Minutes of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy July 2005 Official Meeting
Barbara M. Barrett - Chair
Harold C. Pachios - Commissioner
Maria Sophia Aguirre - Commissioner
Ambassador Elizabeth F. Bagley - Commissioner
Charles "Tre" Evers III - Commissioner
Jay T. Snyder - Commissioner
Athena Katsoulos - Executive Director
Subject: Presentations by the Regional Bureau Public Diplomacy Office Directors
Background: At the Commission’s invitation, the State Department’s regional Public Diplomacy Office Directors presented public diplomacy updates and developments within their region.
Chairman Barbara Barrett called the meeting to order.
The Deputy Director of public diplomacy for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP), Mr. Skipper, began by giving an overview of policy issues in the region including combating terrorism, maritime security, promoting trade and investment and other transnational issues. On public diplomacy activities, he noted efforts made toward reaching audiences who are younger and located outside the capital using American Corners, cultural programs and sports programs. He added that there are currently eight or nine embassies in the region with no PD personnel. These posts are compensating by partnering with larger embassies to produce joint programming. Reviewing recent highlights, Mr. Skipper said that there has been a $20 million funding increase for the Fulbright program in Indonesia. There have also been grants for democracy programs, media training and interfaith dialogue. Translations of web pages and other information are offered in local languages. The tsunami relief efforts had garnered a lot of positive press. Also, the simultaneous translation of Secretary Rice’s web chat in Korea drew an audience of 20 million people. Overall, Mr. Skipper noted that what works best are people-to-people exchanges rather than overly slick ad campaigns.
The Deputy Director of public diplomacy for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR), Ms. Walker, reported her bureau includes 54 countries. There are two critical audiences, one in Western Europe where efforts are focused on explaining U.S. policies to friends and allies. The second audience is located in Eurasia where efforts focus on democracy building. EUR’s PD priorities are democracy building, media outreach/rapid reaction, exchange programs for Central Europe and Muslim outreach. EUR oversees five American Presence Posts and is the first bureau to create a separate Deputy Assistant Secretary for public diplomacy. In recent successes, the Teacher’s Exchange Association (TEA) gave awards to top secondary school teachers and sent them to U.S., creating close ties between the U.S. and local schools. At the same time, there was a 65% decrease in exchange program funding in FY2004. EUR has also been encouraging moderate Muslim leaders to speak out against terrorism.
The Director of public diplomacy for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), Mr. Fernandez, reported that NEA is providing funds to PAOs to use for creative programs that suit local audiences and encouraging more "people to people" activity to reach out "broader and wider " to the underclass. NEA public diplomacy involves meeting the challenge of working in a negative environment and proactively using a range of media tools from pan-Arab TV and newspapers to speaking at conferences and universities. Following the London bombings, posts encouraged local opinion leaders to speak out against the bombings. Posts have also been encouraging a wide range of people to speak out against targeting Iraqi civilians. Mr. Fernandez noted that PD efforts in Iraq are focused on promoting democracy but require a balance between the pace of Iraqi reconstruction and the agenda of hope, change and freedom.
The Director of public diplomacy for the Bureau of South Asian Affairs (SA), Mr. Schwartz, noted the importance of the culture of the book and of education in that region. Thus, he noted, the closing of American Centers has damaged PD in the region because people to people contact had decreased with the closing of every center, most recently in Islamabad. SA is currently working on creating the next generation American Center that balances current security needs and accessibility. A freestanding American Center (separate from the Embassy) has been proposed for New Delhi that incorporates necessary security measures but has not yet been funded. Mr. Schwartz also noted that there are high favorability ratings for the U.S. in India according to a recent Pew study.
The Director of public diplomacy for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA), Ms. Conners, and her deputy, Mr. Adams, then briefed the Commission on public diplomacy in that region where 34 out of 35 countries are democracies. The budget for WHA in the past few years has been about the same. WHA is trying to reach younger, wider and deeper audiences to combat gangs, drugs and illegal immigration. Key issues facing the region are CAFTA, anti-corruption, bolstering security and working with NGOs to promote democracy. He highlighted the bi-national centers in Argentina as an example of strong U.S.-host country partnership.
The Director of public diplomacy for the Bureau of African Affairs (AF), Ms. Koengeter, noted that this region, which includes 48 countries, has received an increase in funding recently. She added that the recent G8 summit highlighted African issues. She noted the importance of PD here, given that Africa is the home of 400 million Muslims and is a gateway to the Middle East. Internet access is spotty but increasing and radio is the most accessible communications medium. Overall, there is a positive attitude toward the U.S. across Africa, with about a 58% approval rating.
Chairman Barbara Barrett concluded the meeting with thanks to the office directors for their insights. The meeting was adjourned.