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Public Diplomacy

by on March 25, 2013

Public diplomacy is one of the leading diplomatic channels that any leader or government can engage with ordinary people through certain channels, however, public diplomacy often deals with the influence of public attitudes to form and execute of foreign policies.

 According to Henrikson (2006) public diplomacy can be defined as “the conduct of international relations by governments through public communications media and through dealings with a wide range of nongovernmental entities (political parties, corporations, trade associations, labor unions, educational institutions, religious organizations, ethnic groups, and so on including influential individuals) for the purpose of influencing the politics and actions of other governments”.  (Henrikson, 2006).



Some leaders use public diplomacy when they are visiting countries to reach out directly to people rather than connecting with them through their government. For example President Obama delivered very good speech in his first trip to Middle East, when he tried to restore the relations with Muslim World which have been strained in the time of his predecessor, President George W. Bush after 9/11.


President Obama used to deliver his speech in Cairo, the capital where is located the largest Islamic Foundation and reference to the millions of Muslims (Al-Azhary University). He used phrases and words which attracted the people’s hearts in the Arab and Muslim World noticing and referencing some verses of Holly Quran like this one “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” (Obama, 2009).     



Public diplomacy differs from traditional diplomacy in that public diplomacy deals not only with governments but primarily with non-governmental individuals and organizations. Aid and development organizations mainly play active role in advancing public diplomacy when government to government diplomacy failed to progress. Public diplomacy primarily engages many diverse non-government elements of a society which is totally in opposite to the traditional diplomacy, where embassies and officials represent their governments in a host country by maintaining relations and conducting official business with the officials of the host government.


The aid and development organizations sometimes built good relationship with faith leaders and community organizers and pave the way for leaders to setup a diplomatic relations between the nations.



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  1. You touched on the importance of public diplomacy in the modern day. I think advances in technology in recent decades have greatly improved the weight public diplomacy can have through the media and social networking. It’s a part of the new diplomacy.

  2. Well described meaning of public diplomacy as well as its current importance. The example of leaders trying to reach out the public directly rather than through their government seems very relevant in today’s world and demonstrates a significant contrast between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ diplomacy.

  3. almohamed100 permalink

    This is a good article, it is clearly informing us how through public diplomacy leaders can communicate and influence the public opinion of other states despite the different approach of government to goverment level. you also mentioned how Obama delivered his speech using greeting and phrases from holy Koran inside oldest islamic educational institution ‘Al-Azhar’ in order to win the hearts of the public not only in Egypt but throughout muslim world.well done haytami1.

  4. carlacds permalink

    Really good article, Obama and particularly his relations with the Arab world are the perfect example of public diplomacy. Even before he was president he showed his intention of having good international relations with his before election tour. Usually the major problem with public diplomacy is the thin line that divides it from propaganda. Frequently we come across cases in which one cannot be separated from the other, however president Obama in this concrete speech manage to do so by making references directed to the Egyptian (Araba in general) public rather than to the American or western public, example of this is the quotation from the Quran you mentioned above

  5. fzapparoli permalink

    Some very good points here.
    Your remarks of how heads of state nowadays tend to directly approach foreign societies,
    precisely exemplifies the behavioural shift from the traditional diplomacy to something more open to public scrutiny.
    It also wisely touched on the importance of such a mechanism for powerful states to enhance their soft power, something only made possible by the increasingly importance of social media in contemporary societies.

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