Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A changing culture in diplomacy?

Florangel Rosario Braid, "A changing culture in diplomacy?" Manila Bulletin

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I think it was only after the President expressed in expletives, his negative reaction to the criticism made by the United Nations Secretary Ban-Ki-Moon and two UN rapporteurs on his abuse of human rights, and after an interview with a foreign correspondent where he again felt provoked by what he thought was interference by the United States on our sovereignty, that some of us began to worry about the potential impact of his response on our image in the international community. We shall see in the months ahead whether in fact, the so-called CNN Effect (a theory in media studies and political science which postulates that the 24-hour international channel Cable News Network or CNN has a major impact on the conduct of a foreign policy) really works. As we had seen, CNN, BBC, and other global media immediately carried the news on prime broadcast and front pages all over the world.

What is happening today is a quiet revolution in politics and diplomacy — a shift from traditional diplomacy towards public diplomacy where the mass media are at centerstage and appear to be the primary instruments. For undoubtedly, the media and the new information technology are changing the concept of power and the conduct of international relations. The untrammeled flow of information is defining and at the same time altering existing power and social structures in our society. While openness and transparency provides opportunities in international relations, we also realize that these are challenges because of the risks involved. Disclosure of diplomatic secrets as we have seen in cases like Wikileaks, has expanded security because it has created negative impact to the country but a welcome outcome to those who value democratic and open systems.

Another element in this shift in public diplomacy is the use of “soft power” or the so-called cultural diplomacy as it is power that grows out of one’s culture and domestic and foreign policy values.

In our culture, this “soft power” which we wield in our relationship with others, is anchored on cultural values such as empathy, ability to anticipate or get out of a difficult situation, learning to withhold one’s opinion, and avoiding conflict by not responding at a time when one is stressed. It is the capacity to achieve one’s purpose or goals and the ability to get others to do what they otherwise would not do.

These changes have given rise to questions such as: How will the new and expanded media landscape influence foreign policy? Will international media play an important role in mediating relations between nations? Is digital diplomacy a harbinger of global media diplomacy? Should international organizations re-examine their diplomatic strategies? How can the new media become integrated into conventional forms of public diplomacy?

I could not think of anyone better qualified than former Representative Teddy Boy Locsin as our Philippine ambassador to the United Nations. It is an inspired move, Mr. President. He has an impressive background in law, government (executive and legislative), and the academe. Above all, he is ideal for the job in light of what we had just said about the pivotal role of media in international relations. Mr. Locsin as many know, spent many years of his professional life as a media executive (publisher of Today) and as a columnist and media analyst of public affairs.

The UN’s influence as many know, extends beyond the traditional corridors of power in the General Assembly and Security Council as it has 15 specialized agencies which assist the member countries of the world find solutions to some of the most pressing global problems – agriculture and food, education, culture, science and communication, health, nutrition, population, women and children, environment, labor, industry, etc., and 30 affiliated organizations and intergovernmental agencies.

We are, therefore, gratified that the President had appointed a very good man and one who can certainly help move the country forward towards the vision of sustainable peace and economic progress.

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