Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Importance of Being Continuous


Patricia H. Kushlis is joined by Patricia L. Sharpe in Monday's "Cultural Diplomacy Matters—and It Works" over at WhirledView. In a nutshell, the authors write that too much money is spent studying public diplomacy and not enough on doing it.

Regular readers of Beacon and WhirledView already know that U.S. cultural diplomacy programs abroad lack funding, but PHK and PLS touch on the all-important problem of continuity: Why do U.S. cultural programs start and stop so unpredictably, to the extent that other nations' diplomats view them as unreliable?

“The problem is sustainability,” according to a jaded Southeast Asian diplomat quoted in [an Associated Press] report. “During every international crisis, you open a library, and then, when the crisis passes, you close it down and disburse the books. When you close this library, don’t bother to distribute the books. We have plenty already.”

... It’s impossible to implement a serious cultural diplomacy program without continuity. According to an American diplomat in Cairo, “our cultural presence in this country no longer exists. The French Cultural Ministry can give you a monthly calendar. We can’t do anything because we don’t know when anything will happen....We’re not speaking to anyone anymore. People ask, Where’s your culture. Where are you?”

An excellent read as usual, with a link at the bottom to other WhirledView posts on public diplomacy.

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