Thursday, April 27, 2017

Public Diplomacy’s 100 Days

Joe Johnson,

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Thursday, April 27th 2017
Donald J. Trump employs public diplomacy as much as any President we’ve seen.  Yet his public diplomacy staff has not faced so much uncertainty in decades.
The State Department, supposed leader for the United States outreach to the rest of the world, named a new press spokesperson this week: one of the first political appointees to join Secretary Rex Tillerson.   Secretary Tillerson has placed a highly respected ambassador in charge of the PD apparatus for the time being.  However, broader guidelines going beyond the press briefings are skimpy.
Except for one bold marker.  A budget is the clearest statement of priorities.  On that basis, the White House has expressed little need of public diplomacy.  Its initial budget request called for the elimination of all educational and cultural exchange programs except for the Fulbright exchange of scholars, on top of a 30 percent across-the-board cut in Department resources.
There will of course be debate in Congress, and there are rumors of adjustments in the Administration’s initial proposal.  But the current situation is hard to explain.
Given the silence so far on this issue, it’s possible that the nation’s core public diplomacy enterprise will be ignored during the upcoming budget cycle.  By “core,” I mean the public diplomacy staff deployed abroad, their support staff in Washington, and the information, education and cultural programs they administer.
Maybe White House budget planners found it hard to wrap their minds around nearly 200 programs at U.S. missions around the world.  A Heritage Foundation article about State Department reorganization said to be influential with the new Administration deals only with international broadcasting in its section on public diplomacy.
That overlooks more than 3,000 public diplomacy personnel based in 188 U.S. embassies and missions abroad and in the United States. Their job is to shape the narrative and to build relationships with foreign audiences in places including China, Russia, Israel and other nations where the Administration seeks influence.
These talented Americans and foreign nationals advocate our interests through every means of communication from Twitter to tours of the U.S.A.  They do a lot of listening, too, and not just through polls. Some local employees are connected to very prominent leaders in their host countries.
In Washington, it’s easier to view audience statistics of the Voice of America and other U.S. broadcasters to make judgments about “ROI”.  Despite ongoing efforts, no one has found a dashboard for retail public diplomacy.
This Administration above all should understand that retail is where sales are made.
To accomplish the Administration’s goals in Korea, China, Syria and other places, America will need friends going well beyond a handful of personal relationships between presidents and foreign ministers.  PD’s value proposition is building networks of leaders who understand us and are inclined to support our needs and policies.  Embassies count influential contacts in the millions because of steady effort since the post-Word War II era.
Even thinking of domestic politics, public diplomacy coincides with campaign themes of the new Administration. 
·      Informing and influencing political and economic leaders in other countries aligns perfectly with America First.   And polls indicate that 90 percent of Americans support continued U.S. global leadership.
·      The nearly $600 million budget for education and cultural exchange brings foreigners here for visits and then sends them back to their home countries with better understanding of U.S. policies and priorities (think trade and immigration).  Over four hundred current or former heads of state and government have participated, starting with Chinese President Xi.
·      Foreign students in the U.S. have been contributing more than $30 billion to the U.S. economy.  They’re creating jobs in all the states of the Union.
I worked in public diplomacy for 33 years and saw it advance the agenda for seven presidents, Republican and Democrat.  This Administration should undertake a careful review before it dismantles a prime instrument of national power.

Ben Franklin’s heirs: Neglecting the State Department does real damage

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America has a proud and effecive [sic] tradition of diplomacy. It is being traduced

FEW Americans would have known it, but on New Year’s Eve their diplomats probably prevented scores of killings in central Africa, and perhaps a war. 

President Joseph Kabila, Congo’s long-stay autocrat, had refused to leave power, as he was obliged to do. Angry protesters were taking to the streets of Kinshasa and Mr Kabila’s troops buckling up to see them there. Yet through a combination of adroit negotiating and the high-minded pushiness that comes with representing a values-based superpower, Tom Perriello, the State Department’s then special envoy for the Great Lakes, and John Kerry, the then secretary of state, helped persuade Mr Kabila to back down. The resulting deal, brokered by the Catholic church, committed Mr Kabila to a power-sharing arrangement and retirement later this year. That would represent the first-ever peaceful transition in Congo. But it probably won’t happen.

Three weeks later, Donald Trump became president and the State Department’s 100-odd political appointees, including Mr Kerry and Mr Perriello, shipped out. That is normal in American transitions. But the most senior career diplomats were also pushed out, which is not. And only Mr Kerry has so far been replaced, by Rex Tillerson, a well-regarded former boss of Exxon Mobil. He had no ambition to be secretary of state—or knew he was being interviewed for the job—until Mr Trump offered it to him. Now installed as the voice of American foreign policy, he has maintained, notwithstanding his undoubted qualities, an oilman’s aversion to public scrutiny. He rarely speaks to journalists or visits American embassies on his trips abroad. He appears absorbed by the ticklish task of arranging a 31% cut in his department’s budget, which Mr Trump will shortly propose to Congress. 

The vacant positions—in effect, almost the State Department’s entire decision-making staff of under-secretaries, assistant secretaries and ambassadors—are being covered by mid-ranking civil servants, who lack the authority, or understanding of the administration’s plans, to take the initiative. America’s diplomatic operation is idling at best. A sense of demoralisation—described in interviews with a dozen serving and former diplomats—permeates it. “I went to a policy planning meeting the other day and we spent half the time talking about someone’s bad back,” says a diplomat. “We’ve never been so bereft of leadership,” says another. A third predicts a wave of resignations.

Ben Franklin’s heirs

To allies, the fallout from this neglect is less obvious. American diplomacy has become more passive than bungling. The American ambassador is still the most powerful foreign diplomat in just about any country, says a senior European politician. Still, there are costs to the administration’s mismanagement of the State Department, including, for example, in Congo. After America went quiet on him, Mr Kabila sabotaged the power-sharing agreement, renewing the prospect of violence.

The scale of the assault Mr Trump has launched on the State Department is unprecedented, yet consistent with a decades-old trend. The National Security Council, which has swollen from a staff of 20 in the late 1960s to over 400 under Barack Obama, has supplanted it as the primary instrument of foreign-policymaking. Spending on diplomacy has been slashed in relative terms; in 1950, when American diplomats were overseeing the reconstruction of Europe and a propaganda war against the Soviet Union, it was half that of the defence budget; now, at less than 1% of the federal budget, it is only a tenth as large. This diminution is in part the result of large forces, including globalisation and communications technology. Most federal agencies, including the Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security, now communicate with their foreign counterparts directly, not, as they once did, through diplomats. “Foreign policy has become an all-government affair—every department is doing diplomacy and it’s not clear that the State Department is the most influential,” says Jeremy Shapiro, a former State Department adviser now at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The result is a diplomatic cadre in reduced circumstances and exposed to political attack—yet which still performs, as Mr Perriello’s brief triumph in Congo illustrates, important feats that no other agency can.

The department’s Republican critics accuse it of behaving like a liberal think-tank, wont to lobby for exciting foreign interests, instead of pursuing America’s. “The biggest problem with American diplomats is clientitis—they go native,” says a former ambassador. Yet that view, though indisputably valid at times, takes little account of the slow-moving and densely political nature of much of the department’s work. There are few straightforward “America First” wins in diplomacy. And if more focused agencies such as the CIA and defence department, specialists in catching terrorists and dropping bombs, are easier to explain, they are also frequently prone to short-termism and error. It is doubtful that either could have prevailed with Mr Kabila; it would not have occurred to them to try. Yet such diplomatic efforts also have security implications for America. As James Mattis, the defence secretary, once noted while admonishing Congress: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

The objective should be to preserve the State Department’s distinctive strengths, while tailoring it to its altered circumstances. A report last year by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, included useful recommendations on how this might be attempted. To avoid duplication, it suggested trimming the department’s 68 special envoys and advisers. To obtain better value for money, it proposed a review of State’s contributions to multilateral agencies, an exercise that led Britain to cut its support for four UN agencies. To counter some of the damaging effects of the internet, it recommended increasing public diplomacy—which the State Department could do with in America, as well as abroad, to counter its poor standing compared with the country’s lionised soldiers. To streamline top-level decision-making, Heritage also suggested eliminating one of the department’s two deputy posts, the deputy secretary for management and resources. Even diplomats who disagree with these suggestions consider them broadly reasonable. While speaking up for the value of the deputy secretary position, Heather Higginbottom, who until recently occupied it, conceded: “But these things happen and it wouldn’t be the biggest loss.” Yet this sort of sensible institutional reform is not what the Trump administration appears to have in mind.

It needs money to fund a promised $54bn increase in defence spending, and sees the State Department budget as one of the few places it can get it. It appears scarcely to have considered the consequences of its intended raid. “This is a hard-power budget, not a soft-power budget,” was the most Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, had to offer. That is precisely the knuckleheaded trade-off Mr Mattis advised against—a point since reiterated by over 120 retired generals and admirals, who have urged the administration to rethink.

Mr Tillerson, who seems hardly to have resisted the proposed cut, has also said little about how he would implement it. His advisers are said to be using the Heritage recommendations as a guide, however, which suggests a lot of top-level job cuts are in the offing. There is also an expectation that unfavoured departments dealing with climate change policy, and perhaps human rights, will be axed or amalgamated. A related plan, leaked to Foreign Policy, envisages cutting aid to developing countries by a third. It would also shrink America’s overseas aid agency, USAID, and roll it into the State Department.

Congress is unlikely to approve such drastic measures. Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator prominent in foreign affairs, describes Mr Trump’s budget proposals as “dead on arrival”. Even so, says a well-placed Republican aide, there is an expectation on Capitol Hill that aid and diplomatic spending will take a cut. Meanwhile the running down of America’s diplomacy, a great tradition which brought France into the War of Independence and helped build the international system after the second world war, continues.

One of the Trump administration’s better ideas was to reduce the power of the NSC, in order to bolster the inter-agency policymaking process, and thereby the agencies themselves. In the case of the defence department, whose vastness and military spine make it less vulnerable to traumatic transitions, this seems to be happening. Mr Mattis is getting high marks for pushing decision-making down to lower levels. But the State Department, having hardly anyone in place to represent it forcefully in the inter-agency process and little clarity on what the government’s foreign policy is, is ceding even more power to the NSC. It is an astonishingly careless way to treat an institution that, whatever its weaknesses, America needs.

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline "A tradition traduced"

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy; Notice of Charter Renewal


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[Federal Register Volume 82, Number 79 (Wednesday, April 26, 2017)]
[Page 19309]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office []
[FR Doc No: 2017-08384]



[Public Notice: 9975]

U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy; Notice of Charter

The Department of State has renewed the Charter for the U.S.
Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. The bipartisan commission
appraises U.S. Government activities intended to understand, inform,
and influence foreign publics. The Advisory Commission may conduct
studies, inquiries, and meetings, as it deems necessary. It may
assemble and disseminate information and issue reports and other
publications, subject to the approval of the Chairperson, in
consultation with the Executive Director. The Advisory Commission may
undertake foreign travel in pursuit of its studies and coordinate,
sponsor, or oversee projects, studies, events, or other activities that
are necessary to fulfill its functions.

The Commission consists of seven members appointed by the
President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The
members of the Commission shall represent the public interest and shall
be selected from a cross section of educational, communications,
cultural, scientific, technical, public service, labor, business, and
professional backgrounds. Not more than four members shall be from any
one political party. The President designates a member to chair the

The current members of the Commission are: Mr. Sim Farar of
California, Chairman; Mr. William Hybl of Colorado, Vice-Chairman;
Ambassador Lyndon Olson of Texas; Ambassador Penne Korth-Peacock of
Texas; Ms. Anne Terman Wedner of Illinois; and Ms. Georgette Mosbacher
of New York. One seat on the Commission is currently vacant. To request
further information about the meeting or the U.S. Advisory Commission
on Public Diplomacy, you may contact its Executive Director, Shawn
Powers at

Shawn Powers,
Executive Director, Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Department
of State.
[FR Doc. 2017-08384 Filed 4-25-17; 8:45 am]

$7000 booze bill for NZ's Trump bash

Craig McCulloch,

Taxpayers forked out more than $7000 on alcohol for guests at a glitzy party in Washington celebrating US President Donald Trump's inauguration.
NZ-branded napkins at the Washington gala.
According to official documents, New Zealand spent $750 on customised napkins for the Inauguration Gala on 17 January in Washington.Photo: Facebook / NZ Embassy Washington
The government has released a complete breakdown of spending on the function in response to an Official Information Act request, after earlier confirming the total bill topped $80,000 ($US58,247).
Among the costs were $690 ($US478) on VIP pins, $750 ($US520) on customised napkins and $1780 ($US1235) to hire foliage.
More than 320 people attended the four-hour gala on 17 January, including actors, business people and government figures, hosted by New Zealand ambassador Tim Groser.
A February briefing, released along with the cost breakdown, anticipated "intense" media interest and noted that alcohol cost less than 10 percent of the total budget at slightly more than $7000 ($US4890).
That included more than $2500 ($US1765) on spirits and about $650 ($US450) on champagne.
The guests also polished off about 100 bottles of red wine - a 2014 pinot noir from Otago's Peregrine Winery - at a cost of about $1890 ($US1311).
Another $1520 ($US1057) was shelled out to provide white wine - a Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc from Marlborough and a chardonnay from Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson.
Ten waitstaff and five bartenders helped serve the guests over the night at a cost of about $5900 ($US4110).
The food bill topped $8240 ($US5720) and about $1800 ($US1250) was spent on valet parking.
The largest cost by far was $23,670 ($US16,445) to hire furniture, followed by $8520 ($US5917) for the marquee.
Tim Groser (right) with US actor Jon Voight at the Washington gala.
Tim Groser, right, with US actor Jon Voight at the Washington gala. Photo: Facebook / NZ Embassy Washington
The total bill was covered by the New Zealand Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's public diplomacy fund.
The February briefing said the embassy had cleared the budget with the ministry before the event and had "flagged sensitivities".
Funding came from within MFAT's baseline budget and met standard approval criteria, the ministry said.
"The event was considered as a constituency building activity to position New Zealand's interests effectively with the new US administration and Congress."
The embassy noted it had received "positive feedback" from guests about the function including from Air New Zealand's chief marketing officer, Mike Tod.
It also touted the "key US influencers" in attendance, including Mr Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon and New Zealand-born assistant Chris Liddell.
More than 320 people attended the gala in Washington, hosted by NZ ambassador Tim Groser.
More than 320 people attended the gala, including actors, business people and government figures. Photo: Facebook / NZ Embassy Washington
An article in the Washingtonian in January described the New Zealand Inauguration Gala as the beginning of the "party circuit" for many.
"Ambassador Tim Groser made no attempt to hide his elation about the evening's guest list," the report said.
"He regaled the crowd with the story of how he first snagged Trump's cell phone number (he knew a guy who knew a guy) and professed his own thrill about the end of 'PC' culture."
The article reported that Mr Groser told the crowd, "Getting access to Trump will be everybody's ambition... We have got off to a flying start."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Students Win Awards for Political, Sports Communication in New Orleans; on Emerson College, see.

April 24, 2017 [JB - pardon lack of focus of images]

Recipients of Emerson's 2017 David P. Twomey III Award in Public Diplomacy. Left to right, Ian Sutherland, Shapard Vargo (from Blanquerna), Niko Emack-Bazelais, IABD President Paul Fadil, Elias Romanos, and Ethan Michaud. Courtesy photo.

Four Emerson students won an award for public diplomacy, and a number of students and faculty from Emerson’s School of Communication presented on the College’s new academic initiatives and immersive experiences, at the International Academy of Business Disciplines (IABD) annual conference in New Orleans earlier this month.
The IABD is a nonprofit organization that looks to “foster education” in the fields of management, marketing, economics, finance, accounting, management information systems, and communications.
Communication Studies Chair Greg Payne is on the IABD Board of Directors and is a former president of the organization, according to the website. He also served as chair of the Health Communication and Public Policy track at the April 6-8 conference, and led a discussion with Jennifer Summary of Culver-Stockton College on “Intercultural Communication: Bridging the Divide.”
Niko Emack-Bazelais '19, Ethan Michaud '19, Elias Romanos '17, and Ian Sutherland '17 won the David P. Twomey Award for Public Diplomacy. The award, named for a former Emerson graduate assistant who died suddenly in 2009 after contracting the H1N1 virus, is presented by the IABD in honor of Twomey's leadership in social media and new technology.
Twomey established the IABD Press Project, through which Emerson students reported on the conference, created conference webpages, and disseminated the coverage on social media, Payne said.
In addition, Jane Pierce Saulnier '90 MA '92, senior lecturer in Communication Studies, was presented with the IABD's Global  Communication Award, along with Jennifer Summary of Culver-Stockton College.
Romanos ’17, a Political Communication major, and Michaud ’19, a Sports Communication major, joined Shepard Vargo, a student from Blanquerna, Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, with whom Emerson has a partnership, to present “Student Perspective: The Emerson-Barcelona Sports Communication Workshop.”
During the same session, Payne presented “Reflections on the Second Annual Global Summit: Blanquerna, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona – Emerson College, Boston.”
Romanos also presented “Down Ballot Voter Roll Off and Communication Strategies to Combat It,” and joined Political Communication majors Connor Dane ’18 and Emack-Bazelais ’19 for “Immersive Emerson: Election Debrief,” during the all-Emerson 2016 Election Primary/Caucus Workshop session.
Also presenting during the same session were Emack-Bazelais on “Achieving Results: The Challenges of Combating Extremist Social Media in the 21st Century.” Payne and Abhishek Suryawanshi, a graduate student in Communications of Arts Management, joined Enric Ordeix, a faculty member from Ramon Llull who visited Emerson last fall, for “U.S. State Department/Emerson College 2016 Election Project.”
In the Launching New Academic/Immersive Programs session, Michaud presented “Grassroots Student Leadership: Sports Communication at Emerson College,” and Josiah Seet ’19, a Communication Studies major, and Aaron Van Leesten ‘19, a Media Arts Production major, talked about “ESports in Academia: Students’ Pespective [sic].” Payne opened the session with (via Skype) Senior Scholar-in-Residence Spencer Kimball and Pawtucket Red Sox President Charles Steinberg, leader of Emerson’s new Sports Communication program, with “Launching Sports Communication Program at Emerson College”
Uyen Le, a 2016 Marketing Communication graduate, presented “Christian Dior as a Luxury Brand on Social Media: Observation and Analysis.”

Note: This story was edited from the original to include the correct Twomey Award presented to the students. 
Senior lecturer in Communication Studies Jane Pierce Saulnier, left, winner of the Global Communication Award, poses with IABD President Paul Fadil and Jennifer Summary, faculty member at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. Courtesy photo. 

Highlighted Oral History: Jack Harrod

image from adst [Association for Diplomacy Studies and Training) homepage; on Benjamin Franklin as America's first "public diplomat," see.

Highlighted Oral History: Jack Harrod

soviet posterBorn in Chicago, John "Jack" Harrod went to Grinnell College, Colgate, Moscow State University and Georgetown before joining the Peace Corps. In the Foreign Service as a public diplomacy officer with the United States Information Agency, he served at U.S. embassies in Moscow, Kabul, Poznan, Warsaw and Brussels.

Here's an excerpt from his days in the former Soviet Union: "As the exhibit would go from city to city, some of the cities had obviously a much tougher KGB contingent than others. There were certain cities where we would have almost no security problems at all and some where it was a daily struggle to try to keep the goons out. We had other kinds of security problems, in the sense of people who visited our exhibit and asked particularly provocative questions, who were obvious plants, or some innocent people who asked the wrong kinds of questions who literally would get beat up in the parking lot outside the exhibit. We saw lots of fairly nasty things, which helped shape my view of the former Soviet Union."

To see the entire list of oral histories, please follow the link.

This week in Congress: Will the Government Shut Down?

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H.R. 534 -- Expresses the "sense of Congress" that the US should rejoin the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) to promote public diplomacy, global branding, and tourism to the United States. The point of this is so the US can host a "World Expo." There is nothing in the text of the bill expressing the sense of Congress as to how to pay the costs of rejoining this BIE.

The bill does say that rejoining the BIE will promote "economic growth." This is the latest example of the "that which is not seen fallacy." Everyone sees the jobs and business created by the BIE, but no one sees the jobs and business that would have been created had the resources spent by the BIE been left in the private sector. ...

Open Access and Open Educational Resources: OA Publishing @ SU

Exchange: The Journal of Public Diplomacy Forum to share research and experience in public diplomacy and related fields, such as international relations, public relations, public affairs, media studies, cultural studies, economics, and nation branding. ...

Turkey’s diaspora engagement policy under the Justice and Development Party

Bahar Baser,

uncaptioned image from article

Over the last couple of decades, academics have been trying to understand and interpret the mechanisms behind sending-states’ policies on outreach to their citizens abroad, and how diaspora-building policies are cultivated by political actors in the homeland. Home states have been establishing institutions and other state-initiated mechanisms which motivate and control emigrants’ social, political and economic contributions to national interests. Among these home states is Turkey, which has been engaging with its citizens abroad since the 1960s. This engagement has evolved and experienced various policy shifts over the last 50 years. Since the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi – AKP) came to power in 2002, Turkey has been revising its policy towards its citizens abroad via both discursive references and policy changes and is on its way to establishing a coherent and systematic emigration and diaspora engagement policy which emphasises cultural, political and socio-economic ties.
Turkey has maintained relations with its citizens abroad since the beginning of the ‘guest worker’ programmes in the 1960s; however, state engagement with these populations has changed over the last decade. This is reflected in AKP politicians’ speeches as well as in newly emerging policies that directly address the diaspora communities abroad. These are policies to both build and engage the diaspora, and include mechanisms of reviving and emphasising cultural heritage, the shared past and values, as well as creating dedicated institutions to monitor these tasks. Although in line with current neo-liberal trends across other countries in the so-called ‘Global South’, Turkey’s diaspora-making policies are also a mirror of its fragmented political and social culture.


In the 1960s, in order to decrease unemployment and benefit from remittances as tools of development, the Turkish state promoted emigration through bilateral labour agreements. At the same time, European countries needed labour migration due to industrialisation and the lack of a local labour supply to respond. Aiming to reduce unemployment and increase remittances, Turkey signed bilateral labour recruitment agreements with the Federal Republic of Germany (1961); Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium (1964); France (1965); and Sweden and Australia (1967). These agreements were based on temporary contracts, with no assumption that the workers would stay in Europe longer than the terms of the bilateral agreements. Large numbers of Turks (including other groups with Turkish citizenship, such as Kurds and Assyrians) migrated to Western Europe as temporary labour migrants, and mass migration continued with family reunifications. The expectation that the temporary migrants would shortly return, contributing to their homeland the skills that they acquired abroad, however, did not come to pass. Many Turkish immigrants opted to stay in their host countries, leading to a Turkish migrant community which today is estimated at around 5 million (of which 4 million in Europe).
Until the 1970s, diaspora policy was non-existent; engagement with these communities was based solely on maintaining people’s attachments to their homeland and providing them with practical information about their migration status (Aksel, 2014; Aydin, 2014). A transformation in mentality began in 1970s when the state, recognising the migration phenomenon to be longer-lasting than expected, and with unintended consequences, aimed to prevent cultural assimilation. The Turkish state focused on providing guidance on pensions and took care of practical matters through social attachés who were responsible for improving the situations of Turkish migrants abroad (Aydin, 2014). The state started putting policies in place to facilitate migrants sending remittances back home and using savings to invest in the home country. On the cultural and religious front, the formal religious institution in Turkey called Diyanet started a plan to send imams abroad to facilitate the religious education and practices of Turkish migrants. Initially Diyanet was solely in charge of the administration of mosques and the appointment of imams and muezzins.
Before the 1980s, one can observe an emerging emigration policy dedicated to tapping the economic potential of migrants, but no signs that the state began to see the migrant community as an asset that could help to facilitate foreign policy aims or transnational politics in general. The political instability in Turkey had a significant impact on the profile of migrants who went to Germany in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The military coup d’état in 1980 and the policies that ensued forced many activists (Kurdish and leftist) to live in exile in various European countries. It was becoming clear that there was a new flow of emigrants making their permanent residence abroad. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the government’s first attempts to form diasporic ethnic and religious organisations began at the end of the 1970s and continued into the early 1980s. What we see after the 1980s is a Turkish state closely monitoring the activities of migrants in Europe, especially in Germany. The establishment of migrant organisations became extremely politicised. Some movements which were banned, oppressed or stigmatised in Turkey diffused their activities to Europe and founded NGOs, civil society organisations or underground groups operating under the title of migrant organisations. The Turkish state’s response to such activities was to tighten monitoring activities, but at the same time encourage segmented integration without assimilation into the host countries (Mugge, 2011; Baser, 2015).
By the 1980s the authorities were becoming more and more convinced that migrants’ situations – meant to be temporary – were becoming permanent. Consequently, the law permitting dual citizenship was passed in the early 1980s. For those who stayed abroad, the state also systematised sending teachers and imams to several countries to teach the Turkish curriculum and the Turkish interpretation of Islam under different arrangements through the Ministry of Education and the Directorate of Religious Affairs. They also began investing in other institutions such as the “Higher Coordination Council for Workers, consisting of Social Affairs and Economic Affairs Committees” (Aksel, 2014). The economic mentality of the state emigration policy was slowly replaced with social, cultural and political measures for integration abroad.
During the 1990s, proposed Turkish accession to the EU was also a very hot topic. At that time, the Turkish state began to perceive Turkish migrants in Europe as representatives of the Turkish population, initialising its diaspora-building efforts to successfully integrate Turkish immigrants into host societies in order to promote a positive image of Turkey (Mugge, 2013) and enhance public diplomacy (Ozdora-Aksak and Molleda, 2014; Aydin, 2014). To this end, Turkish policy makers began to engage more actively with Turkish immigrants, for example paying attention to their integration and discrimination problems. According to Aydin (2014), two main motives dominated the state’s engagement with citizens abroad during the 1990s: wanting to facilitate the integration of Turkish citizens in their countries of residence and wanting to support them in their demands for cultural rights. However, at the same time, the state continued to have security concerns which led it to monitor organisations for dissidents who opposed Turkish state policies, and to manipulate and use other organisations that were voluntarily supporting “Turkish interests” within the host countries.
At the end of the 1990s, two institutional steps were taken to strengthen the link between Turkish emigrants and the home country. In 1998, the Advisory Committee for Turkish Citizens Living Abroad (Yurtdışında Yaşayan Vatandaşlar Danışma Kurulu) and the High Committee for Turkish Citizens Living Abroad (Yurtdışında Yaşayan Vatandaşlar Üst Kurulu) were established under the Prime Ministry to monitor the problems faced by Turkish citizens abroad and report on them in the Turkish parliament. Since 1998, the numbers of representatives in these two committees have increased, and the geography of the number of countries represented has expanded (Aksel, 2014).


Turks living abroad were never referred to as “diaspora” until the AKP came to power (Unver, 2013:183). Prior to that, the Turkish state had been only selectively intervening in matters related to its diaspora (Mugge, 2011: 20). After 2002 and the beginning of the AKP era, however, one can observe a clear trend of efforts to mobilise the diaspora with a holistic approach that simultaneously included social, economic and political agendas.
According to Aydin (2014), this sudden shift has three main motivations: the emergence of a solid diaspora community abroad along with their transnational networks; the establishment of a new state elite and their new discourse stressing Muslim national identity in Turkey and abroad; and lastly, the re-orientation of Turkish foreign policy due to shifts of power in Turkish society. On the other hand, Mugge (2011: 21) interprets the evolution of Turkish state policies over time from the perspective of migrants’ length of stay and the political climate in both the home and host countries. She argues that the policy change over time occurred because of political developments in Turkey, shifting state goals which made migrants relevant for foreign policy, and changes within the migrant community itself (Mugge, 2011: 28). In official documents, the chief explanation for this onset is given as Turkey’s new “outward looking foreign policy” (Yurtnac, 2012).
In 2003, a parliamentary commission was installed to study the problems of Turks living abroad. Led by the former head of Diyanet and a parliamentary member of the AKP (Mugge, 2011: 27), it recommended the establishment of a special unit to deal with Turkish citizens abroad in order to strengthen ties and capitalise on already existing political and economic loyalties. AKP’s commitment to reviving historical ties with former Ottoman territories as well as to strengthening relationships with Muslim communities abroad shaped the formation of the diaspora policy. The neo-Ottoman ideology that the political party pursued affected how they defined the “citizen” who lives abroad and individuals who are “kin” to ethnic Turks. Their discourse on the citizens and relatives abroad who are part of the great Turkish nation also translated into their diaspora-building and engagement mechanisms. In addition, there was a clear reference to a Muslim nationalist/Sunni Muslim identity which isolated other Turkish citizens from different ethnic origins, such as Armenian, Assyrian and Kurdish groups. The newly emerging policy also distanced itself from the Alevite communities (Aydin, 2014; Baser, 2015).


Following former Prime Minister Davutoğlu’s concept of “strategic depth”, the AKP began to perceive Turkey’s role in global politics differently than previous governments. Their idea was that Turkey has an important geo-strategic location and history, and thus a country that should have a greater say in world politics (Aydin, 2014). Their perception of Turkey as a global economic and political power also shaped its diaspora-embracing policies: firstly, by considering Turkish citizens, relatives and kin groups to be part of the Turkish nation, the Turkish government effectively broadened its diaspora to include Azerbaijani, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Uzbek and Turkmen groups as external members. Official estimates put the number of diaspora members at around 6 million Turkish citizens and around 200 million kin and related communities (Yurtnac, 2012). Secondly, the government’s shift in perspective compelled policy makers to pursue the further mobilisation of diaspora groups, as they saw them as an opportunity to maximise their own power in global politics. This attitude was reflected at an institutional level as well. The Presidency for Turks Abroad and Relative Communities (YTB) was established in 2010. Its eight departments include: overseas citizens; cultural and social relations; institutional relations and communications; international students; strategy development; legal advisory services, human resources and education; support services; and information technology (Yurtnac, 2012). Following Davutoglu’s doctrine of being influential in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Balkans and Europe at the same time, the YTB also embraced kin and relative groups all around the world in addition to the diaspora due to its “historic responsibility” towards them (Yurtnac, 2012), and began formulating similar policies that would address all of them simultaneously. The former chairman of YTB, Kemal Yurtnac, presented the aims of the YTB in an officially published document in which he argues that the Turkish diaspora can be Turkey’s “public diplomacy” and “soft power” in international politics (Yurtnac, 2012).
Turkey’s new directorate has been working vigorously to create, organise and activate its diaspora. Workshops are being organised all around Europe, and attempts are being made to merge Turkish and Azeri diaspora organisations under certain umbrella federations. There are also more Turkish associations being founded in different countries. As suggested by Gamlen (2008), the congresses organised by state-sponsored NGOs or diaspora organisations are a crucial sign that the Turkish state is actually involved in forming its own diaspora abroad. Other conferences were organised for the anniversary of the 50th year of migration to countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. The YTB also began publishing in 2012 a quarterly journal in Turkish titled “Artı 90”, which references the Ottoman past and calls the Turkish emigrants “co-ethnics” and “ex-Ottoman citizens” in order to reconnect them with the Turkish state (Aksel, 2014).
Institutional efforts aside, over the last decade there has been an increase in politicians visiting Europe to address large communities of diaspora members. Consular units have also been expanded and special arrangements made in institutional frameworks. An advisory board/ consultative expatriate council has been formed under the auspices of YTB which consists of diaspora members from all around the world. The state is also encouraging the emergence of new civil society organisations that would lobby for Turkish interests in the diaspora’s countries of residence. Public diplomacy (Unver, 2013) is a novel duty that has been given to selected diaspora groups. However, it should be kept in mind that these developments solely benefit the diaspora groups that can be defined as pro-government. While the centre-right conservative diaspora organisations are taking the opportunities provided to flourish, other organisations who are in the opposition do not benefit from this wave of attention, least of all positively (Baser, 2015).
A 2012 amendment to the law facilitated external voting for Turkish citizens residing abroad, allowing them to vote at certain places arranged by the Turkish embassies in their countries of residence. External voting proved to be one of the most effective mechanisms to strengthen political ties within the diaspora-building project as it caused the transnationalisation of political party programmes. For instance, there have been election campaigns specifically tailored for the diaspora: political parties included diaspora candidates in their lists and each party addressed the diaspora’s needs and expectations in their party programmes, or at least paid lip service to them.
Economically, the new strategy has received tremendous support from business associations. In 2009, the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey (DEIK) established the World Turkish Business Council, which brings Turkish companies operating abroad together with diaspora entrepreneurs. Business associations also emphasise that they are pleased to be helping to turn diaspora policies into national policies, as it will benefit Turkey economically. Furthermore, diaspora organisations which are established as business associations have been mushrooming over the last decade, with the Swedish-Turkish Business Network, founded in 2011, just one example.
On the cultural and linguistic front, Yunus Emre Institutes were established in more than 40 centres across Europe with cultural diplomacy as their objective. As a part of diaspora policies to strengthen cultural ties, the Turkish state accelerated efforts to provide education in its national language and to sponsor the teaching of its national language abroad. The Turkish language is currently taught abroad under the “Turkish and Turkish Culture Programme” which gives Turkish children abroad access to elective Turkish classes in their schools, as well as in the Yunus Emre Institutes.


An emigration country for 50 years, Turkey has slowly but surely developed emigration policies. However, diaspora policy as we know it has been emerging over the last decade in tandem with the rise of the governing political party. Emigration policy has developed largely from practical issues: attracting remittances, arranging logistical matters for returning emigrants, signing bilateral agreements that guarantee pensions, and facilitating bureaucratic matters. The diaspora policy, on the other hand, is largely related to Turkey’s newly emerging self-perception as a global economic and political power and its imagination of its own transnational polity, which is primarily related to its understanding of who constitutes the Turkish nation. Therefore, the policy formations regarding mobile citizens and the diaspora come from a general global trend, as a result of increased migration and consequently migration management, but they have also been influenced by the ideological motives of the new ruling elite in Turkey. The polity-building approach has been externally inclusive in terms of granting external voting rights, but engagement levels and the ability to build bonds with the diaspora have been affected by the governing parties’ ideology and excluded opposition groups.
Turkey’s recent referendum on constitutional amendments put this newly emerged diaspora-making approach to the test. External voting became a highly contested terrain for both political parties who were trying to canvas votes, as well as for the host countries which had to witness Turkey’s controversial election campaigns on their territory. Starting with the presidential election of 2014, Turkey has experienced election after election which consequently diffused its internal divisions to Europe via transnational campaigning mechanisms. The AKP in particular has used this newly emerging overseas constituency to gather more votes to claim a majority that will give it authority to form the government. The recent crisis with Germany and the Netherlands over AKP’s referendum campaigns abroad clearly showed that the “public diplomacy” pillar of the diaspora engagement policy has utterly failed and the loss of Turkey’s prestige in Europe will have long-term consequences. The diaspora policy aimed to create a soft power but in the end the AKP’s ideology and desire for more power prevailed over tapping diaspora resources and creating bridges between Turkey and Europe, and a “public diplomacy” project turned into a PR disaster. Turkey’s authoritarian turn and the tensions between host states in Europe and the Turkish state will in the long run have consequences for the Turkish migrants in Europe who have struggled so hard to achieve their current political and social status.
For an extended version of this article see:
Baser, B. (forthcoming) ‘Turkey’s ever-evolving attitude-shift towards engagement with its diaspora’, In: Weinar, A. (ed.), Emigration and diaspora policies in the age of mobility. Springer.
For further reading see:
Baser, B. (forthcoming) ‘Mobilizing diasporas as a supplement to domestic and foreign policy: Insights from Turkey’s attempts to reach Turkish citizens abroad’ (with Zeynep Sahin Mencutek), Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies.


Aksel, D. (2014) ‘Kins, Distant Workers, Diasporas: Constructing Turkey’s National Members Abroad’, Turkish Studies, 15(2): 195–219.
Aydin, Y. (2014). ‘The New Turkish Diaspora Policy: Its Aims, Their Limits and the Challenges for Associations of People of Turkish Origin and Decision-Makers in Germany.’ Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik German Institute for International and Security Affairs Research Paper 10. Berlin: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Baser, B. (2015). Diasporas and Homeland Conflicts: A Comparative Perspective. Farnham: Ashgate.
de Haas, H. (2007) ‘Morocco’s migration experience: a transitional perspective.’ International Migration, 45(4): 39–70.
Gamlen, A. (2006) ‘Diaspora engagement policies: What are they, and what kinds of states use them?’ Centre on Migration, Policy and Society Working Paper 32. Oxford: University of Oxford.
Mugge, L. (2013) ‘Ideologies of nationhood in sending-state transnationalism: comparing Surinam and Turkey’. Ethnicities, 13(3): 338–358. 
Mugge, L. (2011) ‘Managing Transnationalism: Continuity and Change in Turkish State Policy’. International Migration, 50(1): 20–38.
Østergaard-Nielsen, E. (2003) The Politics of Migrants’ Transnational Political Practices.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ozdora-Aksak, E. and Molleda, J.-C. (2014) ‘Immigrant Integration Through Public Relations and Public Diplomacy: An Analysis of the Turkish Diaspora in the Capital of the European Union’. Turkish Studies, 15(2): 220–241.
Ragazzi, F. (2009) ‘Governing diasporas’. International Political Sociology, 3(4): 378–397.
Unver, C. ‘Changing Diaspora Politics of Turkey and Public Diplomacy’. Turkish Policy Quarterly, Spring 2013. 
Yurtnac, K. (2012) ‘Turkey’s New Horizon: Turks Abroad and Related Communities, Centre for Strategic Research’. SAM Papers, 3.


Dr. Bahar Baser is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Peace, Trust and Social Relations. She also holds an associate research fellow position at the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership in Africa at Stellenbosch University. Her research is based on Peace and Conflict Studies, with a focus on civil wars and how contentions in deeply divided societies disseminate to the transnational space. She researches issues related to diaspora politics and homeland conflicts, focusing on the role of diaspora groups as non-state actors.
IMI does not have an institutional view and does not aim to present one. The views expressed in this blog are those of individual authors.