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Public Diplomacy Amidst Fake News Explored at Sept. 25 PDAA Lunch

Matryoshka dolls

(Jacqueline Macou, Pixabay)

(Updated 16 September 2017) Fake News and Disinformation:  we cannot watch the news, surf the Internet, or even carry on a social conversation without hearing the words.  Whether from U.S. political leaders and spokespersons, foreign governments, media figures, violent extremists, “tweeters” “bloggers,” or bots, we face an almost-constant onslaught of fake news, “alternative facts,” or disinformation.  Sifting fact from fiction has become increasingly challenging for citizens needing accurate information in order to make informed decisions.  Many have said that fake news and disinformation are among the gravest threats facing our democracy.

Yet difficult as they are for citizens of the United States and other democracies, fake news and disinformation pose an even greater challenge to diplomacy, and particularly to public diplomacy.   How can today’s public diplomacy professionals—whose job it is to explain the United States and U.S. policy and seek to persuade the citizens and governments of other countries to support those policies—do their jobs in the face of this omnipresent fake news and disinformation?

To help us answer this question, PDAA is very fortunate to have three senior State Department officials as speakers at our first luncheon of the 2017-2018 program year.  Susan Stevenson is Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Department of State.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, she previously served in Washington as the Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Director of the Under Secretary’s Office of Policy, Planning and Resources, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and Director of the Foreign Press Centers.  Overseas, Ms. Stevenson was the U.S. Consul General in Chiang Mai, Thailand, following assignments in Beijing, Hong Kong, Mexico City and Bangkok.  She has lectured extensively on government-media relations and holds degrees in multinational management and French from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Jonathan Henick, a member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as Acting Coordinator for International Information Programs. He served previously as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary and Director for Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau for South and Central Asian Affairs where he was responsible for the conduct of U.S. public diplomacy in 13 countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.  He has also served overseas as the Counselor for Public Affairs in Turkey, the Deputy Chief of Mission in Timor-Leste, as well as in other positions in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Portugal, and Uzbekistan.  He has worked as a Public Diplomacy Fellow and Professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and as a visiting Research Fellow and Diplomat-in-Residence at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.  He has received the Public Diplomacy Alumni Association Achievement Award, as well as individual Superior Honor Awards from the State Department.  Originally from New York, he speaks Russian, Portuguese, Turkish, and Azerbaijani, and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Hawaii and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University.

Adele Ruppe is Chief of Staff in the Global Engagement Center.  Previously, she served as Public Diplomacy Office Director for the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR); Deputy Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy in New Delhi, India; Counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy in Brasilia, Brazil; and Senior Special Assistant in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.  Other assignments include Madrid, Moscow, Mexico City, San Jose (Costa Rica), and EUR’s Front Office.  She has a BS in Computer Science from Duke University, a MBA from the University of Michigan, and a MS from the National Defense University.

What is certain to be an important and stimulating program will take place on Monday, September 25, from 12:00 to 2:00, at DACOR Bacon House, 1801 F St., NW. Reservations are $35.00 for PDAA members and guests, and $42.00 for non-members, with reservations due no later than 5:00 pm on Thursday, September 21. You can reserve online by clicking on the PayPal “Add to Cart” button below.


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Atlantic Council Report Calls For Separate Public Diplomacy Agency

Revised State Department organization chart

(Atlantic Council)

(16 September 2017) A Washington, DC think tank recommends forming a stand-alone agency devoted to public diplomacy under the rubric of State Department. The Atlantic Council issued its assessment of State Department’s mission and organization on 6 September 2017, prepared at the request of Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The panel preparing the report consisted of former high-level officials at State Department and National Security Council, as well as representatives from universities, business, and law.

In putting together the pieces into a coherent structure at State Department, panel members found two functions requiring special skills and having unique budgetary demands: foreign assistance and public diplomacy. The committee considered three options for organizing these functions into an overall State Department structure, ranging from complete integration to independent agencies reporting to the president, and settled on stand-alone agencies under the State Department umbrella.

The recommendation on public diplomacy says …

Public Diplomacy should be considered to form a stand-alone agency within the department somewhat like USAID. Because of different skills required, especially in program management and information operations, it should have its own personnel, assignments process, budget, and so forth. It would report to the secretary.

The entity named Agency for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, like USAID …

… would report to the secretary, have a rank equivalent with the deputy secretary of state, and have full autonomy in budget creation subject to the secretary of state’s personal approval; they would also have separate personnel in the foreign and civil service recruited and trained for their special, heavily program-dominated tasks, and operate overseas and in Washington in close conjunction with State but at a sufficient distance that their funds and people could not be co-opted or absorbed by State to the detriment of the special mission they perform.

The full report is found on the Atlantic Council web site.

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State and Art of Digital Diplomacy Explored at Monday Forum

Working at a computer

(Stux, Pixabay)

(15 August 2016). The state and art of digital diplomacy is the focus of the next First Monday Forum, set for Monday, 11 September 2017 beginning at 12:00 noon, at American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C. (The actual first Monday in September is the Labor Day holiday.)

On the date exactly 16 years after 9-11, the discussion will examine new methods needed to communicate effectively in a digital environment. An expert panel of public diplomacy practitioners and technologists will explore this question:

  • Matt Chessen, Senior Technology Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of State
  • Jennifer Lambert, Deputy Director of Analytics, International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State
  • Luke Peterson, Director of Analytics, International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State
  • Lovisa Williams, Digital Strategist, PD’s Office of Policy, Planning, and Resources, U.S. Department of State

Shawn Powers, Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, will serve as moderator

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, joined for the first time by PDAA, an association of public diplomacy professionals. The event takes place on Monday, 11 September 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: FirstMondayForum.RSVP@gmail.com.

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Education and Public Diplomacy Explored in August Monday Forum

Students taking selfies

(ECA.State.gov)

(22 July 2017) Public diplomacy in education at the state and local levels will be the focus of the next First Monday Forum. The event takes place on Monday, 7 August, beginning at 12:00 noon, at American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C.

While public diplomacy is planned and funded by nations, its actual practice is often carried out by states and localities, particularly in the schools. The discussion will be led by Phil Noble, a technology entrepreneur and civic sector activist, as well as fellow at the Institute of Politics of the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University. He also serves on various advisory and editorial boards at ten other colleges and universities in the U.S. and internationally.

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, 7 August 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: FirstMondayForum.RSVP@gmail.com.

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U.S. Image Under Trump Declines Sharply

Low global confidence in Trump leads to lower ratings for U.S.
(1 July 2017) According to a new Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations, Donald Trump’s presidency has had a major impact on how the world sees the United States. Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined steeply in many nations. Excerpts from the report follow.

A median of just 22 percent has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64 percent expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world. The sharp decline in how much global publics trust the U.S. president on the world stage is especially pronounced among some of America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia, as well as neighboring Mexico and Canada. Across the 37 nations polled, Trump gets higher marks than Obama in only two countries: Russia and Israel.

In countries where confidence in the U.S. president fell most, America’s overall image has also tended to suffer more. In the closing years of the Obama presidency, a median of 64 percent had a positive view of the U.S. Today, just 49 percent are favorably inclined toward America. Again, some of the steepest declines in U.S. image are found among long-standing allies.

Even though the 2017 shift in views of the U.S. and its president is in the opposite direction compared with eight years ago, publics on balance are not necessarily convinced that this will affect bilateral relations with the U.S. The prevailing view among the 37 countries surveyed is that their country’s relationship with the U.S. will be unchanged over the next few years. Among those who do anticipate a change, however, more predict relations will worsen, rather than improve.

Confidence in President Trump is influenced by reactions to both his policies and his character. With regard to the former, some of his signature policy initiatives are widely opposed around the globe.

Trump’s character is also a factor in how he is viewed abroad. In the eyes of most people surveyed around the world, the White House’s new occupant is arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous. Among the positive characteristics tested, his highest rating is for being a strong leader. Fewer believe he is charismatic, well-qualified or cares about ordinary people.

While the new U.S. president is viewed with doubt and apprehension in many countries, America’s overall image benefits from a substantial reservoir of goodwill. The American people, for instance, continue to be well-regarded – across the 37 nations polled, a median of 58 percent say they have a favorable opinion of Americans. U.S. popular culture, likewise, has maintained appeal abroad, and many people overseas still believe Washington respects the personal freedoms of its people.

The Pew Research Center survey conducted the surveys among 40,448 respondents in 37 countries outside the U.S. from February 16 to May 8, 2017.

Obama received much higher ratings at the end of his presidency than Trump gets today
More about the surveys:

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VOA Origins Examined in July Monday Forum

Walter Roberts

Walter Roberts in an early Voice of America broadcast (U.S. government, public domain)

(17 June 2017) The roots of Voice of America reach back to World War II, which will be the subject of the next First Monday Forum. The event takes place on Monday, 10 July at beginning at 12:00 noon, at American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C.

The session features a conversation with historian Holly Cowan Shulman, a visiting research professor at University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Shulman is the author of The Voice of America: Propaganda and Democracy, 1941-1945, published by University of Wisconsin Press. She is also editor of the Dolley Madison Digital Edition, and founding director of Documents Compass at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

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, 10 July 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: FirstMondayForum.RSVP@gmail.com.

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