February 12 PDAA Program Explores Democracy and Human Rights as Policy Priorities

Women in hijabs

(Vlad Tchompalov, Unsplash)

(Updated 14 February 2018) Throughout U.S. history, and particularly during the past century, democracy and human rights have waxed and waned in their importance to U.S. foreign policy: the Marshall Plan after World War II sought to promote economic recovery in a devastated Europe, but also good governance and democratic states.  Likewise, post-World War II recovery efforts in Japan helped transform Japan into a strong, democratic ally of the U.S.  The U.S. used sanctions and public diplomacy to oppose the human rights abuses and authoritarian, undemocratic practices of the USSR, but succeeded for only a relatively brief time before Vladimir Putin re-imposed an authoritarian government in Russia.

As we begin 2018, these issues are more critical than ever in our debates about the future of U.S. foreign policy.  To help us understand the issues involved and provide ideas for how the U.S. can be more successful in incorporating democracy and human rights in our foreign policy, PDAA asked two experts to discuss the topic from different perspectives at our luncheon program on Monday, February 12, 2018 at 12 noon, at DACOR-Bacon House in Washington, D.C.

The State Department’s annual Human Rights’ reports, mandated by Congress beginning in the 1970’s, are intended to highlight abusive human rights practices and policies, but sometimes antagonize U.S. allies or friends as well as less friendly nations.  USAID development programs seek to promote good governance and democracy, while many public diplomacy programs highlight U.S. democracy and human rights.  Frequently, however, efforts to pressure or punish governments for human rights abuses have been sacrificed for national security or other concerns.

Should promoting human rights and democracy be an important part of U.S. foreign policy?  Can the efforts of the U.S. (and other countries) to promote democracy and human rights in other countries  succeed, or can democracy develop and thrive only if promoted from within a country?   Do democratic states, in turn, contribute to a more secure and stable world, or can democratic transitions lead to instability or even chaos?

Frank Vogl

Frank Vogl at PDAA lunch program, 12 February 2018. (A. Kotok)

Our speakers on February 12 include Frank Vogl  remarks now online — former senior World Bank official and international reporter for The Times of London, the co-founder of two leading international non-governmental organizations fighting corruption—Transparency International and The Partnership for Transparency Fund.    He has served as Transparency International’s Vice Chairman and is now a member of its Advisory Council; he also serves as the President’s Counsellor at The Partnership for Transparency Fund.  He is President of Vogl Communications, Inc., Washington, D.C., an international economics and finance consulting firm, and a professor at Georgetown University, where he teaches a graduate course on Corruption, Security, and Conflict Resolution.  He is the author of numerous books and articles, writes a regular “blog” on corruption for, and lectures extensively on global ethics and corruption.   He earned his B.A. from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Robert Berschinski

Robert Berschinski at PDAA lunch program, 12 February 2018 (A. Kotok)

Also joining us is Robert Berschinski  — remarks now online — Senior Vice President of Human Rights First, where he oversees the organization’s work advancing a U.S. foreign policy rooted in a strong commitment to human rights, universal values, and American ideals.  Before joining Human Rights First, Mr. Berschinski served in the Obama Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, with responsibility for establishing and implementing U.S. policies on fundamental freedoms and democratic governance in 65 countries across Europe, Russia, Central Asia, and South Asia.   He also served under Ambassador Samantha Power as Deputy Director of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations’ office in Washington, D.C., and spent three years as Director for Security and Human Rights Policy at the National Security Council.  He began his career as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force and is an Iraq War veteran.  He earned a B.A. and an M.A. from Yale University.  He recently testified before the U.S. Helsinski Commission on the Anti-Corruption Provisions of the Global Magnitsky Act.

The program began with a discussion of the issues involved, including the efficacy of promoting democracy and human rights as part of U.S. foreign policy and why these efforts have so often fallen short.  It will then explore strategies for promoting democracy and human rights more successfully—including the use of sanctions, civil society programs, development programs, and public diplomacy.  We will have ample time for questions and comments from members of the audience.

This PDAA program took place Monday, February 12, 2018 at the DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F St NW, Washington, DC.

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Cities and Extremism Highlighted at January 2018 Monday Forum

New York City police officer

(A. Kotok)

(22 December 2017) The role played by cities in countering violent extremism will be examined at the initial First Monday Forum of 2018, on Monday, 8 January at American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C. Because cities often combine high population concentrations, recognizable landmarks, sites for large gatherings, and many soft targets, they often become the venue for today’s strikes by terrorists. Yet cities also contain many assets for building strength and resilience in the face of terrorist threats.

Leading the discussion is Michael Duffin, a policy advisor in the Office of Countering Violent Extremism, in State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism. Duffin is a 2013 graduate of University of Southern California’s Master of Public Diplomacy program, and he holds advanced degrees in journalism from Northwestern University and in international public policy from Johns Hopkins University. He previously served as a foreign affairs officer and presidential management fellow in his current and other offices at State Department.

Monday forums are a joint project of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, Public Diplomacy Council, and PDAA – an association of public diplomacy professionals. The event takes place on Monday, 8 January 2018, 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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Int’l Students Increase in U.S., New Enrollments Decline

Top 10 origin international students

Top 10 origins for international students

(24 November 2017) The number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased in the 2016-17 academic year, totaling more than 1 million students from overseas for the second year in a row. But the number of new students enrolling at U.S. institutions declined in the fall of 2016, the first such decline in 12 years.

International Institute of Education compiles annual statistics on international exchanges of students and scholars, published each year in its Open Doors reports. The project is funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

For the 2016-17 academic year, beginning in the fall of 2016, total international students at U.S. colleges and universities climbed by 3.4 percent to 1.08 million. That represents the 11th straight year of total enrollment increases. Students from abroad also account for about 5 percent of the more than 20 million students at U.S. institutions of higher learning.

China and India contribute the most international students on U.S. campuses, making up about half of all students from overseas. The number of South Korean students ranked in third place, while the students from Saudi Arabia declined by 14 percent, dropping that country’s contribution to fourth place. The growth rate in students from India was the highest of any country, particularly for graduate students and those in optional practical training programs, temporary employment related to major areas of study.

The Open Doors report shows the number of new enrollments among international students declined by some 10,000 to about 291,000 in 2016-17, a decline of about 3 percent from the previous year. The largest new-enrollment declines were in students from Saudi Arabia and Brazil, particularly in non-degree studies. The report attributes the decreases to the culmination of optional practical training programs, in which many of these students were enrolled, thus ending their studies in the U.S.

The report estimates international students added some $39 billion to the U.S. economy in 2016, up from $35 billion in 2015. California hosted the most international students, nearly 157,000 in 2016-17, followed by New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois. New York City and vicinity ranked first in metropolitan areas with international students, followed by the Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago regions.

The Open Doors document also reports on American students going overseas for study. In 2015-16, that number increased to more than 325,000, a gain of 3.8 percent over the previous year. Europe remains the leading destination for American students abroad, particularly the U.K., Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and China. Despite these recent increases, says IIE, only about 10 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. will study overseas before they graduate.

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Guest Post: Valuing Public Diplomacy

Dollar as flag

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

Editor’s note: This essay, reprinted with permission, first appeared in the CPD Blog, published by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

Shawn Powers

(22 November 2017). Recent headlines about the State Department have been filled with drama and intrigue. While important, these accounts overshadow the important, day-to-day efforts responsible for building direct and productive relationships with foreign populations. These relationships, and the information that is exchanged as a result of direct ties, helps ensure that America’s messages and values are heard abroad despite all the noise that can dominate the news agenda.

Today’s diplomacy is deeply intertwined with global communications technologies and platforms. This shift emphasizes the importance of public diplomacy, a term coined in 1956 by Tufts’ Dean of the Fletcher School of Law Edmund Gullion to refer to efforts at forging consensus among nations by molding the public opinions of foreign citizens. In an era of Twitter, ubiquitous connectivity, and disinformation bots, the public dimensions of the diplomatic repertoire supersede all others. Effective diplomacy requires a coordinated, multi-platform, public component.

The United States has a long and noted history in investing in public diplomacy campaigns. After World War II, the Marshall Plan helped rebuild Europe, reinforcing legal, political, and economic systems that would synchronize much of Europe with America’s national interests. The Marshall Plan was as much about communicating ideas and values as it was about aid, training, and technology. During the Cold War, the U.S. Information Agency oversaw a multifaceted effort to confront communism by promoting the virtues of free-market and democratic systems. Exchanges, radio programming, and publications exposed communities living behind the Iron Curtain to Western institutions and values, contributing to the degradation of the underlying ideologies legitimating the Soviet Union. Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brezinski surmised these efforts resulted in the “key breakdown of communist totalitarianism.”

Public diplomacy today is, of course, much more complicated than it was years ago. The democratization of communication tools, combined with the emergence of a handful of globally networked social media platforms, means that all governments, as well as their anonymous proxy organizations, can compete for the hearts and minds of citizens. To borrow further from the field of economics, there are few, if any, barriers to entering the marketplace of ideas.

During the Cold War, free information represented a scarce and in-demand resource for many living behind the Iron Curtain, a resource over which the West held a near monopoly. In 2017, information is no longer in short supply: people’s attention is an increasingly scarce resource. Competing for this resource—people’s eyes and ears—is an ever more complex and costly endeavor. Today, successful public diplomacy requires cutting-edge expertise in content creation, audience and market analysis, technological systems, emerging and established social media platforms, local media industries, not to mention a deep knowledge of the U.S. policies and values that drive every public diplomacy campaign.

Considering today’s highly competitive marketplace of ideas, combined with a realization of the importance of engaging with foreign publics to combat extremism and foreign disinformation campaigns, one would expect historic levels of U.S. government public diplomacy spending per foreign citizen. This is not the case.

Continue reading Guest Post: Valuing Public Diplomacy

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Marshall Plan Anniversary Examined at December Monday Forum

Brandenburg Gate

(Thomas Wolf, Wikimedia Commons)

(22 November 2017). The Marshall Plan, credited with the post-World War II recovery of Europe, celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2017, which will be the focus of the next First Monday Forum, set for Monday, December 4, 2017 beginning at 12:00 noon, at American Foreign Service Association in Washington, D.C.

Leading the program is Karen Donfried, President of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. Ms. Donfried became the fund’s director in April 2014, after serving as director for European affairs on the National Security Council at the White House. In that capacity, she was the president’s principal advisor on Europe and led the interagency process on the development and implementation of the president’s European policies.

Monday forums are a joint project of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy, USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, Public Diplomacy Council, and PDAA – an association of public diplomacy professionals. The event takes place on Monday, December 4, 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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Rising Populism in Europe and the US Explored at November PDAA Lunch Program

PDAA panel on populism

PDAA panel on populism, L-R: David Smith, Claude Porsella, and Peter DeTheir (A. Kotok)

The growing strength of populist movements across the globe alarms many observers in the media.  Their election victories in Europe and the US shocked mainstream parties and their allies.  PDAA’s November 13 PDAA luncheon program heard from outstanding European correspondents about the political landscape in their respective countries and their view of Washington’s current political standoff.  The conversation was moderated by our very own Claude Porsella.

David Smith is The Guardian’s Washington DC bureau chief.

David has been Washington correspondent of The Guardian since November 2015, reporting on the White House, Supreme Court and US presidential election.  He attended numerous Donald Trump campaign rallies and presidential press conferences and the Trump victory party in New York on election night. He was previously Africa correspondent based in Johannesburg, and covered the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, and the death of Nelson Mandela, as well as elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. A graduate of the University of Leeds, David was based in the UK for the Daily Express and The Observer and reported on conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, NPR and broadcasters in Australia, Austria, Canada, Ireland and the UK.

Peter DeThier is Washington Correspondent for many German language media houses, including SüdwestPresse, Finanz und Wirtschaft, and ZEIT Online among others.

Peter writes on US Presidential politics, European-American relations, foreign and national security policy, trade and economic policy, Federal Reserve policy, among other issues of interest to European readers.  He was Economics Editor at the German daily “DIE WELT” and for over 20 years has been the Washington based political and economic correspondent for leading European print and online media.  He recently published a book in German on the occasion of what would have been President John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday.  He has a Master’s Degree from the Vienna University of Economics and Business in Vienna, Austria.

The program was moderated by PDAA board member, Claude Porsella.  Claude was VOA French Service Chief and is now a contributor to Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Moroccan radio station Medi 1.

He has observed the Washington scene for 50 years, explaining to foreign audiences American politics and the American way of life. He has reported all the big stories of the last five decades, from the assassination of MLK and Robert Kennedy, the first landing on the moon to 9/11, and the election of the first African-American President. He has covered 13 presidential elections from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump.

This PDAA program took place Monday, November 13 at 12 noon, at DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F Street NW in Washington, DC.

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