U.S. ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
MINUTES AND TRANSCRIPT FROM THE QUARTERLY PUBLIC MEETING ON THE RELEASE OF THE 2019 COMPREHENSIVE ANNUAL REPORT ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND INTERNATIONAL BROADCASTING
U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy Quarterly Meeting
Thursday, January 23, 2019 | 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, First St NE., Washington, DC
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:
TH Sim Farar, Chair
TH William Hybl, Vice-Chair
TH Anne Terman Wedner
COMMISSION STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Dr. Vivian S. Walker, Executive Director
Mr. Shawn Baxter, Senior Advisor
Ms. Kristy Zamary, Program Assistant
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (ACPD) met in an open session from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 23, 2020, to discuss the release of the Commission’s 2019 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting. A panel from the Department of State’s Public Diplomacy Regional Offices discussed “PD Programs in the Field: Challenges and Opportunities.” The speakers included Camille Dawson, East Asia/Pacific; Gordon Duguid, Europe and Eurasia; Thomas Genton, Africa; Nicholas Griffith, International Organizations; Kerri Hannan, South and Central Asia; Dale Prince, Western Hemisphere; and Lynn Roche, Near East. ACPD Executive Director Vivian Walker opened the session, and Chairman Sim Farar provided introductory remarks. Vivian Walker moderated the Q&A, and Commissioner Anne Wedner closed the session. The speakers took questions from the Commissioners and the audience, as detailed in the transcript below.
Vivian Walker: Good morning! I’m Vivian Walker, the ACPD Executive Director and Designated Federal Officer. Thank you all for coming, and welcome to this U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy public meeting. We are rolling out the 2019 Comprehensive Annual Report on Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting, which marks—significantly—the 70th year of reporting.
Indeed, on the back cover of this year’s report you will find a facsimile reproduction of the first report from 1949. And what is so interesting about that first report—and I hope you’ll agree with me when you have a chance to read it—is that so many of the concerns and issues are enduring. PD professionals in 1949 worried about interagency cooperation. They worried about putting public diplomacy at the table along with the rest of policymakers at the highest levels of government. Does this sound familiar? It should.
The 1949 report also testifies to the pivotal role that the Advisory Commission has played in the last seven decades in influencing the shape, the direction, and I daresay, the improvement of U.S. government public diplomacy activities.
In acknowledgment of the 2019 annual report’s focus on the field, where all great public diplomacy gets done, we are very pleased to present a panel featuring the directors of the Regional Public Diplomacy Offices. They will describe the challenges and opportunities of doing public diplomacy abroad, particularly in this renewed era of geopolitical competition and, as well, the complex information environment in which we all must operate.
With that, I would like to turn the mic over to the Chairman of our Commission, Mr. Sim Farar, who will start us off with a few remarks.
Sim Farar: If you could hold your applause. (Laughter) A little humor is always good in the morning. I just got in from Los Angeles, so I’m on California time, which is about 4:00 in the morning.
Thank you, Vivian, and to the audience for being here. And a very special thank you to Laurie Williams and Michael Callesen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and to the events and technical staff of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center for agreeing to host this event. We thank you very much.
I’m pleased to be joined by our distinguished colleagues on the Commission, Bill Hybl, from Colorado, who’s our Vice Chairman and longest serving member of the Commission. You weren’t here for the first one, were you?
Bill Hybl: No, I missed it. (Laughter)
Sim Farar: No. Seventy years. And of course, we have Anne Terman Wedner from Miami, Florida.
The ACPD is a bipartisan panel created by Congress in 1948 to formulate and recommend policies and programs to carry out the public diplomacy functions vested in U.S. government entities and appraise the effectiveness of those activities across the globe.
We are very, very pleased to present to you the 2019 Comprehensive Annual Report of Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting, marking the 70-year anniversary of our ACPD reporting. You can access this report online. This document details all reported major PD and international broadcasting activities conducted by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for Global Media. It is based on the data collected from all the State Department PD bureaus and offices, the Public Affairs Sections of U.S. missions worldwide, and from all USAGM entities.
And a special thank you to our staff. This is an incredible find for us here at the ACPD – Executive Director Vivian Walker, and she has her staff Shawn Baxter, and of course, Kristina Zamary. They are really incredible people to have, and we’re just very fortunate to have them because this report is about five inches thick, and there is a lot of work that’s gone into it. They all worked very, very hard on it.
The 2019 report was researched, verified, and written by ACPD members and staff with continuous input from State Department public diplomacy and USAGM officials. Key report recommendations include the need for improved and integrated research and evaluation processes for public diplomacy programs and broadcasting services, renewed focus on the organizational structure of public diplomacy at the Department of State, as well as within the interagency, and the need for sustained investment in PD and global media programs to meet the demands of today’s complex information environment.
Seventy years since the publication of the first ACPD annual report, we remain dedicated to producing a high-quality, vetted document of record each year. We also welcome the opportunity each year to get a closer view of the many informational, educational, and cultural activities the U.S. government supports worldwide.
We greatly admire the commitment and the talent of America’s public diplomacy practitioners – many of them in the room today – and international broadcasters and are encouraged by our interactions with leadership and staff at both agencies. We hope that through our recommendations, we can strengthen public diplomacy’s essential role in achieving U.S. foreign policy goals and bolstering America’s national security and prosperity.
Today, we are very fortunate to have a very, very distinguished group of senior public diplomacy officers, and we thank them for coming today, to help us understand just how public diplomacy programs support our national strategic objectives in the field.
And again, thank you for joining us today. Now I’m pleased to invite our distinguished panelists to speak.
Vivian Walker: Great. So, we’re very pleased, again, to introduce this panel. The way the next phase of this meeting is going to work is that our panelists will have about 45 minutes to an hour to roll out and talk about various aspects of public diplomacy programming in the field. We ask that you hold your questions and comments until each of them has had an opportunity to speak, at which point we’ll open the discussion to the audience. I look forward to a dialogue about what’s working and what—if necessary—we need to be doing more of, or how we might concentrate our efforts differently.
As I said, it’s a very distinguished panel. You have the full bios in your hands. So, I won’t reread them, but I did want to highlight a few facts about this group as a whole, just to convey the depth of their experience and professionalism. They collectively represent more than 190 years of service in the full range of public diplomacy functions. They have served in more than 40 countries in every major geographical region, or nearly a quarter of the globe. They have mastered collectively more than 20 languages. They have served in war zones and in newly independent states. They have served in the strongholds of our great power competitors, in key multilateral institutions such as NATO and the UN. They’ve been Deputy Chiefs of Mission. They’ve been Congressional fellows and last, but certainly not least, professors educating the next generation of foreign policy leaders. I don’t think we could have a more distinguished and experienced group of public diplomacy practitioners than these folks in front of us. So, please join me in a warm welcome.
Camille Dawson: Vivian, thank you so much for inviting us. I think I can speak on behalf of all of us up here in saying that we are very passionate about the role of public diplomacy, promoting American interests abroad, and in bridging divides between countries and cultures. So, thank you for allowing us this opportunity.
As most of you know, the State Department has the responsibility for coordinating U.S. government public diplomacy and public affairs activities overseas via our Embassy Public Affairs Sections, which are led by a Public Affairs Officer, or PAO, serving as the public diplomacy advisor to the Ambassador and to the Embassy Country Team.
In Washington, the six regional bureaus plus the International Organizations bureau provide oversight of personnel and budget management, as well as policy guidance for the overseas public affairs operations within each region.
Our Embassy Public Affairs teams around the globe leverage the full range of programmatic tools such as exchange, educational, cultural, speaker, and information programs to advance positive, fact-based narratives about the United States, to expand people-to-people ties, and to promote American values that benefit the global community, such as the rule of law, transparency and good governance, and protection of human rights. These programs and tools can be used by posts to reach almost any audience, ranging from elite decision makers to youth and emerging leaders. The Public Affairs Sections at each embassy know which programs and messaging tools will be effective in each country, who the right audiences are for each program or message, and who the important third-party voices and influencers are, who are often key to amplifying our messages.
Posts have excellent and longstanding relationships with media outlets, think tanks, academic institutions, civil society organizations, and with the emerging voices in countries—the students, youth leaders, online influences, and community organizers. With our limited funds we often need to make hard choices about which audiences to target as we can’t reach everyone. So, that sometimes means we specifically will target opinion leaders and current and future decision makers.
Each regional bureau has a public diplomacy strategic plan that posts refer to when developing their own Integrated Country Strategy and their annual action plan known as the Public Diplomacy Implementation Plan. I will walk through the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs FY20 strategic focus as well as provide some programmatic examples. But, the process for determining these goals and for how posts identify their priority programs is similar across all of our bureaus.
For EAP, we are focused on three key policy priorities for Fiscal Year 2020.
- To promote a positive vision of the United States while countering disinformation and propaganda of our competitors.
- Advance a free and open Indo-Pacific with a focus on four vital areas: economic prosperity, good governance, security, and human capital development.
- Strengthen international resolve to work towards the denuclearization of the DPRK.
We require that our posts tie the vast majority of their public diplomacy funds to programs that advance these regional policy goals, with a small amount of leeway to fund programs that advance important separate bilateral policy goals. By way of example, I’ll mention a few programs that our posts have carried out that advanced regional policy goals.
To promote a positive vision of the U.S., we focus on shared values and partnerships. Both are reflected in our premiere youth exchange program in the region, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. In just six years, we’ve developed a network of over 145,000 outstanding young people aged 18-35 from the 10 ASEAN countries plus Timor-Leste. They have stepped forward to build ties between the U.S. and Southeast Asia, with 5,000 of these emerging regional leaders participating in exchange programs or training workshops that focus on key challenges facing the region.
To ensure that countries in the region can protect themselves from disinformation operations, Public Affairs Sections have run effective media literacy and countering disinformation workshops. The American Institute in Taiwan runs an annual workshop bringing together media professionals and experts from 12 countries in the Indo-Pacific to learn about best practices in media literacy. And the embassy in Mongolia ran a regional Tech Camp in 2019 that trained nearly 100 journalists, media professionals, and social media influencers from nine countries on how to use new tools to combat disinformation.
The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the South and Central Asia Bureau work together to advance the Indo-Pacific strategy. Our Indo-Pacific Strategy Implementation Report–which is available on the State.gov website—outlines many of the programs that we have put in place to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the region. We have a special focus on highlighting American economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific. This ranges from very large scale events, such as the Indo-Pacific Business Forum that took place last November in Bangkok with over 1,000 attendees from 25 countries when our post facilitated local media to travel to Thailand to report on the event, to long-term campaigns such at our embassies in Singapore and Manila, where they have ongoing social media campaigns to highlight the benefits that U.S. private sector companies bring to the local communities where they operate. In the Philippines, for example, this campaign has emphasized U.S. companies’ support for women’s empowerment, environmental sustainability, diversity and inclusion, youth empowerment, and cyber security awareness. Their video series has already reached more than 1.2 million on Facebook and has prompted significant traditional media coverage.
And lastly, we work to strengthen international resolve around the DPRK. This is a focus for many of our posts, but it is especially true for the embassy in Seoul, South Korea, where our public diplomacy team has designed a number of programs for North Korean defectors. Embassy Seoul’s English Access Micro Scholarship Program for young, North Korean defectors helps them to improve their English language skills, introduces U.S. culture and democratic values, and develops their leadership skills. This program has been effective in integrating these defectors into South Korean society so that they have opportunities to thrive. It also allows the young defectors to develop their voices so that they can share the truth about the realities of North Korea with the international community.
All right, I’ll turn it over to my colleague, Gordon.
Gordon Duguid: Thanks very much. On behalf of the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs, I wish to thank the members of the Commission for inviting us all here today. I’ll highlight my bureau’s efforts to counter the Kremlin’s disinformation and malign influence as well as describe three specific strategies among the many we use for public engagement in Europe and Eurasia.
Everything we do is designed to enable our ambassadors and their teams to take flexible approaches to local issues in support U.S. national interests. These efforts are directed by the National Security Strategy’s goals to protect the Homeland, promote American prosperity, preserve peace through strength, and advance American influence. In fighting disinformation, the bureau addresses these goals.
Our Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in partnership with embassies, missions, and consulates uses a variety of programs for, and types of engagement with, European publics to fight disinformation and propaganda, be it from Russia, Iran or China. In this effort, we have five guiding principles.
- The first, question the credibility of the messenger. Who is saying what and why?
- Secondly, disprove the underlying lie. Why would people believe what they’re being told? There’s something behind there that we need to address.
- Thirdly, don’t take the bait. Don’t get down a rabbit hole argument on tit-for-tat responses. Go for the bigger picture.
- Next, stay positive. Don’t go down and start slinging mud. You don’t win that way.
- And lastly, social media is not the enemy. It’s a vehicle.
A good example of one of our efforts took place last year during the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. We developed a 1989 campaign that intensified engagement to counter Russian dis and misinformation in Central and Eastern Europe by promoting the strength of the Transatlantic community and lauding the freedoms gained and progress achieved these past three decades.
EUR/PPD—that’s our office—marshalled its entire suite of resources in a whole-of-government effort to amplify important messages on issues relevant to local audiences. We also worked with our European allies to encourage parallel programming and messaging from them, as well as corroborating with organizations such as the U.S. Agency for Global Media and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. This extensive collaboration has produced positive results.
For example, one message campaign from the 1989 project was called “The Baltic Way.” That was a celebration of the successful and peaceful struggle by the three Baltic nations to gain their freedom from the Soviet Union. The messages in that campaign proved so forceful that the courageous protesters in Hong Kong began using the hashtag #Balticway in their communications to the outside world to show their peaceful intentions.
In the coming year, we will continue positive, truthful messaging on the Transatlantic alliance to counter the Kremlin’s attempt to rewrite history and the meaning of the second World War. This effort will then lead to a European remembrance campaign, in which we will celebrate 30 years of liberty and economic growth for the former Eastern bloc countries. This campaign will recognize that half of Europe was not liberated after the second World War but went from one tyranny to another—a fascist tyranny to communist dictatorship.
We will additionally address the ongoing struggle to establish democracy and market economies since 1990. Separately, our office’s strategic messaging efforts will call into question the brand of disinformation-dealing adversaries rather than confronting them on any single issue.
We will also continue to promote media literacy in order to build societal resilience to disinformation. Our embassies in the Baltic states have just launched a “Learn to Discern” program with the International Research and Exchanges Board that is a media literacy program for educators and community institutions, such as libraries, that provide training in media literacy. We are also working currently with Hungary and the Czech Republic on media literacy campaigns, while Poland is looking for new methods to engage local data analytics firms to combat Russian disinformation by tracking disinformation narratives.
The purpose of this effort is to confound the lies the Kremlin tells other Europeans. Relying on behavioral insights, we will focus on simple messaging designed to cast dispersion on credibility of the purveyors of disinformation and expose the flawed basis of their false narratives and set the record straight, while Moscow pedals lies about the origins of the Second World War and whitewashes the history of Soviet brutality.
In addition to messaging, because we have more than one pony in the stable, we will continue to vigorously promote exchange programs, so that Europeans from all walks of life and regions—including Russia—can learn about the United States in person. We work with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs through people-to-people exchanges in this effort. I feel we’re pretty good at identifying future leaders in Europe. For example, 26 percent of the new EU Commission are alumni of U.S. exchange programs. Of the members of the European Parliament, 17 percent are alumni. If they voted together, an unlikely happenstance, they would be the fourth largest voting bloc in the EU Parliament. On a national level, the German Bundestag has 10 percent of its members who are alumni of U.S. exchange programs. But we don’t just focus on future leaders. We also engage Europeans from all walks of life and levels of society.
We will push civic participation because freedom gained since 1945 must not be taken for granted. We will continue to encourage grass roots organizations’ efforts in the practice of democracy. In this effort, one of our most important tools is the use of small grants—those defined as being under $100,000. But in fact, they are often very much smaller than that. These grants allow our ambassadors and their teams to reach out directly to people who are working to improve their societies at the local level. They take customized and results-driven programs to engage and influence strategic audiences in that way at the place where democracy begins.
I can offer you, for example, one program that I was a part of in Belgrade, and it’s called the “I Came to Play” program, which is a week-long sports camp bringing together youth from countries of the former Yugoslavia. Basketball is an incredibly popular sport in the region and serves as a vehicle to deliver messaging on tolerance, conflict resolution, peace, and reconciliation. These are exactly the messages that the Kremlin is working against in the former Yugoslavia. We do this for $29,000, and we have created a network over the years that is now beginning to take their places in society in the western Balkans. They started out with people in junior high and have kept the network together, through high school, through university, and now moving on into the professional realms.
Why is this important? It’s important because with the Europeans we work on global issues. We almost never work on Europe-only issues with Europeans. If we’re going to do something important around the world, we use our allies as part of our strength. And the Russians, and Chinese, and Iranians know that’s what we do, and they are trying to drive a wedge between our societies. We’re fighting that because it is the protection of U.S. democracy that is at stake.
Thomas Genton: Good morning. I’d like to thank the Advisory Commission for this forum and this opportunity to discuss U.S. Public Diplomacy. I oversee a robust, comprehensive, and effective range of public diplomacy programs across Sub-Saharan Africa. Eight minutes is not enough time to talk about all of them. But many of the programs and initiatives that this panel will discuss also have variations in the Africa Bureau–or AF as we call it–and through other regions.
Let me raise a few challenges specific to Sub-Saharan Africa and how we’re addressing them through our public diplomacy efforts. The AF Bureau covers 46 countries. Most are considered developing nations with limited access to resources, technology, and infrastructure. For example, only a dozen of the 46 countries have internet penetration above 50 percent. Fewer than 20 have internet penetration below 20 percent. Radio is still the king of information across many places of the continent and for most offices outside the major cities.
Africa’s population is projected to double by 2050 to 2.2 billion people, of which 70 percent will be under the age of 25. This looming youth bulge presents significant challenges to a region that already faces youth unemployment greater than 50 percent and higher in some regions. Without adequate access to education, healthcare, good jobs, and a safe environment, millions of young Africans will be tempted by migration. Others will be mired in hopelessness, perhaps, and maybe susceptible to recruitment by criminal or violent organizations.
However, where others see despair, we see opportunity. African youth and women are largely untapped sources of energy, talent, innovation, and ideas. And by investing in Africa’s future leaders in civil society, business, entrepreneurship, and public administration, our initiatives are paying significant dividends to the mutual deficit of the United States and Africans themselves. Our PD offices and local staff on the ground lead the charge. You can see on the slide, how AF’s Public Diplomacy priorities focus on engaging, energizing, and partnering with African civil society and youth, in particular, as agents of change.
Our Young African Leadership Initiative—also known as YALI—is now the flagship initiative of the Africa Bureau and its interagency partners. It consists of three components—the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Regional Leadership Centers in Africa, and the online YALI Network.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship brings 700 emerging leaders between the ages of 25 and 35 from across Sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S. for six-week institutes hosted at U.S. universities focusing on leadership and civil society, business and entrepreneurship, and public administration.
The Regional Leadership Centers based in four different cities in Africa provide shorter term courses for the many YALI applicants who are not selected for the six-week program and others who are unable to travel to the United States. It also offers online courses for those who can’t travel. As YALI enters its 10th anniversary year, these two elements of YALI alone have directly reached more than 20,000 young Africans. Together, these programs provide this new generation with leadership, administrative, and entrepreneurial skills to help lead their countries to brighter futures. Alumni are making an impact by creating jobs and developing innovative products and services and improving public administration of their governments. Across the continent, YALI is empowering women and youth, and these young leaders are contributing in fields ranging from health and social development to governance to entrepreneurship and business.
Our YALI strategy includes extensive engagement with YALI alumni, including small grant programs to support alumni-led follow-on activities. The result is Africans solving African problems. YALI alumni are stepping into leadership positions in their communities and governments and are being recognized internationally. For example, four YALI alumni have held or currently hold cabinet-level positions in their home countries. And remember, they were between the ages of 25 and 35. A Somali fellow was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her work to rehabilitate young people radicalized by or forced into joining armed militia groups in Somalia.
The online YALI Network enables us to engage and mobilize broader and more diverse African audiences now numbering more than 650,000 members around U.S. policy objectives. For example, in 2019, the “NaijaVotes” campaign promoted grassroots-level action among Nigeria’s 140,000 YALI network members around U.S. goals for promoting peaceful civic participation in Nigeria’s presidential elections. We believe that NaijaVotes contributed to positive election outcomes including responsible voting practices, lower levels of violence, and less fake news than in past elections, demonstrating how powerful an active network can be. A subsequent message from Assistant Secretary Nagy sent via the YALI network to all members reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Africa, generating nearly 2000 youth Twitter followers on the Assistant Secretary’s account, while the accompanying post to his Facebook account inspired 1,100 comments, thereby confirming the potential of the network as a message multiplier.
Forty-five years ago, we declared victory in the Cold War, cut pledges for PD, and closed American centers and highly impactful English language programs. We said our American pop culture—movies, CNN—were widespread, but there was no context for all of that information that was out there. Even today, while technology and social media are growing in Africa, much of public diplomacy still depends on closing that last three feet that separates us from our audiences. Our nearly 140 American Spaces across Africa, which are programming venues–either run by the U.S. government or by partners—provide us with direct access to African audiences and forums for ongoing engagement with our alumni. With over four million visits annually, often our American Spaces are the only venues where individuals can talk freely, share ideas and perspectives, and visibly, they demonstrate the U.S. commitment to creating forums for open debate.
Education is the key to unlocking the potential of Africa’s youth. The Africa Bureau’s University Partnership Initiative aims to strengthen existing ties and foster new collaboration between U.S. and African universities. This will encourage and support faculty and student exchanges, joint research, strengthen university administration, promote public/private partnerships, and will further strengthen African universities and colleges as instruments of national development while enhancing prosperity, security and stability, and most importantly, ties to the United States.
Indeed, Africa is the continent of the future, and we need to make the most of its potential. Through our public diplomacy programs, we continually reinforce America’s steadfast commitment to African people rooted in cooperation, mutual respect, and transparency. The U.S. has invested heavily in health, education, civil society, and in providing job skills, especially for women. No other nation matches the breadth and depth of the United States’ engagement on the continent. And unlike many of our competitors for influence in Africa, the United States focuses on helping countries move towards self-reliance and sustainable private sector economic growth. As our Assistant Secretary, Tibor Nagy likes to say, “We go beyond investing in Africa. We are investing in Africans.”
Kerri Hannan: Let me first thank the Commission for the opportunity to speak and to say how inspired I am already to hear from my colleagues and what they are doing. I will just give a brief, highly noncomprehensive cover of the incredible range of programs that we’re doing in South and Central Asia. Let me just begin by saying South Central Asia has a unique geography. We are placed between China, Iran, and Russia, and have two frontline states in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We exercise the same range of programs that my colleagues do, using exchanges and press engagement in order to build strong partnerships, build and sustain dialogues through academic and professional exchanges, entrepreneurship, media capacity development, English, women’s programs, cultural preservation, and others to name just a few.
What I would like to do is just do a deep dive on one tool that we’re using in SCA that I think we have decided to invest in, and we’re reaping the benefits on. Let me start by highlighting the three foreign policy priorities in South and Central Asia:
- Our South Asia strategy aimed at peace in Afghanistan and bringing regional stability to the area.
- Our Central Asia strategy, which focuses on regional connectivity and supporting the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Central Asian countries while increasing their partnership with the United States, and
- Supporting the Indo-Pacific strategy in coordination with EAP to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific with a focus on economic prosperity, good governance, security, and human capital.
And then we also work to produce resilience to Russian and Chinese coercive pressure in the region.
The program I’d like to focus on is University Partnerships, which is something SCA had the opportunity to go deep on in 2010 with money from Congress aimed at bolstering stability and civil society in Afghanistan, as well as to support our efforts to secure peace in the country. Since that auspicious beginning, we have been able to establish more than 70 university partnerships throughout all of SCA since 2010. We started with 12 Afghan universities linked to American institutions of higher learning to do capacity-building projects that promote economic prosperity, governance, and security. We focused on four areas—professional development via two-way exchanges, modernizing curriculum in key areas of interest such as business administration, civil society, entrepreneurship, journalism, and STEM fields. We also developed academic and research links that continue beyond the grant and strengthen bilateral relationships in the academic community.
In 2012, Pakistan opened eight university partnerships along the same lines, which has grown to over 23 spread across the country geographically from the far north to the south. These projects engage student and faculty in areas such as entrepreneurship and environmental awareness in water preservation. They have recently been followed by partnership initiatives in India and Central Asia adding another 40 institutions to this flagship program.
The India projects, part of our Indo-Pacific strategy, stand in contrast to predatory Chinese financial actions, linking university research with the private sector, specifically to foster economic development in local communities and build ties with the United States.
In Central Asia, where USG policy is centered on facilitating regional connectivity, etc., SCA’s university partnerships focus on networking among countries to establish democratic solidarity in a region surrounded by Russia, China, and Iran. By the numbers, we’ve reached over 500 participants, who have had the chance to travel abroad to the United States from their countries, and we’ve sent more than 250 U.S. professors to SCA partner institutions for short-term training.
We feel that education is the key to economic prosperity and have gone deep with university partnership as the tool to work in this sector. In Afghanistan, we established a consortium of U.S. universities working with journalism departments in the five principal Afghan universities to teach international standards of free and fair reporting. The project has developed a national four-year curriculum that’s been adopted and implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education and has been influencing the development of young journalists for years. This is considered one of the great successes – the enduring power of local media in Afghanistan.
In another case, we were a partner to developing a public administration curriculum that was revamped and has now trained the next generation of civil servants, who will have expertise and exposure to U.S. styles of management, budgeting, HR, public relations, and development.
In Pakistan, we worked with a number of business administration departments to modernize economic concepts, provide career development for students, and establish links with the business and corporate communities. In a successful spinoff, a lead Pakistani university went on to train an additional 10 universities throughout the country and the curriculum.
Additionally, there’s an economic incentive here for American institutions, which benefit from joint research projects with these universities. We have taken on this important tool and used it to address key audiences in foreign policy priorities both regionally and top line. We think that kind of opportunity to take a tool and to develop it to meet the foreign policy needs that we have has made a major impact. Thank you.
Dale Prince: Good morning! I’d also like to thank the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for this invitation to talk about public diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere. As others have mentioned, public diplomacy has to support our policy goals. In the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs—WHA—we’ve distilled this down to supporting a secure, democratic, and prosperous hemisphere. So, I’d like to zoom in on the prosperous hemisphere part and illustrate that in two ways. First, by discussing one principal positive theme that we advance—entrepreneurship. And second, by describing one incredible platform, the Binational Centers.
On entrepreneurship, we start from the premise that inclusive economic growth offers the best remedy for poverty and lack of opportunity that drive crime and insecurity. Entrepreneurs are the most potent engine of this inclusive economic growth. The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, or YLAI, this year is celebrating five years since its launch. Some other regional bureaus also have young leaders programs. Camille mentioned YSEALI. Tom talked about YALI, which I believe is the first one—the granddaddy of them all. There is the Young Pacific Leaders Initiative, also in Camille’s region, and the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative in the European region.
So, YLAI—the program for the Western Hemisphere—combines an annual professional scholarship, an active online network, and ongoing engagement from our posts all to empower young entrepreneurs. Together with four other regional Young Leader Initiatives across the globe, YLAI has built a recognizable megabrand among our audiences. The YLAI fellowship helps emerging entrepreneurs expand their ventures and their ties with the United States. It provides an expert-led curriculum on leadership and business skills, as well as a five-week experience in the United States matched with U.S. businesses and organizations.
To date, over 760 fellows from 36 countries have built connections with over 700 host businesses and organizations in 26 cities across 23 states. And the 280 finalists for the 2020 YLAI Fellowship represent the most diverse cohort in the history of the fellowship. The YLAI online network connects nearly 50,000 young entrepreneurs to free business development resources, courses, and opportunities. Our 2019 topics, including media literacy and integrity and leadership, helped increase membership by over 30 percent. Sub-regional campaigns in Central America and Venezuela focused on countering unlawful immigration and demanding transparency in governance. Our posts deepen YLAI engagement through activities with underserved communities, mentoring programs with U.S. businesses, and policy discussion groups on startup financing and regulatory challenges, among others.
Outside of YLAI, in 2019, we began piloting the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs – AWE – at posts in 14 WHA countries. Funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, AWE includes a facilitated online course that helps women with tools they need to start and scale their businesses, including how to develop business plans, raise money, and network. In December, in Venezuela, 129 women graduated from AWE with businesses ranging from producing organic peanut butter to coaching people with disabilities. In 2020, AWE will expand to a total of 20 WHA countries. By positioning our programs as a pipeline from one to the other, we have amplified their effectiveness. For example, most of the facilitators in the AWE courses are alumni of other USG programs. And Mission Brazil, for example, has their YLAI alumni mentor high school student youth ambassadors on increasing the social impact of their community projects.
I’d like to turn to our Binational Centers as an incredible platform that help amplify the reach of public diplomacy in the region. Binational Centers—or BNCs—are autonomous, educational, and cultural institutions that promote mutual understanding between the United States and the host country. They are longstanding committed partners of the United States. The first BNC was established in Buenos Aires in 1927. Today, there are over 100 BNCs in the WHA region. In 2018, BNCs across the hemisphere received over 55 million visitors. We’re fortunate to have these respected, community-oriented public diplomacy partners in WHA. They serve as accessible platforms that allow us to reach people who may not otherwise encounter the United States or our embassies.
In addition to teaching English and American culture, BNCs also work with the post to host programs that advance our policy goals. These range from hosting bootcamps for entrepreneurs to training young women to code. They share our culture through theater, music, and the visual arts. They often house EducationUSA advising centers to promote study in the United States and provide access to the internet, to books, and to digital resources. Binational Centers in Venezuela have heroically kept their doors open and programs running in support of democracy even after our embassy was forced to close its doors in Caracas.
Our investment in BNCs is extremely effective. USG support constitutes a small percentage of their overall budget, as low as two-tenths of a percent in some places, and generally less than five percent. Recently, the BNCs have focused their efforts to create a formal hemisphere-wide network of Binational Centers called ABLA, the Association of Binational Centers of Latin America. This effort will help them become even stronger partners for our public diplomacy teams in the region.
Entrepreneurship and BNCs are two examples of many. But I think they capture the integrated spirit of public diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere region. We’re immensely proud of their success and dedicated to keeping public diplomacy as one of our most powerful areas of engagement with the region. Thank you.
Lynn Roche: Good morning. It’s really great to be here with my colleagues and also to see all of you. Thanks for being here.
From Near Eastern Affairs, which is the Middle East and North Africa, we go from Morocco to Iran and everything in between, and we have four non-resident posts. Those are Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Iran. We continue to work through public diplomacy programming and public affairs programming with all of those posts, including those that are non-resident or resident elsewhere. The region—not a surprise to anyone—kind of careens from one crisis to another, and our posts are under constant security challenges. That’s the environment in which our Public Affairs Sections in our embassies are working. NEA’s overall policy priorities are security and stability, economic growth and opportunity, and democratic development. Our NEA post Public Affairs Sections use many of the similar programs described here by my colleagues—English and film, other kinds of programs. But this morning, I’m going to talk about cultural heritage protection as it resonates for audiences in the Middle East and North Africa, and how our engagement on cultural heritage illustrates the U.S. long-term commitment to the region.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, cultural heritage is a source of deep national pride, but it’s also a strong historical connection for Americans. In the NEA Bureau, we empower our ambassadors and Public Affairs Sections to tailor local programs to their needs, building relationships, trust, and influence on which policy can be advanced. Here, I’ll be riffing off Tom talking about the “last three feet.” I’m going to plagiarize Ambassador Jean Manes, who recently, at a program that I attended where she spoke, mentioned the “first three feet.” Whether we’re talking about cultural heritage protection or engaging on cultural heritage, when our posts are doing that, that’s the “first three feet.” They’re creating the environment, getting to know people, creating an environment that later can also support our policy interests. To advance these programs and interest in cultural heritage protection, NEA works very closely with the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau, ECA, other bureaus like DRL, other agencies like USAID, and with local partners along with U.S. universities and academic organizations.
This is a really powerful tool, and it’s linked to our own national security. For example, the looting and sale of cultural property has provided—especially in Syria and Iraq—ISIS, other terrorist organizations, militias, and criminal enterprises with a cash stream to fund their activities. Our cultural heritage programs, including our work on concluding and implementing memoranda of understanding with NEA countries, help develop tools to deprive terrorists and criminal groups of this source of revenue.
Protecting cultural heritage also promotes social inclusion and discourages radicalization and young people from turning to violent extremism and extremist groups. Individuals grounded in their own heritage are less likely to seek identity and belonging in terrorists’ groups and are less vulnerable to terrorist ideologies that pray on a society’s marginalized and disenfranchised. Furthermore, in NEA, in a region where public opinion of the U.S. is often low and suspicions of the U.S. run high, cultural heritage programs open doors and show a different American face in these projects that have tangible, concrete results.
The types of programs vary, and the funding sources vary as well. Posts creatively combine the budgets that they are allocated – small grants authorities with additional NEA funding that is from our office, and ECA’s resources, such as IVLP, the Speakers Program, and the resources of the Cultural Heritage Center. In some cases, our programs dovetail with Economic Support funded activities and also with USAID’s activities. They bring together American and host country experts, researchers, students, and government officials, achieving goodwill for the U.S. and the ability to build enduring relationships that provide a better foundation upon which to advance our policies.
Starting with Iraq – one of our strongest examples of success and building relationships while engaging on cultural heritage – Iraq’s rich cultural heritage is critical to the emergence of a unified and inclusive national identity, which is key to our efforts to secure lasting defeat of ISIS. Since 2003, the U.S. Embassy has partnered with the Iraqi government to rehabilitate the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and stabilize and preserve endangered structures of Babylon and Nimrud. The Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil, launched in 2008 with Embassy Baghdad support, brings together Arabs and Kurds, Sunni and Shi’a, Yazidi and Shabak Muslims and Christians, men and women, and partners with us on projects addressing ethnic and religious minorities advanced by the Office of the Vice President.
IVLP is an important resource for cultural heritage engagement. In fact, it was just this month that state hosted an Iraqi IVLP group of five experts and practitioners in cultural heritage from among Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities. In addition to the program that they had in Washington and the other cities that they’ll visit, this group of five is getting to know each other and learning how to work together to promote tourism, job creation, and a sense of national identity while they’re on this program.
Finally, in another successful partnership in Iraq, NEA, ECA, other parts of the U.S. government, and the Smithsonian Institution, worked closely with the Iraqi Embassy here in Washington to return over 3,800 artifacts to the Iraqis as a result of the Hobby Lobby settlement.
Strengthening the economic potential of our partners’ countries also advances our economic interests. This is the case for Morocco, where heritage site development and museums are income generators. For example, in northern Morocco with its distinct Berber culture, currently an IVLP alumna is promoting education and culture through investments to counter that region’s isolation. Restoration of cultural heritage sites provides opportunity and pride in Moroccan identity for this heterogeneous population.
Bilateral Memoranda of Understanding, based on the 1970 UNESCO Convention on Cultural Property, are creating the foundation for long-term partnerships with governments in the NEA region. These MOUs authorize DHS’s Customs and Border Protection to seize undocumented cultural property. The first case in NEA was when Egypt committed resources to cultural heritage protection and signed an MOU with the U.S. in November of 2016. Following that, NEA provided funding to advise NEA countries in preparing their MOU request packages. ECA and NEA training and capacity building for Libyan archeologists and law enforcement personnel laid the groundwork for signing an MOU with Libya in February 2018. Post, the Libya External Office that’s based in Tunis, is now working with a Fulbright Specialist to support this effort. So, posts are looking at the whole toolkit of what they can do to bring these resources to bear and advance this cause.
The Libyan Ambassador in the U.S. noted that even in the middle of the conflict that divides her country, Libya’s Antiquities Department has remained unified and able to operate throughout the country because Libyans believe that their millennia of common heritage transcend their modern political divisions. So, these two countries—Egypt and Libya—motivated everyone else to join because again, if you look at Egypt and Libya here in the middle, there are other avenues for illegal traffic in cultural property. So, Algeria and Jordan signed MOUs in 2019, and Tunisia and Morocco are well on their way, with Lebanon hopefully not too far behind. Iraq and Syria are protected by emergency provisions, and Yemen’s cultural heritage should soon fall under those same protections.
Jordan, where tourism is 19 percent of GDP, signed an MOU when ECA Assistant Secretary Royce visited last month. Looting and trafficking antiquities is a source of terrorist financing and is connected to the drug trade, requiring better coordination between law enforcement, academics, tourism, and public education in Jordan. For the Jordanians, the MOU demonstrates the value of stronger bilateral law enforcement cooperation and boosts the image of the U.S. in Jordan.
The big prize of ECA is the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. ECA’s Cultural Heritage Center over the years has invested over $12 million in the preservation and protection of cultural heritage throughout the NEA region, including Iraq, Libya and Yemen, for sites and programs that have been nominated by those posts. In conjunction with the projects and sites that are supported through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, NEA has funded the American Schools of Oriental Research— known as ASOR—a U.S.-based academic organization for research, documentation, and monitoring the damage being done to cultural heritage by violent extremists and others in the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Libya, strengthening local capacity to safeguard that cultural heritage.
Another initiative comes from NEA Press and Public Diplomacy, reaching out to our colleagues at post. We funded in 2018 a Public Affairs Section Cairo collaboration with the Coalition of American Oriental Research Centers—roughly about ten of them in the NEA region— for workshops and government agencies responsible for antiquities preservation encountering illegal trade. That series of workshops is happening over last year and this coming year. By incorporating American and international archaeologists and conservation experts in these discussions, we brought in and deepened cooperation on this issue.
Looking ahead at impact and results, and where this is going, not just at small or individual projects happening in individual countries, we’re seeing more cross-regional interests and we’re seeing other multilateral opportunities to engage on cultural heritage in the region. Again, that’s opening the doors in some other fora where the doors aren’t so open. For example, in October 2019, Morocco hosted the First Regional Conference on Cultural Heritage Protection for Religious Communities and that was supported by the U.S. Embassy. This built on Secretary Pompeo’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Another example, very recent—I think this was last month or earlier this month—at recent meetings with the Arab League, the Americas Director expressed interest in developing a partnership on cultural heritage training and tracking artifact trafficking. So, again, looking at cultural heritage as an entrée or maybe those “first three feet” as what we would like to do in establishing better relationships with the Arab League that could lead to other opportunities.
We hope that we are enabling posts to use the variety of programs and resources flexibly in response to what they see as challenges and opportunities on the ground, whether that is asking for additional funding from ECA or applying for their programs, looking for additional funding from us, or how they creatively use their own budgets for small grants, or other even larger programs. In addition to advancing key policy goals, this engagement benefits the U.S. by increasing responsible cultural exchange through exhibits, loans, and research. NEA and the NEA posts are building lasting relationships that will continue to pay dividends in the years ahead.
We’re really proud of our team here, the work that they do in pulling together some of these programs and building out the relationships here in Washington and also with other academic institutions, and also, really proud of our teams in the field and the way that they look for programs that are going to provide impact and open doors for them. Thank you.
Nicholas Griffith: Good morning. I’m so very, very pleased to bookend such a distinguished panel as this because the International Organization Affairs Bureau really doesn’t exist in a well-defined area. We wind our way through all the other regional bureaus that operate in those capitals to try to lend influence in the multilateral space. And it’s equally an honor to speak to all of you because each and every one of you truly are an impact on the future of public diplomacy. So, looking over the list of who’s coming and seeing you all out there now, what I really wanted to talk about was grants – small grants, which we’ve mentioned several times – and the real impact that those grants have on public diplomacy programs.
I think it’s really vital that we preserve our small grants programs and the funding that we have for those. I hope I can give you a little bit of a history of what grants in the Department can look like, and I will give you an example of a program that I think really encapsulates why we do grants and why we do PD programs. On the history side, the Department has had a grants-making function for decades and decades. But it really wasn’t until the integration with USIA, who fought to bring more of that grant-making instrument into the Department, that we had the real proliferation in grant-making as a financial or a fiduciary instrument. As that has changed over time, downrange at post it was always the PAO who was the grants officer. And other people in the Department – the Bureaus and other offices – discovered that a grant is a really easy way to move money quickly and to track it very well. So, we had other offices, embassies, and bureaus starting to do more grants and coming to PD to sign those grants.
In recent years, grant-making functions are in every bureau. Millions and millions of dollars of U.S. government funds are put on the street in the form of a grant. Along with that, I would like to mention that some of our FSI [Foreign Service Institute] colleagues are here as well. They do a lot of training at FSI on grant warrants, training new grants officers, online and in classes. The life blood of our PD programming really lies in small grants, and we’ve seen examples from the other bureaus already.
One that I want to speak to you about is what’s called “Space Camp.” This is a wonderful picture. It shows who we send to a Space Camp. I’ll also mention, our PAO in Vienna, Justin Thomas, working with Ambassador Jackie Wolcott, who is our Ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, are big champions of this program. But we don’t do this program just because we want to send kids to Space Camp. We have underlying reasons. And in this instance, two of our real touchpoints were to show that the United States is still the leader of choice—not Russia, not China. We are the leading partner in the world for technological innovation, not just in space, but in technological innovation across the board. The other is to challenge those other actors in the multilateral space for leadership positions within the U.N. organization. That’s why we’re doing a Space Camp program, but what is that program?
You might remember last July, when the Apollo 11 mission was on everybody’s TV screens. UNVIE [U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Vienna] had a great idea. We wanted to extend that Apollo 11 program into something we can actually leverage with some of our key interlocutors in Vienna. They came up with the idea to send 12 students from six countries around the world, in every region, to attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. This is a partnership with the University of Alabama at Huntsville. You’ve probably all heard of Space Camp before, but this is the first time that international students have been a part of it, and that’s a really key point to raise.
You might have also asked yourself, “Well, what are those six countries?” A better question might be to ask, “Why those six countries?” And the reason why those six countries is that the six we chose all hold leadership positions or positions of influence on major U.N. organizations in Vienna, for example, the UN Space Agency or the Council on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, as well as the IAEA Board of Governors and the CTBTO, or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization. These are all key institutions within the UN system. So, UNVIE has reached out to all of these key chairpersons and their organizations to attract students from their home capitals. Now, this also touches the other Bureaus, as well as the bilateral missions where we are not represented. We have to partner with the embassies. This program is designed to touch on the Integrated Country Strategy goals of the various missions. Strategy is a key part of programs like this, and programs like this are born out of grants.
As I had mentioned a little bit ago, we’re doing a program like this because the United States is not fading into the background. We’re not fading out of the multilateral system. Rather, we are key to the leadership of the future of the organizations, not only the UN, but 170 some odd other international organizations. It’s using a vehicle like this program, where we can leverage that.
To wrap up: We always talk about how data driven programs are important and oversight of grants is important. They’re absolutely key. I have long been an advocate of using big data to define how we better do our grants and, thereby, our programs. But, one thing we also have to keep in mind is, why are we doing these programs? It’s to build those relationships. We’ve mentioned relationships a number of times here. A small grant that produces a program like this one builds relationships with our key interlocutors. And, in the case of the International Organizations Bureau, those relationships over time lead to alliances and help us build alliances in these multilateral organizations. So, for our Bureau, the relationship building leads to alliances. The alliances are really the fulcrum that we use to pivot our influence in these systems to move our policies forward. We couldn’t do it without programs like this. I can’t underscore enough how important the grant making function is to this.
I really appreciate the time to speak to you and thank you very much. I hope you got something out of it.
Vivian Walker: A round of applause for our presenters. (Applause)
We now invite audience members to ask questions of our distinguished panelists, who did a wonderful job of showing how all public diplomacy programming in all its incarnations is securely tied to our most important strategic goals. You will be able to ask questions of them individually, or as a group.
To facilitate this process, I’d like to remind everyone of the panelists’ names. When I read your names, please raise your hands. Camille Dawson, East Asia-Pacific; Gordon Duguid, Europe and Eurasia; Tom Genton, Africa; Nicholas Griffith, International Organizations; Kerri Hannan, SCA; Dale Prince, Western Hemisphere; and Lynn Roche; the Near East.
When you have an opportunity to ask a question, please state your name and affiliation. And, if you have a targeted question for one of the panelists, please indicate it as such. And with that, I will turn the first question over to one of our Commissioners, Anne Wedner.
Anne Wedner: Thank you all for an incredible presentation. I just have one quick question for Nick. What are the six countries?
Nicholas Griffith: Put me on the spot on that. (Laughter) They’re really all over the globe—Brazil, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan. I believe we have an African country that I can’t recall, and there’s one more in South Asia.
Anne Wedner: That’s an interesting group of countries.
Nicholas Griffith: It is. And as I said, it was really not about the region as much as it was about building those contacts within the leadership of the UN system. It’s very impactful when the United States approaches one of the chairpersons of one of these organizations and says, “Well, we want to bring one of your students to what’s recognized as a famous and well-renowned program.” And, it’s because we’re still a leader in technology. That’s why we do it, and you can’t discount the importance of PD programs. I know I’m preaching to the choir in this room, but I hope that we all can take to the outside, to other people who aren’t PD professionals, the importance of this programming.
Vivian Walker: All right, any questions from the audience? You’ve got mics available.
Audience Question: Thank you very much. I’m Mike Anderson, a retired Foreign Service Officer. Thank you for all the good work you’re all doing. Nice to see PD is alive and well everywhere. One issue—more of an issue and a concern rather than a question. But you might want to comment on these points. One is budget cuts: How are you coping with what we hear will be more State budget cuts? You might not want to tackle that. And then, two, the whole issue of mixed signals on global policy issues, specifically the role of the press. Is it the enemy of the people? To democracy, are we still actively promoting democracy at our posts around the world? And then, three, climate change, which is a priority in many of your countries, but not here in the U.S. So, I know those are tough questions, and consider them more comments if you’d like.
Vivian Walker: All right, so we’ve got a question on budget, one on messaging, and then one on climate change – big picture issues. So, any takers?
Lynn Roche: To start on the role of the budget, and we didn’t really talk numbers here among our programs, except perhaps to emphasize in a couple of cases that it doesn’t really take a lot of money to have a strong impact in many places, especially when you’re really drilling down and working with local partners, and finding partners across the board. It does take some money, and I think where the budget cuts or perhaps, future unknown budget cuts, are the hardest is when we’re looking at resources for staff because none of these programs are possible if you don’t have people on the ground who are doing the work and who are engaging. If you can’t hire LES—Locally Engaged Staff—to backfill if people retire or leave the embassy, if we don’t have the positions and the Foreign Service Officers, as well, and staff here in Washington. We’re waiting to see how, what we think will be budget cuts that are coming, are going to affect staffing because that will really limit how much we can engage and what the impact will be; also will limit the monitoring and evaluation of these programs.
Tom Genton: If I could jump onto that one a little bit as well… About 10 years ago, I was the PAO in Madrid, and R/PPR, which has been doing a great job of trying to systematize things to try to provide us more tools for analytics, had developed this tool which had demonstrated the ratio of American officers to local staff. There was another interesting graphic that was in there. It was the number of American officers relative to the population of the country. So, we had five officers in Madrid, and the population was about 45 million at the time. So, it was like, “Okay, you take this nine million, I’ll take this nine million, and we’ll go out and do that.” So, my point being that if we have more resources, we can do more. We can reach out more.
As Lynn said, it’s the people that enable us to do these programs—to devise them to work with partners to develop those relationships—long-term relationships with local organizations, to reach out to our burgeoning alumni population. How can we tap into them as being the conveyors of the message, but also developing messages that are in our mutual interests and programs that they can carry out? And then, there’s the funding that we need to come in behind with to make that happen. We’re not able to compete on the resource level with some of the other competitors that are exploiting the continent of Africa, for example.
The other thing I would just note about the budget is that what is really limiting for us and debilitating is not having any certainty going into a fiscal year, and having programs, and ideas back up like a rabbit in the python until such point it can be released, and we can start doing that. But you can’t do programs in three months, even if you’ve been planning them all year.
Kerri Hannan: I can address the three issues that you raised. Regardless of the signals that come from various parts of the government, at least in my bureau in South Central Asia, we are aggressively working to train journalists to empower the media sector. We’re working on air quality, which is a topline priority for South Central Asia, to develop new technologies to partner with countries to address their air issues that also benefit the citizens that live there as well as American embassies there. And obviously, democracy is really important.
And then, on the budget, if you’re interested, look at Afghanistan, which has been on a glide path to normalize the size of that embassy. We’ve been dealing with budget cuts there for years in our assistance funding and in our public diplomacy programming. We’re outsourcing some of our work to our Lincoln learning centers. We’re developing a civil society through our programs that can continue the work we’re doing. We’re working with USAID on their agenda in order to keep a robust partnership there with reduced funds. Obviously, a huge challenge that you can look at, but PD is going to stay there and keep working. Whatever money you give us, we’re going to spend every penny.
Gordon Duguid: I’ve got about six months left in the Department. They’re going to make me retire at 65, so I can answer your questions directly. (Laughter)
First, budget. We’ve been getting cut forever. So, I support the point that if we knew what we had to spend we’d spend it wisely. And, we do what we can with it. The Chinese are outspending us by leaps and bounds all over Europe. I’m not going to jump on to what they’re doing in other regions. They’ve stolen USIA’s playbook, and they’re implementing it. They’re doing everything we used to do and using it against us. So, you get what you pay for. I think we do a good job with the money that we have. But I’ve got 20 posts that say they need another officer in order to do the work they’re being asked to do. I’m piddling over $16,000 grants that one post asked me for yesterday, and I said, “I can’t do it right now because of other considerations.” So, there are some constraints, yes, but we’re doing a good job with what we have.
On democracy, we’re working with democracies every day. We’re talking about doing things on a multilateral basis every day. We’re working with countries throughout Europe on how to reinforce the democratic principles that apply to the major allies as well as everyone that wants to be a new ally. We’re doing a good job. The reason why NATO and the EU have expanded is because our ideas are right. No one is looking to voluntarily join Russia’s sphere unless they have a really tied economy to the Russian economy. And the Russian economy is about the size of that of Texas. Belarus, where we have had a very frosty relationship for years, now wants to talk to us more. We’re going to exchange ambassadors soon, which we haven’t done in a decade. And this is in light of President Putin trying to get them to reunify with Russia. So, on the democracy front, we are working it, and it does still appeal to countries that don’t have it in the fullest measure.
On climate change, we haven’t stopped talking about climate change. Public diplomacy is not a megaphone. It’s a telephone, and we’re listening to what people tell us. It’s also the case that the administration has its policies, but so do 50 different states. And we represent the totality of the American public in many cases. California is a global leader in climate change legislation and climate change action. We can always hold up California as a model when we’re talking to our foreign counterparts about their concerns on climate change. We also have to point out that we’re no slouch on climate change. We did not join the Kyoto Protocols. And at the time, we were better than almost everyone who did sign the Kyoto Protocols on protecting the climate. So, there are ways to talk about this that are still supportive or respecting the administration’s policy on climate change, how to approach it, and the debate that’s going on in this country.
On mixed messaging, yes, they’re mixed from time-to-time. However, I’ve spoken to you about what we’re doing in our Bureau. Between what I am told to do and the President, there are four people—the Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary, my Assistant Secretary, and sometimes the Under Secretary for Political Affairs. And so, the messages I’m getting are what I presented to you that we’re working on. So, whatever the mixed messages are, I’m getting a very direct message now: Keep doing what we’re doing and try to do it the best we can.
Vivian Walker: Anyone else have anything to add? I’m going to remember that, “PD is not a megaphone, it’s a telephone.” That’s going to be mine now. Thank you. All right, another question, over here.
Audience Question: My name is Kevin Kelly. I have a question for Kerri Hannan. I haven’t read the report, but the Washington Post report on Afghanistan might contradict what the report says. It sounds like you’re putting lipstick on a pig. With 25 percent of U.S. funds going to terrorists, is there protection money or a kickback? Can you say something about that?
Kerri Hannan: I’m not sure the report you’re referring to, but if you’re talking about corruption in Afghanistan, yes, there’s corruption in Afghanistan. We’ve got a robust SIGAR there, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. It’s an office that inspects all of our programs. And, at least for the public diplomacy money that we’re spending, we have a robust dialogue about where our money goes, how our partners are doing, and we continue to try to provide the oversight we can. We also have third-party monitoring in place since we can’t get out to many of our places. So, if you’re talking more broadly about the government, I wouldn’t say. For our money, we have a grants office. We’re the only Bureau that has stood up a full grants office and a full monitoring and evaluation team inside of our Bureau because we’re aware of some of the challenges, because we were distributing so much money in Afghanistan for so long, as well as Pakistan. We have 11 people that are responsible for the oversight of the money that we spend. Is there corruption? Yes. Do we get it right every time? No, but it’s a constant feedback. And when we catch a mistake, we try and go back and fix it. We bar groups that are not spending our money effectively. So, we’re doing the best we can.
Audience Question: What about progress?
Kerri Hannan: I think we have made progress. Maternal health – public diplomacy can’t claim this – I’m speaking outside of my lane, but gains in maternal health are incredible in Afghanistan. We’ve brought down maternal health [mortality] rates by more than 60 percent. The numbers are probably higher than that. My data is back from when I served there.
I believe we are directly responsible for a robust civil society that’s engaged and for civil servants that know how to operate in the government. I’ve worked with them. We do an Afghan Diplomatic Training Program that brings Afghans here, in partnership with other governments, to make sure that they are able to speak to foreign policy and are trained in diplomacy.
We also are engaging with our regional partners on programs there and have seen gains in journalists. They have a robust media, despite the threats that they face. We’ve made gains there. We have worked with women’s programs, we’ve developed English language, we have a scholarship program. The American University in Central Asia has a scholarship in which we’re sending Afghan youth there to study. They are an incredible group of alumni. So, we are making gains. I understand the challenges we face. I’m not saying we’ve fixed it, but we are making gains that I can point to.
Vivian Walker: Thank you. Other questions? One there?
Audience Question: Hi, my name is Tim Rivera, formerly of the EU Delegation to the U.S. and now looking for new opportunities. Several of you have talked about the importance of relationship building through all your work. I want to ask about the division of labor because so many external organizations and partners are delivering your programs. Who is benefitting from those relationships? Are those relationships being made with the implementing partners or are they really being made with you on your staff? How do you balance that between some of the great organizations that are delivering these programs, knowing that it is either you here centrally in D.C. or the local post that’s actually funding them or behind them? How do you manage that dichotomy?
Vivian Walker: Great question. I’m sure you all have things to say. Camille, do you want to start out?
Camille Dawson: I can say a few words on that. Certainly, it has been a push in recent years to ensure that the State Department and the local embassy or consulate is branded from the very beginning as being the sponsor of any program which an implementing partner is carrying out. And there are many ways that we can ensure that the participants connect directly with the embassy. That starts with the local staff member at the embassy reaching out to the program participant, setting up a pre-departure briefing, for example, if this is for an exchange program; connecting with our alumni coordinator at the embassy and through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Having the embassy stay in contact with the individuals who participate in all of our programs through that alumni coordinator if it’s an exchange program, but also through tools such as our Contact Relationship Management databases, in which we are able to reach out on a regular basis through email campaigns, through inviting participants in any of our programs to embassy hosted events—everything from the annual Fourth of July celebration to specific thematic presentations that American experts might be giving on a topic of interest to these individuals.
So, we consider our implementing partners to be exactly that—very important partners. But it is U.S. taxpayer money going to fund these programs, and we do work hard to ensure that there is a U.S. flag affiliated with each and every one of those programs.
Vivian Walker: All right. We’ll take a couple more questions, and we’ll take them consecutively. There is one here and then we’ll take another one, and we’ll combine them.
Audience Question: Thank you. My name is (inaudible) from the German Embassy. First of all, thank you so much for that global panorama of public diplomacy. It’s always great to work with American embassies no matter where in the world. I have two organizational questions, if I may. First, how often – I understand you work in different bureaus in the Department of State, all of you. So, how often do you meet in that role—weekly, daily, monthly?
Kerri Hannan: Twice a week.
Gordon Duguid: But they won’t get off my email every day.
Audience Question: The other question is: You’re in charge of regions, and your partners in the field are binational or individual countries, let’s say. How many regional officers, if any, do you have in the world outside Washington?
Vivian Walker: Okay. And another question? We’re just going to combine them. Is there one down there?
Audience Question: Thank you. I’m Matthew Wallin from the American Security Project. A pointed question for Lynn is when the President commented recently about targeting cultural sites in Iran. What was the regional reaction to that and how does that challenge the work that you’ve dealt with? And then, sort of speaking more broadly about credibility of the United States, how has some of the rhetoric coming out not just from the President, but from the rest of the country affecting our credibility on a number of the issues that we’re working on?
Vivian Walker: Okay. So, going back to our colleague from Germany asking about the number of regional offices. Does one of you want to talk about how it all breaks down?
Dale Prince: Our offices support Public Affairs Sections in embassies. All American embassies, I think without exception, have a public affairs office, and most consulates and consulates-general do; a few don’t. But the public affairs work is always covered out of the embassy. That’s the central coordinating function. We provide them their budget and general direction, and we have individuals who have a specific sort of support function. There are Public Diplomacy desk officers for either a country or a subregion. I have seven desk officers who support our Public Affairs Officers in the field. They talk to them all the time, and it’s a two-way conversation. I hope that answers the question, but I probably left something out. That’s the key dynamic, I think.
Gordon Duguid: In Europe, we, of course, have U.S. missions to NATO and to the European Union. Although they are international organizations, they are throughout Europe, so they are in our bureau. But we also have regional media hubs, and these are offices that are actually under the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy. We all have a bifurcated reporting chain. We work with and for the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, but we work also directly for the Assistant Secretary for the region. These hubs work directly for the Global Public Affairs Office and then through it to the Under Secretary. So, there are offices that take a regional approach to messaging and programming in each one of the regions.
Vivian Walker: And can you tell us where the six hubs are?
Gordon Duguid: One is in Brussels.
Camille Dawson: Our media hub covering Africa is based in Johannesburg. We also have media hubs in Miami, Brussels as was mentioned, London, Dubai, and Manila.
Kerri Hannan: SCA is covered out of London.
Vivian Walker: Okay. And so, they all provide pretty broad regional coverage. There was a question for you, Lynn, with regard to targeted cultural sites. And then, a final question to any one of you about U.S. credibility and how we can continue to promote that.
Lynn Roche: Thanks. In talking about cultural heritage, I’d sort of anticipated that that might be on all your minds. The reaction to the President’s comments about targeting sites really does demonstrate the importance of cultural heritage, foreign national identity, and what we saw in terms of American reaction, as well.
I hope that some of the examples that I talked about really showed that maybe that was a blip on the screen for a couple of days, but people really do know about the work that’s being done. That’s at a government level, for example, in terms of these memoranda of understanding that we’re negotiating with the governments. But also, in very concrete ways, the projects and the programs at these sites, at the museums that are in communities, that are really supporting community development, job opportunity, and all of that.
So, that was a sort of blip on the screen, but it did cause everyone to say, “Well yeah, this is really important to us and, we know that the Americans are our partners on preserving this.” I didn’t use examples, but there are private partners, U.S. organizations, that are partnering with Iranians on their cultural patrimony as well.
Gordon Duguid: I’ll take credibility. U.S. credibility is the job of every American citizen and not just the responsibility of the people sitting on this panel or our colleagues in the field. Having said that, in diplomacy, your word is your credibility. If you say it, you need to do it. I think we’ve shown that we are doing that every single day. It does hurt when we send mixed messages, both about our involvement in the world and about our dedication to carry through on past commitments. I think a number of statements that have been made in the past have been reversed. But the negative statement always lingers longer than positive statement. We are and will be involved in NATO, at least as long as I’m around. I spent eight years at NATO, so I’m dedicated. But the long and the short of it is, it’s our society that is credible, not any particular person. And what we do is we try and project the values of the society, and people find it attractive. They still do. Everyone is talking about an era of great power competition. And yet, China is not yet a great military power. It’s a great economic power. Russia is a minute economic power, but it has nuclear weapons. So, there’s a mixed picture out there. Where are they competing with us? They’re competing with us on the field of ideas, and we’ve all grown up in this job on the competition of ideas. Our ideas are strong, they’re vibrant, and they’re going to last.
Vivian Walker: All right. Well, on that note, I’d like to invite Commissioner Wedner up for a brief wrap-up.
Anne Wedner: Thanks to the whole panel. I think there’s a little backstory here I’ll just share. We invited all of you, and you all said yes. So, we ended up with this incredible moment of explanation about U.S. public diplomacy practices. And thanks to Vivian, and her staff, Shawn and Kristy, for putting this together. We’re really delighted. This has never happened before, and sadly, I don’t think the audience is big enough. I hope that we’re able to use this information and get it in front of other people who are important decision makers.
So, thank you all. It was fabulous. And Bill—
Bill Hybl: Why don’t you just put a wrap on it?
Anne Wedner: Okay. So, Bill would’ve said, and I’ll try and say it as well as Bill, that we would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone. This is the role of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, to create these kinds of conversations. We’ve been doing this for 70 years. This is our 70th anniversary year. And so, we hope that you’ll continue to come to these conversations. Our next public meeting will be in April, and we will be talking about the role of public diplomacy in addressing the effects of disinformation and malign influence campaigns around the world, with an emphasis on China’s growing presence. It will be in Los Angeles. We are extending an official invitation to everyone on the panel. You all have a lot of experience on this.
Thank you all for coming. I think we ended a little ahead of schedule. Thanks so much.