The New Diplomacy: Utilizing Innovative Communication Concepts
That Recognize Resource Constraints
Report from the United States Advisory Commission on Public
From the time governments were organized until very recently, diplomacy
involved conveying a message to another government, usually delivered
by a government official to a representative of a foreign government,
and the response of foreign government officials. The information
revolution that occurred in the last half of the 20th century
dramatically expanded this paradigm.
tell America's story to the world and conduct diplomacy, the
U.S. Department of State also must change the way it communicates.
By continuing to embrace innovative technology and novel - but
effective - thinking, the Department can harness the power wielded
by diverse audiences.
Department of State's Office of E-Diplomacy sponsored a fact-finding
trip by U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy to examine
three inventive diplomatic tactics that enhance the Department's
concepts, which utilize new media and recognize resource constraints,
are referred to as:
Presence Posts, which
use a single American officer in an important region to further
commercial and public diplomacy goals;
provide, without American personnel, a public diplomacy outpost - library,
discussion forum, program venue and Internet access - available
for the use of the local population in a host country; and
use the power of the Internet to communicate with local publics
and Americans in a locally branded product that may be able
to handle up to 50 percent of a physical consulate's workload.
world, a wide array of significant foreign citizens - journalists,
students, and business people - shape relations among nations
through their influence on the public discourse. In rapidly expanding
numbers, we all are - no matter in which country we reside - gaining
information from the Internet, television, and other forms of
foreign countries no longer must rely on their government for
information. To effectively advance the American agenda, the
U.S. Government must find the means to engage all sectors of
foreign society by diverse means.
in a large scale and coordinated effort tailored to host country
needs and capabilities, the Advisory Commission believes American
Corners, American Presence Posts, and Virtual Consulates together
can form key building blocks of a "New Diplomacy" that informs
and influences foreign audiences in their homes, places of business,
and venues of leisure. Through the power of technology and innovative
concepts, direct communication is now possible with the populations
we must engage.
Presence Post (APP) revolves around a single Foreign Service
Officer posted in a major city or region. This piece of the "New
Diplomacy" requires the most significant output of resources
and Embassy dedication. Former U.S. Ambassador to France Felix
Rohatyn originated the American Presence Post concept in 1997
to handle consular and American citizen services, U.S. commercial
promotion, and public diplomacy.
currently five APPs in France (Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Rennes,
and Toulouse), one in Turkey (Izmir) and one in Canada (Winnipeg).
believes the concept is a useful way to give visibility to the
United States with an official American voice. However, to carry
out this model effectively, the post must have the proper focus,
support, and resources from the U.S. Embassy in the host country.
The vast amount of security required to have an American officer
in place does not allow for a functional public diplomacy venue.
The Foreign Service Officer must serve as a mobile representative
to businesses, media organizations, civic groups, and educational
At the post
reviewed by the Commission in Izmir, Turkey, one Foreign Service
Officer required two Foreign Service National employees as support
staff, a driver, and two security personnel supplied by the Embassy
in Ankara. The Turkish government provided a personal bodyguard
and numerous police officers as protective measures. Additionally,
in Izmir, a U.S. Commercial Service post, funded by the Department
of Commerce, also is present. However, the Foreign Service Nationals
hired at this site only work at promoting American trade in Turkey.
found the American Presence Post to be a useful and viable form
of public diplomacy and reporting. However, the mission seemed
to be handicapped in its public diplomacy and commercial services
mandate by the vast security force required and the need to conduct
citizen services. Consequently, the Commission recommends that
before an American Presence Post is initiated, the Embassy must
be aware of the significant resources, in addition to the Foreign
Service Officer, this venture could require.
or regions where an American Presence Post may be considered,
the Commission first recommends implementation of a Virtual Consulate
and American Corner. If the region still requires a Foreign Service
Officer, the Commission suggests that this individual work in
a residence/office environment that is separate from the American
Corner. At the Ambassador's discretion, the officer should focus
solely on public diplomacy, reporting, and commercial interests.
In a very vast and populated region, it could be quite helpful
to have an on-the-record American spokesperson to communicate
with local populations.
and expand the American Presence Post concept, the Commission
must designate one or two clear objectives for the post. It
is impossible for one American officer to carry out effective
American citizen services, public diplomacy, and commercial
interests. It is critical that the post have a clear reporting
structure to the Embassy to ensure that a separate bureaucracy
is not created.
must not market the concept as a "mini-consulate" for host
populations and American citizens. This
will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction with the limited services
the post provides.
officer must have connectivity with the Department of State's
computer network. The
sole officer in each region is still a part of the Embassy
team. He/she must be supported as such and given the proper
equipment and access to accomplish the goals set forth. (At
the post reviewed, the Foreign Service Officer relied on an
e-mail address branded as Yahoo.com).
officer must have significant language training and capabilities. To
serve as an official spokesperson to local business and civic
groups and media organizations, the officer must be very skilled
in the language of the region. The officer also must be able
to serve in an environment without support staff.
With the right
Foreign Service Officer in place, the American Presence Post
can have a significant value in the "New Diplomacy." However,
without the proper care, each post could develop into a personality
driven enterprise. To achieve productivity, each post must have
the proper officer, clear objectives, and support of the Embassy.
It appears that the American Presence Post could be effective
with a singular goal of commercial services or public diplomacy.
Corner concept offers the United States a physical public diplomacy
outpost - Internet access, a small reference collection, and
discussion forum - sponsored by a host country's municipal or
national government. The U.S. Government only is required to
fund the equipment and materials used.
is very valuable because the host country pays for the staff
and the rent of the facility. Security is minimal because no
American staff is present. Easy public access is achieved by
using local entities - libraries, universities, Chambers of Commerce - to
house the Corners.
are often co-located with Internet Access and Training Program
centers, as is the case in Chelyabinsk, Russia. The Centers also
serve as a program platform, providing a venue for American speakers,
educational advising sessions, and English teaching. They are
popular as gathering places for the alumni of U.S. Government
exchange programs. The American Corners in Russia have incorporated
themselves as a non-profit organization and can solicit private
funding to enhance their scope and reach.
With the phase-out
of the very prominent United States Information Service (USIS)
libraries in the 1990s, and the increase in security required
at each American Embassy and Consulate, the American Corners
can bring a personal presence to American diplomacy that has
waned in recent years.
U.S. Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro William Montgomery and
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow have fully utilized
the public diplomacy potential of American Corners in their
respective countries by lending full support to the concept,
attending openings, and encouraging the media to cover events
at the Corners. This has fostered a rich membership base and
following, which regularly uses the Corners to learn about
the English language, and American history and culture. The
Corners also provide opportunities to find public and private
scholarships and grants to American educational institutions.
believes the content and the programming of the American Corners
is extremely worthwhile. However, the model can be honed even
further to help communicate a positive American message on current
issues facing host populations.
upon this already valuable model, the Commission recommends that
the American Corners concept:
a standard survey to gauge the usage of products offered. By
surveying current users and potential customers of American
Corners, the State Department can determine what products are
most utilized and what types of programs could be added or
modified to increase interest.
Internet Access. Many
nations' populations are Internet savvy but lack the resources
to gain regular entrée. Through the Internet, American Corners
can serve as their gateway to the world. The American Corner
can attract a vast array of the customers by supplying additional
computers and Internet accounts.
each location as an outpost to discuss American society and
foreign policy with host populations. To
increase interest in the American Corner and directly expand
an American message, the State Department's International Information
Programs and Educational and Cultural Affairs bureaus should
help facilitate town hall style meetings with prominent Americans,
who may already be on speaking tours. These events will draw
regular citizens and media attention to each of the Corners.
multi-media content through private sector donations. The
Department should actively engage the technology, entertainment,
and media industries to donate Internet access, technology,
and print and video products that positively portray the United
a hub for Digital Video Conferences. By
adding digital video conference capabilities, the American
Corners can sponsor speeches and discussions by officials and
prominent citizens on American life and foreign policy.
conjunction with the Virtual Consulate model. Every
American Corner also should have a Virtual Consulate. All start
up screens at all Internet access points in the Corner should
include this gateway to American services and information.
Corner is a way to provide an outpost for public diplomacy in
areas that have not been previously targeted or are underrepresented.
American Corners can help provide the tangible materials that
are necessary for the "New Diplomacy" to be functional.
now close to 50 American Corners around the world, most in Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Commission believes this
concept should be tested in "hot spots" throughout the globe.
Consulate is an innovative product, which uses a locally branded
Internet Web site with customized content. For example, the site
in Tyumen, Russia, has the web address of http://usa.tyumen.ru.
By creating a unique product for each municipality or region,
the Virtual Consulate program provides a localized feel and relevance
in the target community.
launched by Tom Niblock, the former U.S. Consulate General of
Yekaterinburg, Russia, has the potential to stream germane and
time sensitive information to audiences in major cities and remote
regions where the United States has no physical presence. Additionally,
initial anecdotal evidence from Russia suggests that a virtual
consulate may be able to perform up to 50 percent of the work
of an actual consulate and do it in a timely and cost effective
Consulate offers information in English that can help American
business people gain an understanding of a region or metropolitan
area for commercial purposes. The Virtual Consulate can help
to foster alliances, linkages, and partnerships between Americans
and host country citizens, thereby creating direct diplomacy.
Consulate is probably the most flexible and agile instrument
in the "New Diplomacy" toolbox. The concept is primarily valuable
in countries with significant Internet access and computer literacy
rates. The Commission believes the Virtual Consulate offers tremendous
potential in terms of communication with host country populations
that have Internet access and understanding. With the inevitable
increase in Internet use among foreign populations - Russia has
just reached 10 percent - it only makes sense to invest heavily
in this concept for the future.
To help expand
the potential of this concept, the Commission recommends that
the Virtual Consulate embrace:
vetting and queuing for visa applications and scheduling of
mandatory interviews. Although
the Virtual Consulates already feature visa information and
a printable application, the technology on the sites must be
expanded to allow for citizens to apply for a visa and set
up an appointment for the mandatory in-person interview. In
the long term, this will ease the burdens of the consular staff
and provide some immediate satisfaction for local populations.
of a best practices criterion for roll out. Initial
Virtual Consulate sites should be selected based on population
density, Internet literacy, and identified American interests.
Regular updates and online events from U.S. officials to
drive traffic to the site and magnify America's message. Officials
can communicate with the local populations from their remote
offices. An Ambassador can easily host an online town hall
meeting or write an online opinion piece on a pressing U.S
matter. This will help to inform the local populations and
keep the content fresh on the sites. The Department also should
regularly feed important information and news stories already
developed in host country languages from the International
Information Programs bureau.
database that allows users to obtain regular information and
invitations to events sponsored or endorsed by the U.S. Government.
Additionally, these individuals should be imported into the
American Embassy's contact database.
access kiosks and portals throughout a target region to expand
the reach of the Virtual Consulate in areas with limited computer
Department of State could fund these portals with corporate
sponsorships as a legitimate means of public diplomacy.
the goal of universality of representation by serving as "Virtual
Embassies" in countries with no American diplomatic presence. The
Virtual Consulate easily could be transformed into a "Virtual
Embassy" in nations like Andorra, the Seychelles, and Equatorial
New Guinea where the United States does not have a physical
updating of Web pages can be accomplished remotely, for success
the Virtual Consulate does require regular support and nurturing
from Embassy or Consulate staff in periodic visits to the focus
city. These visits help to raise awareness and add legitimacy
to the sites.
accessibility increases, host country citizens will begin to
see the Virtual Consulates as one-stop-shopping for all news,
information, and services brought to them by the United States
government. With a mere $10,000 in start up costs, this robust
model can handle many tasks performed by a Consulate. Only the
issuing of visas requires a fixed location and stationary staff.
The Virtual Consulate, with a host of Internet kiosks throughout
a region, can be viewed as a gateway for the "New Diplomacy" throughout
many areas of the world.
revolution has expanded the diplomacy paradigm. The "New Diplomacy" is
now central to every Embassy's work. A strategy of Virtual Consulates,
American Corners, and American Presence Posts can be tailored
in a bold initiative to directly communicate with citizens throughout
Each of these
concepts should be combined in a comprehensive three-stage public
diplomacy plan. The Commission believes that each concept is
complementary to one another. However, all concepts may not be
relevant to every nation. Implementation should be left up to
the discretion of the Ambassador and the Public Affairs Officer.
more than 350 cities in the world with more than 1 million residents.
The United States is represented in only half of these locations
with a physical presence. There are even more medium and small
cities with a combined greater population. The Department of
State must find the means to communicate with all populations.
The "New Diplomacy" provides the initial building blocks for
a cost effective and potentially far reaching public diplomacy