Diplomacy in a Bottle of Water

While governments are talking about planning to work to protect our environment and while they are trying to achieve agreement with each other to start to protect environment, in the meantime the environment took a lead and became a big issue for everyone on the Earth.

earth
Figure 1 Source: (Google, 2017)

There is a high number of negotiations and talks on range of the topics covering environmental issues from ocean pollution to global warming. There are billions of stakeholders, environmental activist groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which creates platform for such talks. NGOs promote environmental problems, run campaigns to encourage change and to warn about existing or possible consequences. Both activist groups and NGOs play crucial role in moving forward with this issue. They give policy advice and suggestions, do research and provide environmental expertise. Furthermore, they organise groups of volunteers to go on the ground and to help where possible. Also, they raise attention of wide public who then put more pressure on their own governments to take action. However, the more countries get involved in this issue, the more complex it becomes and finding solution is more and more difficult. It is hard to make an agreement on improving environment when leaders do not have a will to compromise their trade and business deals. On the other hand, independent NGOs are able to make decisions without clash of interest and to take action much faster.

Sometimes, the campaigns of NGOs succeed to persuade public to act even without government involvement or without official policy in place. For example, the case of bottled water. ‘In the last 40 years the bottled water industry has gone from a business prospect that few took seriously, to a global industry worth billions of pounds’ (BBC News, 2017). How is that possible if we consider that water is natural, simple source which is essential for life? It is very simple – put it into the plastic bottle, brand it, promote it and sell it. What governments do about this to protect its citizens from paying for their very basic need like water is? They take advantage of water privatization and its profit by collecting taxes from each bottle sold.

“I think bottled water is the most revealing substance for showing us how the global capitalist market works today,” says Richard Wilk, professor of anthropology at Indiana University (BBC News, 2017).

‘The bottled water market is the fastest growing drinks market in the world’ (Environmental Technology Centre, 2017). According to the data collected by the Environmental Technology Centre, ‘Britain consumes 3bn litres of bottled water per year’ and ‘the UK bottled water industry is worth £2bn per year’ (Environmental Technology Centre, 2017). As stated in BBC article ‘Bottled water has become liquid gold’: ‘Like all products, its success is driven by consumer demand’ (BBC News, 2017). But, given that water is a matter of life and death, do consumers have any other choice? Plastic bottle allows people to have constant access to water and to transport a beverage anywhere with them.

This is where NGOs step in. For example, The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Food and Water Watch, brought into attention that bottled water is harmful not only to our wallets but also to the environment. Companies state that all disposable water bottles are recyclable, however as per the Environmental Technology Centre, ‘for 2007 it is estimated that 13bn plastic bottles of water were sold in the UK of which only 3bn were recycled’ (Environmental Technology Centre, 2017). Long-terms campaigns led to the phenomena of refillable bottles. Refillable bottles as well as reusable plastic coffee cups became very popular and widely used by public. This shows that people can take steps forward even without governments implying policy. Companies quickly caught up on this and started to distribute different types, shapes and colours of refillable bottles and cups. So, the business side is still involved, but it surely does safe money of consumers and safe the environment at the same time. The Environmental Technology Centre collected data to outline reasons to use refillable sports bottle instead of buying bottled water – Click here to access the list of the reasons.

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Figure 2 Source: (Google, 2017)

The effort of NGOs played, and still plays, crucial role in bottled water issue. Their campaigns promoted the usage of refillable bottles and they continue to encourage people to use them as much as possible. Moreover, this was not the only success of NGOs in regards to the environmental issues. There many other campaigns and conferences run by large as well as small NGOs, from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and Greenpeace to GreenBlue and many other organizations and activist groups. Their hard work and the ability to reach out to public in the way that people listen often pay off and celebrate progress. For instance, UNEP in cooperation with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is currently running campaign to promote the Sustainable Development Goals. They use image of popular Smurfs, which is attention catching, memorable, and most importantly it makes whole generation of children to listen and to learn about environment and healthy lifestyle. Perhaps future of our environment is the hands of NGOs rather than governments?

 

Bibliography

BBC News. (2017). Bottled water has become liquid gold – BBC News. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11813975 [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

Environmental Technology Centre. (2017). Should we be using bottled water?. [online] Available at: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/etc/news-water.php [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

Food & Water Watch. (2017). Corporate Control of Water. [online] Available at: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/problems/corporate-control-water [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

Susskind, L. (1994). Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements. 1st ed. [ebook] Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: http://0-lib.myilibrary.com.emu.londonmet.ac.uk/Open.aspx?id=44245 [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

Sustainability Degrees. (2017). The 14 Most Influential Sustainability NGOs. [online] Available at: http://www.sustainabilitydegrees.com/blog/most-influential-sustainability-ngos/ [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

United Nations Environmental Programme. (2017). Environmental Diplomacy. [online] Available at: http://staging.unep.org/disastersandconflicts/Introduction/EnvironmentalCooperationforPeacebuilding/EnvironmentalDiplomacy/tabid/54581/Default.aspx [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

 

 

The importance of Multilateral diplomacy.

After the second world war the ‘new diplomacy’ blossomed completely. ‘Old diplomacy’ faded into the background as multilateral diplomacy dominated. By the second half of the twentieth century, the international arena had become too large and complex for traditional bilateral diplomacy to handle. Multilateral diplomacy is defined as “the practice of including more than two nations or parties in achieving diplomatic solutions to supranational problems”(Kishore Mahbubani). This change towards multilateral diplomacy unleashed the drive to build international and regional organizations,such as the UN, with defined rules of procedure and permanently accredited diplomatic missions.

UN-Logo-660x330

One of the most recent events of multilateral conference is the Paris climate change conference in 2015.  In this conference the Paris agreement was negotiated, a global agreement on the reduction of climate change. This agreement was signed by 175 countries on April 2016. The importance of multilateral diplomacy was reinforced by the Paris conference. The biggest issue our generation has faced is the one of climate change, such a big issue cannot be solved by the ‘old diplomacy’ only by multilateral diplomacy and that is where the importance of this concept comes in. Multilateral diplomacy may have its limitations but in the world of today any other kind of diplomacy probably has even more limitations, bilateral diplomacy would have no effect on an international scale issue like global warming, a problem that affects the whole planet needs to be solved by more than just two countries. Like most things , diplomacy changes in accordance with the changes that go around in our world, with the phenomena of globalization diplomacy has needed to adapt and be more open and discuss issues at a much larger scale.

cs-lead-dec14-1_647_120315022504

There has been many criticism over the speed of multilateral diplomacy problem solving, but there are many pros to multilateral diplomacy and conference negotiation, it facilitates partnerships, brings many voices into the decision  making process and forms consensus which is key when needing to enforce international agreements. By facilitating partnerships we create a friendlier political environment between countries bringing everyone closer together rather than further apart. Most of the concerns in most countries today tend to be the same, climate changes, the economy, war so it only logical that if the concerns globally are the same then that all countries must come together through diplomacy to solve these issues.

Gathering many world leaders to discuss global problems gives us an opportunity to put pressure to our leaders in whichever country they find themselves, like the social movements before the Paris conference took place. This is a very important factor as with this tool the people, the citizens of the Earth, can use to make their voice be heard by the political elite and pressure them into coming to an agreement. Bilateral diplomacy doesn’t play much part in supranational problems, more countries must come into the picture, bilateral diplomacy can help the two countries that are part of the process but multilateral diplomacy can help the whole planet. The more globalised we become the more we care for everyone in this planet and what affects them and due to this we can help create a change through a more open diplomatic dialogue that includes everyone.

main_governance-and-g20

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Barston. R.P. (2006) ‘Modern diplomacy’. Longman Paperback

James P.(2005) ‘Multilateral diplomacy and the United Nations today’. diplmacy.edu. Available at: https://www.diplomacy.edu/resources/books/reviews/multilateral-diplomacy-and-united-nations-today (Accessed the 19 of March 2017)

Unknown (2014) ‘Strengthening Multilateral Diplomacy and Sustainable Development’. unchronicle.un.org. Available at: https://unchronicle.un.org/article/strengthening-multilateral-diplomacy-and-sustainable-development (Accessed the 19 of March 2017)

Unknown (2015) ‘COP21 Climate change summit reaches deal in Paris’. bbc.co.uk. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35084374 ( Accessed the 19 of March 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Diplomacy. The rising stock of non-state actors.

Diplomacy has evolved a lot in the 20th century, from being exclusive and secret to inclusive and open. What we call the New diplomacy has many important dimensions, one of the most important is the rise of non-state actors in diplomacy. There is no doubt that non-state actors with independent means and personal agendas can affect the public discourse. People and non-state organisations can shape perceptions and even move governments to action. However theres a few big questions raised over this matter, such as, where do these non-state actors obtain the legitimacy in the eyes of the people and how do they change outcomes? The legitimacy question is one that is raised many times with this matter in particular, sometimes non-state actors take on diplomatic missions without the states approval something that would be unthinkable in the old diplomacy.

The reason this dimension of new diplomacy is so important is due to the fact that it is something that has very rarely been seen before in the realm of diplomacy. Many non-state actors explain that their legitimacy comes from the support of the general public whether or not the government agrees. The best example of this would be the international campaign in the 90’s to put a ban on landmines. The campaign was led by non-governmental organisations with the participation of Princess Diana. Despite the opposition of many strong states the goal was still met in most countries.

The use of NGO’s to influence the outcome or to start diplomatic missions is an efficient strategy, in the case of the ban on landmines this strategy was highly successful. With the inclusion of non-state actors comes new elaborate strategies such as the inclusion of celebrities (Diana, Bono,Leonardo dicaprio and many more). Politics and diplomacy sometimes seems like something far from the grip of the general public and so to include non-state actors the rest of the people feel a little more represented and interested which as we have seen works quite well.

diana

The involvement of non-state actors opens the door to more diplomatic participation and more pressure for governments to keep their promises and meet their goals. If it wasn’t for the fact that non-state actors have such influence, issues such as coming up with a solution for global warming wouldn’t have the same urgency they have today. However many people dispute that what these non-state actors are doing is not actually diplomacy although they do achieve diplomatic ends. NGO’s are a great example of a non-state actors achieving diplomatic ends such as reducing the Green house gas emissions, feeding the poor and giving medical attention to people during conflicts.

The definition of diplomacy is not so clear however if we take the conventional definition, whereby diplomacy is something only states can do then by definition NGO’s don’t actually have any diplomatic power but they do have the tools to influence people which then affects the government in such a way that they can get their way. This dimension of new diplomacy is incredibly important, other dimensions such as the technological advances or public diplomacy (‘nation branding’) do have their importance in helping to achieve diplomatic ends however the inclusion of non-state actors doesn’t only help in achieving the goals but they help create diplomatic missions and move millions like we have seen in Global warming marches and treaties and to help shift public opinion of conflicts between countries.

leonardo

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Carlson, Bryan (2014) ‘Non-state actors’. Publidiplomacycouncil.org. Available at: http://www.publicdiplomacycouncil.org/commentaries/01-25-15/non-state-actors (Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

Dodds, Felix. ‘NGO Diplomacy'(2007). mitpress.mit.edu. Available at: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/ngo-diplomacy (Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

Geraud, Andre. ‘Diplomacy, old and new’. Foreignaffairs.com. Available at: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/1945-01-01/diplomacy-old-and-new(Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

Pachios, Harold C.(2002) ‘The new diplomacy’. State.gov. Available at:https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/adcompd/rls/15804.htm (Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

Unknown. ‘Treaty status’. icbl.org. Available at: http://www.icbl.org/en-gb/the-treaty/treaty-status.aspx (Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triumph for Diplomacy

On October, 1962 the world stood at the brink of a nuclear war for 13 days, when the US found out that  the Soviet Union had placed ballistic nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles away from their country. The threat was unexpected and required immediate attention, a nuclear war between the two most powerful countries in the Earth was going to be extremely destructive, because of this, the issue required a diplomatic solution. The US president at the time, John F. Kennedy resisted the pressure from his advisors to not cede anything to Moscow and opted for a more compromising attitude. Kennedy opted for what would now be one of the biggest characteristics of crisis diplomacy, secrecy through ‘back channels’.

The role of diplomacy in this crisis was key. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy met secretly with the Soviet Ambassador and created a pathway of information between John F. Kennedy and the Soviet Union. Washington would reject the invasion of Cuba, and Krushchev would withdraw the missiles from Cuba. What would be the decisive move to end the crisis was the withdrawal of the Jupiter nuclear missiles that the US had placed in Turkey.This event showed us the importance of compromising in diplomacy, both countries came out loosing their nuclear missiles in Cuba and Turkey but they avoided a war. But before all of this could be possible an elaborate diplomatic strategy had to be put in place.

Kennedy limited the knowledge of the crisis. This reduced the role of the state department and consequently the diplomats with closest access to the kremlin leadership. In a meeting on the 16 of october Kennedy discussed the need for utmost secrecy and designated what group of people would be allowed to have information on the unfolding events. Kennedy excludes from this group all members of the U.S. Foreign service with the exception of former ambassadors of the U.S. to the Soviet Union, Thompson and Bohlen, who would serve as the main sources of diplomatic perspective for Kennedy. Bohlen would be the one to put the idea forward of communicating with Krushchev before things could get even more out of hand, he stated that “No one can guarantee that this can be achieved by diplomatic action – but it seems to me essential that this channel should be tested out before military action is employed. If our decision is firm I can see no danger in communicating with Khrushchev privately worded in such a way that he realizes that we mean business.”

The Bohlen plan was to send a letter to Krushchev and depending on the answer the U.S. would airstrike the Soviet Union or to put a blockade. The plan was later dropped by Kennedy,Thomson and Robert Kennedy suggested responding to the letters that Krushchev had sent and in the end sending Robert Kennedy to negotiate with Dobrynin and inform him that the Jupiter missiles would be removed. Knowledge of the arrangements between Robert Kennedy and Dobrynin was limited to Kennedy, which pressured the Soviets to keep things secret or else President Kennedy would reject the deal. The deal was met and everyone did their part.

These events show us how important and useful diplomacy really is and how big of a role diplomacy has on major crises wether through secrecy or publicly. There are still many disputes to wether issues like this should be resolved through secrecy, but something so important like crisis diplomacy could be damaged through public opinion. However acting through secrecy may not always be a good idea, not all leaders are like Kennedy who ignored many of his advisors to do what was right.

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Ivan Kurilla (2014) ‘Cuban missile crisis-A lesson in diplomacy’. Themoscowtime.com. Available at:https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/cuban-missile-crisis-a-lesson-in-diplomacy-40571 (Accessed the 17 of march 2017)

Lois Farrow Parshley(2012) ‘The 9 most important lessons of the cuban missile crisis’. Foreignpolicy.com. Available at:http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/10/19/the-9-most-important-lessons-from-the-cuban-missile-crisis/ (Accesssed the 17 of march 2017)

Peter Orsi(2012) ‘Cuban missile crisis was a triumph of diplomacy, not brinkmanship’. Salon.com. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2012/10/13/cuban_missile_crisis_beliefs_endure_after_50_years/ (Accessed the 17 of march, 2017)

Unknown (2013) ‘Embassy Moscow: A Diplomatic Perspective of the Cuban missile Crisis’. georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org. Available at: georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/2013/12/10/embassy-moscow-a-diplomatic-perspective-of-the-cuban-missile-crisis/ (Accessed the 17 of march 2017)

Unknown ‘Cuban missile crisis’. history.com. Available at: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cuban-missile-crisis (Accessed the 17 of march 2017)

 

 

 

Diplomacy for Everyone

“In the 21st century, success in the international arena will belong to those that know how to successfully identify, use and deploy soft power, and maintain it via public diplomacy and the use of digital tools.”        – Arturo Sarukhan
Source: (USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017a)

Public diplomacy is defined as ‘the public, interactive dimension of diplomacy which is not only global in nature, but also involves a multitude of actors and networks’ (USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017b). Berridge’s definition is more radical, he defines public diplomacy as ‘propaganda which is to manipulate public attitudes through the mass media for political ends’ (Berridge, 2015, p. 198). However, the term ‘public diplomacy’ was ‘coined in 1960s by former U.S. diplomat Edmund Gullion to distance overseas governmental information activities from the term propaganda’ (USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017b). He aimed to distinguish these terms, because propaganda is often connected with political advertising during the World War II and during the Cold War which can give negative impression. In contrast, ‘public diplomacy’ not only sounds more positively, but also has proven itself successful on many occasions.

Since 1960s public diplomacy has developed into useful tool to influence opinion of foreign as well as domestic public through variety ways such as radio broadcasting, television (TV), culture events, literature, newspapers, magazines, and recently through social medias. For example, American TV shows and movies played important role in spreading American culture values and created image of how the United States (U.S.) wants to be pictured by the foreign public. For instance, children’s TV show Sesame Street opened platform for U.S. cultural diplomacy in approximately 145 countries all around world including those U.S. has though relationship with (USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017a). Success of Sesame Street led to the launch of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization which promotes learning and education. The similar triumph U.S. celebrated with TV show Friends which won the attention of teenagers as well as adults worldwide. The Central Perk coffee house, in which 6 main characters of this sitcom used to hangout, has inspired various imitations all around the world including countries with anti-western values such as Iran, Afghanistan and Dubai. These cafes carry not only design of The Central Perk coffee house, but also the American vision of young people’s lifestyle.

Public diplomacy allows diplomats to take away the privilege to control information by those is power (Kerr and Wiseman, 2013). Moreover, it enables involvement of variety of actors in diplomacy. Public diplomacy can be practised by anyone from world leaders, politicians, ambassadors, diplomats and multinational corporation to non-governmental organisations, celebrities, religious figures, local activist groups, and so forth. In past few decades more and more public figures got involved in international affairs to bring attention of wide public on to the important issues. For example, Princess Diana, who was heavily involved in humanitarian aid. More recently, actresses Angelina Jolie and Emma Watson both working for the United Nations to bring into world’s attention the refugee crisis and women rights issues. Women rights and girls power were also brought into the light by Malala Yousafzai, a survivor of assassination attempt by the Taliban, who is now running campaigns to allow every girl in the world to access education.  The involvement of public figures also plays important role in promotion of human rights. Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa, inspired many by his brave lifelong fight for human rights and justice. He was able to bring people together and to spread his vision to live in peace.

Public diplomacy is important for current world affairs because it achieves long-term changes in opinion. It also opened the door to the diplomacy for wide public and allows anyone to get involved. It also raises the level of interest of wide public in world affairs, which can lead to the solutions of some of the world’s issues.  As Philip Seib, a professor of Journalism and Public Diplomacy, said: “When public diplomacy changes lives constructively, it is doing its job” (Seib in USC Center on Public Diplomacy, 2017a).

 

Bibliography

Berridge, G. (2015). Diplomacy: Theory and Practice. 5th ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kerr, P. and Wiseman, G. (2013). Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Practices. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

USC Center on Public Diplomacy (2017a). 10 Biggest Public Diplomacy Stories of 2013. [online] Available at: https://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/pdin_monitor_article/10-biggest-public-diplomacy-stories-2013 [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

USC Center on Public Diplomacy (2017b). What is PD?. [online] Available at: https://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/page/what-pd [Accessed 16 Mar. 2017].

 

Public diplomacy through twitter (Russian embassy uk and President Trump)

The revolution of information and of communication technology that we have undergone in the past few years has really opened peoples eyes towards the situation in other countries. This has affected some country’s public diplomacy and have had to evolve and adapt to the changing times. Many countries have hit the social networking sites to give out a good view of their country and to promote it.

Russia is no stranger to this change in public diplomacy. Before, most things could be kept behind closed doors but with information travelling faster than ever Russia has seen itself worried and pressured to clarify many allegations and to give an outstanding view of their country. Twitter has given many world leaders the chance to respond to diplomatic issues instantly.

 

Where as most organisations would use twitter as an informative tool of current events in their countries, Russia uses it to give an idyllic view of their country and to justify or clarify events involving Russia, such as the war in Libya (can be seen in tweet below). This shows the importance of public diplomacy, the image of a country can be tainted by the media, and when many states are against your country’s policies, such is the case of Russia, a tool such as twitter is very useful for an instant response. The view that the general public has of your country is extremely important so it is necessary that you promote your country well.

The russian embassy in the UK use twitter very aggressively and are always defensive of their country, some people may even call it propaganda. Whether we can call it actual diplomacy, one thing is certain and that is that twitter and other social networks provide the opportunity to respond to diplomatic issues in an instant.  The use of twitter for diplomatic issues can also be a curse, as I said before some information can be taken as propaganda and this could damage your image, or sometimes twitter could be used in the heat of the moment and cause trouble as we have seen happen many times with Mr President Trump’s tweets.

 

Twitter is not only used to promote one’s country but to promote oneself or an ideology. If   there is someone worth talking about in the twitter realm that someone is the president of The United States of America, Donald J. Trump. A diplomatic approach through twitter with no protocol  whatsoever, many people call it a political strategy to show that Trump is not like the other politicians and others just say that it is Trump’s lack of knowledge and vocabulary, whatever it is, it has certainly had it’s effect. However, President Trumps lack of diplomatic skills show us just how important public diplomacy is, there are just some situations where you can’t avoid being politically correct and when speaking about another country it is certainly one of those moments that you can’t avoid using such tools.

 

A simple tweet such as the one that Mr Trump wrote about Iran could just make tensions worse between the countries and from a diplomatic point of view this could be very problematic. Also making false allegations or uninformed allegations against other american politicians can also affect american citizens by dividing the country even more through unnecessary comments.

By analyzing these two twitter accounts we can see the importance of public diplomacy and just how influential the general public’s opinion can be that political personalities have connected into the web to promote a better view of the country or the government. Public diplomacy is important, by addressing issues publicly the people can see that the leaders are taking action on the matter and to do so there are protocols to follow, if those protocols are not followed, accounts, like Trump’s twitter account, can cause quite a bit of tension. Just because something is written on a social network site doesn’t mean it looses importance, that’s why organisations, governments and  politicians should be careful with what they say.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

-Alex Hern ‘Twitter users volunteer to be Russia’s latest weapon in the information wars‘(online) Theguardian.com. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/16/twitter-users-volunteer-to-be-russias-latest-weapon-in-the-information-wars (Accessed the 16 of march 2016)

-Andrew Weisburd(2016) ‘How Russia dominates your twitter feed to promote lies’ (online) Thedailybeast.com. Available at:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/06/how-russia-dominates-your-twitter-feed-to-promote-lies-and-trump-too.html (Accessed the 16 of March 2017)

-Mark Fahey(2017) ‘Donald Trump’s twitter engagement is stronger than ever’ (online) cnbc.com. Available at: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/16/donald-trumps-twitter-engagement-is-stronger-than-ever.html

-Unknown (2016) ‘Russia launched ‘cyberwar and propaganda campaign’ against UK-media’ (online) rt.com. Available at: https://www.rt.com/uk/370642-uk-russia-cyberwar-propaganda/ (Accessed the 16 of march 2017)

-Twitter(2017) Russian Embassy, UK (online) Available at: https://twitter.com/RussianEmbassy?lang=en (Accessed the 16 of march 2017)

-Twitter (2017) Donald J. Trump (online) Available at: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?lang=en (Accessed the 16 of march 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People’s Public Diplomacy in Saudi Arabia

From 2011, Saudi Arabia has seen many protest videos spreading online, portraying both the good and the bad side of the country.

Before you start reading, please keep in mind that this state does not allow information to be spread easily; its internal affairs are a mystery to journalists, and Saudi Arabia does not entertain a high level of communication with other states on its actions.

Let us begin with these two YouTube videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c0vmIAPFis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZMbTFNp4wI

The first one dates back to June 2015: a little campaign on YouTube, launched by the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, promoting and supporting coexistence (The Hidden Killer. A Saudi PSA in support of coexistence 2015). ‘The Hidden Killer’ was viewed 150,000 in 48 hours and entailed discussions.

<<What is the greatest destroyers of nations and people? […] there is a hidden killer […] that many of us don’t know … the hidden killer could be you. […] This killer sleeping inside you wakes up the moment you give up on the value of coexistence >>

Its aim was ‘to offer a platform to ‘’debate reform and suggest remedies’’ for the terror indoctrination which had precipitated the attacks (referring to 9/11), and mitigate sexism and sectarian incitement through dialogue‘ (Braude 2015). Although this particular video was directed towards young Saudis from joining jihadist groups, the ‘general’, ‘comprehensive’ message of coexistence is an important message of openness.

The second clip is a bit older, from 2013, and it represents a movement that has been spreading and growing: #Women2Drive.

The sarcastic video sounds familiar: ‘No woman no cry’ by Bob Marley?                                   No, ‘No woman, No Drive’ by Hisham Fageeh, a comedian from Saudi Arabia who has studied in the US and works in a Saudi comedy channel (Suebsaeng 2013).

<<No woman, no drive … say I remember when you used to sit in the family car, but backseat. Ova-ovaries all safe and well so you can make lots and lots of babies. […] In this bright future you can’t forget the past, so put your car key away>>.

This catchy song mocks Saudi Arabia’s policy against women driving cars; yet, it goes further, in describing the ‘traditional’, patriarchal relationship between the men and the woman in the country.

In 2011, Al Jazeera English broadcasted women’s pledge for the right to drive (Saudi woman campaigns for right to drive 2011). The speaker makes logical statements on why women should drive: what if her husband gets a heart attack and she cannot drive him to the hospital? Manal Al-Sharif – leader of the twitter campaign #Women2Drive – was briefly detained after uploading a video of herself driving and encouraging women to do that as well. Women cannot take public transports – she continues explaining – , which implies having someone to drive for them, either a male guardian or a private expensive driver.

In January 2017, women’s action for equal rights – and in particular against the guardian system – has gone further with this other music video (News.com.au 2017):

Hwages, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rUn2j1hLOo

It features women dancing, playing basketball and skating while dressed in the niqab and it has scored more than 10 million views. Three women get in the back of a car, while waiting for a boy to get behind the wheel. A clip of two disapproving men interchanges with the women having fun skating and riding on scooters, singing, with long colourful dresses and niqabs.

The reaction of the internet was loud: on the one side, agreement and support for these women, both internationally and nationally – for example from the ex-wife of prominent Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, and from one of the oldest newspapers in the country, Al-Bilad (Taylor 2017) –, on the other, criticism about them wearing the veil and not being ‘daring enough’, or calling the song ‘cheap and extremely inappropriate’.

It has to be noted that all these campaigns do not attempt in changing the state, they are not calling for a revolution; on the contrary, being respectful and supportive of the kingdom and Islam, they advocate for a positive development, because to its citizens, Saudi Arabia is a developed, modern country.

What is portrayed is a complicated and delicate picture. Saudi Arabia is very much judged by the international press; it tries in its public profile to seem more appealing to the international scenes, campaigning for coexistence, yet, the internal debate on women and cars, – which puts the state under a negative spotlight – has gotten viral on the Internet and has gained greater international fame, arising critiques to the ban.

It is interesting to see how public diplomacy has being taking a peculiar face in this particular environment: it is not the traditional diplomatic asset that is ‘doing the work’, but the general public, the people. These women do not wish to dismantle their home, they are respectful and proud of their culture and system – portraying that online -, but they are also mediating to make a difference, reporting on what is not right to them, as Saudi Arabians, to tell their government what can be improved…sounds diplomacy to me!

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Suebsaeng, A. (2013). ‘Saudi Comic’s ‘’No Woman, No Drive’’ Video Goes Viral, But He’s ‘’Not a Social Activist’, Model Jones, available at http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/10/no-woman-no-drive-viral-video-saudi-arabia-hisham-fageeh-interview

Braude, J. (2015). ‘A Campaign in Saudi Arabia Challenges Young People To Rethink Their Biases’, The World Post, available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-braude/a-campaign-in-saudi-arabi_b_7578070.html

News.com.au editors (2017). ‘Hwages: Music clip sparks debate, celebration in Saudi Arabia’, news.com.au, available at http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/social/hwages-music-clip-sparks-debate-celebration-in-saudi-arabia/news-story/939ac149f6307fb76f0999b1cfb0f3f7

Saudi woman campaigns for right to drive (2011) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gke1CYaKVOY

Taylor, A. (2017). ‘Saudi Arabian women release video mocking kingdom’s driving laws’, Independent, available at

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/saudi-arabia-ban-on-women-driving-video-mocking-law-hwages-a7510371.html

The Hidden Killer. A Saudi PSA in support of coexistence (2015) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c0vmIAPFis