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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Strategic Goal 6: Promoting International Understanding

FY 2007-2012 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan
Bureau of Resource Management
May 2007


Our values as a nation and as a people are the foundation of our international engagement. The President underscored this fact when he stated, "America will lead by defending liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere...America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity." Public perceptions of the United States directly affect our ability to achieve our foreign policy and development assistance objectives. The Department and USAID will lead the effort to inform these perceptions of the United States by relating this public face to our values and our history.

We will vigorously communicate this intersection of values, interests, and policy. Through engagement, assistance, and dialogue, the Department and USAID will foster a two-way flow of people, ideas, and information—a process defined by mutual learning and respect and designed to create peaceful and productive relationships between the United States and other countries.

Strategic Priorities

America's public diplomacy and strategic communication with foreign audiences are governed by three strategic priorities:

Offer A Positive Vision: We will offer a positive vision of hope and opportunity. Our vision is rooted in the most basic values of the United States: our deep belief in freedom, including freedom of expression and religion, and our belief in the dignity and equality of every person. We believe that a free people, well-informed, will make the best choices for the common good. Factual information is the antidote to ignorance, misunderstanding, and violent extremism.

We will link programs and policies with America's values. Public diplomacy and assistance programs are values in action. We will advocate and create the conditions for religious freedom, freedom of expression, and political participation because we believe those are the rights of all people. We will oppose violent extremism and oppression in all its forms. The Department and USAID will sponsor educational programs at all levels, advocate for the rights of people, and partner with countries across the world to fight terrorism, which threatens the right of all people everywhere to live in security and peace.

We will highlight the diplomacy of deeds—America's development and humanitarian assistance. Across the world, America feeds the poor; educates the illiterate; cares for the sick; and assists refugees, internally displaced persons, and victims of conflict and other disasters. Yet often, the good work of the American people is not recognized. The Department and USAID will address the needs of other peoples for improved health and education; for skills and training; and for food, water, and shelter. We will continue to support the aspirations of other peoples for a better life, and to respond readily and generously when catastrophes strike around the world. We will facilitate the contributions of the private sector and individuals and seek ways to inform others of the generosity of the American people.

We will broaden participation in public diplomacy and foreign assistance. The challenges facing our Nation are great, and it is essential that all of our talents and skills be brought to bear on their resolution. Building on transformational diplomacy, we will seek to focus the U.S. Government on key priorities by establishing public diplomacy centers in Europe and the Middle East to tell, in real time, America's story in the local language, media, format, and style that conveys a clear and compelling message. We will also enhance our outreach to key communities in the private sector. America's business, academic, philanthropic, scientific, engineering, and medical sectors, its NGOs, labor unions, and faith-based and community organizations play a vital and ongoing role in America's interaction with all nations of the world. We will increasingly partner with the private sector and draw upon its tremendous resources of experience and expertise. We will encourage Americans to be citizen diplomats, and encourage young Americans to learn critical languages and study world geography, history, and culture. The message of volunteerism, community action, and individual empowerment is a powerful one which can be conveyed best by America's private sector. The individual American citizen is one of our greatest public diplomacy assets.

Marginalize Extremism: We will seek to isolate and undermine violent extremists. Extremists threaten the freedom and peace sought by civilized people of every nation, culture, and faith. As part of our transformational diplomacy effort, the Department and USAID will counter these destructive forces by promoting education and exchanges, democratization, good governance, and economic and human development as a path to a positive future, in just, secure, and pluralistic societies. We will seek to isolate and discredit terrorist ideology, de-legitimizing terror as an acceptable tactic to achieve political ends, and work to put an end to the pernicious misperception that the United States is hostile to any religion.

We will reach out to key influencers. In the world after September 11, 2001, key influencers may not occupy defined positions in government or society. In the context of values and ideas, we must put increased attention to engaging figures of authority whose influence is cultural, religious, social, or traditional. We will continue to engage established centers of influence—government officials, business leaders, journalists—but also a broader range of opinion shapers who may fall outside of our "comfortable rolodex." We will continue to field innovative programs, tailored to regional, country, and societal needs. We will devote particular attention to:

Photo showing school girls holding text books.
  • Religious Leaders: Members of faith-based communities and religious educators who can speak directly to issues of tolerance and mutual respect among religions and their followers.
  • Young People: Today's young people are the future of our world. They are a focus of propaganda and misinformation by extremists and ideologues. We will engage young people through education and exchanges, sports diplomacy, summer programs, English language teaching, educational advising, cultural offerings, exchanges, and other vehicles.
  • Women and Girls: No country can truly progress politically, socially, and economically unless women are full partners in all aspects of society and enjoy full equality. The Department and USAID will support the education, training, and advancement of women and girls through exchanges, education programs, literacy and numeracy campaigns, microfinance, nutrition and health support, maternal and infant care, business mentoring, and skills training. We will also support efforts to combat trafficking in persons and combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
  • Teachers: Teachers are central to the learning process and among those key influencers with the most direct impact on young men and women. The Department and USAID will continue to focus on professional development and teacher training. We will provide opportunities for teachers to enhance their skills in key subjects, including the English language, and also to foster critical thinking in the classroom.
  • Journalists: Television, print, and radio wield enormous influence in shaping opinions and perceptions. We will work not only to improve the accuracy of media coverage of the United States, its policies and actions, but also to foster independent media and improve the standards of journalism.

We will foster a climate of openness and de-legitimize terror. Open dialogue, unfettered debate, and freedom of expression are the antidote to stereotypes and hatred. We will continue to move people and move information around the globe to encourage person-to-person interaction and provide enhanced understanding. We will work with individuals and groups who can serve as bridges between societies and communities. We will foster grassroots condemnation of terror, encouraging men and women of good will to speak out against violence. We will foster the free flow of information and facilitate cultural and artistic offerings that reinforce our shared respect for mankind's heritage. We will create projects and programs that empower citizens and local governments and organizations to take the lead in the development of civil society.

Photo showing Secretary Rice shaking hands with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun during their meeting at the presidential house in Seoul, July, 2005.
AP Image

Nurture Common Interests and Values: The Department and USAID will work to nurture common interests and values between Americans and people of different countries, cultures, and faiths across the world. America believes in the dignity and value of every human being in the world. We respect the historical and cultural roots that underlie other political and social systems, even as we uphold the inalienable and fundamental human rights of every person.

Common interests and values are integral to U.S. Government communications. All outreach efforts and communications should be infused with our values. Department and USAID programs and messages should also build on areas in which our expertise corresponds to the interests and needs of our partners and counterparts. Creating indigenous capacity—whether it is in health, education, free press, workforce training, agriculture, law enforcement, or governance—is key to long-term progress, and the stable development of civil society, and firm and friendly bilateral/multilateral relationships.

We will pay particular attention and devote resources to health and education—two major areas that human beings across the world care about most. We will further commit America to working in partnership with other nations to eradicate preventable diseases. We will use exchanges and a broad range of information programs to share expertise and disseminate information. We will use conferences to focus attention on these areas, track progress, and publicize major initiatives. We will encourage greater collaboration between government agencies and foundations, NGOs, and health care organizations. American health programs that reinforce this goal include PEPFAR, efforts to reduce the impact of malaria, increased emphasis on maternal and infant mortality, and efforts to improve water supplies.

In the field of education, efforts will be made to expand educational programs across the board, including the professional development of teachers, student and scholar exchanges, literacy training, and stimulation of critical thinking skills. We will foster mutual understanding through academic collaboration. Education also takes place outside of the classroom and other formal settings. We will offer after-school programs and summer camps and institutes, with a special focus on English language ability, to offer youth job-related skills and improve their economic prospects. These programs will also open windows on our shared values and the wider world of information. We will also expand horizons by sharing the best of American culture, mitigating negative images and misunderstanding.

U.S. Government Partners and Cross-cutting Programs: The following are key U.S. Government partners with whom we will coordinate to achieve this goal:

  • Broadcasting Board of Governors: BBG, consistent with its legislative charter and standards of professional journalism, disseminates information abroad on America and American policies.
  • Department of Defense: Defense provides global support for public diplomacy and assistance activities and is a principal player in the interagency process.
  • Department of Homeland Security: Homeland Security coordinates intelligence and law enforcement activities and programs that help protect the United States from terrorist and other threats, and leads on issues relating to visa policy and border control procedures.



The following are key factors, external to the Department and USAID, which could significantly affect the achievement of the goal:

  • Political, social, or economic instability beyond our ability to control;
  • Cultural and social receptivity of foreign audiences to U.S. Government messages;
  • Policies of foreign governments on dissemination of information and use of media, especially relating to the unrestricted use of communication technologies;
  • Technological development of communications as well as media competition in targeted areas;
  • Conduct and policies of the United States and allied governments amenable to foreign audiences; and
  • Security concerns affecting the free exchange of visitors.



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