Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014c

Author Archive

Changing or enabling the rape culture?

The term ‘Rape Culture’ has been flashing around us in recent years and it is a popular subject in conversations, social media and pressed media. A report made by Marshall University Women’s Center defines rape culture as a term as follows: “Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalised and excused in the media and pop culture […] it is perpetuated throug the use of misogynistic language, objectification of womens’s bodies and the glamorisation of sexual violence, therefore creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety”. ( You can read more about it here.

In social media rape culture shows in very various ways and it is argued that social media makes todays rapes even more unbearable than they already are. There was a case in 2011 in Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school students, stars of their football team, raped a 16-year-old girl whilst she was intoxicated and unable to respond to the act. The act lasted for several hours and had viewers who did not intervene, but photographed and videoed the act and later on published these horrific images in online platforms such as Twitter and Instagram using words like “rape” and “drunk girl” in their postings. (

The boys were charged by the jury for minimum sentences, but the comments and discussions online were the other kind. Media outlets started to pour with sympathy towards the rapists, and not the victim, saying for example that it was her fault to get raped as it was her choice to get so drunk that she could not say no. ( This is a perfect example on how the media and especially social media acts when it comes to rape, seeking wrongdoers and victims. The rape culture enables comments like “well she should not have worn those clothes” or “she should not have been walking home by herself if intoxicated”, but it clearly states that the victim was wrong and that boys will be boys. Of course it needs to be acknowledged that not all sexual assaults are towards women, and that it happens the other way around as well.

Is social media enabling or changing the culture of rape? On the other hand, these occasions, like in Steubenville, have gotten worse because of the humiliation of the victim through social media, but it has made detecting the rapists easier. There are also many anti-rape culture communities online posting about these issues such like @StandtoEndRape and organisation called People Against Rape Culture, but how can we make sure the information reaches the people who might be needing it the most? The social media platform allows individuals to post about rape and its horrors, but then there lies the danger that many are offended, as these videos and lists are conducted so that it refers all men to be rapist. You can find these kind of publications here and here.

One thing everyone does agree on, is that rape culture can be changed. Culture in general is ever changing, and always evolving to fit the present, so if we have successfully created a rape culture, we sure can evolve away from it. It just takes time, patience and a tremendous amount of effort from communities, private and public to bring up a generation that does not have to live in this kind of culture.


MACUR, J. and SCHWEBER, N. (2012). Rape Case Unfolds Online and Divides Steubenville. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

MACUR, J. and SCHWEBER, N. (2012). Rape Case Unfolds Online and Divides Steubenville. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Madden, K. (2015). Campus Times » Rape Culture: The media’s role in normalizing assault. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Rape Culture | Women’s Center. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

People Against Rape Culture, (2015). People Against Rape Culture. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Storify, (2015). Changing The Culture of Rape via Social Media #SMWEndRape (with tweets) · StandToEndRape. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

Twitter, (2015). Sarah Silverman on Twitter. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

YouTube, (2015). How to Not Get Raped. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].


Finland, branding or promotion?

Finland. That tiny little country in the cold North right next to Russia and separated from Sweden by the Gulf of Bothnfinl-MMAP-mdia, that no one really knows anything about. There are 5,268,799 people in 338,145 square kilometers which of 70% is forest, 10% lake and 8% arable land. (

According to Simon Anholt, nation branding plays a vital role when a state is pursuing their national goals in the global stage. How the nation is perceived by others has an affect on their success in global markets. The strategies of nation branding vary depending on what the nation wants to achieve, and they can put the focus on marketing or public diplomacy and policymaking, only imagination is the limit, but it needs to happen in public to get the brand to be seen. (Anholt 2007)

So what is the Finland known of? As a Finn, it is hard to think what other countries remember or know from Finland, but what comes to mind after asking about it from my non-Finnish friends are Sauna, Father Christmas, Nokia (which by the way thanks to Stephen Elop was sold to Microsoft…), ice swimming and the silly games they play, such as Wife carrying competition and air guitar world championships.

As Finland was, and still is perceived as this silly northern country with great qualities hidden behind the public picture, the government realised that in order to gain more reputation in the global scale, they had to promote the good aspects of Finland, and not just the silliness of it. It has been proved by PISA (a programme for international student assessment in OECD) that Finland has is in the last 40 years after the reforms of the educational systems been on the top of the list for its education system year after year.

Although, in recent years Finland’s ranking has dropped in PISA records, not very far, but still dropped. To keep the association of the best education is in Finland, and actually prove it, Finland decided to reform its educational system by not teaching subjects anymore, but teaching by topic. For example “pupils will be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography” and the education manager of Helsinki argues towards this reform by saying: “There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s – but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century”. This reform has had a lot of attention in the media, so far so, that even the United Kingdom has done a trip to Finland to learn from the schooling system and draw lessons that could be applicable in the UK schooling systems. You can read more about Finnish school systems here.

Moving forward from branding Finland with education system, to the healthcare and support from the government for mothers. The Government sends every new mother a “Maternity box” which includes basic supplies for babies when they are first born, and at the same time it acts as a crib for the babies themselves. The BBC wrote an article called Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes, which had a lot of international attention in the news media promoting healthcare and support forbabybox624_2 mothers, and lead to another wave of ‘how we can learn from the Finns’, such as the educational system did.

As mentioned earlier, Simon Anholt coined the concept of nation branding, but later on came to realise that it might actually be impossible. He argues that people do not tend to change their minds about countries as they don’t really think about countries in general. He says that human is not born as a cosmopolitan, and normal people think only three countries in average; their own country, the United States and a third one that depends on individuals. He also argues that we reject new ideas of a country if it doesn’t fit into out individual norms. (notes written in a seminar held in London metropolitan university by Simon Anholt 25th of February 2015)

Even if these actions do not brand Finland differently, it still is clear that Finland is promoting equality in the global media. I would like to end this post with a song by our Eurovision entry from Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät a song called “I always have to”.The band is a Finnish punk band formed of mentally handicapped men who enjoy music and want equality.

Air Guitar World Championships, (2015). 20th Air Guitar World Championships | Air Guitar World Championships | Air Guitar World Championships. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Anholt, S. (2007). Competitive identity. Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan.
BBC News, (2015). Microsoft to buy Nokia’s mobile phone unit – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
BBC News, (2015). Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). The World Factbook. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Home -Sonkajärven Eukonkanto Oy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät – Aina Mun Pitää (Finland 2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union, (2015). National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union, (2015). National Union of Teachers | NUT | The Teachers’ Union. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015]., (2015). The Finnish National Board of Education – Education system. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
The Independent, (2015). Schools in Finland will no longer teach ‘subjects’. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
Washington Post, (2015). Are Finland’s vaunted schools slipping?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].
YouTube, (2015). ESC FINLAND 2015 – ENGLISH LYRICS – PKN – Aina mun pitää/ I always have to. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 Jun. 2015].

notes written in a seminar held in London metropolitan university by Simon Anholt 25th of February 2015

See, think, think again and share after.

Social media is a part of our everyday life. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and many other platforms help us to stay connected with family and friends, spread ideas and thoughts and even organise a revolution if needed. Social media is a vital part of companies marketing strategies, raising awareness on issues and acts of public diplomacy of states, but it is easy for individuals to get lost in social media, and loose sight of what is appropriate and what is not. Internet bullying and so called trolling has become a major issue simultaneously with the positive development that social media has gone through over the years.

A big question is that who is responsible for misbehaviour in social media? Of course the first reaction to answer is that the person whose posts we are talking about, but what if these people can’t be held responsible, such like children or people with learning disabilities, should the social media platform be held responsible for letting inappropriate posts to go public?

There is, of course, a difference on who is publishing and what, so if it is an individual or an representative of an organisation. An organisation usually have strict policies on who is posting and what is being posted in the name of that particular company, but an individuals are only responsible to themselves and there is a possibility that they do not understand the digital identity it might create, again especially if the individual is a child or otherwise not quite able to comprehend the scale and the permanence of social media.

Facebook and Twitter describe themselves as platforms that make communications possible, rather than being there for the sake of publishing content, a characterisation which essentially moves their responsibility of the content to the user. Twitter has 302 million active users monthly when Facebook has 1.44 billion active users monthly and with user amounts like that, they had to come up with something to point out misbehaving users, and so someone who finds a post offensive can report it to the administration of the site and they can remove these posts and give penalties, for example expel a user for a certain period of time. This is a step in to the right direction, but there is no way that a platform with that many users can never be completely free of misuse.

Social media has a tendency to have so called “viral’s” where a photo, a video or a page of a community spreads fast in to peoples feeds and become popular. These can be absolutely anything, and there is no clear cause for them. They are usually very relatable for people and cause discussion, for example this dress and it’s color:

Dress photo

This case went viral in a matter of hours and even traditional media was writing stories about it trying to explain why people see the colours of the dress differently. One can read more about the conversations here, here and here.

This is a great example of a viral, but there is another way of looking at these viral’s. Earlier this year in Kenya, a group called Al Shabaab attacked Garissa university and killed 147 people. This act in itself was horrifying, and it had a lot of attention and discussion in social media. People were understandably worried and compassionate about this act of violence against students, and they wanted to raise awareness on what is happening in the world by posting and tweeting a photo of dead bodies taken in the university. You can find the photo here but I do warn that the image is disturbing for sensitive viewers.

I’m sure the intention was good for most people, but the fact that people are raising awareness to horrible acts by posting photos of violently killed corpses, which degrading to their lives and offensive to their remaining relatives, is not really appropriate use of the platforms of social media.

Publics were so overwhelmed by emotion that they became desensitised to the horror and forgot that the photo was taken of real people who had lost their lives, but if the thought process would have gone any further, they might have realised that if the photo had themselves or their own relatives in it, no one would actually want it to be published let alone shared in the intention of raising awareness.

There are various training programmes and information sites provided for several groups of social media users, such like teenagers, parents and public officials which you can read more about in herehere and here. These sites gives guidelines for the code of conduct when using social media, which is very important to know about especially if one is still learning or does not fully understand social media. Is it enough though as then this is left for individuals to decide if it is necessary or not. As social media is part of everyday life, shouldn’t it be practiced how to use it in everyday life so that we don’t harm ourselves and the identity offline by posting or sharing something potentially harmful for our future.

References, (2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015]., (2015). Company | About. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Kenya attack: 147 dead in Garissa University assault – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Kenya attack: 147 dead in Garissa University assault – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

BBC News, (2015). Why everyone is asking: What colour is this dress?’ – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015]., (2015). Social Media Policy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

IFLScience, (2015). The Science Of Why This Dress Looks Different Colors To Different People. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Pannoni, A. (2014). Talk to Teens About Being Responsible on Social Media – US News. [online] US News & World Report. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Statista, (2015). Facebook: monthly active users 2015 | Statistic. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Team, S., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Team, S., Team, S., Ochs, J., Ochs, J., Ochs, J. and Team, S. (2015). Teens Social Media Safety | [online] Safe Smart Social. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Wallisch, P. (2015). An Expert’s Lessons From the Dress: Why Don’t We All See the Same Thing?. [online] Slate Magazine. Available at: [Accessed 31 May 2015].

Culinary Thailand

Gastro diplomacy and effectiveness on Thailand.

There is an old proverb that most people know; “The way to a mans heart, is through his stomach”. Of course this is widely seen as a proverb to win someones affection, but we can think of it in a wider context. The way to win foreign publics over, might as well happen through their stomachs.

Thailand was known previously through its beautiful nature, white sandy beaches and paradise islands combined with happy and generous people, buddhas and of course the sex tourism. Origins for the association of Thailand and its’ sex tourism started during the Vietnam war when the United States proposed a treaty with Thailand to get their soldiers a relief allowing them to retreat to Thailand for ‘Rest and Recreation’ (1). After that, prostitution has flourished and tourism from the West was highly for this purpose even to the extent where children were acting out as prostitutes (2).

Needless to say that this was not a desirable image Thailand wanted to uphold, and as the law enforcement started to do their job to reduce the illegal sex industry, the government wanted to change the view the country was perceived internationally. Gastro diplomacy is the practice seeks to make a national image better by promoting national delicacies, and in Thailand’s case, this was the perfect way to start reforming her reputation in the global stage.

Leah Selim explains perfectly how important food is to create an image and build bonds between people as one can see from this video below:

Thailand was a pioneer in this practice of gastro diplomacy, by offering affordable loans and grants to small businesses for her people around the world. Since 2003 the government has supported this with a yearly budget of 500 million baht which comes to approximately 10 million pounds (4). There was already about 5,500 Thai restaurants around the world in the year 2002 but with this help the government wanted to increase the number to 8,000 by the year 2003, and they have succeeded unbelievably well, it also created a new kind of tourism to Thailand, which was culinary tourism, where people travel there to learn how to cook Thai food and explore all the possibilities within it. Sam Chapple-Sokol, a researcher of gastro diplomacy said that “you can go to a Thai restaurant and eat Thai food and meet Thai people and understand more of what that culture is about”,(3) which was more than welcome for improving Thailand’s image and raising awareness for the good aspect of the country and drawing the negative connotations about Thailand away from the mainstream.

Obviously Thailand still does suffer from a bad image, but due to this, not in the same extent than just a decade ago. Because they have successfully mostly eliminated the sex industry image, the good qualities of Thailand are more on the show in the global stage, and tourist view Thailand more through its beautiful nature, white sandy beaches and paradise islands combined with happy and generous people, buddhas and of course the delicious food!

Bon appetit, or ทานให้อร่อย (taan hâi a-ròi) as they say!


  1. Truong, T. (1990) ‘Sex, Money and Morality’, Zed Books Ltd., London, UK.





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.






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