Strategic Goal 6: Promoting International Understanding

Bureau of Resource Management
November 15, 2011

Photo showing Secretary of State Clinton and Uzbekistan First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov signing the Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, December 2, 2010.

Secretary of State Clinton and Uzbekistan First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov sign the Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, December 2, 2010. Department of State

Achieve and achieve foreign policy goals and objectives, and enhance national security by fostering broad, mutually-respectful engagement and mutual understanding between American citizens and institutions, and their counterparts abroad.

Public Benefit

The Department recognizes the central role of public diplomacy (PD) as a tool of smart power and an essential element for 21st Century Statecraft, and has committed to renewing America’s engagement with the people of the world by enhancing mutual respect and understanding, creating partnerships aimed at solving common problems, and building support for U.S. policy priorities among foreign audiences.

To address the challenges of today, the Department has developed the first detailed global strategy for public diplomacy in over a decade – a strategic framework for 21st Century public diplomacy – ensuring its alignment with foreign policy objectives, and bringing a strategic focus to how public diplomacy programs, efforts, and structures support those objectives. The principles of the framework were also included in the QDDR, thus establishing this as PD “doctrine” for the foreseeable future.

Public Diplomacy programs explain American society, culture, values, government, and policy making to a broader international public, including youth and women, opinion leaders, as well as current and future policy makers. By improving their understanding of the United States – and demonstrating American appreciation and respect for their societies and values – we can establish a positive tone and framework for policy discussions, based on mutual respect and common interests.

The Department’s wide range of educational, professional, cultural and youth programs are strategic elements of America’s foreign policy and play central roles in President Obama’s efforts to promote dialogue, reframe the narrative, improve the image of the United States around the world, and develop collaborative approaches to shared challenges. Over the past year, Partners for a New Beginning has brought eminent partners on board to actively promote people-to-people exchanges between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and around the world. Expanding and strengthening people-to-people relationships around common interests demonstrates our commitment to democracy, civil society, innovation, entrepreneurship, economic growth and opportunity. “American Spaces” (places where foreign audiences can meet Americans and get information about the United States) help us to reengage face to face with local audiences.

Our public diplomacy efforts also help combat violent extremism, counter violent extremist voices, discredit and delegitimize al-Qaeda, and empower local, credible voices. Violent extremists use a variety of platforms to spread their message. The Department is expanding its ability to counter these messages through the establishment of the interagency Center for Strategic Counter-Terrorism Communication.

By expanding the use of social media, we are reaching the ever-increasing number of people who are actively communicating via these new media and engaging effectively within the 24/7 reality of connective technologies. For example, posts reach over 4.2 million people through Facebook pages, and our Embassy Internet sites have been redesigned to provide consistency and branding, as well as to provide seamless integration with social media. In support of the President’s Open Government initiative, the Department’s website hosts a page,, as a tool to promote citizen engagement. Expanded use of CO.NX, a multimedia web chat platform, brings together Americans and overseas audiences for multi-point conversations on priorities ranging from food security to immigration to the State of the Union. Virtual press briefings via “State Department Live,” an interactive web platform, allow us to reach journalists worldwide, particularly the next generation of younger and on-line journalists. The mobile version of, available on any hand-held device at, provides top stories, the daily briefing, country information, and Secretary Clinton’s press releases in a format that’s easy to read on the go.

In 2011, the Department undertook several initiatives to ensure that Public Diplomacy resources matched Department policy priorities. This ongoing process has already led to the reallocation of resources to high priority countries, and the realignment of programs to respond to the most important policy objectives of the Department.

Key Achievements

  • The Department’s Fund for Innovation in Public Diplomacy enables embassies to quickly capitalize on public diplomacy opportunities that advance Department policy priorities. “Free African Media,” Embassy Pretoria’s innovative, public interest project supports responsible and independent journalism and counters repression of the press across sub-Saharan Africa. The Embassy and its partners – the Department’s Africa Regional Media Hub and the independent media organization The Daily Maverick – created an independent, online platform where journalists can share experiences and file stories they cannot safely publish in their home countries. Each dollar in U.S. Government funding was matched by $1.51 by the non-U.S. Government partner.
  • The Department expanded its social media outreach in foreign languages, including Twitter feeds in Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Urdu. The Department’s regional Media Hubs continued to proactively engage local and regional media, amplifying the President’s and Secretary’s policy messages in Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, and other languages, ensuring that foreign publics received accurate statements of U.S. policy.
  • Nearly Four Million New Facebook Fans: The Department’s four English-language Facebook pages provide bureaus, principals, and posts significant platforms for sustained conversations with global audiences on key policy issues. Focused around themes such as democracy and climate, three of the pages exceeded the one million participant mark as of October 2011 and the fourth is not far behind.
  • Reaching Youth Audiences Through Video: International Information Programs (IIP) produced more than 100 original content videos in FY 2011. A short video introducing U.S. Ambassador David Shear to the Vietnamese people went viral, reaching an estimated 26 million viewers – more than a quarter of the country’s population – on broadcast television and the Internet.
  • @america Jakarta,” the high-tech, multimedia American Center in a Jakarta shopping mall that opened in December 2010, is on track to reach well over a hundred thousand visitors in its first year. The space is part of a larger strategy to take our outreach efforts to where the audiences are. Extensive measurement and evaluation of public reaction to the space show an overwhelmingly positive response.
  • Expanding the Department’s engagement and exchanges in education, culture, sports, science and women’s issues in China, Russia, Indonesia, and around the world reaches the next generation of leaders, creates foundations for future collaboration and complements efforts to open dialogue on key policy objectives. Our Global Partnership Dialogue with Brazil will support Brazil’s four-year national initiative to send 35,000 students to study in the United States. More than 300 United States and Indian higher education, NGO, and private sector leaders will participate in a Higher Education Summit to explore academic models that will promote higher standards, innovation, technology, and development.
  • In 2011, women from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Territories participated in a five-week peer mentoring program at leading technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley under the Department’s “TechWomen Program.” Working alongside American counterparts, they participated in tech-based projects, workshops, and networking events. Several American mentors will travel to Morocco in October 2011 to join TechWomen alumnae in technology seminars, training, and networking activities for local women and girls. The TechWomen are engines of social change and economic opportunity in their countries.

The U.S. Global Health Initiative

Launched by the President in 2009, the U.S. Global Health Initiative (GHI) supports countries as they work to improve the health of their own people. It builds health systems—training health workers, establishing disease monitoring and laboratory systems, repairing health clinics, and improving procurement systems—so improvements in health can continue for generations. (Read more...)

Photo showing an Indian health worker administering a drop of polio vaccine to a homeless child at a railway station during a polio eradication campaign in Allahabad, India, January 23, 2011.

An Indian health worker administers a drop of polio vaccine to a homeless child at a railway station during a polio eradication campaign in Allahabad, India, January 23, 2011. ©AP Image

Summary and Analysis of PerformanceTrends

The Department assesses educational and cultural exchange program performance by collecting data directly from program participants.The indicator below measures the percentage of exchange participants who reported an increase or positive change in their understanding of the United States (political and economic institutions, norms, and values) immediately at the conclusion of their programs. In FY 2011, the Department again exceeded its target, with more than 94% of foreign publics reporting an increased or positive change in understanding. Statistics are compiled from surveys of actual participants (“alumni”) of exchange programs. While there are many factors that could account for variations from year to year – what is most important is the trend: each year, overwhelmingly, the participants’ perceptions of the United States are positively impacted by their experiences. Other indicators measured changes in exchange participant favorability towards the U.S. Government (75% reported a more favorable view in FY 2011), and towards the American people (86% reported a more favorable view in FY 2011), as a result of their participation in an exchange program. These results show the effectiveness of educational and cultural exchange programs in positively and substantively reshaping understanding of, and attitudes towards, the United States.

Percentage of Exchange Program Participants with
Increased Understanding of the United States1
  FY 2008 FY 2009 FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012
Result 95% 93% 98.8% 94.3% N/A
Target 93% 93% 93% 93% 93%

Source: U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

1 FY 2011 data will be available in FY 2012. (back to text)