrated into society, and enjoy harmonious relations, has been commonplace in Brazilian official discourse for decades. Today, the coexistence narrative helps drive and justify a more active Brazilian foreign policy regarding the issues of the Middle East. ... Public diplomacy from Arab countries increased during the 1950s to 'clarify' events in the Middle East for the Arab Brazilian community.

Meanwhile, the Arab community itself created institutions that reshaped its relations with the Middle East, such as the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, established in 1952 with the aim of strengthening economic ties between Brazil and Arab countries." Image from entry, with caption: Members of Arab and Jewish communities share a meal at a Lebanese restaurant, Rio de Janeiro, July 26, 2006.

Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era
- Joe B. Johnson, American Diplomacy: "Joe B. Johnson is an instructor at the Foreign Service Institute and a public affairs consultant to nonprofits in the Washington area. He served in four nations of Latin America during his Foreign Service career, and as deputy director of the Office of Public Diplomacy in the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau."


Russian TV program links United States to treason at home - Will Englund, Washington Post: The Rossiya 1 television channel took an 85-minute break from its Olympic coverage Monday evening to show a film called “The Biochemistry of Treason,” featuring the United States in a co-starring role. An attack on the “daily betrayals” that Russia suffers, the film argued that America has waged and still wages a cunning psychological war against this country, picking up where the Nazis left off in 1945. (This wouldn’t be Russia without a dark reference to World War II.) Americans want nothing less, it said, than the breakup of the Russian Federation. Via PK on facebook

The Tao of Political Ambassadors - Peter Van Buren, Huffington Post: Ambassadors are increasingly becoming curios left over from a distant past, before instant worldwide telephone and internet communications, before senior White House officials could jet around the world, a past when ambassadors actually had to make big decisions in far-off places.


From geography and politics to economy and lifestyle, every U.S. state  is different, but each has surprising similarities with at least one other country. We at Estately crunched big numbers and did some important science stuff to determine the foreign country that has the most in common with each U.S. state. From

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