UN Women and their use of Public Diplomacy
This Blog post is going to examine how the United Nations uses public diplomacy as a means of influencing women’s issues and helping raising awareness in gender equality. This post is not going to explain United Nations as a non-governmental organisation, but it is going to go through what a specific branch of the UN – UN Women – is, what it does and how it uses public diplomacy.
Nicholas Cull is an American director of Masters program of Public Diplomacy and a professor at University of Southern California. One can find more information about him and his latest publications here. He argues that there is five components to public diplomacy which are 1. Listening 2. Advocacy 3. Cultural Diplomacy 4. Exchange and 5. International broadcasting.1 This post is going to examine how these five components are being used by the United Nations in their actions on empowering women.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was first established in July 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. It is more commonly known as UN Women. It became it’s own branch in the United Nations as they were going through a reformation. They decided to combine previously “independent” parts of the UN system to become one coherent and unified sector within the big picture. These departments were
- Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW)
- International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)
- Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI)
- United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
As they unified their forces, their main role is to provide technical and financial help for member states, give support for inter-governmental bodies, help for implementing standards and create a relationship with civil-societies and affect through them.2
How does UN Women then use these five components? To start with number one; Listening. Listening in this case basically means collecting data about public opinions overseas and therefore get an image how they can spread and alter their own agenda forward in the international arena.3 There is a special rapporteur, who collects data from sources like inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations, specialised agencies, governments and treaty bodies.4 Public opinion is also very easily available thanks to the internet, which operates as a great platform for people to address their concerns, ideas and opinions.
Number two; Advocacy. As the meaning of the word in the Oxford Dictionary says it is Public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. In this case of UN Women this part overlaps with number 5, International broadcasting thanks to social media and the internet, which is going to be examined later on in more detail. UN Women does not need that much “fishing” for support, as the agenda is so strong and touches nearly half of the human population. Empowering women and end of violence towards women does not need explanations on why it should be advocated.
Number three; Cultural Diplomacy. This means that one is making herself known by her own cultural commodities, achievements and resources.5 This component is very often hand in hand with number four; Diplomacy exchange, which in traditional sense means sending citizens overseas to learn about others and spread their own cultural diplomacy.6 In UN Women’s perspective, this means good will ambassadors. They very often are world known celebrities from any field such as literature, film, sport or music, who work for UN’s spokespersons to make their agenda known overseas and because of their influence on the masses, the ‘story’ is better heard and taken into an account.7 Today UN Women’s good will ambassador is actress, most known for her role from Harry Potter as Hermione Granger, Emma Watson. This is a speech she held for UN Women:
This speech is also a perfect representation of the number five; international broadcasting. This means that UN as an actor tries to influence the international arena by spreading their ideology through technology and engaging publics from different countries. This speech was to launch HeForShe campaign, which has become popular through her, and other celebrities who have shared their support through their personal social media page such as Twitter and Facebook.
Through all these steps, they have made gender equality a cause to raise awareness amongst countries and they, as earlier said, provide help to gain these values within societies. Now there is yet to be seen what happens after the awareness has been risen, where does it lead, as awareness alone is not enough to make a sustainable change, but that is another matter. For now, UN Women are doing a great job.