Connect with us

Opinion

Does Public Diplomacy Matter?

Claudiu Sonda

Published

on

Introduction

We hear about ‘public diplomacy’ virtually on a daily basis as if it has been around forever but as a matter of fact, this precise term is only circa 50 years old, having been coined in 1965 by Edmund Gullion. In what follows, I will make an attempt at clarifying the meaning of this notorious notion and at understanding it significance in contemporary international affairs.

My proposition is to set a distinction between two forms of public diplomacy, only the first of which will then be analysed under the meaning/content, and relevance aspects. The first type I label as ‘top-down public diplomacy’, which contrasts with the second type, ‘bottom-up public diplomacy’.

8434096525_343570966f_z

Source: Maxime Benzi @ Flickr

Before going into more detail, I want to make a general assessment of the topic. The whole business of diplomacy can be considered as representation and communication. Public diplomacy goes even further into influencing the ‘public attitudes on the formation and execution of foreign policies.’ By ‘top-down’ I am referring to a relation of communication or influence that has a national government (state) as the transmitter and the general public (non-state) as receiver. ‘Bottom-up’ I conceive to be exactly the opposite, a relationship that reflects the communicative and influential input of the public for achieving a certain political output from a government. This can be done either directly, public – foreign government, or indirectly: public – foreign public – foreign government.

Top-down public diplomacy

This typology of public diplomacy refers to all the actions that a government takes to communicate to foreign publics and influence their thinking and behaviour. Also, the spread of a good image of the country worldwide is a task of public diplomacy. What sort of actions do governments undertake in this sense?

A first one could be the direct address by high officials. Representative is George W. Bush’s speech on the war on terror. He thanks ‘on behalf of the American people…the world for its outpouring of support’. His recipients are not foreign government officials, but the general foreign public made up of ‘South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy in Seoul’, others who pray in the ‘mosque in Cairo’, and those who kept ‘moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America’. Bush addresses through this speech the Taliban openly, asking for the release of foreign nationals and the delivery of Bin Laden. He also speaks ‘directly to Muslims throughout the world’, claiming to respect their faith. Even though President Bush is only talking to his immediate audience, the Joint Session of the 107th Congress, he is in fact aware that the whole world is watching. He is holding a one-way ‘diplomatic meeting’ with the foreign public via media broadcasting.

3203303992_cbfd07789d_z

Source: Beverly & Pack @ Flickr

One more instrument of public diplomacy is the spread of governmentally-funded NGOS and foundations around the globe with the aim to endorse the image of the country of origin, its values, and to facilitate the execution of foreign policy by preparing foreign audiences into being more receptive. One illustrative example is the Romanian Cultural Institute, which has the mission to promote ‘national culture and civilization in Romania and abroad’, therefore acting as a ‘crucial complementary instrument’ for achieving ‘Romania’s strategic objectives’. Its work is structured around a number of ‘programs, project, and activities’ which mainly focus on identity issues like language, traditions, and artistic and intellectual creations. This case fits more with the prestige of a country function of public diplomacy. States like Romania and Bulgaria who have been admitted lastly into the EU, could benefit from this kind of tool to approach an EU public that has been since critical of the last wave of enlargement ever since it started.

What about the relevance of public diplomacy ? I would argue positively. Both from the theoretical perspective and from the practical side. Regarding the conceptual relevance, this notion of public diplomacy manages to explain a behaviour that would in its absence be harder to grasp. Why would President Bush address people who are not present in the room while holding his speech? Was it merely rhetoric for influencing the members of the Congress and for getting into the graces of the American people? It is more. I would argue it is part of a larger diplomatic effort meant to build up that coalition of 49 countries willing to participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The participation to the war in Iraq can be justified by a feeling of empathy to the American sufferings of 9/11 and by a fear of terrorism, both instilled in the foreign audience initially by Bush’s public diplomacy.

On a practical level, public diplomacy is very relevant in the age of globalization and under the dominance of a liberal/democratic international order because state actors’ actions are under more scrutiny. Legitimacy is a higher priority. The amplification of global interaction together with the impact of Internet and social media leads to more interdependence, which in turn distorts the line between domestic and foreign policy. When a Christian fundamentalist burned the Qur’an in the US (2011), the Muslim world immediately reacted: this event transgressed boundaries from a domestic event into a foreign policy instance. A confined episode turned into a threat to US reputation. Respectable reputation along with legitimacy revolves around the idea of soft power, a vital ingredient for decreasing hostility and earning the confidence vote to lead internationally.

3754330400_ee728dbaae_z

The seat of international law: The Peace Palace (The Hague) Source: Ferdi de Gier @ Flickr

The international legal order is constructed today on the basis of the UN Charter. The United Nations is officially the main source of lawfulness and legitimacy on the world scene, argument proved by the intention of Palestine to be recognized by the UN as a member state. A current affairs instance of the role of international law is the Russian annexation of Crimea or the unification of Crimea to Russia, depending on the political position. Article 1 and Article 2 offer different decisions to whether this situation was legal or not. Namely, the right to self-determination of the Russians in Crimea against the right to territorial integrity. Political legitimacy also plays a part in this debate: was the interim government legitimate or not? Regardless of the answer, what matters is that the debate around international norms and principles sugar-coated realpolitik. Why? Because states need to be acting in accordance with what the public opinion sees as right, which in this case is prescribed in the UN Charter.

An overlooked characteristic of public diplomacy is its domestic variation, namely the engagement of the domestic public. The context of democratization in foreign policy-making is valuable in emphasizing the role of the local population in consenting to, embracing and disseminating the principles and goals of the national leaders in an environment where, as mentioned earlier, the boundaries between what is domestic and what is international are fading. Let’s take an example. The People’s Republic of China is established under the ‘people’s democratic dictatorship’. The domestic facet of the public diplomacy in this country has the exact target of promoting the principle of ‘governing for the people’ in foreign matters as well, and it is implemented through constant interaction between the general public and the foreign ministry (conferences, online discussions, visits).

3392524726_901ec35931_z

Chinese public diplomacy: Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Source: Earth Hour @ Flickr

Conclusion

To sum up our discussion, we can positively affirm that public diplomacy is relevant in contemporary international relations due to a number of characteristics of the global arena. These are:

  • the states’ need for legitimacy both from the foreign public and domestic one;
  • the higher role of reputation and soft power;
  • the requirement to be compliant with international law which makes states justify their actions to the public;
  • high global interaction and access which leads to more scrutiny of state actions:
  • an ever more blurry line between domestic and foreign issues;
  • increasing involvement of domestic constituencies in foreign policy-making both in democracies and illiberal states;

All these features determine states to consider the international public opinion in the process of decision-making, especially in matters of external affairs. This effort to communicate more, influence more, involve more, promote more to the foreign public complementary to foreign governments is the task of a public diplomacy that is here to stay.

List of references

(Tr.) Sultan C., April 18, 2005, Europe Union: How Fit Are Romania and Bulgaria for the EU?, at Spiegel.de, website: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/europe-union-how-fit-are-romania-and-bulgaria-for-the-eu-a-352874.html ;

Armitage R, Nye J. (2007), CSIS COMMISSION ON SMART POWER. A smarter, more secure America, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, The CSIS Press, Washington DC;

BBC.com, 30 November 2012, Q&A: Palestinians’ upgraded UN status, website: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-13701636 ;

Carlsnaes W, Risse T., Simmons B. (2002), Diplomacy, Bargaining and Negotiation, in Handbook of International Relations, pp. 212-235, SAGE Publications Ltd;

Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (2004), website: http://www.npc.gov.cn/englishnpc/Constitution/2007-11/15/content_1372963.htm ;

Kerr P., Wiseman G. (2013), Diplomacy in a globalizing world. Theories and Practices, Oxford University Press;

Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 27, 2003, at whitehouse.archives.gov, website: http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030327-10.html ;

The Fletcher School and Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University (2014), What is Public Diplomacy, website: http://fletcher.tufts.edu/Murrow/Diplomacy

Passionate student of IR and European politics with an interest in developing a high-level expertise in International Security and geopolitics.

Opinion

Should You Support Universal Basic Income? Who else is in favour?

Manak Suri

Published

on

In the previous article “Universal Basic Income: In Action” we explored that Universal Basic Income under different variants is already being put to trial in different provinces of a number of countries around the world. Before that, in “Universal Basic Income: The Idea” we weighed the potential of UBI in creating a monumental change in the way humanity as a society functions as of today. While there’s still quite some time required to ascertain how easily and efficiently the system can be put into effect and whether it should be put into place at all, some of the more apparent advantages, as well as flaws of the system, are repeatedly considered by experts in determining the answers to the aforementioned questions. In addition, many influential figures have also come out both in support of UBI as well as against it. Let’s take a look at the support UBI has garnered as well as the supposed benefits and criticisms of UBI.

Pros of Universal Basic Income

The first argument often cited in favour of UBI is for its potential to alleviate poverty, improve the standard of living and vastly reduce income inequality no matter which country it is implemented in. the Alaska Permanent Fund (AFP), which we’ve already discussed, was instrumental in improving the state’s income equality rank from 30 to 2. UBI trials in Namibia, Kenya, and parts of India have also yielded positive results in this regard. UBI has also resulted in the improvement of health, especially mental health, as reported by people who have been part of UBI trials in Ontario, Canada. UBI also encourages entrepreneurial behaviour since it guarantees basic subsistence thereby providing an incentive for people to take up a line of work of their liking. UBI trials in India and Namibia have also shown that it has helped promote financial decision making by women resulting in their empowerment. A guarantee of a fixed income every month also brings more power to people when it comes to deciding where they should spend money. The Roosevelt Institute research we discussed previously also suggests an overall growth in the US economy with a countrywide implementation of UBI. UBI is also expected to lead to a positive job growth and lower the dropout rates in schools since it provides more security to families.

Cons of Universal Basic Income

The critics of UBI argue that money that is essential for the poor is being redirected towards the wealthy and those citizens who have no need for it. Robert Greenstein, founder and President of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington D.C.  “if you take the dollars targeted on people in the bottom fifth or two-fifths of the population and convert them to universal payments to people all the way up the income scale, you’re redistributing income upward. That would increase poverty and inequality rather than reduce them.” In addition to that, it is often argued that UBI programs are highly ineffective when compared to welfare programs that are implemented on targeted populations. Therefore, unless UBI is implemented without the scrapping off of such welfare schemes, it is likely to find opposition from a huge number of people who currently benefit from these programs. Another argument against UBI one may repeatedly encounter is that UBI reduces the incentive to work, which leads to huge costs for the economy. This may also lead to a dearth of skilled and unskilled labour in the economy. The Swiss government have opposed the implementation of UBI for the very same reason, fearing that the current labour shortages may be exacerbated. Finally, an argument that also holds the door open for many debates is that UBI is too expensive to implement and will cost a lot to the government. As opposed to studies which show a growth in the economies through the implementation of UBI, many economists have also opposed it, claiming that UBI in the more developed nations will be very expensive to guarantee an acceptable standard of living to all the citizens.

Who Supports Universal Basic Income?

Since the idea was first proposed by Sir Thomas More in 1516, UBI has found suitors throughout recent history. Founding father of the United States Thomas Paine was in favour of it, philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell argued in its favour, and even Martin Luther King said: “the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” American economist Milton Friedman, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and even former US President Richard Nixon came close to bringing UBI to the United States. As of today, a number of high profile names in the Silicon Valley have expressed their support for UBI. An advocate of entrepreneurship and creativity, Mark Zuckerberg sighted UBI as an worth a look in his statement at his Harvard commencement address: “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.” Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk believes implementation of UBI is inevitable. “There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk said in an interview in 2016. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay also donated towards a UBI experiment in Kenya. Coursera founder Andrew Ng expressed on Twitter: “More than ever, we need a basic income to limit everyone’s downside, and better education to give everyone an upside.” The list does not stop here.

UBI has at least gained enough attention to get people, investors, world leaders, and governments to talk about it and more importantly experiment with it. The results are not yet out and will take a considerable amount of time still to be able to present a final verdict on UBI and its effectiveness. However, as robots make humans redundant in recurring waves, is there still enough time to just be experimenting?

Prev postNext post
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Continue Reading

Opinion

Universal Basic Income: In Action

Manak Suri

Published

on

Universal Basic Income presents a case to be considered, now stronger than ever, as automation hits us in recurring waves and machines are slowly beginning to take over much of the work that was done by human beings. If you aren’t caught up with the idea behind UBI and what its implementation could mean for us, you might want to read our previous article on the subject. Now, let’s focus our attention on the practicality of the scheme and let’s have a look at some of the existing cases of UBI in different parts of the world along with their results so far, and have a look at who all are backing the program to become the political norm in the coming decades.

Basic Income Around the World

Pilot programs of UBI have been held in different parts of the world. Besides Finland and Ontario, Canada, which began experimenting with UBI this year itself, countries such as Brazil, the city of Utrecht in The Netherlands and even Oakland in California, the United States have implemented varying UBI schemes on parts of their population. Hawaii passed a legislation this year which aims at forming working groups in order to study the effects of UBI. Elsewhere in the United States, the state of Alaska boasts of a genuine UBI program which has existed since 1976. The Alaskan Permanent Fund or the AFP, which is funded by oil reserves gives dividends to its permanent citizens every year. However, also in 2017, 77% of Swiss voters rejected a UBI proposal from being introduced in the country. Now lets take a look at the cases in Finland and Ontario individually.

In Ontario, Canada trials of UBI have recently begun involving 4,000 citizens between the ages of 18 and 64 who expect to receive a total of a little over 12,000 dollars a year. Couples are entitled to nearly twice of the amount. The plan is to study the effect of such a scheme on the health and well being of the subjects, their earnings and also their productivity. While the experiment is still in its initial stages and it’s too early to make any decisions, a few of the participants have already shown signs of a positive change. In addition to boosting the income of some who fall in the lower end of the earning bracket, the scheme has greatly improved their mental well-being, enabled them to afford healthier food and pay more attention to their health and visit their families more often. Other participants have also expressed that the safety net provided to them by the scheme has enabled them to focus on work they want to do and also on helping others.

Unsurprisingly, automation was a major factor in the decision to introduce the scheme in the province. Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne said of the same,” I see it on a daily basis. I go into a factory and the floor plant manager can tell me where there were 20 people and there is one machine. We need to understand what it might look like if there is, in fact, the labour disruption that some economists are predicting.” Ontario has a population of nearly 14 million people. Positive results overall from the scheme may further result in its adoption throughout the province including all 14 million of its populace.

In January this year, 2,000 people were randomly selected across Finland to be part of a trial of one of the most advanced UBI schemes in the world, undertaken by the Finnish Social Insurance Institute. Under the scheme, the selected citizens receive  €560 (£495) from the Finnish government regardless of their employment status and how much they earn. Some of the cases in the country show that UBI provides the participants with more flexibility in their working pattern, encourages entrepreneurial spirit to take up what one would like to do, and also create more time and focus on volunteering and charity work.

Ms. Sini Martinnen, one of the beneficiaries of the program who noted the above changes in her lifestyle spoke of the same. “So there’s value in other things you do – if there’s just not enough work for everyone you have to figure out how to inspire people to be creative and do other kinds of stuff”, she said. Her statement falls in line with the kind of environment being created due to automation. Otherwise, you will have a lot of different social problems that will be very expensive – more expensive than the basic income system”, she added.

What Studies Say

The success of UBI among small populations in Ontario or in a Scandinavian country such as Finland does not necessarily mean they will work in larger countries. UBI may be introduced in a limited form in parts of UK, where we may be able to better assess the case of basic income and its viability over a population that is more diverse and layered with complexity at every step of implementation.

Nevertheless, studies on the matter precede trials in many countries. Considering the point, a recent study by the Roosevelt Institute on universal basic income and its effects suggests that the introduction of UBI in the United States would boost the US Economy by $2.5 trillion. The study, titled “Modeling the Macroeconomic Effects of a Universal Basic Income” suggests that a UBI of $1,000 a month to every American adult will lead to a growth of the economy by 12.56 percent over a period of 12 years, resulting in an increase in the GDP of the country by nearly $2.5 trillion. It reaches the statement after considering three different versions of unconditional cash payments. Another assumption taken up in the study to arrive at the given conclusion was that room for UBI in the budget would be made by increasing the deficit and not by increasing taxes. “When paying for the policy by increasing taxes on households rather than paying for the policy with debt, the policy is not expansionary,” the study says. “In effect, it is giving to households with one hand what it is taking away with the other. There is no net effect.”

In the midst of these studies, theories and trials UBI has attracted support and critics from all corners. In the final article of this series, we’ll take a look at who all are backing the program to become the political norm in the coming decades and what are the pros and cons tossed around in the debate around universal basic income.

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Continue Reading

Culture and Lifestyle

Universal Basic Income: The Idea

Manak Suri

Published

on

Mankind has come so far because of the ability to adapt. If you were to randomly pick out any point of time in mankind’s history, you would find certain existing threats or those looming large over certain segments of people or a large collection of them. From hunting animals for food for survival to protecting themselves from wars, plagues and famine; for humankind, each step was daunting till it had been conquered. Many of these threats they would brave, while against many others a good chunk of people died trying, leaving behind the ones who were wiser after what they had overcome. In 2017, we are a long long way ahead, still not without problems of our own. One of the gravest, if not the gravest of these problems that is ready for impact in the not so distant future is automation. Automation, with its projected path for replacing much of the work currently done by humans, has the potential to cause a huge disruption in the way we live our life, the way that nearly everyone alive today is accustomed to living. The great challenge that lies ahead of us in the wake of such retrenchment across the world is how to ensure that people are still able to make/earn a living after so much of what they did is taken up by machines. Education and training among others are often touted as the best possible solutions to help make a person stay relevant, but as automation alters the basic structure on which our work life is built, the decades-old idea of Universal Basic Income or UBI has started to once again gain relevance, provoke debates and be looked at as a serious option to catapult the human race into what could possibly be a new social structure.

What is Basic Income or Universal Basic Income?

In case you haven’t been following the idea, the concept behind UBI is to provide every citizen with a fixed amount of money periodically so that they can cover their basic subsistence needs without having to worry about ever living in a state of poverty. The same amount will be received by every individual (with possibly additional allowances for families and children) regardless of whether they are working or how much they are earning from their work. You would not be crazy to point out that the idea behind UBI sounds far too utopian to be true, which is exactly what most critics of the idea have held against it. In addition to that, once you start trying to figure the idea out, you are bound to face really important questions about the scheme. How will the payments to entire populations be financed? Will it exist alongside or replace existing welfare programs in order for its effective implementation? How will the minimum amount be decided? Under what criteria will families, children and the elderly be accommodated under the program if implemented? These are among other questions that merely touch the tip of the iceberg. Without even getting into further details and problems associated with it, UBI may look like an attempt to reach the moon with only a ladder at your disposal.

However, somewhere along the road to figuring out the most obvious intricacies associated with a hugely ambitious and optimistic idea as universal basic income, it is not hard to see why its successful implementation (if it ever happens on a significantly large scale) would be such a game changer for humanity. Besides being a possible solution amid our motivated search to the threats posed by automation, many supporters of UBI also see it as one of the best ways, if not the best way, to create a more advanced as well as equal society. Imagine a world which provides you with sufficient time and room to be able to do what you want to do, to not be tied to your work to be able to afford/make the life that you not only need but the life that you want for yourself. Now imagine if everyone was a part of such a world, that anyone is able to make more time to spend with their family, or to invest in themselves, or to add value to the said world in a manner in which they feel they are most capable, without having to worry about having a meal on their table two times a day.

Where are we with Universal Basic Income?

Yes, all of this does sound maybe too good to be true, especially if this is the first time you are reading about it, but that does not mean it’s not achievable. As a matter of fact, its viability is the biggest question that remains in the open. So, what does the situation look like right now? You’d be surprised to know that variants of the scheme are being experimented across the world on targeted populations in various countries, more recently in countries such as Canada and Finland. More importantly, many of these have shown encouraging results, dousing some of the arguments against the scheme by its critics.

The term Basic Income, or Universal Basic Income is relatively new, but the idea behind it is decades old, or perhaps even older than a century. However, the reasons due to which it originally came about is not the main reason why it has become ever so relevant today. Humanity’s desire to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources has seen its fair share of ups and downs, some too important to forget, but it’s the dawn of automation that the idea of UBI, dismissed countless times over the years due to the intricacies surrounding it that makes it ‘basic’, has come back into the fold, this time with the support of some of the world’s most influential figures. That makes it impossible to just rule it out

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Continue Reading

Trending