Friday, December 4, 2015

Indonesian and Australian public diplomacy: a knowing attempt to master the impossible

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Dewar, Brooke
 Globalisation has collided with the traditional diplomacy of secretive communications between governments, requiring a new paradigm more suited to a world where power is dispersed between various actors on the international scene as well as nation-states, and where public opinion has become influential. This new paradigm is referred to as public diplomacy - the process by which governments communicate with foreign publics to advance their interests, through the power of foreign public opinion on those states directly as well as by way of their influence on their own governments. The theory of public diplomacy posits four criteria for effective public diplomacy, each a response to a particular barrier to public diplomacy. In order to overcome the effect of culturally acquired, embedded preconceptions of national groups or issues, public diplomacy must challenge these preconceptions. Culture also acts as a barrier by shaping perception, particularly through language; public diplomacy must be sensitive to these culturally specific perceptions. Public diplomacy must also inspire trust in its audience and must therefore maintain its credibility, ensuring its consistency with foreign policy. Finally, as a general solution to these issues, public diplomacy must work towards the long-term establishment of a climate that is sympathetic to the nation's foreign policy. Yet the practise of Indonesian public diplomacy in Australia and Australian public diplomacy in Indonesia suggests that even abiding by these criteria is not sufficient to ensure successful public diplomacy; conveying a message effectively to a chosen section of the foreign public. Beyond the theory of public diplomacy lies a void in which the difficulty of public diplomacy cannot be explained by theories or mitigated by techniques that they might suggest. The barriers preventing successful public diplomacy can be so deeply entrenched that the only way to practise public diplomacy, beyond shaping its message to suit the criteria, is to practise public diplomacy with relentlessness. In these circumstances, public djplomacy becomes an attempt to master what appears to be impossible, conveying a message that is clearly unlikely to be accepted on a large scale. Public diplomacy is then necessarily constant, albeit gradual and often ineffective on anything other than a personal basis. As a consequence of this difficulty, whilst public diplomacy is widely acknowledged as important it is practised side by side with traditional diplomacy, often seeming to take a back seat to the specific and immediate actions and effects of traditional diplomacy. Where the barriers to successful public diplomacy are deeply entrenched, public diplomacy must be seen not as a technique of diplomacy or communication or power or influence, nor a pointed strategy or series of planned actions, but as part of the fabric of world politics; a constant effort to communicate through difficult barriers.

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