Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Britain’s Global Future: Harnessing the soft power capital of UK institutions

Phillip Blond, James Noyes, Duncan Sim, July 2017 [footnotes not included]; "The authors would like to thank Professor Gary Rawnsley, Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University, for his input into the project  and his work on early drafts of the report."  

In this paper, we argue that Global Britain needs a renewed sense of its reputation and relationships. Too often, soft power has been understood in instrumental terms: through exercises of ranking and nation-branding, measured in terms of exposure and familiarity. In the context of the conflicts of the present geopolitical climate, these metrics are insufficient. Mere exposure to our culture does not make our enemies love us.
In such a climate, the old mantra of the “power of attraction” – reiterated by soft power theorists since Joseph Nye – becomes only half of the story. Soft power can no longer be reduced to the language of cultural outreach, or seen as peripheral to politics or a mere alternative to war. It needs to be understood as integral to our approach to diplomacy and foreign policy, derived from the way in which Britain behaves both towards its own citizens and towards others overseas. ...
[A] coordinated evaluation of the UK’s global communication, outreach, and engagement activities should be undertaken to determine the impact of such activities on their target audiences, and to build comprehension of the local social, cultural and political contexts of those target audiences and their societal value systems. Its findings should be fed into the domestic and foreign policy process, to ensure the most effective possible allocation of resources.
By way of comparison,the United States commissions multiple research projects and reports into the subject of international engagement and reorganises its structures accordingly. For example, as the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Judith McHale launched the International Information Programs Bureau’s Office of Audience Research and Measurement (ARM, now known as the Analytics Office or IIP/Analytics). This unit is tasked with researching the audiences of the US’s information campaigns, including their cultural, political, and social contexts, and then feeding this information back to relevant policymakers within the State Department.
In the same role, her predecessor Karen Hughes created the Mission Activity Tracker (MAT) to track the US government’s spending on public diplomacy, and Advancing Public Diplomacy’s Impact (APDI) to measure the effect of programmes. The cost of the 2011 APDI report has been estimated at $3 million; we believe that an equivalent annual expenditure of around £2.5 million is a prerequisite to the development of a genuinely effective soft power strategy. ...
Whilst we believe a successful British soft power strategy must be led by the UK’s autonomous institutions abroad, this does not mean that government is irrelevant to the soft power landscape. As we have already stated, all government departments need to understand how their decisions and policies – both foreign and domestic – have direct consequences for how the UK is seen abroad.
To effectively coordinate the government’s approach to soft power, a single entity at the heart of its policymaking process should take responsibility and powers of oversight for that activity, facilitating closer collaboration between government departments, consistency of message, and managing the flow of information on global public opinion into the policymaking process. This is the same thinking underlying the creation of the Gulf Strategy Unit, one of “a number of new issue-focused cross-government teams to remove duplication, consolidate national security expertise and make the most efficient use of it across government”.
The present equivalent Minister, who has responsibility for communications, the British Council, public diplomacy and scholarships among other duties, is a Minister of State, a role which we feel is insufficiently empowered to effectively coordinate and deliver the UK’s soft power vision in this way. This conclusion is supported by the work of the House of Lords Committee on Soft Power, which revealed considerable confusion within Government as to where responsibility for soft power lies within Government: a junior Minister at the Ministry of Defence told the committee it was in the remit of the Foreign Office, while Foreign Office officials believed it ultimately rested with the National Security Council (NSC), chaired by Prime Minister.
The Committee recommended that a coordinated soft power policy vision be developed through the establishment of a unit within the Prime Minister’s Office to reinforce a consistent public diplomacy narrative across government, supplemented by a session on soft power at least once every six months within the NSC. However, we are concerned this offers too little opportunity for “real time” consultation between relevant Ministers on how their actions affect the UK’s soft power story to achieve genuine consistency across departments.
While endorsing the Committee’s recommendation that “an understanding of how soft power is generated, and how the UK should behave if it is to be attractive and influential should become mainstream in Whitehall thinking”, we also recommend ultimate responsibility for the UK’s soft power strategy and coordination should sit with the Foreign Secretary. This would allow public diplomacy not only to be fully integrated into the foreign policy machinery but also represented at Cabinet level. We welcome the appointment of two junior ministers to serve jointly in DFID and the FCO as of June as an important first step towards this end.
The lack of clarity over lines of accountability highlighted above speaks to the value of a clear allocation of responsibility for the implementation of all soft power-related strategies and policies, and we believe the Foreign Secretary is best placed to take on this role.
However, to ensure consistency of narrative across government and provide the opportunity for all relevant Ministers, including those with a primarily domestic rather than foreign policy remit, to proactively feed into a whole-government soft power strategy on an ongoing basis, we recommend a permanent NSC subcommittee on soft power be formed, chaired by the Foreign Secretary. The membership of this body should specifically include the Secretary of State for Education and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to ensure these sectors and their soft power potential are heard in the formation of the Government’s soft power strategy.
In addition, the creation of a Parliamentary Joint Committee on Soft Power, with membership drawn from both Houses of Parliament, would provide valuable oversight and accountability, while demonstrating again the importance attached to soft power in our political debate. ...
[From the "Conclusion and recommendations"]
Government risks being fragmented in its approach to soft power, rather than adopting a more effective “whole government” approach; there is confusion about where ultimate responsibility for soft power policy lies within government. We recommend a single coordinating body in the form of the Foreign Secretary and their staff, to assume responsibility for the UK’s soft power and public diplomacy strategy. This should be supplemented by the formation of a permanent National Security Council sub-committee on soft power to draw in policymakers with a domestic remit – specifically including the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Education, and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport – to ensure consistency of message across government. ...

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