Sunday, July 31, 2016

When soft diplomacy meets with public diplomacy: European sport diplomacy perspective

Thierry Zintz, "When soft diplomacy meets with public diplomacy: European sport diplomacy perspective,"

image from article

The end of the Cold War changed the global political environment and the way international actors manage their relationships. The approach of diplomacy is getting softer: diplomatic work has expanded from solving problem between states to bridging gaps between peoples, and there has been an increase in the scope and diversity of diplomatic actors (Zhang, 2013). Sport organizations, like many other parts of the society, begin to realize that they can play a part in diplomacy and help build a better world. Recent cases concerning the Olympic Movement include the agreement between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations (UN) to strengthen collaboration in using sport as tool for peace and development (IOC, 2014 & UN, 2014).
To understand the role of sport as a tool of diplomacy, we introduce two important concepts, soft power and public diplomacy.
1. Soft Power
Joseph Nye (2004) defined soft power at the end of the Cold War as “the nation’s ability to obtain its desired outcome not through coercion or payment, but through attraction, particularly through the attraction of its culture, its political values and its domestic and foreign policies”.
According to Nye (2004), a nation’s soft power rests not only in the hands of the state actors (government agencies), but also in the hands of the various non-state actors (businesses, individuals, non-governmental organizations, etc.).
Nye (2004) considers popular culture such as popular sport aims to entertain the general public. It plays an important part in communicating values and is a source of cultural soft power.
2. Public Diplomacy
Public diplomacy is defined as the mechanisms short of war used by an international actor (state, international organization, non-governmental organization, multi-national cooperation or other player on the world stage) to manage the international environment.
Public diplomacy has various core approaches (Cull, 2009). Exchange diplomacy is one of them and refers to exchanges of visits between citizens of different countries to generate international understanding (exchanges often overlap with cultural work, and can also be used for advocacy purposes).
3. Soft diplomacy meeting public diplomacy
We focus on cultural diplomacy and exchange diplomacy in the context of sport soft diplomacy. Cultural diplomacy has been revered for creating experiences rather than simply transmitting information:
• First, sport can play a part in soft power diplomacy, because it can be a source of cultural soft power.
• Second, sport can play a part in public diplomacy, because it works in line with cultural diplomacy and exchange diplomacy.
Regardless of the form, it is argued that sport works softly as a diplomatic lubricant. Sport can create public interest and public goodwill, and appeal directly to the general public, so as to provide a favorable environment for a nation to manage its international relations. Though rarely itself a sufficient condition for diplomacy, sport can be effective in facilitating changes or increasing momentum in diplomatic practices (Cha, 2009).
4. A European strategy for sport diplomacy: the 2016 High Level Group on Sport Diplomacy (HLG SD) proposals
The HLG SD stated that “because the EU foreign policy objectives and sport values do match, (…) sport can help the EU reach many of its external political ambitions. Sport can be an element of dialogue with partner countries and third countries as part of the EU’s diplomacy. It can facilitate the EU’s and it’s Member States’ relations with the wider world” (…) “In its dialogue with sports bodies, the EU does and should seek to promote its values, including its over-arching concerns of peace, democracy and respect for human rights, and its sports related values of good governance, fairness, openness, wide participation and solidarity”.
High Level Group Handover Ceremony

The HLG SD also considered that “Some of (its) recommendations have been designed to be implemented in the short term, within the current EU Budgetary Plan, while others will require vision and political support in the long-term (…). This global long-term strategy for external action of the EU through sport will be a litmus test for the willingness of the Commission and Council to seize the opportunity provided by the Lisbon Treaty for using sport as an efficient soft diplomacy instrument”.
The recommendations as stated hereunder are accompanied by the description of supporting means. They are of course proposals to the Commissioner and it will be the Commissioner’s decision to take these recommendations into consideration for further development.
External relations
1. Ensure that sport is fully taken into account in the agreements with 3rd countries
2. Mainstream sport in the EU External Relations funding programmes, Consider the extension of Erasmus+ programme
3. Provide technical and policy support to 3rd country public authorities and sports organisations implementing sports-based projects
4. Organise a high level sports diplomacy conference. Maintain on-going good relations with relevant sports bodies, stakeholders and Council of Europe
5. Promote legal / circular migration through sport 
6. Bestow awards to projects and initiatives from civil society 
7. Develop communication tools. Include a specific session on sport and development in the annual EU Development Days
Major Sport Events and Advocacy
8. Support projects relating to the staging of major sport events, including pre-event, side event and legacy activities
9. Take forward the recommendations of the various expert groups established under the 2nd EU Work Plan for Sport as well as Conclusions adopted by the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council
10. Recognise the potential of sport, and specifically the staging of major sport events, as an important aspect of EU economic diplomacy and influence effort 
11. Create a network of sport ambassadors including current as well as former athletes and coaches, to promote EU values through sport
Organisational culture of sport diplomacy
12. Develop the European dimension in sport by mainstreaming sport into relevant EU policies and funding programmes. Feature the word “Sport” in the title of the DG Education and Culture. Give sport diplomacy a priority status in the next EU Work Plan for Sport. Refer to the potential of sports diplomacy in the EU Foreign Affairs strategy and the EU Human Rights Action Plan when it is next reviewed
13. Establish a group of experts on Sport Diplomacy
14. Include sport into the portfolio of Delegation officers 
15. Raise awareness in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of EU Member States
Cha, V. D. (2009). Beyond the Final Score: the Politics of Sport in Asia. New York: Columbia University Press.
Cull, N. J. (2009). Public Diplomacy: Lessons from the Past. Los Angeles: Figueroa Press. 
International Olympic Committee. (2014). IOC and UN Secretariat agree historic deal to work together to use sport to build a better world. Retrieved July 20, 2015, from
Nye, J. S. (2004). Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. New York: PublicAffairs. 
US Department of State. (2013). U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange (CPE). Retrieved July 20, 2015, from – visited 27/10/2015
Zhang, Q. (2013). Sports Diplomacy: The Chinese Experience and Perspective. Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 8, 211-233.

No comments: