April 10 PDAA Program to Examine Diplomatic Engagement with Religious Groups

Douglas Johnston

Douglas Johnston (

(13 March 2017) Over 80 percent of the world’s people identify with a religious group, and religious groups and leaders are playing increasingly important roles in both their own societies and in international relations.   Yet, the U.S. Government and American diplomats have long been wary of engagement with religious groups for fear of violating the separation of Church and State.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent acts of terrorism by individuals and groups claiming a religious affiliation, as well as a rise in religious conflict and religious discrimination, diplomatic engagement with religious groups has become a national security imperative.  That engagement has focused not only on countering violent extremism or resolving conflict, but also on promoting sustainable development, providing humanitarian assistance, and advancing pluralism and human rights.  Public diplomacy has played a key role in this engagement, using everything from exchange programs, seminars, and cultural preservation efforts to social media and partnerships with the private sector.

Why is diplomatic engagement with religious groups so essential, and how can we do it more effectively?   Our program on April 10, Religion and Diplomacy: Broadening the Agenda, will enable us to explore these issues with two of the leading scholars and practitioners on the subject.  Dr. Douglas Johnston is the founder and President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, which for the past 18 years has been working to prevent or resolve religious or identity-linked conflict in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, and Colombia, among other countries.    A distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Dr. Johnston holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University.

Peter Mandaville

Peter Mandaville (courtesy photo)

Among his government positions, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Director of Policy Planning and Management at the Department of Defense.  He was the founding director of Harvard University’s Executive Program in National and International Security, and served as Executive Vice President and COO of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  His numerous publications include Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft, and Religion, Terror, and Error:  U.S. Foreign Policy and the Challenge of Spiritual Engagement, which won the Book of the Year award in 2011 from Foreword Reviews, the rating agency for universities and independent publishers.

Our second speaker is Dr. Peter Mandaville, Professor of International Affairs at George Mason University. He is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and an Adjunct Scholar with the RAND Corporation.  From 2015-16, he served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the State Department, where he led the office’s work on ISIS, sectarianism, and conflict in the Middle East.  From 2011-12, he was a member of State’s Policy Planning staff.  He is the author of the book Islam and Politics  and Transnational Muslim Politics: Reimagining the Umma.  He has testified multiple times before the U.S. Congress on topics including political Islam and human rights in the Middle East.

Dr. Johnston and Dr. Mandaville will discuss diplomatic engagement with religious groups to prevent and resolve conflict; promote religious tolerance, pluralism, and human rights, and foster sustainable development, drawing from their own experience and research on how this engagement can be carried out most effectively. This timely program addressing some the most urgent foreign policy issues we face today takes place on Monday, April 10, at DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F. St., NW, Washington, DC.   The deadline for reservations is Thursday, April 6.  The cost is $35.00 for PDAA members and guests, $42.00 for non-members.

To reserve your place at this program, click on the Add to Cart button below.

Select appropriate price from the drop-down menu

Would you rather reserve by mail? Download, complete, and mail this brief form with your check, made payable to PDAA, to the treasurer. The address is on the form.

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New Cold War Examined in Walter Roberts Lecture

Amb. Michael McFaul

Amb. Michael McFaul (Stanford University)

(25 February 2017). Ambassador Michael McFaul is the featured speaker in this year’s Walter Roberts Lecture, where the former U.S. envoy to Moscow will discuss, “Explaining Our New Cold War with Russia: Can Trump End It?” The event takes place on Friday, 3 March at 10:00 am, on the George Washington University campus.

U.S.-Russia relations have reached one of their lowest points since the end of the Cold War. Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Syria, public distrust, evidence of Russian interference in the U.S. election, and sanctions imposed by both sides all signal a growing rift in bilateral relations. This talk examines potential explanations for recent tensions, considers the implications of deteriorating relations, and analyzes potential changes in U.S. policy towards Russia under the Trump administration.

Amb. McFaul is professor of political science, and director and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at the Hoover Institution, affiliated with Stanford University. He served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014). Dr. McFaul authored several books, including Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should, How We Can and, with Kathryn Stoner, Transitions To Democracy: A Comparative Perspective.

Since 2011, the Walter Roberts Endowment has hosted an annual lecture with a prominent and distinguished foreign policy figure at GWU. Free and open to the public, the lecture provides a platform for students, faculty, and public diplomacy practitioners to hear different perspectives on issues related to public diplomacy and foreign policy.

The lecture is held on Friday, 3 March 2017, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, at the Jack Morton Auditorium in GWU’s School of Media and Public Affairs, 805 21st Street. in Washington, D.C. (Metro: Foggy Bottom or Farragut West). The event is free but advance registration is required. The event is presented sponsored by the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication at GWU and the Atlantic Council.

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Canadian Public Diplomacy Examined at Monday Forum

Canadian flag

(Shawn Harquail, Flickr)

(19 February 2017). Canada’s approach to public diplomacy as the country celebrates its 150th anniversary is the topic of the next First Monday Forum. The event takes place on Monday, 6 March 2017 at American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) in Washington, D.C.

Laurie Peters, Executive Director, Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy, Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa, will lead the discussion. Ms. Peters served previously as head of public affairs, culture, and education in Canada’s embassy in Tokyo, and director of the Aga Khan Foundation in Canada.

Monday forums are a joint project of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, and Public Diplomacy Council. The event takes place on Monday, 6 March 2017, and begins at 12:00 pm at AFSA headquarters, 2101 E Street NW, Washington DC (Foggy Bottom metro). Sandwiches and refreshments will be served.

The event is free, but advance registrations by e-mail are required:

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Online Cultural Diplomacy Course Now Available

Unitar course


(19 February 2017). An online seminar in cultural diplomacy, Cultural Diplomacy in a Multipolar World, conducted by the UN’s Institute for Training and Research or Unitar, is now open for registration.

Cultural diplomacy has long been the Cinderella of foreign ministries. But, as with its close relation, public diplomacy, interest in cultural diplomacy has increased with growing understanding of the significance of soft power in achieving states’ objectives in the international realm.

This course examines the role of cultural diplomacy in the 21st Century. After first defining cultural diplomacy, the course discusses the concept of soft power and how this has informed the development of both public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy. There follows an account of the history of cultural diplomacy and of the influence of technological and societal change on its practice. Current practice in the field of cultural diplomacy will be analyzed, along with the varied institutional arrangements in key countries. Finally, there will be an examination of cultural diplomacy as conducted in multilateral fora.

The course is internet-based, moderated by senior international experts, asynchronous, and places emphasis on online discussions and self-paced learning. The participants will be primarily responsible for their own learning over the three-week span of the course.

The program runs 20 February to 12 March 2017. The fee for the course is $US 500.00. For more details, see the course page on the Unitar web site.

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2017 Public Diplomacy Awards Event Set for May 7

Peshawar consulate staff

2013 achievement award winners, Public Affairs Section, American Consulate Peshawar, Pakistan

(Update: 13 March 2017) PDAA will celebrate its 20th anniversary of honoring excellence in public diplomacy at its 2017 award ceremony and brunch to be held May 7, 2017.

In all but five years since 1993, PDAA has honored professionals in government agencies and non-government organizations working in more than 50 countries and in the United States whose work makes a difference in projecting American policies, ideas, and culture to the rest of the world.

The 2016 winners included Foreign Service officers and nationals serving in Kabul, Novi Sad, Ouagadougou and Tunis. Nominations for the 2017 recipients are being vetted as of this publication.

The program will allow attendees the chance to hear from the 2017 winners or their representatives about the public diplomacy challenges they confronted and their innovative responses.

The event will be held at Maggiano’s Little Italy located at 5333 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., across from Mazza Galleria in Friendship Heights/Chevy Chase and easily reached by public transportation or car.  The doors open at noon with the buffet beginning at 12:30 followed by presentation of the awards.

The event is also a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old friends and colleagues, and expand networks with new acquaintances.

The cost for the brunch this year is $40.00, which includes an expanded selection of items including:

  • Smoked salmon
  • French toast
  • Italian sausage
  • Spinach and tomato frittata
  • Yogurt parfaits with assorted fruit
  • Potatoes with roasted peppers and onions
  • Assorted muffins and croissants
  • Zucchini bread and coffee cake

Coffee, tea, and fruit juices also are included but cocktails, wine and beer are extra.  A cash bar will be open from 12 noon to 3:00 p.m. The event will be held on the second floor of the restaurant.

The deadline for reserving your place is Monday, May 1, but we would appreciate your early action.

Also, please consider sending in a donation that helps PDAA continue to offer quality awards in future years to our public diplomacy colleagues.

Getting there

By car: 5333 Wisconsin Avenue, NW.  There is nearby street and garage parking.

Public transportation: Just one block from the Friendship Heights Metro station on the Red Line.

Tickets to the event are $40.00. Reservations can be made by clicking on the Add to Cart button below.

Would you rather reserve through the mail? Please download, complete, and mail this brief form with your check, made payable to PDAA, to the treasurer. The address is on the form.

Learn more about the Public Diplomacy Achievement Awards and donations to support the awards.

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Virginia Foreign Affairs Group to Hear Alberto Fernandez

Amb. Alberto Fernandez

(Courtesy, Amb. Alberto Fernandez)

(7 February 2017). Foreign Affairs Retirees of Northern Virginia, or Farnova, will hear a talk by Ambassador Alberto Fernandez at its meeting on 22 March. The event takes place at the Fort Myer Officers Club in Arlington, Virginia.

Amb. Fernandez, now a vice-president at MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, authored an article in late January on the MEMRI web site titled, “Making The U.S. State Department Great Again: Why A Trump Refit Could Be Good News.” Before retiring from State Department, he served as State Department’s Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications from March 2012 to February 2015. Amb. Fernandez is also the 2006 recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy.

Reservations for lunch are $25.00. The speaker begins at 12:15 pm on Wednesday, 22 March in the club’s Lamplighter Room, but attendees are encouraged to arrive after 11:30 am, since parking can be tight on the base.  Farnova is not yet taking reservations, but Michael Korff can answer questions about the event, at

The Fort Myer Officers Club is located on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington. You can enter the base at the Hatfield Gate, on Washington Boulevard. When entering that gate, stay in the right lane if you have a State Department active or retiree badge, to avoid inspections and their delays. If you do not have a badge, stay in the left lane.

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