Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Committee on Foreign Affairs, MESA Subcommittee Hearing: “Public Diplomacy in the Middle East and South Asia: Is the message getting through?”

State Department officials assess public diplomacy in Middle East and south Asia at congressional hearing

In a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing today, a discussion on the effectiveness of various public diplomacy projects brought together Members of Congress, representatives from the State Department and members of the broadcasting community. The focus of the hearing was to bring forth awareness of the successes and short-comings of public diplomacy within the Middle East and South Asian regions.

Chairman Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) opened the hearing by expressing his support for expanded emphasis on public diplomacy efforts and a diminished emphasis on waging war, citing the successful use of diplomatic projects during tense periods with the former Soviet Union. Ackerson, along with Congressman David Scott (D-Georg.), maintained the need for grassroots efforts as a means of positively impact international attitude towards American ideals and values, particularly in the Middle East. An increase in public diplomacy, in coordination with a change in foreign policy, was agreed to be the best course of action in an era in which global public opinion of the U.S. is at its lowest and global terrorist attacks are at their highest.

According to the State Department representatives present, three measures must be achieved in order to meet the demands of a bolstered interagency public diplomacy strategy: further development of education and cultural exchange programs such as the People to People Program and the new addition of the Fulbright Program for Pakistan; expanded communications initiatives that would include more local TV time to facilitate citizen discourse; establishment of a more substantial focus on “Diplomacy of Deeds” to accompany radio and television projects.

The witnesses also expressed their desire to further develop “Interfaith dialogue” programs to stress that the present tension in U.S./Middle East relations is the product of a refusal to tolerate extremism rather than a war against Islam.

For more information regarding this hearing and to access transcripts, click here.

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