Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Soft Touch in the Pacific: Australia's public diplomacy in the South Pacific


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 Australia is historically and geographically bound to the South Pacific. The stability and security of our island neighbours is vital to Australia's national interests. However, in the Twenty First Century, this relationship is under new strain. The friendship and mutual respect that has characterised the relationship for decades has begun to erode. Signs of this erosion can be witnessed in the rising influence of sub-regionalism, new bodies of Pacific island representation that exclude Australia and New Zealand at the UN, and a faltering support for Australia's lead on initiatives in the region. Increasingly fixated on Asia, our neighbours are critically reflecting on the traditionally dominant role Australia has played in regional policymaking. Australia must make what has historically been a 'privileged' relationship its Pacific island neighbours much more effective to meet the challenges of the Twenty First Century. It must find nuanced, innovative and innovative responses to regional issues that will allow the relationship to overcome obstacles and grow stronger. It will be proposed that most sophisticated way to achieve this is by practicing soft power. Soft power, the power of 'attraction' in international relations, provides a means of reconnecting the Pacific to Australia's objectives on both a regional and international scale. This paper will focus on public diplomacy, which has been described as 'a practical manifestation of the use of soft power.' ... In the global information age, soft power and public diplomacy are increasingly vital instruments of foreign policy. An examination of public diplomacy in Australia reveals a fundamental failure to appreciate the importance of this foreign policy tool. Australia public diplomacy program is underfunded and strategically incoherent. We have failed to grasp the importance of technological changes in the way diplomacy in general and public diplomacy in particular are now conducted most effectively, and our most significant public diplomacy effort, the Australia Network, has been under-resourced for decades. Without a deeper and more sophisticated consideration of global trends toward soft power and public diplomacy, Australia will struggle to re-establish itself as a leader in its regional setting. It is time that Australia caught up with the global trend toward public diplomacy and used it to repair and strengthen its relationship with the South Pacific. This paper will propose four recommendations for the improvement of Australia's public diplomacy capacity: 1. Greater coordination of Australia's public diplomacy program 2. Establishment o f an Office of eDiplomacy 3. Review of the content and purpose of the Australia's international broadcaster, Australia Network 4. Evaluation of DFAT's public diplomacy programs [.]

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