Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

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A muffled whistle blow- the UN is in denial

The United Nations (UN) is the closest thing we have to a supranational and legitimate organisation. Not only does it promote the rule of law globally or endow the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but is responsible for several peace keeping projects around the world. In short, it is a protector of the peoples of the world.

Certainly, as all organisations, it is not flawless. But it is increasingly showed, the UN is incapable of maintaining its own values within the organisation. However, one would expect that it in order to sustain its own legitimacy and image it takes these problems seriously?

Unfortunately, the answer is often no.

On several occasions, it has come to the surface that rather than admitting its own flaws by dealing with the issues, the UN has chosen to cover up whistle blows from within it (Walden, 2012).

The most recent case came to the attention of the media only this week. The Swedish UN veteran ambassador, Anders Kompass, who has a long experience in the humanitarian field, reported about sexual abuse on children in the Central African Republic, executed by French UN peacekeeping soldiers. Several young boys were forced to sexual abuse in exchange of food, proving of how the UN soldiers took advantage of the children’s desperate situation and thus undermining their duty: to protect and bring hope (Laville, 2015).

Anders Kompass.

But instead of admitting flaws in the organisation, there was no response from the UN and consequently Kompass took the same report to French authorities, who instantly decided to take it seriously. This time, the UN responded, but not by dealing with the offenses, but by suspending Kompass for sharing confidential material. He now faces dismissal. Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon claims that this is not a case of whistleblowing but rather that Kompass has breached the protocol (Charlton, 2015).

This proves that the UN is more concerned with its own image and that it is unwilling to admit its internal problems, as it punished Kompass for displaying the flaws of the UN, which they tried to cover up, to the world. However, this might be just what is needed. People like Kompass is what helps maintain the legitimacy for the organisation. The media has a big and important role to play here as the eyes of the world subsequently turn to the UN (Laville & Chrisafis, 2015).

If the UN chooses to dismiss Kompass, this highlights the fact that the UN works under denial, especially in the light of the actions of the French government, who has acknowledged the misconducts (Laville & Chrisafis, 2015).

Whistle-blowers are vital for an organisations such as the UN to operate credibly and legitimately. Furthermore, the media is the most important tool for a whistle-blower, particularly when it is something on such high-level as the UN. The UN undoubtedly has obvious flaws in its operation. The media attention can consequently help in putting pressure to reform the organisation so that it can deal with its internal problems in the future (Matthewson, 2014).

Charlton, 2015, Authorities Secretly Investigated Accusations That French Soldiers Raped Children in Africa, in US News and World Report, http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/04/29/france-investigates-accusations-that-soldiers-raped-children. Accessed April 2015.

Laville, 2015, UN Aid Worker Suspended for Leaking Report on Child Abuse by French Troops, in the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/29/un-aid-worker-suspended-leaking-report-child-abuse-french-troops-car. Accessed April 2015.

Laville & Chrisafis, 2015, UN Accused of ‘Reckless Disregard’ for Allegations of Peacekeeper Child Abuse, in the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/30/un-accused-of-reckless-disregard-for-allegations-of-peacekeeper-child-abuse. Accessed April 2015.

Matthewson, 2014, Media, Ethics, and Whistleblowing, in Expolink Whistleblowing Hotline, http://expolink.co.uk/whistleblowing/blog/media-ethics-whistleblowing/

Walden, 2012, Protecting Whistleblowers at the UN, in Foreign Policy in Focus, http://fpif.org/protecting_whistleblowers_at_the_un/. Accessed April 2015.

The Sneaky Fox…

News are more important in a society than one might think. The basis of free press in democracies, means that the purpose of news is to accurately and neutrally inform the people. The information of the news affect people’s daily lives, public opinion and in the end, policy-making and politics, and subsequently, the news has a strong ability to shape our societies (Kellner, 2012, 1174). It is even argued that the media not only influence public opinion, but contribute to shaping it (Berger, 2012, 176).

However, it becomes increasingly obvious that the reality is far from the idea of an ideal democratic society of a variety of view-points represented in the news. The neutrality is rare and a handful of big corporations monopolise the news that we are actually exposed to, thus affecting the variety, different view-points, or even accuracy. Obviously, this has effects on our society (Oswald, 1994, 387).

Rupert Murdoch is undoubtedly one that is to blame for this. He is the owner of the huge news enterprise, News Corporation, and he is infamous for his selectivity and tempering of news in order to benefit businesses that are in his own economic interests (Manne, 2013). His right-wing orientated conservatism is no secret and he openly supports the Republican Party in his news (Bagdikian, 2014, 15). On several occasions he has been subject to scandals of news tampering, phone hacking, corruption… The list is long (Kellner, 2012, 1174-1181).

Yet, a recent poll states that the flagship of News Corp, Fox News, with almost a third of the votes, is the most trusted news source among Americans. Yes, that is correct. The. Most. Trusted. Keep in mind, the US is, despite what some argue, the most powerful country in the world. Add to this, the fact that almost a third of the voters use a tampered media as their mainstream resource for news. This means that American policy-making undoubtedly is affected by what is communicated, or ignored, by Fox News. Consequently, Mr Murdoch is a very powerful man (Schwartz, 2015; Manne, 2103).

This provokes the question of how free the press is in our democratic societies. If the media is not providing us with accurate, diversified, or neutral information, but news that are tampered with or favouring certain politicians, the media is devastating for the practice of true democracy (Kellner, 2012, 1173-4).To restore the democratic norms in our society, the extreme media monopoly needs to end in order to allow the media to become more versified and wide-spanning. The question that remains is how this would come about, as people such as Murdoch, who use the media as means to an end- to benefit their own interests, are much too powerful to be controlled. Moreover, despite scandals and the obvious issues with the accuracies of the News Corp news, people evidently put trust in these false news (Bagdikian, 2014, 17-21; Kellner, 2012, 1193).

The solution could be found on the state-level, where they put regulations on these corporations. However, that is challenging if the corporations serve the interest of the governments or if they are too powerful for governments to want to tackle them. Despite the fact that state regulations may be a undesired action for western liberal and capitalist societies, this may be the only way to actually protect these values. Meanwhile, the corporations grow ever more powerful and become ever harder to control. Thus, this is a complicated issue which needs to be addressed. If not, we would need to redefine our idea of democratic free press (Kellner, 2012, 1193; Manne, 2013).

References:

Bagdikian, 2014, The New Media Monopoly, Beacon Press, Boston

Berger, 2012, Media and Society: A Critical Perspective,  Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., Plymouth

Kellner, 2012, The Murdoch Media Empire and the Spectacle of Scandal, International Journal of Communication vol. 6, pp. 1169-1200, http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/1613/754. Accessed April 2015.

Manne, 2013, Why Rupert Murdoch Can’t Be Stopped: The Political Empire of the News Corps Chairman, in Monthly Magazine Essays, November 2013, https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2013/november/1383224400/robert-manne/why-rupert-murdoch-can-t-be-stopped. Accessed April 2015.

Oswald, 1994, Mass Media and the Transformation of American Politics, Marquette Law Review, Vol. 77, No. 385, pp. 385-414. http://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1615&context=mulr. Accessed April 2015.
Schwartz, 2015, Fox News is the most trusted national news channel. And it’s not that close, in the Washington Post Online, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/03/09/fox-news-is-the-most-trusted-national-news-channel-and-its-not-that-close/. Accessed April 2015.

The Success of EU Soft Power

Click image to get to resource.

              Recently, the popularity among the European citizens towards the European Union (EU) has been stagnating as the sense of lack of control to a central authority is being challenged. Polls painfully show that there is an increasing will to exit the Union or at least decentralise the power in Europe. The Union has met several problems in its operation and none the less in its economy. However, what many forget, is that the intentional objective of the EU is not the economic or political integration- these are merely means to an end- an end which is regional peace and stability (Dinan, 2010, 3-6).
Considering what the EU has accomplished is rather astonishing. It has managed to bring peace and stability to a region of war and antagonism with the means of cooperation not coercion. This is something that has been the theme of the organisation throughout its existence. Never has it used force in order to reach its scopes- it is solemnly based on soft power (Tuomioja, 2009, 4).

So to use the word success of the operation of the EU is not at all without substance or exaggerated. This is still present as there are still more states knocking on the door of the EU, wanting to get into the warmth. Moreover, the enlargement procedure is the ultimate method of soft power that the EU can perform. By spreading its liberal values to external states in a process of Europeanisation, makes these entities adopt the EU core values: the rule of law, democracy, market economy and advocacy of human rights, which all help spread the regional stability. This has been obvious in the recent enlargement rounds to the Central and European counties which have all needed a period of adaption and adoption to the EU system before the accession (Tuomioja, 2009, 3-4, Dinan, 2010, 483-5).

The states have voluntarily altered their own system and pooled their sovereignty with this central power. Arguably, this is because the EU values are attractive. The EU has created a stable system which allows its member-states to prosper both economically and politically under the security of the Union, which other states are willing to adopt. Yet, the EU does little to promote their own image. There is no single coordinated EU public diplomacy. The EU system and its success speaks for itself (Bay Rasmussen, 2012).

This can arguably be compared to the US model, which is undoubtedly based on hard power, and which spends huge amounts of funds on public diplomacy and to enhance its own image globally. There is no doubt that the image of the US is popular globally, however the hard US policy has a significantly low global support. The EU policy on the other hand, seem more appealing internationally, with its less conservative approach to for example gun control, civil rights, and climate change together with its softer conduct (Nye, 2004; Cooper, 2004, 13).

The Eurosceptics fails to see the bigger picture- what the EU actually has accomplished and what it keeps accomplishing. That the fulfilment of its main purpose makes it a success. That it through the soft power manages to spread peace and stability in the European region. Furthermore, the EU case proves that soft power does not always go hand in hand with public diplomacy. Soft power can be a story of success even without a strong promotion.


Summarises the core of the EU rather well. Click image get to resource.

References

Bay Rasmussen, 2012, Current Challenges to European Union Public Diplomacy, Public Diplomacy Magazine, http://publicdiplomacymagazine.com/current-challenges-to-european-union-public-diplomacy/. Accessed March 2015.

Cooper, 2004, Hard Power, Soft Power, and the Goals of Diplomacy, in Held & Koenig-Archibugi, 2004, American Power in the 21st Century, pp. 167-180, Polity Press, Cambridge

Dinan, 2010, Ever Closer Union: An Introduction to European Integration, 4th ed., Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc., Buolder

Nye 2004, in Zalman 2012, How Power Really Works in the 21st Century: Beyond Soft, Hard & Smart, The Globalist, http://www.theglobalist.com/how-power-really-works-in-the-21st-century-beyond-soft-hard-smart/. Accessed March 2015.

Tuomioja, 2009, The Role of Soft Power in EU Common Foreign Policy, International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy Berlin, vol. 30, no. 7, http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/academy/content/articles/speakers/detailed/erkki-tuomioja/erkki-tumioja_-_the-role-of-soft-power-in-eu-common-foreign-policy.pdf. Accessed March 2015.

A diplomatic tweet in my ear…

The 21st century has introduced us to a vast number of changes in the world, especially in means of technology and as an effect; we have seen how many sectors have moved from a traditional practice to one which is more hi-tech. The World Wide Web has become a very strong tool in this modernisation as it has made the world shrink; people around the world are closer in time and space. The revolution of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, it could be argued, is one reason for a growing urge for instant and constant information.

Diplomacy is not an exception in this type of modernisation. Lately we have experienced how it has moved from being a highly official thing practiced behind closed doors, far from the public eye, to something that we now continuously can follow and understand more easily. We owe many of our thanks to Twitter for this. At this platform, we are now able to follow, retweet, and write directly, not only to ambassadors across the world, but also to leaders such as Barack Obama, Pope Francis or Russia’s Prime Minister Medvedev.

The 144-character limited platform is being more and more used by diplomats, leaders, politicians, institions and organisations around the globe, and this new sensation has given us the new stylish term twiplomacy. It has opened up to a completely new level of diplomacy as this is a direct contact to the public and even with other peers (Burson-Marsteller, 2014). With this, they are allowed to communicate, at this point mainly to a younger audience, what is currently going on or important decision making in a different style and they can even be a bit more personal. However, it is not everyone who masters this way of limited communication and there is always the risk that a tweet goes wrong. There have been numerous occasions where tweets from officials have caused problems, even between states, which have resulted in need for negotiations (Wichowski, 2013).

But despite the risk of mistakes, diplomats are often encouraged to tweet because the wins are greater (Wichowski, 2013). As the PR and communication firm Burson-Marsteller has proved in recent studies, all leading international organisations in the world and an increasing number leaders tweet, which also proves for the demand for it by the public (Burson-Marsteller, 2013). If an organisation does not have an account, it loses the important contact with the community and risks being unnoticed. The studies also show that the number of followers does not necessarily go hand in hand with popularity of a tweet as the way of using pictures, selfies, hashtags, Q&A’s and so on, plays a big role in popularity which proves of the importance to actually understand the network (Burson-Marsteller, 2014). Additionally, this type of communication also works the other way around; the public is likewise able to communicate with the officials and therefore turns it into a two-way communication and people are now able to talk back and take part, which more traditional ways of communication such as TV, radio or magazines cannot offer (Seib, 2012).

One practical way to use Twitter, according to former Swedish Foreign Minister Bildt.

Ae example of a particular event where Twitter, together with Facebook, proved to be valuable was during the Arab Spring, 2011. The protesters mobilised themselves for the uprisings using these platforms and the governments failed their attempts to prohibit the sites. And all this was online, for the world to follow (Huang, 2011).

British ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher has stated that he uses Twitter not only to reach out to the public, but also to collect information from other peers on the forum and he described how the platform was useful during the Arab Spring, how it made it easier to follow the events live, with tweets constantly rolling in from all sides of the conflicts. He strongly beliefs in the platform and as he puts it, finds it that diplomats ought to be ‘riding digital tiger’ as it is  a trend that won’t fade (Fletcher, 2011).

Social media is a big element in our contemporary era as an ever increasing amount of people over the world gets access to internet. Twitter can undoubtedly be used as a powerful tool to raise influence and popularity. Here, diplomats, leaders and organisations are able to perform an efficient and direct public diplomacy. As technology moves forward and takes an ever bigger part in people’s lives, it will be more and more important tool to reach out and to actually bring themselves closer to the people. Additionally, as more leaders world-wide create accounts, it will offer an ever more complete platform for diplomatic matters.

Bibliography:

Burson –Marsteller, @UNICEF, @UN, @Davos Are the Most Followed international organisations on Twitter – Burson-Marsteller Twiplomacy study finds, Novmber 20, 2013, http://www.burson-marsteller.co.uk/newsarticles/unicef-un-davos-are-the-most-followed-international-organisations-on-twitter-burson-marsteller-twiplomacy-study-finds-2/#sthash.qYe9xHCx.dpuf, accessed November, 2014

Burson-Marsteller, Twiplomacy Study 2014, 2014, http://twiplomacy.com/blog/twiplomacy-study-2014/#section-11, accessed November 2014

Fletcher, Twiplomacy- Riding the Digital Tiger, 2011, gov.uk, https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/twiplomacy-riding-the-digital-tiger, accessed Novemer 2014

Huang, Facebook and Twitter, Key to Arab Spring Uprising: Report, 2011, http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/facebook-and-twitter-key-to-arab-spring-uprisings-report,  accessed November 2014

Seib, Twiplomacy- Worth Praising but with Caution, Canadian International Council, October 17, 2012, http://opencanada.org/features/the-think-tank/comments/twiplomacy-worth-praising-but-with-caution/, accessed November 2014

Wichowski, Social Diplomacy, Or How Diplomats Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tweet, Foreign Affairs, April 5, 2013, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139134/alexis-wichowski/social-diplomacy, accessed November 2014

Planting a Seed for the Environment

Earlier this autumn the well-known Hollywood star Leonardo diCaprio was appointed United Nations (UN) Climate Change Representative. Shortly after, he held the opening speech of the UN Climate Summit in New York in September 2014. He is one of many of the goodwill ambassadors appointed by the organization which has a history of appointing celebrities for their causes in order to raise public awareness and media coverage which was enhanced by Kofi Annan in the 1990’s (Wiseman and Allelyne). The idea is that the familiar, and maybe even idolized, face of a celebrity will act as the UN’s mirror towards the public that reflects what the organization is about. But is this strategy effective enough to bring actual change in the matter?

DiCaprio’s speech was very direct. As a member of the civil society rather than a celebrity, he spoke to governments and industries to stop pretending and instead take large-scale action as it is from there the problem needs to be addressed. In the line “Ladies and Gentlemen, I pretend for a living but you do not.” it can be argued that he accuses them for doing just that, an attempt to address the decision makers (Hiatt and Udasin).

But this is where a slight problem can be identified. Can a goodwill ambassador, however strong his or her speech is, where it is really needed? In this case, where such a large-scale action and tough policy making is required (Perlingieri), is a celebrity really going to give the cause an effective push? Mark D. Alleyne writes in his essay The United Nations’ Celebrity Diplomacy that it is essential to differentiate two different types of public opinion, the mass opinion and the elite opinion. The mass opinion has been proven to have only an average effect on executive action. Alleyne states that the elite one on the other hand, which is of the people able to make change, such as powerful politicians or industry owners, has been proven to be little affected by celebrities. Huliaras and Tzifakis put up a similar point (Tsilaki et al., 2011, 38-40) where they state that the efficiency of celebrity diplomats lies in public interest and not political lobbying but also state that it can help an issue climb in the political agenda. Therefore it is vital to keep this difference in mind, when thinking about celebrities and them being able to change the world’s biggest problems.

The environmental crises could very well be considered the biggest problem of man-kind (Perligieri). The UN is the closest thing the global society has to a supranational body and therefore, much is expected by the organisation in this matter (Finizio and French). The goal of this summit was to find an agreement to cut the world’s CO2 admission with 80%, which was not achieved (Booker, 2014). Strong measures are needed and the UN is stuck in its vicious circle of inefficiency (French). So all in all it is unlikely that DiCapario in his new role can do much to improve the current situation, but hopefully he is able to plant a seed in the minds of our future leaders. Therefore, his role is important.

References:

Alleyne, The United Nations’ Celebrity Diplomacy, 2005, Scanned Reading

Booker, Dreary climate summit was surely their saddest fiasco yet, The Telegraph, 27 Sept 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/11124976/Dreary-climate-summit-was-surely-their-saddest-fiasco-yet.html, accessed Oct 2014.

Finizio, The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance: A Human Security Perspective, http://www.academia.edu/1395199/The_United_Nations_and_Global_Environmental_Governance_A_Human_Security_Perspective, accessed Oct 2014

French, The Role of the United Nations in Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, http://www.eolss.net/sample-chapters/c14/e1-41-01-02.pdf, accessed Oct 2014

Hiatt and Udasin, Leonardo DiCaprio Charges World Leaders to act Decisively to Save Global Ecosystems, The Jerusalem Post, 23 Sept 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Peretz-to-call-upon-Ban-Ki-Moon-to-form-multinational-Mid-East-climate-team-376220, accessed Oct 2014

Perlingieri, The Worldwide Environmental Crisis: Gone Missing: The Precautionary Principle, for Global Research Feb 11 2009, http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-worldwide-environmental-crisis/12268, accessed Oct 2014

Tsaliki et al., Transnational Celebrity Activism in Global Politics: Changing the World? Gutenberg Press, Malta, 2011

Wiseman, UNC Centre on Public Diplomacy, The Public Diplomacy Role of Celebrity Diplomats, http://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/research_project/the_public_diplomacy_role_of_celebrity_diplomats, accessed Oct 2014.

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