By Dr. Eugenio Matos G.
It is a privilege to have been invited to start the first series of articles exclusively dedicated to public diplomacy (PD). We will publish essays on this fascinating contemporary science that is timidly developing in the field of international relations.
It is de rigueur to give certain touches to theoretical elements, although the raison d’être of our next articles is to maintain its central purpose; that of showing models with practical results of public diplomacy that we have successfully implemented for more than 20 years as diplomats in Canada, Netherlands, Argentina, Panama, Uruguay and recently in Haiti. In addition to this background, we have provided PD advice for decades to twenty-seven foreign embassies and chancelleries, creating original sources of academic references.
Public diplomacy comes to renew the bureaucratic, passive and hermetic traditional diplomacy. Only an average of 4% of career diplomats have been able to recycle themselves in that sense (E. Matos, Den Haag Political Institute 2014). The PD begins to have its first practical effects in 2001, mainly in the United States. Twenty-three years ago, Washington decided to create the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, replacing the USIA or USIS. The U.S. government chose to elevate public diplomacy to the level of what we understand as a vice-ministry. It turns out to be a key element for the State Department and U.S. foreign policy.
Some countries have tried to emulate their steps, such as: Israel, Japan, Vietnam and Spain, among others. It should be noted that the People’s Republic of China incorporated public diplomacy into its foreign ministry in 2011. Although relatively late, Shanghai is already betting internationally with surprising results. On the other side of the Strait, Taipei was forced to launch in the same year the “Public Diplomacy Desk” in its chancellery, although of course, on a smaller scale, but with very good results. I was an eyewitness of the latter process, since during the “authorities” of President Ma Ying-Jeou (whom I was able to shake hands on three occasions and who maintained a laissez-faire with Mainland China). It was an honor to assist the island to help them with specific strategies of public diplomacy, mainly for their bureaus of commercial and cultural interests in Holland and Buenos Aires. In addition, the author offered an academic contribution favoring Tamkang University in Taipei, for the good knowledge and practice of PD.
On the other hand, an atypical diplomatic phenomenon took place in the Dominican Republic in terms of public diplomacy. It was not the chancellery in Santo Domingo that instituted the PD in its diplomatic missions, but two entrepreneur ambassadors. They set out to innovate and make unprecedented changes in the Dominican Foreign service. The first one was Ambassador Eduardo Tejera in Ottawa in 2005. He was followed by Ambassador Luis Arias Núñez (father of the Dominican vote abroad), who formalized the first public diplomacy sections in the Dominican embassies in Holland, Argentina and recently in the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. The deans of the diplomatic corps ranked these four Dominican embassies as among the most effective in those destinations.
More recently, despite the state of siege in the Republic of Haiti, the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Port-au-Prince executed its first public diplomacy program in its history; which took place between November 2020 and July 2022, under the management of Ambassador Faruk Miguel Castillo. Among its great achievements and initiatives, to give just a sample, were the academic agreement signed between the María Auxiliadora School of Hotel Management of Haiti and the PUCMM, the edition and publication of “DiploIsla” (the first bilingual digital and printed magazine of that mission), classical Dominican musical performances at the embassy and public schools, the launching of the first social networks of the legation (which it had never had), its first electronic portal (which it also did not have), without forgetting the establishment of close relations with the media of the neighboring nation (which were relatively nonexistent). Currently, the embassy has two portals; the institutional one linked to the chancery in Santo Domingo, and an individual portal with the photography exhibit of the artist Vanessa Moquete under the title “Jimaní and the Deep Border”. Let us remember that public diplomacy is also nurtured and projected through digital diplomacy. We must keep in mind that the PD can contribute greatly to the prevention or mitigation of conflicts between the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic (E. Matos, OttawaU 2021). Having been the Minister Counselor to lead the PD with all these prestigious heads of diplomatic missions mentioned above is something that will remain in my most unforgettable memories.
Public diplomacy, as a foreign policy strategy, is equally critical to sustaining a country’s good image abroad. We have shown academically (E. Matos, MaltaU 2001), that in a successful diplomatic mission, more than 50% of its work agenda should be devoted to public diplomacy programs. An embassy that consumes most of its time in internal administrative matters, “by chasing its own tail” (MaltaU, Kishan Rhana 2001), has no reason to exist. The work of the public diplomat is nurtured by cultural diplomacy, soft power, and friendly relations with the host country’s media, among other elements.
About the author:
Dr. Eugenio Matos G. is a professor of public diplomacy at the University of Ottawa in Canada, an alumnus from the Faculty of Law from this academic center, a professional violinist from different symphony orchestras, co-founder of Diplomat Magazine Netherlands and a former minister-counselor of the Dominican Republic Embassy in the Netherlands.
Main picture: Minister Counselor in Haiti Eugenio Matos G, offering volunteer violin lessons for children in the vulnerable La Saline sector in Port-au-Prince, June 2022, as part of the Dominican embassy’s first public diplomacy pilot program. (EXTERNAL SOURCE).