U.S. ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
MINUTES AND TRANSCRIPT FROM THE QUARTERLY PUBLIC MEETING ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IN A MULTILATERAL CONTEXT
Thursday, September 13, 2018 | 10:30-12:00 p.m.
U.S. Mission to the United Nations, 799 UN Plaza, New York, NY
COMMISSION MEMBERS PRESENT:
Mr. Sim Farar, Chair
Mr. William Hybl, Vice-Chair (via phone)
Ms. Anne Terman Wedner
COMMISSION STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Mr. Jeff Daigle, Designated Federal Official
Ms. Jennifer Rahimi, Senior Advisor
Mr. Ryan Walsh, Fellow
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy met in an open session from 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 13, 2018 to discuss Public Diplomacy in a Multilateral Context. Panelists Theodore Allegra (U.S. Department of State), Mark Schlachter (U.S. Department of State) and . The session was opened by Chairman Farar, and both moderated and closed by Commissioner Wedner. The panelists took several questions from the Commissioners and audience and their details are in the below transcript.
Anne Wedner: I’m Commissioner Anne Wedner, and I’ll be the moderator for today’s event. Before we get started, I just want to let people know there are bathrooms in the back, out in the hall, so important things and there are drinking fountains by the elevator as well. So, with that in mind, let me welcome today, thank you all for coming. I’m just absolutely thrilled to see so many young faces in the audience, it means that public diplomacy has a future. And I wanted to introduce you-
Alison Smale: And it’s mostly female.
Anne Wedner: What’s that?
Alison Smale: I said and it’s mostly female.
Anne Wedner: And it’s female. Yes. I didn’t know if I was allowed to say that.
Alison Smale: I don’t request permission.
Anne Wedner: You can always say you’re sorry. Okay, so I wanted to welcome today Ms. … You guys have to stop playing with your buttons. If you push your button, you cut me off. All right. Okay. And then, once you’re ready to cut me off, that’s fine. So first we’d like to welcome Mr. Ted Allegra, he’s the former Charge d’Affaires from the US Mission to the United Nations…in Geneva, Switzerland. I feel bad for him having to return home here. He’s gonna discuss how leadership at US Missions to the United Nations uses public diplomacy to both shape and achieve mission goals.
Anne Wedner: Next to Ted is Mr. Mark Schlachter. He’s the Director, Office of Public Affairs, Planning, and Coordination at the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, the US Department of State. Mark will discuss public diplomacy programming across US Missions to United Nations agencies.
Anne Wedner: And then we have a non-American among us here. We have Ms Alison Smale. And she is the Undersecretary General for Global Communications at the United Nations and she will discuss the United Nations use of public diplomacy, particularly thematic campaigns. Also, [inaudible] as the US Representative to the General Assembly so they all have experience in multilateral organizations.
Anne Wedner: Before we begin, I would like to ask Sim to say a few words.
Sim Farar: Thank you, Anne. And to you, the audience for being here, and a special thanks to the US Mission to the United Nations, I want to thank especially, I don’t know if she’s still here, Millie Meyers who did a wonderful job. Give her a round of applause. [crosstalk 00:02:32].
Sim Farar: You and I go back about 20 years when I worked here at the Mission, and she’s great. She’s been here a long time too. Anyway, I also want to thank the entire UN staff for helping the Commission secure this space and for their support of our meeting. I also want to extend a warm welcome to all of the participants and alumni of US government and exchange programs attending today’s meeting.
Sim Farar: We normally host our quarterly meetings in Washington DC, so it’s a special privilege to host a discussion with a different audience, including our colleagues here in New York. We brought a few of our Washington friends up here as well, we look forward to an enriching exchange on multilateral public diplomacy.
Sim Farar: As many of you are aware, the Commission represents the public interest advising on US government global information, media, cultural and education exchange programs. As a bipartisan and independent body created by Congress, I think it’s our 70th anniversary, isn’t it? We started in 1948 to assess and recommend policies and programs in support of all US government efforts to understand, inform, and influence foreign policies on foreign publics particularly, but not limited to the work of US Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which recently changed its name to the US Agency for Global Media.
Sim Farar: The Commission is mandated by law to report its meetings, its findings and recommendations to the President, the Congress, the Secretary of State, and of course, the American people. I’m joined today by my distinguished colleagues from the Commission, as Anne has alluded to. Bill Hybl, our vice chairman of Colorado Springs, who is on the telephone with us. Anne Wedner, from Chicago, Illinois. One of the Commission seats was recently vacated by our new US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher. Want to thank her for her service on the Commission and dedication to the Commission, and wish her all the best in her new role serving the American people in Poland. And she will do a phenomenal job representing this country in Poland.
Sim Farar: I’m thrilled to see so many familiar faces and so many new ones joining us today to discuss the important topic of public diplomacy in a multilateral context. The US Department of State is engaged in multilateral diplomacy in large part via its missions to the United Nations, with its headquarters in New York led by Ambassador Nikki Haley, who I think is doing a great job as well.
Sim Farar: We’ll learn in-depth what this relationship and representation looks like today. We’ll hear directly from UN leadership, we’ll also talk broadly about US engagement with international organizations, much of it through the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Multilateral diplomacy presents unique challenges and opportunities. It enables the world community to engage in a dialogue, even among our foes, on issues of regional or global importance and develop solutions that enhance international peace and security.
Sim Farar: These agreements often take the form of resolutions, which are the result of intense and detailed negotiations by dedicated diplomats aided by the work of skilled public diplomacy professionals who help inform the development of policies and explain to world audiences the importance of the actions being taken. We at the Commission want to greatly acknowledge these efforts. As a former United States Representative to the 54th General Assembly of the United Nations, way back in 1999 and 2000, I was honored to take part in such efforts firsthand.
Sim Farar: I remember the work that we did in the late 90s, early 2000s, I worked with Ambassador Holbrooke, Dick Holbrooke, who as you know passed away. And of course Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and we had some wonderful things we discussed and worked through as my tenure here at the Mission. The Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy routinely visits US embassies. I’m off to Poland on Saturday night to visit an embassy there. We go around the world to examine their public diplomacy outreach. Most recently, we were in Managua, Nicaragua, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bogotá, Colombia.
Sim Farar: On these visits we tend to focus on bilateral engagement. It has, however, become apparent to the Commission in recent years that advancing foreign policy goals and strengthened international peace and security, increasingly require outreach to regional and global audiences, which puts our multilateral mission at the center of strong, strategic, and globally-focused PD efforts that foster a much better understanding of US society, our values, and foreign policy, and enhances an international cooperation. The United States is trying to solve all the world’s greatest challenges. Now I’d like to hand the meeting back to Commissioner Wedner, who will conduct this meeting and kick off today’s panel discussion. Anne.
Anne Wedner: Many thanks Chairman Farar. I’m delighted to have here with us today such exceptional panelists who bring in-depth experience and expertise to this important discussion. Each panelist will make a 10 minute presentation. After all three panelists have spoken, there will be a moderated discussion, so I ask that you please save any questions or comments until that portion of the meeting. You’ll notice there are microphones on either side of the room, and so we’ll ask that you come up and speak into the microphone so that we can record it and then transcribe your comments into the record.
Anne Wedner: Our first presenter is Ted Allegra, who last month was the Charge d’Affaires ad interim at the US mission to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland. He’s a career foreign service officer since 1991 and has served as Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs. He has a wealth of multilateral diplomatic experience and management of public diplomacy efforts. Thank you so much, Ted for sharing your views with us today. And we look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Ted Allegra: Thank you. First let me thank the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for inviting me today. It’s a pleasure to be here in New York. And it’s a special honor actually to be here with Commissioners Sim Farar, Bill Hybl virtually, and Anne Wedner. Their presence underscores that our public diplomacy resonates as much in California, Colorado, and Chicago as it does in Washington and New York. Thank you very much for your own commitment to robust American public diplomacy.
Ted Allegra: As a US diplomat, as Anne suggested, I’ve spent about half my career at embassies abroad, or in Washington working on a specific country or region, and the other half working to advance US goals at multilateral organizations, most recently in Geneva. I’ve learned that it’s very dangerous to assume that even the best in foreign audiences instinctively understand US policies. They may be supremely confident in their self-assessments, but it’s often a false confidence. At best, they lack nuance and context, at worst they’re profoundly wrong.
Ted Allegra: So along with Washington leaders, it’s up to we diplomats to do the explaining to describe the nuances, and to paint an accurate picture of the context in which US policies develop. I’m a big advocate for targeted, assertive public diplomacy. And public diplomacy assumes a different form in the multilateral context. Where the audiences are more diffuse and harder to reach than in the bilateral context.
Ted Allegra: Geneva is of course, the European headquarters for the United Nations, but it also has some 40 odd other agencies with different governance and leaderships and different substantive focus. The notion of a single UN monolith does not really exist at all in Geneva, and that’s part of the challenge. Like New York, however, the presence of nearly 200 resident Foreign Missions exist in Geneva as well. And nearly all of them work both independently and in concert with the regional organizations of which they belong.
Ted Allegra: For example, the European Union, the African Union, the OIC, the G-77, etc. So the United States must navigate a dizzying array of relationships and authorities in conducting negotiations and in making policy. A player like South Africa, for example, may be key to action on Ebola in Africa, but the views of Togo as the African Union leader on global health, may actually be much more significant.
Ted Allegra: That’s the structure. It’s obviously a bilaterally-focused … It’s obvious that a bilaterally-focused public diplomacy can’t really and truly capture the complexities of the multilateral context. Engagements crafted to appeal to a single government, or a single population, or a single leadership, or even a single audience really don’t work.
Ted Allegra: But to this structure, this complicated structure, you have to add the substance. And that’s where it gets really interesting. Geneva is the operational center of the UN system. Politics matter, of course, but the real focus is the profound depth and breadth of expertise. It is a place where policy wonks can and do chase their dreams. They live out their passions in global health in the World Health Organization and humanitarian work with the High Commissioner for refugees and human rights with the High Commissioner of Human Rights. On cyber security and satellites with the International Telecommunications Union, with patents and copyrights with the World Intellectual Property Association. In war and peace with the UN envoy on Syria. Nuclear proliferation with the Conference on Disarmament, trade with the WTO. And the list goes on and on.
Ted Allegra: So all PD work obviously must be substantively based. But how do you do this? Although a focus on mind bending substance in these sectors may appeal to the wonks of Geneva, the rest of the world won’t get it. So the challenge is to be relevant in a multilateral world where the issues, the agencies responsible for them, and even the audiences change from day to day. So we must be especially innovative and especially agile in making the substance interesting. In other words, we’ve gotta make it understandable, we’ve gotta make it digestible, and most of all not boring. We want to make a connection. That’s the external challenge.
Ted Allegra: And like all PD work, we must reflect US policy and practice, which itself is multidimensional. That means we must also be nimble and savvy enough to sense, often in advance, what the policies are, or what their trajectories will be in Washington. That’s the internal challenge, and the bigger challenge is of course to marry them both.
Ted Allegra: So here’s two examples of programming, PD programming we did with a bunch of fun along the way. I’m gonna talk about Hedy Lamarr and Star Wars. Interested now? Maybe. Confused about what they have to do with multilateral diplomacy? You bet. Most folks, they know Hedy Lamarr as legend of 1940s Hollywood with star power as bright as anyone of that era. And with a visage that inspired Snow White to boot. Like, who knew, right? But at least until the documentary Bonneville, which by the way premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, few knew of her prowess as an inventor. As her screen goddess legend grew, Hedy Lamarr also invented a radio guidance system for ally torpedoes during World War II. As well as a frequency skipping technology that was the precursor of the Bluetooth technology of today.
Ted Allegra: Now this is the sort of stuff that gets Geneva wonks really excited. But it was a worthy story to be told as we engaged at the World Intellectual Property Day last April, the theme of which was women in innovation and creativity. We hosted the director of that film, and cosponsored a huge screening to showcase the story of Hedy Lamarr’s career as an intellectual property goddess, and it had rave reviews.
Ted Allegra: In another example, we made even particle physics interesting. The Star Wars enterprise has inspired generations of students to turn their curiosity into careers. But since the first film, which I know we don’t call the first film any more, when we now think of a galaxy far, far away, it’s in a very different context. The notions of life beyond earth, the reality of robotic droids, and even space travel itself, they have all progressed so much in 40 years that they are no longer science fiction, they are indeed science fact.
Ted Allegra: So what better way to host the European premier of The Last Jedi, than to pack the theater with physicists and engineers from CERN, and for those of you that don’t know CERN, it’s a French acronym the European Center for Nuclear Research, along with a bunch of very unusually sheepish, but awestruck diplomats from around the world in the same theater.
Ted Allegra: And after some tedious learning, very tedious learning on my own, I explained that the CERN researchers had discovered that what makes up all the known stars and galaxies in the universe accounts for only 5% of the universe. The rest is called dark matter, and it remains a mystery. So there truly is a dark side to the universe. CERN, which partners with the Fermi Labs here in the United States, is working to understand this mysterious dark matter and that’s the day job for thousands of people in Geneva.
Ted Allegra: Before screening the film, we featured two CERN scientists who were in full Jedi costume and amazing Jedi character, acted out a few scenes to explain to us mere mortals how they study dark matter and the quixotic force that binds the galaxies together. It was also a huge success.
Ted Allegra: But let me now bring us all back down to Earth so I can say a few words about the press function of public diplomacy in the multilateral context as well. In general the challenges are very similar to the programmatic efforts, as are the approaches. But of course, the rhythm of press work is much more intense and much more focused. So the speed required to articulate an effective narrative for a good story or to rebut a bad one means that our command of substance and our understanding of the audience must be especially acute.
Ted Allegra: Beyond that, however, it’s essential to remember the very big picture of US public diplomacy in the multilateral system, the broad things that have long guided our work. We want the multi lateral system to reflect United States interests including respect for our legal system, and our private sector. It is of course the objective of all our work in the multilateral system to leverage US interests on a global platform. We are passionate and candid in our advocacy, and we are equally passionate in our defensive positions to prevent the outcomes that we do not support. We want all multilateral organizations, certainly those in the UN system to practice good governance, transparency, and accountability. When they do not, we are vocal about it in private, and often in public.
Ted Allegra: And many international partners gratefully follow our lead, even if they remain silent in doing so. We call out bad actors in the international system for abusing multilateral platforms to showcase disingenuous practices of saying one thing and doing another. Again, many international partners remain silent, but are grateful. We do not assume that the default practices or structures of the past are necessarily relevant for the future. Given the number of unprecedented challenges facing the world today, from humanitarian disasters to global health pandemics and intractable conflicts large and small, one thing is certain, international institutions are all being tested. We do not assume that the successes of the past automatically make progress for success inevitable for the future.
Ted Allegra: In this context, everyone wants to know what the United States thinks. Indeed, it has become almost tradecraft for some countries to speculate about US positions and to pronounce them authoritatively in an effort to garner support for their own views. Active, assertive US public diplomacy is thus essential to provide the clarity and the credibility needed to thwart or sometimes even to magnify and highlight these efforts.
Ted Allegra: Finally, I would be remiss in not highlighting the value of private diplomacy in conducting public diplomacy as well. I deeply value and appreciate the partnerships with individual agencies and individual leaders among them in the multilateral realm. I was always confident in Geneva, in that any areas of serious concern would prompt the private reality check to distinguish what was real from the broader noise and criticism or chatter around any issue. So we must remain mindful that successes and understandings achieved in private diplomacy can often help achieve successes and understandings in the public arena as well.
Ted Allegra: So with that, let me conclude. Thank you very much for your attention.
Anne Wedner: Thank you Ted. I have so many questions I have to hold onto. I bet you guys do too. Next we’ll hear from Mark Schlachter, who is also a career diplomat. Having joined the US Information Agency 25 years ago, serving overseas in a number of posts. He is now the Director of the State Department’s Office of Public Affairs, Planning, and Coordination in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
Anne Wedner: Mark, take it away.
Mark Schlachter: Thank you very much, Anne. Thank you, Chairman. I want to add my thanks to ACPD for giving us multilateral diplomats a little bit of sunshine and doing it here in New York. I know our colleagues here appreciate being part of that, being part of the crowd, I hope that we can do this on a recurring basis. I think it’s really valuable to come up and occupy a different space from time to time. So thank you very much.
Mark Schlachter: So, Ted is a difficult act to follow, as you can already surmise. I’ve known Ted for a number of years and I regret every instance in which I’ve followed him on a public stage. He made the mistake of sending me his remarks last night and asking me to look at them, which I did. And I realized that my intended remarks contradicted almost everything he intended to say. So I threw mine away, ripped them up and I spent all night writing new remarks.
Mark Schlachter: So bear with me. As Anne indicated, I work in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, and as I think as everyone knows where that exists in the Universe. We are the bureau that has a oversight responsibility for the entire international network. And I’ve been in that position for 10 years, despite Ted’s efforts to dislodge me over that period of time.
Mark Schlachter: So I’m going to talk a little but about what that means and what Ted’s perspective looks like from my perspective. And you won’t be surprised, there are some very interesting … some variations.
Mark Schlachter: So, and please forgive me, I have to use some illumination, my eyes are shot. So IO has a very small, but very powerful public diplomacy operation. We have responsibility for advocating and explaining US postures in multilateral venues. It is no small challenge. And I say that because what we’re talking about is not a single entity as Ted has already said, it’s a universe. It really is. Think about the humble beginnings of the United Nations in the post war era. In 1946, the first UN General Assembly featured 51 member states and lasted some three days. In the context of today, where New York is bracing for the new General Assembly which opens formally next week, the city will be blanketed with thousands of diplomats, note takers and straphangers. Couldn’t be more different.
Mark Schlachter: Today, the multilateral system is an amalgamation of organizations, and agencies, and working groups, and standing bodies, and rapporteurs, and investigators and on and on and on. It is an impossibly complex network of integrated bodies. So, in the first thought for your consideration today, I’m gonna suggest that the multilateral system as it exists today has expanding in scope and responsibility faster than our capacity to absorb that expansion and explain it.
Mark Schlachter: For example, I would … I’m going to relate a little history, 1984 was year in which IO was formerly adopted a PD profile, held PD staff and a PD budget. 1984, so the first 40-some years of the UN we didn’t even have dedicated personnel or resources to do that job.
Mark Schlachter: So, starting in 1984 we had a small operation, as we do today, that was designed to communicate with … in a very narrow channel. That channel was other delegations to support our policy positions and explain where we were are from A to Z, and that remains much the same today. The beginning of the rapid evolution that I’ve noted, and the leadership the United States had played in that evolution, it quickly became clear to us, the predecessors of us, that the traditional PD tools that we all know and love are not a perfect fit, as Ted has said, for multilateral missions.
Mark Schlachter: Central to that realization is the question that bedevils us every single day. What is a multilateral audience? Anybody? Damn it. I thought I’d get that done here. When I joined the USIA some 25 years ago, the agency was engaged in one of its seemingly endless reorganizations and I know that Sim and other folks know what I mean when I say that it was a constant reorganization process. At that point, the focus of that reorganization was the rage at the time which was audience analysis. What is an audience? If you can’t identify your audience and appeal to same, you’re not doing your job.
Mark Schlachter: When we talk about audiences in a bilateral context, I like to laugh at my bilateral counterparts because they have it easy. Identifying an audience on bilateral context is about geography, it’s about language, it’s about culture, it’s about communities. Multilateral venues defy that definition and make it very difficult for us to prioritize outreach accordingly.
Mark Schlachter: Unfortunately, there are no geographic frontiers, there are no specific cultural outlines, there’s no obvious linguistic hook on which to tie programs. Although, I would say that, as I’m thinking about this, anyone who’s worked in a UN Negotiation for five minutes knows that the UN does have a language of its own. I don’t know what we call that…Multish? Now, my point here is that in a globalized public diplomacy environment multilateral issues correspond somewhat inexactly with traditional PD tools.
Mark Schlachter: Take, for example, one of our themes this year for the UNGA. The UNGA opens formally next year, high level week is what, a week and a half away. The United States comes to UNGA every year with priority themes that helps us define how we talk to other delegations and other folks. One of those things … I’ll give you all five because I know everyone’s dying to know. They are in priority order help he out here Ted. Non proliferation, humanitarian response, peace and security, counterterrorism and UN reform. I’m kind of surprised I remembered any of those actually.
Ted Allegra: It’s early.
Mark Schlachter: It is early. I note those because that gives you an example of how difficult it is to sit down with your leadership and talk about PD priorities and tools and programs, and applications when the policy priority is peace and security.
Mark Schlachter: What do I do with that Ted Allegra? He was never any help, never. So the question for all of us today, and for all of us going forward is how do we define public diplomacy in this space? How do we develop and apply such tools on issues like UN reform when really our goals on UN reform are to address systematic institutional changes to over 100 member states, not communities, not language groups, not geographic subsets. Member states, delegations, leadership bodies. That’s a challenge.
Mark Schlachter: I discovered an easy way to answer that question, and frankly … And I’ll be frank because that’s who I am, there are instances of which we feel somewhat unmatched by the scale of that challenge, and the UNGA season is one in which that really comes to the forum. That’s one way of saying Ted, that I’m sorry for my lack of performance for all those years.
Mark Schlachter: I was going to say something quite snarky about Star Wars and Hedy Lamar, but I’m going to pass on that because I thought you handled that very well.
Ted Allegra: Who’s that?
Mark Schlachter: Right? Who’s that? I’m going to wrap it up there because I want to accord adequate time for my two senior officials here, but public diplomacy in this space is … it can be a terrible frustration because we come to the table as public diplomats with a knowledge of programs that we all hold dear, international visitors, speaker programs, Fulbright, any number of exchanges, the Truman fellows etc, things that we know build community connections and perpetuate relationships that give us entry into communities across the world. Entry that other countries just can’t match. Multilateral engagement doesn’t offer many of those same ledges upon which they hang.
Mark Schlachter: So whenever I talk to audiences, this one including, I always use the opportunity to solicit input and feedback from it. What does it look like? What does a multilateral audience look like? How would you appeal to a multilateral audience if your priority theme was counter terrorism for example? What does that look like? And is a multilateral audience domestic or foreign in the current context? I’ll leave you with that thought and I will not answer any questions related to that. Thank you very much.
Anne Wedner: Alright, thank you Mark for the view from inside the State Department. You and your team also contribute to our flagship annual report which will come out in December, so we’re looking forwards to seeing this year’s entry. Our final panelist is Alison Smale, she is the Undersecretary General for Global Communications at the UN. She is not American. I think this is going to be an important point of view. The Secretary General appointed her to this role almost exactly a year ago, and she brings to it nearly four decades of professional experience as an international reporter and editor, most recently at the New York Times bureau chief in Berlin.
Anne Wedner: Alison will discuss the UN’s use of public diplomacy particularly its thematic campaigns. Thank you Alison.
Alison Smale: Thank you so very much, and I thank everybody that’s responsible for this invitation. It is in fact the first time that I have been in this building since I started working at the UN a year ago, so I’m very happy to be here and I hope I can do justice to the task ahead.
Alison Smale: Clearly I don’t need to explain to this audience that public diplomacy is very important. A form of soft power probably more in need today than ever, at a time where mistrust is building around the world and countries are turning inwards. The challenge is making audiences around the world, including in the United States, understand that multilateralism is key to addressing the challenges the world faces, be it climate change or conflicts in Mali, in the Central African Republic.
Alison Smale: It’s also important for us to listen to audiences around the world. We have a network of 59 bureaus in different places that help us do that, and they are very important gathering places for UN information centers. So, if I could ask for the first slide that we have up. This is the entry way to explaining our recent campaign on peacekeeping, which featured lots of different parts of the UN system, and pulled together in a way that perhaps we hadn’t quite done before. The image you see here, we discovered in culling our files for this project, which was aimed to show the range and variety of peacekeeping exercises, and to say thank you to peacekeepers.
Alison Smale: Here we have a peacekeeper from India, obviously on duty in Africa. I must confess, I forget in which country. This was the introduction to a campaign that originated with a request from the Secretary General. He had lunch with the permanent representatives of the main troop contributing countries, and they very much backed his campaign, launched roughly a year ago to really go hard on sexual exploitation and abuse, to root out any instance of this among peacekeeping forces.
Alison Smale: The Permanent Representatives were very supportive of that effort, but also noted that the vast majority of peacekeepers serve with courage and dignity, and commit no crimes. So there was a need, we felt, for a campaign that said simply, “Thank you,” to the best peacekeepers, to the majority of peacekeepers and also helped us support our requests to countries that we don’t need just personnel for peacekeeping operations, we need finance, we need equipment. It’s an immensely complex operation which really only the UN can do.
Alison Smale: So if you could go to the next slide. The aims and objectives are pretty clear. The UN objective was to build support for member states and the global public for peacekeeping. The communications objectives were to ensure that the troop contributing countries and the financer’s feel acknowledged and appreciated. As you can see, there’s a welter of UN acronyms here. Welcome to our world. We wanted also to win new support for peacekeeping.
Alison Smale: If we go to slide three, first of all we decided what do we need to do to get this launched? And one thing was to raise the visibility of the blue ribbon. We created blue ribbons with the flags of every country featured in the campaign, which actually was so popular that it has now extended way beyond its original limit of Peacekeeping Day in May. And now I fear will be mandated as an activity for all time, which will challenge us to produce original content. But you can see a range of activities on this slide. I happen to know that there’s Indian Peacekeepers in Lebanon, where you see the snow. Xiamen Airlines in a big airline inside China, which featured the blue ribbon and later on you’ll see it again.
Alison Smale: We try to go as multimedia as we possibly could here. Raise the visibility of the UN in different surroundings. We also tried to tell the stories of individual peacekeepers, and there was a very effective UN-produced film on peacekeepers in Chad. Actually, if you get a chance it’s really worth watching. It was, as I say, produced by the UN and it was not only distributed on UN platforms, but it also used by national broadcasters. Social media cards we created in all languages for Chad, and for other aspects of the activity. We were on Instagram, we had a UN news article. We tried to use the full range of our media possibilities.
Alison Smale: It was also thought that we should engage young people in this campaign, so we … In fact about halfway through this effort, inviting schools and universities to send thank peacekeeping messages. The Indonesians actually gathered people together to write messages, and then arranged for those messages to be flown to the Indonesian forces deployed in Darfur. We forget how lonely it must feel for peacekeepers, in not just the Chad film, there is another virtual reality movie that we made this year which shows you how peacekeepers live in the DRC. You get a real idea of flying sort of drone-like over the landscape, how huge it is and how isolated.
Alison Smale: It’s a personal element too that helps us stress the bond that these peacekeepers with their larger task. We also were able to involve our units, these UN Centers that we have around the world, so it was a multifaceted effort to put all of our resources into this campaign. Distribution partners ranged from national Governments to UN information centers, to peacekeeping missions, to media partners. We found that, for instance there’s a picture of me walking through this Xiamen Airlines plane. Later on you’ll see that Xiamen Airlines broadcast on the busiest week of the year for travel in China, our movie showing the activities of peacekeepers. So this was yet another way to try and reach people in an unusual fashion.
Alison Smale: We also think it was a great achievement to reach out to public figures. Here you see a quote from Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya. We also had interest from all sorts of other … people that were representative of India to the UN appreciated the multilingual aspect of the campaign. And I would note that Portugal and Ireland, although they were not featured as countries in our campaign, actually in parallel mounted related campaigns. So it was something that struck a chord and I think the achievement was really that we managed to reach out and keep reaching out.
Alison Smale: As you’ll see if you go to slide nine, we were able to engage for instance Ning Zetau, who was an Olympic champion in swimming from China, and he put out a video message that was viewed two million times on UN Chinese social media platforms, with 25,000 engagements. We had engagements in lots of different forms and we think we tried to explore most ways to communicate with people that we have available.
Alison Smale: One of our tasks at the UN is spreading information in the right way. It’s fine for everybody to sit here in New York, when everybody’s on their cellphone from morning to night and say, “Well, we really need to be where the young people are and where the young people are is on Instagram.” That’s true, but where 64% of the potential audience in Pakistan is, is in mountains and valleys that are not reached by the internet at all.
Alison Smale: Just a very actual example of the limitations of communication, yesterday the Secretary General and others flew to Ghana for the funeral of Kofi Annan. Everybody was expecting us to be able to broadcast this, if not live then at least pretty immediately. But it turns out that the best way to cope with this is going to be to take the tape physically from Ghana, bring it here and somehow show it here. So that just illustrates how difficult it can be to reach different audiences.
Alison Smale: I think I’m more or less going to stop there because I don’t want to drone on endlessly. We have done some work if you go quickly to slide 11. Analytics looking at the age range, which countries engaged the most, which in fact was in the US, which we are taking also as a sign of success that we could engage people, their interest and I think it’s actually we’ve got a different heat map that tends to suggest that one of the areas that most engaged were areas where there were big military bases.
Alison Smale: So, we had all sorts of posts on Twitter and Instagram. We’ve had content that reverberated that way around the world in fact, so that all the indicators, qualitative and quantitative, show so far that we have achieved our objectives. The campaign has given us insight really into the tools as I just explained, whether online or traditional, and it has reinforced our belief that all mediums are needed to reach all corners of the world. We really appreciate the help we had from Governments in doing that.
Alison Smale: It’s a true example of the United Nations at work in the best way. We made use of resources that perhaps haven’t been pulled together in quite this way before. When I first suggested the campaign there was a bit of resistance, you know, “Where are we going to get the material from?” I said, “But you people have been telling me for weeks that we have media operations attached to each mission, so surely this content must reside somewhere?” We ended up in a true cross department, and within department exercise in breaking down silos, proving that the UN is not always the high ground bureaucratic acronym-laden body that it’s often indicated to be.
Alison Smale: Thank you so much for listening and I’m happy to answer your questions.
Anne Wedner: Thank you so much Alison. That was terrific and gritty, and real. We could all wrap our hands around that. I want to go back and push my American colleagues here a little bit on defining a little bit better, and I know that Mark you’re tired of this, but what is the audience that we’re talking to when we’re in a multilateral context? It’s so diffuse as to be unintelligible. I think we need to talk about it in a real and palpable way.
Anne Wedner: And then to talk a little bit about partners that we might have, because obviously in a multilateral context there are probably a lot of potential partners. Can you guys take a swipe at that and exclude all acronyms, all lingo, everything to make it … Let’s just talk about it as if we’re real people and we’re just talking about, how do we communicate?
Mark Schlachter: I can’t do that. I’ll take a shot at a piece of that Anne, and then Ted can correct me. In terms of audience, we endeavor to look strategically on a quarterly basis on where we’re going to apply our resources. Those are very frequently attached to major events and activities. For example, when the World Health Assembly is in session we will have specific audience targets assigned to themes accordingly, whether that’s TB or malaria, or other things.
Mark Schlachter: Those audiences then become country-based in most instances and we’ll work with bilateral partners to identify places where multilateral messages will have most resonance on those issues, and then can be played back in to the WHA to potentially influence conduct of delegations on the floor. Analytics, as I’m sure you can appreciate, are very hard in that context because we’re trying to track several different parallel efforts there, in terms of influence and trying to get a clear echo on what that means at the end of the day is very, very difficult.
Mark Schlachter: We found that’s a very good way for us to measure bilateral impact, and then we try to extrapolate what that means in terms of activities on the floor, major conferences. That’s an example.
Ted Allegra: Perhaps I can just jump in with an example. I think there is no one single audience, unless you presume that the world, the global platform, of course, I think theoretically and actually practically is really the audience. On every issue, there are several sub audiences and those change, and those differ depending on the issue you’re talking about.
Ted Allegra: It maybe like layers of an onion where you have a big global audience, and then you have subsets of that, each of which are perhaps interested, and sometimes passionately interested in elements of that same issue. A perfect example is Syria. I mean we have a humanitarian dimension to Syria where there’s the world of humanitarian activity in the UN, outside of the UN, among NGOs, in the region with Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and other states passionately engaged on the humanitarian aspect. We have the military aspect. We have the counterterrorism aspect. We have the geopolitical aspect with Iran and Russia and I think that … And we have the UN aspect of course, with the elements of the peace process that Stefan de Mistura is so well doing in Geneva, continuously now for four years.
Ted Allegra: All of those dimensions are included in one issue. I think it’s important to target public diplomacy audiences by number one, not assuming at all that the audience is the same for each one of those components, and number two, recognizing that there is always a big picture. I think as I suggested in my remarks, there is always a big picture theme that ought not to be ignored in getting those components together. I think Syria is one example but there are many others. Even global health, Mark talked about the World Health Assembly, we have different actors and different players in the global health space now than ever would have been before given the prevalence of pandemics like Ebola or non-communicable diseases, or access to medicines which involve the private sector. So a host of sub issues for that broader issue of global health as well.
Alison Smale: If I could just leap in and add. As I think I just tried to show, audiences lurk where you don’t expect them sometimes, and I think it’s very important to realize that almost any action in today’s world can be interpreted and used to build opinion further. So when we started out on this campaign on the peacekeepers, I was most insistent that we just say, “Thank you.” The Department of Peacekeeping wisely added this concept of service and sacrifice, which lent it a kind of more Hollywood aura I think to it.
Alison Smale: At the same time, one of the most popular images that we put out was a picture of two Bangladeshi pilots, women, who have their battle helicopter right in the background, their RayBan’s, and kind of this defiant stand. That social media card just reverberated around the digital universe and space, and far beyond the borders of Bangladesh attracted people. This was kind of not your grandmother’s peacekeeping. As I say, it was just an example of where you have an unexpected audience lurking somewhere. They can be found all the time, every day I think.
Anne Wedner: Maybe I’ll ask one more question and then I’ll go to the Chairman and Vice Chairman just to….One thing that we try to do at the Commission is to try and benchmark our behaviors and activities versus our competitors and our allies. And so I wonder if you guys could comment, and Alison too, you can look at other nation’s efforts and multilateral context of what kind of work do they do to be sure that they achieve their goals? And how much resources do they comparatively devote to this versus us? So you guys could touch on that, you know Russia, China, and England.
Mark Schlachter: I can’t put a dollar figure on that, but we do know that the investments the Chinese and Russians are making in multilateral spaces to advance messaging and priorities in those spaces increased dramatically over the last two years. We see them in the installation of centers and access points etc. where they’re trying hard to do the same thing we are, that is identify audience and tackle individual issues in those spaces where they feel there are some public policy vulnerabilities for them, which are many.
Mark Schlachter: Our European partners have limited public diplomacy resources in these spaces, much more limited than even ours and ours are quite small, so this is a challenge I think a lot of folks have approached and realized it’s a tough nut to crack and in a world of limited resources, the bilateral approach still reins supreme. For most countries that means that’s where the bulk of their investment resides.
Ted Allegra: Mark is right. I think in general, probably the P5 have a more … I don’t know what to say. I mean I think the P5 are more attuned to the need for public diplomacy within the UN, certainly within the UN system, if not within the broader multilateral system. I think you find among the P5 there is a sense of the UN work and UN system work being generally positive and supported around the world.
Ted Allegra: I think beyond that, it’s very different. It really drops off a bit after that. There are some countries and some Governments who really don’t care what their public audiences at home think about what they’re doing. They’re making decisions in the international sphere based upon their own political or government priorities and they don’t seek to inform and they don’t seek to take advice from their publics. There are 193 member states, it’s hard to generalize.
Ted Allegra: But I think the P5, from my experience, will have a special sensitivity to the work of the agencies in the UN system, and are inclined generally to support that work and to confront issues when they arise. After that, I think that there’s a pretty big drop off, although you do see some players around the world being more active. It’s certainly not a homogenous situation.
Alison Smale: If I could just add, for the United Nations, I think we are very engaged in trying to get out our main messages, and those really are connected to the 17 sustainable development goals to the Agenda 2030, which I fear is something that’s really well known in this particular little part of New York City, and perhaps less well known the rest of the world. But it is a vehicle, particularly for young people, to be able to address their Governments and say, “You promised that you were going to deliver on these 17 goals. What have you done recently for goal five?” which happens to be gender equality.
Alison Smale: All 193 member states signed up to this program, so Government at any level can be asked about it. And I think this is something that is actually quite poorly understood and that we obviously need to propagate more without sounding like a propaganda machine. The other thing I would emphasize is that young people really are front and center of our thinking. Sometimes I’m not sure about that, because I find myself in lots of situations begging for money for the Youth Envoy, who happens to sit in our department. But she is very, very active.
Alison Smale: We could have a much bigger department for young people, but I think it’s just important to keep all you young people in mind, and for you to know that we have mechanisms that enable you to take part because what I hear often is, “I’m very concerned, but what can I do to make a difference?” I think that that aspect of making a difference is something we could all afford to stress more in public diplomacy.
Anne Wedner: Alright, thank you guys. Sim or Bill, do you have any comments or questions you wanted to make?
Sim Farar: My comment is …
Bill Hybl: Can I just say that I thought the presentations were very good, and I certainly appreciate them, and I know the audience does. But I have no questions, but I suspect that there are people in the audience who do.
Sim Farar: My question’s to Ted, this is not a question Ted but there are young people in the audience here and I don’t know that too many people really know who Hedy Lamarr is. I’m probably the only person who knows. I’m from Hollywood, that’s why. Star Wars they know, right? Anyway, Ted, what advice would you give to public diplomacy and public affairs offices so they can be most effective in their outreach would you say?
Ted Allegra: Thanks, that’s a great questions. Well certainly in the multilateral sphere I think the same thing that I talk about in remarks. Get involved, start understanding the issues. It’s very, very … this is not true only in the public diplomacy world but from the perspective of the Head of a Mission, it’s always worse to have a Mission entity being separate parts, doing their own thing, without really integrating and without really being aware of what their sister offices, or their sister bureaus even are doing. It’s much better when it’s integrated.
Ted Allegra: No better example of that, I think, in public diplomacy where, to the extent it sits and acts as a separate entity of the Mission doing its own programs and activities through its own channels and networks, it really misses the forest for the trees a bit. There are, as I suggested I think, a host of different substantive issues that are active, that are engaged, that are passionately followed by some audience in Washington and around the world and that are promulgated by smart people at the Mission that are doing just that.
Ted Allegra: I would encourage officers to get involved those things. If it’s not intellectual property, or internet freedom, or global health, or human rights, or humanitarian stuff. I mean you can find a space to follow your own passion and interest, get involved, figure out what the issues are. Sit in the chair. Have a role to play on the substance and then you will have instinctively, I think, the creativity and the innovation, and the agility that I talked about to develop a nexus and a network for a public diplomacy effort around the same substance.
Ted Allegra: The more you’re integrated and aware, I think the better the result always is.
Anne Wedner: Alright … We can open it up from the audience. I hope you guys have some questions. Come on up, yeah. Just tell us your name, where you’re from and then you can ask your question.
Marina: Absolutely. I’m going to read my question because I had a very early flight and I don’t want to miss a beat.
Anne Wedner: Okay, who are you?
Marina: My name is Marina Von Schlegel and I’m an alum of many Department of State exchanges, myself in this public diplomacy space, where I was also able to visit the [inaudible] the group of North African leaders in Djerba and old Ben Kenobi’s house.
Marina: I also hosted dozens of delegations myself in Chicago and New York, and it influenced me to found a small NGO called Embassy 2.0. My public sector life is in the digital startup space focusing on cyber security and decentralization. I’m really, really interested in the capacity for public diplomacy to ally and promote cyber-immunology, both utilizing the virtual digital environment to promote peace such as digital diplomacy and peace in cyberspace, which is also naturally multilateral.
Marina: I’m interested in how each of you are approaching these things, as well as your thoughts on the future of this space. A quick comment on appealing to multilateral audiences, domestic and foreign, as an indigenous woman. My name is [inaudible] and I come from a Northern Indian Pueblo in New Mexico.
Marina: I just came in from a red eye this morning, where I spent the summer, and I believe there is a lot to be learned in integrated communications perspective, by how we address our inter-tribal diplomacy, especially how we approach is as an exclusive recognition of mutual humanity, our interaction with the environment and shared responsibly to our future. Seeing one another as relatives, being openly welcoming while being functionally protective of our resources, values and goals.
Marina: Thank you.
Ted Allegra: I can touch on the cyber security part a little bit, of course that plays out with the international telecommunications a lot. There is great interest, I think wherever your in, that your interest and your passion for cybersecurity is a very relevant time, it’s very relevant space right now. There’s a lot of interest around the margins of the ITU, which has been around … it precedes the UN by … It was started in like 1985 with radio waves and stuff. My technical-
Mark Schlachter: Tech genius.
Ted Allegra: Yeah, right. But now it’s a perfect time to where people really are talking about moving the structures and the issues that the agency deals with, and the structures that are set up into a 21st Century realm to discuss cyber security.
Ted Allegra: Even, we had one of the Vice Presidents from Microsoft in Geneva not that long ago, talking about the prospects of a cyber security treaty which attempts to, I think, incorporate some of the elements that you talk about into a more broader multinational product. Not many member states are onboard with that yet, and there’s a lot of probably ways to navigate before they are including the United States, I might add. But the dialogue is beginning, so I think there is at least that space in Geneva where in the ITU, and around the ITU, where they’re looking for cyber security. The future of cyber security is very much on the table for discussion.
Jessica: Good morning everyone, how’s it going? My name is Jessica Disu, I’m also known as FM Supreme from Chicago, the founding Executive Director of the Chicago International Peace Movement. It’s a mentoring and youth leadership development organization. We utilize education of arts, city engagement, students apply themselves through change. We have different programs and services. Since 2012, we’ve taken over 36 young people from the South side of Chicago to South East Asia, to Thailand and Myanmar to practice mindfulness and meditation. The Buddhist monks and monasteries, particularly people to South Africa to Nicaragua, to India and countless other places.
Jessica: Since 2012 I’ve been doing this work. I’m 29 years old and I’ve been able to build coalitions across Chicago. If you think about gun violence and peace, gun violence in the United States in general, you think of Chicago first. We’re like the international epicenter of violence, when you think of gun violence in Black and Brown communities, and when we look at statistics, it’s very evident that Chicago is not the murder capital in the United States when it comes to urban violence. You can look at gun violence in New Orleans as well as Philadelphia, as well as Washington DC.
Jessica: The media seems to be obsessed with sharing these narratives of Black and Brown kids shooting and killing themselves, or killing community members in my city. And so I guess I’m here because A, Anne Wedner is my mentor and friend, and she invited me, but also I’m here because I want to know what are ways that we can partner with you guys, specifically you Secretary, on peacekeeping initiatives?
Jessica: I tend to make noise, or I get a lot of media attention when I speak about police brutality and policing in the United States. I say something on a news station and it goes viral, which it has. But when we speak about peace building and these different programs and initiatives that we had, we’ve never been financially supported by the Government at all. I’ve been personally to over 16 different countries building out these youth peace initiatives and so what are ways that we can collaborate? Because the question, Mr. Mark, when you asked about that multilateral audience, as a grassroots organizer, I’m more interested in building with the people who are actually from those communities in these different countries.
Jessica: You talk about public diplomacy, it’s not just the people in the room. I want to talk to the everyday people. What are they going through? What are their concerns? You go to a country like Myanmar who was closed off from the West for all these years, Aung Sung Suu Kyi has a different perspective of what Myanmar needs than the refugees that they’re pushing off to Bangladesh. I think that’s very important when we have these conversations that we keep everyday people involved, and I guess I’m an everyday person, so I guess that’s what’s happening but consider to do that.
Jessica: So my question is a lot. I don’t know if you all got that?
Alison Smale: I’ll try to address, but I won’t do a good enough job because you raised so many interesting issues. But one way is to get involved with our NGO network, which I hope you’re familiar with, but if not I can point you in the right direction, digitally, and physically. It’s one building over from here. There are all kinds of ways that you can get involved.
Alison Smale: I mean clearly if you travel yourself, there are ways to be involved with UN information centers. To sound not too bureaucratic too, it sounds as if your activity can fit into exactly what I was trying to suggest Agenda 2030 does for people, which is to enable them to ask questions and demand some action.
Alison Smale: I do think that one of the reasons people get disillusioned is because they stop short of actually taking action. Sometimes … and we touched earlier on the idea that you might want to narrow the range of your activity so that you can be effective in one or a few spheres. But nobody should be telling anybody what to do, it’s just a question of how do we all translate the concern we have for the planet for instance, in climate change, which is one of the biggest challenges we face.
Alison Smale: Also, to remember that collective action is the way that you address these problems. Individual actions are very unlikely to be able to solve collective problems or disasters. Again, the striking example is climate change. Just to end, I would emphasize also the Secretary General has placed a lot of importance in having new mediation mechanisms and on prevention of conflict. He’s traveled, I mean as you probably know, he was 10 years the head of UNHCR dealing with refugees. He’s traveled extensively, he knows that problem very, very well and he is very concerned that we try to address conflicts before they erupt into full blown armed struggles. I think that’s something that probably most of the people in this room share.
Sim Farar: Thank you.
Grace: Good morning, my name is Grace and I’m here today as a former recipient of a Fulbright scholarship. I was in Berlin in 2012 and 2013. Currently, I’m working as a theater artist and an educator, and so I’m very interested in hearing about how much the world has changed, and using media and the internet to try to reach far corners of the world, but of course how that doesn’t reach the furthest corners.
Grace: I’m curious about whether or not something I’m studying in the Applied Theater Masters program at CUNY is theater development, and using theater for different types of development, whether it’s community building or health concerns. I just wanted to sort of open it up and hear from you, as you’ve talked about the different examples of programs and things like that, if theater as a medium has been something that you worked with and if there are particular challenges with that, or etc. etc.
Anne Wedner: I can answer that a little bit. There is an organization, I don’t know all of the organizations, and it has a funny name. It was called Mudbuds. You can Google it. What they did is that they used theater, but not like student Sondheim theater. But they would bring kids together in different places, like Lebanon comes to mind of one of their places and Jordan, where there are kids from the US that go, and kids from the home state or the home nation, and they together would write a story or play together and then perform it for audiences.
Anne Wedner: It’s really cool and something that I don’t know how it’s doing these days. This is 10 years ago that I knew about it, but I would Google it and see what’s going on with it. But theater is a really innovative and interesting space to try and work on development issues and inequity across the globe, kind of thing. Yeah, it’s really cool.
Anne Wedner: Does anyone else?
Alison Smale: Just very quickly, it so happens that I have a daughter who’s interested in theater and activism. I just think that there are an awful lot of activities going on differently around the world. In Europe, you’ll tend to find that such groups can be state-funded, or funded from foundations or established theaters. I think here in the United States, it’s much more…the kind of the typical thing. New York is certainly a place where a lot of such activism. But I think it’s everywhere and can be harnessed.
Alison Smale: Again, it’s something that we can all do to a greater or lesser degree.
Melanie: Hi, my name is Melanie Santos, I’m a Rising Senior at St John’s University in Queens, and I studied abroad in Japan through the Critical Language scholarship, through the Department of State. I guess a point that was hit on a lot today was engaging with young people. For me as a Senior, I’m looking towards future career opportunities and I think that engaging in public service for the work that a lot of you guys do can be kind of discouraging for a lot of young people like myself, just because while I was studying abroad in Japan and talked to a lot of people who worked at the Department of State, they said that there’s a hiring freeze.
Melanie: I’ve heard about my friends, who’ve interned at the UN, and they’ve said that it’s really hard to work directly for the UN, that sometimes you have to work at an agency connected to it and then work your way in. So I think it’s really discouraging for someone in a position like myself, and my peers, to engage in this and for the future. I was just wondering what you had to say in respect to that?
Anne Wedner: Does anyone want to give some career advice? I mean I think-
Mark Schlachter: Let me jump in there because I don’t want you to be discouraged. These are difficult times because we are, as a foreign affairs community, in a place where we’re not bringing in the same numbers as we usually do in a foreign service and civil service context, but that’s going to last because we have needs that will outlive this era, so don’t give up on that exercise.
Mark Schlachter: Also, consider that there are intern opportunities, they are opportunities to get in the UN systems with the ITP program for example that are available with somebody with Japanese language for example, would be competitive for some of those places. It is harder, I’m not going to say it isn’t. It is a different time but you’ve got to stick with it. There are ways in and if you have specialized expertise such as that, you have an advantage.
Melanie: Thank you.
Sim Farar: Thank you.
Rose: Hi, my name is Rose (inaudible] I’m an ex CLS scholar, I actually also went to Japan but I went 2016 so I’m a little behind her. I have a question, I guess it’s a little career advice too.
Rose: Sim Farar and Alison Smale, you guys came from the private sector and I found that really, I guess amazing that you were able to make this transition. I wanted to find out how were your skills in the private sector were able to be applied to this, I guess, new position? And how would you recommend people who were interested in that making that transition?
Alison Smale: Well, I mean nobody was more surprised than me actually that I got this job. I mean the skills I had were journalistic skills. I think what the Secretary General really wants is a great big shake up of the department that I run, which has an unbelievable 800 people working for it, and answering to at least 300 very dispersed mandates. So it’s the United Nations in action in all sorts of ways.
Alison Smale: To both you and the previous questioner, I would say by all means approach the UN. It is a very complex system. Gaming it is not really possible, but it is there and as I suggested before the Agenda 2030, which is something that anybody can engage in, is one way to start to meet people that you need. I think the real function of the UN that I like a lot is its ability to convene discussions. It’s really worth keeping up with that online or physically because this is an organization, there is not a subject on the planet Earth on which the UN has not written a paper, called a meeting, done some research.
Alison Smale: I mean really we sit on the biggest trove of big data, I think, anywhere. What we need is your energy and your curiosity, and your concern for the future in which you will spend a great deal more time than I will. We need all those things in order for us to be able to do our work. So get in touch, I’ll give you my card afterwards and also to the previous speaker. I don’t want to raise any false hopes. These are difficult times. But I think there’s a lot we can do without getting lost in the kind of misery of that.
Sim Farar: I agree with Alison. I come from the private sector. I’ve served under three Presidents. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked me to be involved and be in this position, and then Barack Obama and then Bill Clinton before that. Obviously, President Trump I’m serving under right now. Be involved. Just get involved. Come to meetings like this. You meet people, you talk to them. I’m happy to give you my card afterwards also and give you some advice, but don’t give up. Stick with it.
Rose: Alight. Thanks for the career advice.
Will: Hello, my name is Will Langford. I was a participant in the Fulbright ETA program in Kenya in 2013. And I am the lead language arts instructor for the Verses Project. It’s a project with Michigan State University, Carhartt and the Marshall Mathers Foundation where we take young people, form them into bands, teach them how to write lyrics, mix music and we produce albums of those songs four or five times a year in the city of Detroit at the MSU Community Music School.
Will: I’m wondering, in my experiences I meet a lot of young people, a lot of High School kids, a lot of Middle School kids and they’re very curious about my travels and my work in Africa, and some of the projects that I’m involved via exchange programs. I am hoping for a bit of advice on how I can help students, specifically in urban spaces, to increase their awareness of cultural exchange programs, to be more involved in those programs and what I can do to help increase their capacity for involvement in those spaces.
Anne Wedner: You know what? I understand that issue because it’s so hard to find all the programs, and yet they’re out there, like the critical language study program that someone did. Those programs are out there. I actually tried to start and create a website, and I can’t remember what it was called anymore. It was something like Global Passport something or other, to try and make a clearinghouse of all of these opportunities that were free or supported by either educational institutions or the US Government.
Anne Wedner: Unfortunately, noone was really that interested in it besides me and my assistant, who did a great job as we created it, but I think you just have to do a thorough … You have to sit down and just do a very thorough … There is no central clearinghouse of this information as far as I know. But there are tons of programs. I don’t know if you guys have any different experience. I was trying to solve that exact issue and then it just didn’t take off. Maybe my creative wasn’t exciting enough, but …
Anne Wedner: Alright, so you guys we have not a lot of time but thank you for that question.
Sim Farar: Just take these four.
Anne Wedner: So we’re going to do the four that are standing. We’re going to speed date it here. Okay.
Robert: I’ll be quick. My name is Robert Barron, I’ve been a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Slovenia, Philippines and Finland, and I’ve been involved in various exchange programs in my field in folklore studies. My question echoes what previous questions had asked, and maybe expands on it a bit. The State Department internally is quite compartmentalized with regard to its support of arts, humanities, education etc., and heritage.
Robert: Would it be possible to do some sort of roadmap or guide post to navigating the various sources of support within the State Department to make it easier for entities outside the Federal Government to navigate and to access these opportunities? Because as we know, much of the discussion today was really about the work of diplomats in public diplomacy, but so much of public diplomacy comes through universities, NGOs, non-profits, learning societies etc.
Mark Schlachter: Yeah, you’re preaching to the choir there. We have not historically done a great job of having all that stuff at fingertips. There are historical reasons for that, and other reason. You have several folks in the room who are involved, engaged, attached to some of those entities that are responsible for those effectively, so I will take that question and keep it alive.
Robert: Just as a quick side bar also in terms of accessing US Missions in other countries, what the first person place of contact is and the kind of support that’s available there, because from my understanding in consulates and embassies there’s also funding for exchange, that’s not very well known.
Mark Schlachter: Oh I see, Mission based activities.
Robert: As well. Yeah.
Mark Schlachter: Okay.
Anne Wedner: You know that is something I would point out to our staff I want to thank in a minute, as soon as we get through these. But I do think that is something we could clarify in our annual report, where these opportunities lie, and that makes our report even more useful to communities beyond the insiders at State.
Abby: Hi, I’m Abby Oscar. I’m an MSW student at Florida State University and also an intern at the IFSW, International Federation of Social Workers. I was wondering, Mr. Allegra, you were speaking about how it’s the role of US diplomats to explain the nuances of US policy, and you spoke about how you do that in places where there are misconceptions. I was wondering what you think the most serious misconceptions about US policy are, and where they stem from?
Ted Allegra: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think my central point is that the nuance and the context always matters. As much as headlines somewhere can grab attention, there is usually much more to the story than that, even if it’s an accurate story and certainly if it’s not. But there’s always much more than that, and that explains volumes about things. I mean most of policies are developed … there’s a couple of, in my experience, there’s a couple of things that resonate.
Ted Allegra: Most policy is developed through a good bit of deliberation. That’s why I talked about part of the internal challenge I talked about was keeping … Geneva sometimes felt very, very far away from Washington. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the policy development process in Washington, which itself is a multidimensional inter-agency type effort. That’s very, very important. Most of the policy is developed as a result of a pretty deliberative process and that provides some of the nuance and the context that sometimes doesn’t exist when the narrative is reduced to a single soundbite, or a series of soundbites, or talking points, or shall I say Tweets even. But it’s important. The nuance and the context is always important.
Ted Allegra: The other thing is that the general frame for US work and US policy, certainly in the multilateral field but even on bilateral things, doesn’t really, really change that much from Administration to Administration. You may not believe me all on this, but I do think that I’ve had much more opportunity to reflect on where things haven’t changed, than I do to reflect on where things have. There is always a great difference between what … I should say in the US, people do on the campaign trail as politicians and what they actually do in Government leadership positions.
Ted Allegra: Every President that’s in 20 years has not fulfilled all their campaign promises, certainly in the foreign affairs field because some of the times they’re just too hard to do. Where people tend to think of things in black and white, right or wrong, good and bad, yes and no, you’re with us, you’re against us, there’s a whole bunch of things like that on a campaign trail. When you get to the act of governance and foreign policy and national security policy, it’s much more complicated. It’s very rarely black and white, yes or no, good and bad, right or wrong. And therein is the nuance, and therein is the context.
Ted Allegra: I don’t … I mean specific examples abound. I mean they abound on this Administration’s new view about funding for international organization and humanitarian work. That’s always been a constant theme. President Obama crossed a red line in Syria, didn’t close Guantanamo Bay. I mean they’re all examples across Administrations. It’s not really political at that point at all. It becomes just very much policy, and the policy is tough. The policy is hard. There is always nuance and context to explain. That’s why I think we have a very serious responsibility to bring those explanations to the press, to the public, to international organizations that don’t understand it despite … and that’s what I started off with in my remarks, despite their sometimes self-confidence that they really understand it.
Ted Allegra: I hope that answers some of your questions.
Abby: Yeah, thank you.
Ted Allegra: But it’s very interesting. I’m not … Nobody should take … This is very cool, it’s very interesting, it’s very substantive, it’s very passionate. You meld all those things together and you really do make a difference. We’re not suffering in silence, that’s for sure.
Assana: Hi, my name is Assana D’Ande. I’m from Watkins University in New Jersey. I’m originally from Kenya, I’m Kenyan-American. I’m also a recipient of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Exchange grant 2018. I’m so grateful to the Department of State. So with that grant, I do a project in Kenya in June which impact girls from rural schools in one county. These were girls between the ages of 9th and 10th grade who need a lot of mentorship. These girls have really nothing. They have no mentors, they have no equipment. So my job was to try to mentor them, and to connect them with students from another University to mentor them continuously, just you know around social issues and also academically.
Assana: And so I would really love to expand this project. The funding is not always available. I’m a big believer in the SDG goals and I’m looking at you Ms. Alison. I know that funding is very tight. There are agencies at the UN which try to give funding. I actually had a meeting with the UN FPA, but everything is so slow in Nairobi. I’m just wondering how else … I mean funding is just so difficult, I just need some networking with other organizations that are local through the UN that can help support this sort of initiative to involve girls.
Assana: I also have an NGO in Kenya that involves girls, and so I’m always looking for funding as to how to impact this population. Any advice you could give would be so helpful.
Alison Smale: Well, the advice I always give is try to get involved with as many people and organizations as possible. I don’t want, in a public forum, to sort of be appearing to hand out contacts to this and that, but we’ll talk afterwards.
Anne Wedner: We need to wind up here so just super speed date question and answer. Sorry about that.
Isabelle: My name’s Isabelle. I’m an alumna of the Kennedy Lugar Exchange program. I went to Turkey for a year. My question is pretty connected to Turkey, but it’s more broad as well. In situations in which our relationship with a close ally is tense, what do public diplomats do? Are there any specific steps or approaches that you take to help mend that, especially when the people of that country as well as the Government don’t necessarily have such positive views of our policies?
Isabelle: Thank you.
Mark Schlachter: That’s a great question. Speed date answer, that’s when public diplomacy is really at its most important, and often at its best. We find that in many of those instances we have to expand our communication directly to public audiences where those messages might be otherwise blocked by a competing power. It is where our people shine to be quite frank, in the places where we are under stress and in conflict in some cases.
Mark Schlachter: That’s when really, to be perfectly honest, the globalized social media environment has really helped us, because we can, in many cases, leap over obstacles that in previous decades would have stopped us cold. It’s a good question.
Andrea: Can I just give a quick … I’m Andrea Appel, I’m the branch chief of the New York program branch of the Office of International Visitors, and I just want to point out that exchanges.state.gov is a great place to start for information about US funded exchange programs.
Sim Farar: Thank you.
Anne Wedner: Thank you so much. Alright, today we could have gone on a lot longer. I’m absolutely thrilled at the quality and quantity of questions, and you know the presentations by our panelists. Thank you Alison and Mark and Ted for taking the time out of your schedules to join us here today. I think we’re all aware that these issues are so much bigger than an hour and a half allow us to cover. But I appreciate the effort, and the curiosity, and the energy that’s in this room and looking at the next generation of thinkers and strategizers and communicators. So thank you guys all for being here.
Anne Wedner: We, as the Commission, have quarterly meetings and it was unusual for us to be in New York. We often usually do these meetings on the Hill in Washington DC, and I want to invite all of you to come and join us in Washington DC. Our next meeting will be in early December, and one of the reasons that we’re usually on the Hill is because a lot of public diplomacy for the Government is tied to funding, and the funders are in Congress. So for them to understand the seriousness, and the effect, and the importance of what public diplomacy is, is also part of the Commission’s mandate.
Anne Wedner: I want to thank you. And not small thanks to Jeff Daigle, Jennifer Rahimi and Ryan Walsh, our staff, for putting this together and doing it also from DC and planning it up here. So thank you guys so much, and thank everyone.