Sunday, 1 May 2011

Review of Report: “Citizen Diplomacy Organisations Throughout the World: Opportunities for Cooperation”

The report here reviewed is the result of a roundtable discussion with international participants at the 2010 Summit on Citizen Dipomacy by the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy and is concerned with the work of citizen diplomacy organisations and how cooperation among these organisations can be furthered.

The main body of the report is divided into seven chapters in which it first gives an overview of the aim of the report (p.2) and provides detailed definitions of the themes addressed. It then describes the importance of “trust” and the importance of cultural relations in building it. In Chapter IV, the idea of a “Cultural Relationship Index” is presented, a concept developed by the British Council to measure the stage of cultural relations among countries. Having established that cultural relations are vital for building trust, Chapter V of the report examines the importance of partnerships between different organisations working in “people-to-people” or citizen diplomacy. On the basis of the results of consultations with four organisations involved in citizen diplomacy and the promotion of cultural relations (the Goethe Institute (Germany), the Japan Foundation (Japan), the Mickiewicz Institute (Poland), and the Yunus Emre Institute (Turkey)), the final section of the report evaluates the possibilities for cooperation among these organisations by comparing their aims and practices and gives recommendations for increasing people-to-people relations across the world.

The extensive appendix contains figures on levels of trust in people and government of a country, which demonstrate that there is a strong correlation between trust and the desire to become involved in cultural relations with a particular country. Further, Appendix 3 lists the precise answers given by the above-mentioned organisations on their aims in promoting cultural relations.

The report makes some very interesting and relevant observations about the importance of trust in the relationship among nations and their people, as well as that of improving cultural relations, which are of high importance for overcoming “prejudice and mistrust” (p.6). The stronger the links of a person to a particular country, especially those created through language, family- or friendship-ties or having visited the country, the more trust the person will have in that country and its people (Appendix 2). This trust then creates a more positive image of the country and its policies.

Nonetheless, one thing remains puzzling: The report defines “citizen diplomacy” using the definition provided by the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy (USCCD), “the concept that the individual has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape… foreign relations ‘one handshake at a time’” (p.3). According to the USCCD, any person who is “motivated … to engage with the rest of the world in a meaningful, mutually beneficial dialogue” can be a citizen diplomat and the difference between “citizen” and “public” diplomacy is that the former is conducted primarily in the private sector and on a voluntary basis, while the latter are government sponsored activities to engage with foreign publics (US Center for Citizen Diplomacy, 2011). All four organisations reviewed in this report do engage in public and cultural diplomacy and support very interesting programmes (as can be seen in their statements in Appendix 3). However, these are government sponsored organisations and there is very little mention of any programmes actually carried out by “motivated” citizens who engage on a voluntary basis and whose actions are often not even seen as being acts of “diplomacy” in any sense, which is what makes them so powerful.

There is certainly a connection between the four organisations and the people-to-people approach, mainly because all these institutions work to promote language and culture of their home country and in doing so, they seem to provide a framework in which actual people-to-people diplomacy can take place. However, the report fails to make a clear connection between the institutions and the “citizen diplomats” or to provide examples of “citizen” instead of “cultural diplomacy”. While the authors may argue that definitions are not of prime importance (p.3), there is a difference between the two which should be taken into account.


Culligan, Kieron; Dalton A J; Kneale, Andrew and Leight, Naomi (2010) “CitizenDiplomacy Organisations Throughout the World: Opportunities for Cooperation”, U.S. Summit & Initiative for Global Citizen Diplomacy, Roundtable Chair: Sharon Memis, November, (accessed: 9.4.2011, 20:40)


- US Center for Citizen Diplomacy (2011) “What is Citizen Diplomacy?”,, accessed: 1.5.2011, 19:31

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