Back Issues of PDAA Today

Back issues of PDAA Today, PDAA’s quarterly print newsletter are now online and available for download.

2010 PDAA Awards Recognize Public Diplomacy Excellence

Aaron David Snipe and Rob Nevitt

2010 achievement award winner Aaron David Snipe, right, with PDAA awards chair Rob Nevitt. (A. Kotok)

Public Diplomacy Alumni Association highlights achievements by professionals in Chad, Iraq, East Jerusalem, and Shanghai

Public diplomacy, frequently practiced under challenging conditions, must engage with foreign audiences. Annually, the Public Diplomacy Alumni Association (formerly USIA Alumni Association) recognizes outstanding and ingenious individuals/teams who conduct imaginative and successful outreach. Twenty exceptional nominations by senior field and Washington officers produced four winners, announced at the PDAA annual dinner on May 16.

Seven Locally Engaged staff members of the Public Diplomacy Section, N’djamena, Chad were nominated by PAO Solomon Atayi. Writing under a tree in the compound, his recommendation was delayed due to an evacuation of the Embassy. Atayi credits the seven as one of the Embassy’s crucial means of outreach to the all important Muslim/Arab community. Their contacts revealed an incipient uprising within the Muslim community against the moderates. Once informed, the Chadian Government took corrective steps. During the invasion of Sudanese rebels, Americans were evacuated but the Chadian employees successfully carried on with the journalist workshop, IVLP applications and advanced the Fulbright and other exchange programs.

Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer and Director of America House in East Jerusalem Alistair Baskey was nominated by East Jerusalem PAO Frank Finver. Baskey has significantly grown the U.S. exchange programs in the diplomatic minefield of Israel and Palestine Territories. With fluent Arabic and basic Hebrew he won the respect of the Israelis controlling the border crossing at the Gaza Strip as he arranged for and escorted exchange students to get their U.S. visas and then to the Allenby Bridge enroute to the U.S. The situation became tense following the Fulbright fiasco in 2008 when trips were cancelled. He interviews all candidates and initiates the difficult vetting procedures. Last year 200 Palestinians participated in U.S. Government (USG) exchanges with more expected this year as Baskey organizes additional programs. Important too are his efforts to promote amity between Israeli and Palestine institutions. His brilliant “A-Plus” program will allow dozens of Gazans, funded by the USG, to study at Palestinian universities.

Shanghai PAO Tom Cooney drew praise from Consul General Beatrice Camp for being the “main engine” of American participation in Shanghai Expo 2010, an unparalleled public diplomacy opportunity to reach more Chinese citizens than our entire China mission will see in ten years. Although a 1994 law prohibited the use of USG funds for world expos has made the U.S. a no-show in past decades, Cooney successfully argued the compelling case for U.S. participation in the mammoth Shanghai Expo. Working with consulate and embassy colleagues, he encouraged the Department to authorize a private sector organization to design, fund-raise and manage a pavilion. After Secretary Clinton’s subsequent commitment to a national pavilion galvanized the private sector, Cooney guided the project through groundbreaking to a successful launch. Thanks to Cooney, well over 200,000 visitors a week are now enjoying the spirit of America portrayed in the U.S. Pavilion.

Aaron David Snipe, Public Diplomacy Officer for the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Muthanna Province, Iraq was nominated by PRT leader Bradley Lynch. Imaginatively, Snipe reached out to the most inaccessible audience, women. Coordinating with a local NGO he organized an art exhibit by local women artists and then arranged for Ambassador Crocker to attend, generating national media coverage. “Colors of Warka” toured three Muthanna cities resulting in a highly favorable impact. Snipe then wrote articles and blogs to Washington resulting in artists and exhibit joining Women’s History Month in Washington. The momentum continues through his efforts.

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