In an interview with Anne Olsen Schodde, President and CEO of USCCD she defined Citizen Diplomacy as “the engagement of individual American citizens in primarily voluntary, private sector programs and activities that increase cross-cultural understanding and knowledge between Americans and people from other countries, leading to greater mutual understanding and respect”.
She distinguished it from Public Diplomacy which is conducted through specific activities and programs under the auspices of the federal government that promote positive and credible perceptions of the U.S. generally, and of U.S. foreign policy specifically.
In today’s global society, the two are interconnected. The U.S. Department of State supports some citizen-to-citizen exchanges that involve artists, scholars, professionals, government officials, and youth. Those programs are largely dependent on private sectors partners to carry them out. Non-governmental actors – business, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and individual citizens – play major roles in shaping the attitudes of foreign publics toward the United States.
The major success of this event according to Ann and David is in the fact that:
a) It had energized and excited many people already engaged in citizen diplomacy especially in k-12 and higher education
b) There was the renewal of the importance of the concept of citizen diplomacy and the crucial kick of the campaign to “double the number of Americans engaged in international activities that address global challenges of the 21st century to 120 million Americans by 2020”.
When asked if he thought the conference was racially inclusive enough, Dr David Roe pointed to the plenary session on International Corporate Social Responsibility led by the indefatigable Ingrid Saunders Jones who had moved from Detroit to Atlanta for a student exchange program and had remained there. She brought along with her a group of black youngsters to this conference.
He did not hesitate to remind me also that the current President of the Peace Corps is a priceless jewel brought in from Board of USCCD.
He also pointed to the fact that there were many black faces in attendance from all over the world.
Dr David then addressed the question of the perennial issue of fragmentation within International Aid and development agencies. He noted that some agencies had revealed that they never knew USCCD was involved with partnerships. Part of the primary focus of USCCD, Dr Roe went on, is to facilitate interconnections with and between businesses, NGOs etc. Currently, he went on, the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy boasts of 1100 US organizations connected on a central web portal focused on getting these organizations to work together and function properly.
On the question of difficulties and challenges besetting the organization, Dr. Roe pointed to the hydra headed monster of lack of financial resources. He lamented the fact that the organization had four underpaid staffers.
When challenged on how they were going to measure the success of their campaign, Dr Roe indicated that achieving those numbers is crucial but beyond and above this, getting dedicated organizations to address these global issues is cardinal and critical to their mission.