The focus in Public Diplomacy is on public. When country A practices Public Diplomacy with the rest of the world then it is engaging the global public by sharing with them more information, explanation of major policy decisions, replying to their genuine queries, it makes an effort to win global public opinion. So does country B when it practices Public Diplomacy. As a whole the world becomes a better place with various countries engaging citizens across the world. Public Diplomacy promotes global understanding of the people about each other.
At the heart of Public Diplomacy is commitment on part of the nation-states to open up, reach out and engage people globally who are the ultimate beneficiaries of all Public Diplomacy efforts being made by a few key countries. But what about others who are yet to join the fray?
It is worth investing in public diplomacy – opening digital channels of communication which are not only democratic and global but also free, inviting students, scholars, media people, diplomats to visit one’s country and so that long lasting bonds can be built.
Now contrast this with propaganda – one way bombardment of information to shape the public opinion in certain quarters of the planet. The world as a whole would be a worse place with propaganda. Public Diplomacy is a two way street while propaganda is one way highway. Public Diplomacy has a positive impact while propaganda has a negative impact. Public Diplomacy works better with multiple channels of communication including web 2.0 while propaganda can not survive multiple channels and web 2.0 as it works best in information starved places.
More of International Organizations need to practice public diplomacy so that the gap between the aspirations of the people across the globe and the decisions taken by the International Organizations is reduced. Wouldn’t be it amazing if key security and financial international institutions such as United Nations Security Council (UNSC) , World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) open accounts on Twitter or Facebook and listen to ordinary people in the streets of New York , Cochin or Perth before making decisions which affect lives of people across the world. They could then explain reasons behind those decisions. Multinational Companies could also do well following suit, engaging people in countries they operate. We would be better off as a planet if we practice more public diplomacy.
In capital of India, New Delhi, there is a place named Delhi Haat where one can take a walk and enjoy food or purchase art, crafts, apparels or jewellery from different states or regions of India. Delhi Haat is a treat not only for the people of Delhi but also a large number of foreign tourists who visit Delhi across the year. The stalls at Delhi Haat are rented by the exhibitors from different parts of India for 15 days or so on. Thus the visitors always find something new when they visit the Haat again. On occasions the administration of Delhi Haat organizes festivals of dance, music or art that offers visitors extra incentive to visit it.
Delhi Haat is a multi-cultural space and the idea could be experimented on planetary scale by creating Global Haat or Cosmopolitan Haat in different parts of the planet where food, music, arts & crafts, apparel from different nations, continents. Such multi-nationals, multi-cultural spaces will help people from one country familiarize themselves with other cultures. This would be a great step in public diplomacy on a planetary scale combining finest elements of cultural and gastro-diplomacy.
Public Diplomacy is above all an area of imagination. People are themselves key actors in this emerging area along side governments, media, think tanks, universities and the global civil society. The whole planet is their playground.
Abhay K, a writer-poet-artist & diplomat, is author of six books. His most recent publications include Candling the Light and Colours of Soul. His writings have appeared in Times of India, Rediff, Governance Now, Diplomatic Square, India Abroad, Literary St. Petersburg etc. He has exhibited his art works in several countries including France, Russia and India.