Saturday, October 21, 2017

The European Far-Right: A Threat Worth Speaking Out Against


Timothy Speace, intpolicydigest.org

Image from, with caption: Za Kowalskim ciągną się zarzuty karne w związku z pobiciem jednego z gości klubu, w którym jest szefem ochrony.

In the 1980s, the grassroots labor union, Solidarity, mobilized tens of thousands of Poles against communism. Poland’s example inspired its neighbors and pointed the way to a successful post-communist political and economic transition in Eastern Europe. Nearly three decades after Solidarity’s victory, Polish politics have taken an alarming turn to the right, away from liberal values. Beyond Warsaw, Europe has seen a stark rise in far-right political influence as governments consolidate power, remove judicial independence, violate or change the constitution, and limit free speech. This trend isn’t merely inconvenient—it’s a direct threat to democracy.

Yet this isn’t just a European problem. The United States has a deep and multi-layered relationship with Europe that is enshrined in a security alliance, robust economic interdependence, and shared norms. Despite these ties, the U.S. lacks a coherent policy in response to the far-right, illiberal policies that threaten our European friends. America cannot be silent when democratic institutions are under attack. Our credibility as leader of the free world is at stake. The United States needs to pursue an active public diplomacy policy against this far-right movement.

Far-right policies that violate law and western norms have direct and indirect negative effects on the European Union (EU) and the transatlantic alliance. By shirking or challenging shared values, far-right governments make consensus harder to attain and even block measures that seek to unite, secure, and advance the European project. Moreover, Russia supports these toxic trends as it seeks to weaken and delegitimize liberal institutions.

An active public diplomacy policy against the far-right underscores the vital role of western values in guiding foreign relations. Since World War II, western institutions guided by the principles of democracy, human rights, and economic interdependence have had profoundly positive results. These ideas have served as the foundation for transatlantic peace and prosperity. These ideas are worth defending. By sending he EU and the values that we share.a public message against far-right policies, the U.S. demonstrates its support for the EU and the values that we share.

A powerful message condemning exclusionary policies enhances U.S. credibility and international leadership. Our influence comes not only from our arms and wealth, but our stunning diversity of talented people from every corner of the planet. The principles that established this country live in the Constitution and the spirit of the American people. Actively opposing illiberalism is consistent with the values established at the very birth of the Republic.

Tackling the menace of far-right politics now is an investment in our long-term security. Strong European liberal institutions align with enduring U.S. policies. By addressing disturbing political developments early, America can work to uphold western values and preserve the integrity of the alliance.

This policy costs little more than commitment by our political leaders. We need to ensure that America’s message of freedom and democracy is part of every public address and every bilateral diplomatic agenda. Leveraging State Department relationships with local organizations throughout Europe will make public messaging authentic, inexpensive, and effective.

America must take a principled stand. The power of the American voice must continue to stand for justice, freedom, and democracy. In 1989 Poland’s brave people led Europe away from communism and toward freedom. Today, Poland must return to that same spirit. By rejecting exclusionary and autocratic policies and embracing inclusive and democratic ones, we can strengthen Europe. Together with our European friends we can sustain the continent’s prosperity and peace.

The views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent those of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Army.



Yunus Emre Institute hosts event to discuss cultural, public diplomacy


dailysabah.com

Image from, with caption: Map showing the distribution of Yunus Emre Institute branches in and around Europe.

Turkey's Yunus Emre Institute has organized an event in Istanbul that will bring together representatives from the Global Public Diplomacy Network (GPDNet) to discuss issues related to cultural and public diplomacy and coexistence. The conference, which began yesterday in the historic Sultanahmet district, will end on Saturday.

Head of the Yunus Emre Institute, Şeref Ateş, drew attention in his opening speech to the increased significance of cultural diplomacy in "transformed public communication," saying the institute has filled the gap in Turkey's need in this regard.

"We provide wider knowledge of Turkish history, music, language, fine arts and other areas and promote Anatolian culture worldwide, which is the cradle of civilizations," Ateş said. He added that the institute has initiated many projects in coordination with GPDNet members.

The Yunus Emre Institute, which is named for the famous Turkish poet who lived from 1238 to 1320, has taught Turkish to nearly 100,000 people and has reached 600,000 people through cultural activities around the world since it was founded in 2009. It also organizes annual summer schools, where it brings 700 youngsters from different parts of the world to various provinces of Turkey to teach them the Turkish language, culture and traditions with practical activities.

It already has 53 offices in 42 countries and also cooperates with 83 universities in 44 countries as part of the Turkology Project. In total, the institute has 135 affiliates in 60 countries.

The institution is now the head of the GPDNet and is projected to remain so until 2019.

Muslim-run messaging center wages cyberwar on Islamic State

 - The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2017

Image from article, with caption: The Sawab Center, which started in Washington but is run by the United Arab Emirates government, uses often-violent videos designed to scare Muslims away from extremism.


ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Inside a nondescript building here, moderate Muslims have been waging a bare-knuckle information war against the Islamic State for the past two years, establishing deep contacts with Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies to scrub jihadi propaganda from the internet.
The little-known Sawab Center, which had its origins in Washington but has been run by the UAE government since 2015, also circulates its own intense — and, at times, violent — videos, made by Muslims to scare Muslims away from extremist content and to promote anti-terrorist sentiment online.
Sawab’s social media pages have garnered more than 2 million followers across the Middle East, but the center’s leaders say the headway they have made in identifying and quickly removing extremist propaganda from cyberspace will have a bigger impact in the long run.
“We don’t talk about it publicly on our platforms, but we have back channels directly to Twitter and Facebook,” Sawab’s top UAE director told The Washington Times on condition of anonymity during a recent visit to the center. “If we tell them we’ve identified an account that’s spreading extremist content, they shut it down.”
“We’ve gotten about 500,000 accounts across several social media platforms shut down,” said another Sawab official, who also spoke anonymously. (The topic is considered so sensitive that officials will not make public the center’s exact location.) “Twitter is the most effective at this. Whatever account we tell them, they close it immediately. We’ve built strong trust with them.”
Neither the UAE nor the U.S. government has spoken so openly in the past about the center’s collaboration with American social media giants to censor Islamic extremist postings.  
Former President Barack Obama announced the Sawab Center’s creation in July 2015 as a joint U.S.-UAE countermessaging center, based in Abu Dhabi, to undermine Islamic State recruiting propaganda through “direct engagements” online.
At the time, the State Department faced sharp criticism over the failure of its efforts to counter extremist campaigns on social media — an effort seen as disorganized and too broadly focused to stanch the flow of young Muslim foreign fighters drawn to the Islamist State’s so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
Costly military campaigns have since reclaimed most Islamic State territory in those two nations. At the same time, the Sawab Center has quietly matured into a central counter-Islamic State propaganda hub, producing anti-terrorism videos and targeting extremist postings on Arabic-language social media. Sawab, which means “the right spiritual path” in Arabic, has churned out more than 11,000 tweets that have triggered millions of subsequent social media engagements, including many that attract extremists bent on trying to discredit the center.
“We know [Islamic State] members are following Sawab closely because they constantly try to post things on social media criticizing us,” one center official told The Times. “This is a battlefield, and we’re on the front line of an information war between the people who hate life — [Islamic State] and other extremists — and people who call for peace, development and moderation.”
U.S. officials are deeply wary of discussing Sawab’s operations. Apart from the 2015 announcement of its creation, there has been almost no mention of the center by the State Department, where officials declined to comment for this story.
Part of the reason may be that the department doesn’t want the center’s messaging to be viewed as American propaganda. But there is also a security concern, according to one U.S. official, who said the UAE government had asked Washington not to give interviews about the center because of the threat of attacks against people who work there.
UAE officials, however, willingly obliged a Times reporter who sought access to Sawab in September, asserting that its existence is a point of pride. In another break with previous practice, President Trump toured a similar “combating extremism” center that recently launched in Saudi Arabia during a visit there in May, although his administration made few public statements on the matter.
Seeking a better way
The Sawab Center was created following the dissolution of a little-known U.S. interagency messaging operation known as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC), which had originally been set up inside the State Department in 2011.
While the CSCC used Facebook and Twitter to disseminate anti-Islamic State messaging and videos, all of the content was clearly branded as having been created by the State Department.
Critics, who slammed the department for too openly engaging in propaganda, became particularly wary in May 2015 when one anti-extremism CSCC video, which had copied and repurposed grisly footage from Islamic State’s own propaganda materials, suddenly went viral and attracted nearly 1 million views on YouTube. Analysts questioned whether the move had backfired by giving new visibility to violent jihadi imagery in a video clearly identified as has having come from the State Department.
In Abu Dhabi Sawab appears to be operating free of such scrutiny. The center’s videos are all clearly branded with the Sawab name and logo, but there’s no explicit indication the content has been financed or driven by any government. Most of those working inside Sawab are under the age of 30, and their youthful energy pours out in the rawness of the center’s content — some of which is so intense American diplomats may consider it too provocative to be associated with.
One video, which circulated in April after Islamic State bombs had killed 47 people at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, opens with dark music beneath grainy security camera footage taken in the moments before one of the bombings. The footage zooms in on a veiled woman and a child before a massive blast rips through the scene. It also shows Coptic men praying and carries the message: “Terrorism kills innocents, even during prayer.”
But Sawab officials say they have their biggest impact on young Muslim social media users through disruption operations, exposing what they say is the religious illegitimacy of Islamic State propaganda. A core part of Sawab’s work involves crafting social media posts that dispute the validity of jihadi claims online as a reflection of the true Islamic faith.
“We try to expose them as the liars they are, especially when they cite religious texts as a justification for violence,” said one of the center’s officials. “The majority of our followers are between 13 and 35 years old, and that’s exactly the age that [Islamic State] is trying to recruit.”
As of September, Sawab’s half-million Twitter followers were spread across the world, with many in the Middle East and North Africa. Nearly three in 10 are following from inside Iraq, 14 percent from Yemen and 11 percent from Egypt.
The center is also “trying to serve as a global example of what governments can do to set up their own regionally focused messaging operations,” said the official, who added that Sawab is “working closely” with officials in Egypt toward establishing a similar outfit there.
“Islam is a religion of peace, compassion and inclusion, and we have to give voice to the silent majority,” the official said. “Most social media users are silent in their views. They may retweet things, but they don’t say how they truly feel.”
He added, “There are over a billion Muslims in the world, and we cannot allow them to be drowned out by hatred coming from a small number of brainwashed extremists.”

Counterinsurgency wars and the Anglo-American alliance : the special relationship on the rocks / Andrew Mumford.


pulsearch.princeton.edu

image from entry

Author:
Mumford, Andrew, 1983- [Browse]

Format:
Book

Language:
English

Published/​Created:
Washington, DC : Georgetown University Press, 2017.

Description:
pages cm

Summary note:

Andrew Mumford challenges the notion of an actual US-UK "special relationship," the most vaunted, and Mumford says, exaggerated of diplomatic associations in the post-1945 era. This book combines for the first time an analysis of US-UK interaction during major counterinsurgency campaigns since 1945, from Palestine to Iraq and Afghanistan, with a critical examination of the widely perceived diplomatic and military "special relationship." An assessment of each nation's respective private political perceptions and public diplomacy towards the others' conflicts reveals that in actuality there is only a thin layer of "specialness" at work in wars that shaped the postcolonial balance of power, the fight against Communism in the Cold War, and the twenty-first century "War on Terror." This work is especially timely given Britain's changing international relations as a result of Brexit as well as the Chilcot Inquiry about the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Bibliographic references:

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Contents:

Introduction : the origins, meaning, and dynamics of the "special relationship" -- Empires, old and new : the politics of counterinsurgency -- Anglo-American military culture and counterinsurgency -- The changing of the guard in the post-war world : counterinsurgency in Palestine and the creation of Israel -- The Malayan emergency and America's Asian Cold War -- Mayhem in the Mediterranean : counter-insurgency in Cyprus -- Middle Eastern 'winds of change' : counterinsurgency in South Arabia -- The counterinsurgency phoenix : Britain and America's war in Vietnam -- The old country : America and the Northern Irish 'troubles' -- 'Shoulder to shoulder' in the war in Iraq -- Into the hornet's nest : the 'special relationship' during the 'long war' in Afghanistan -- Conclusion : the asymmetric alliance : Anglo-American relations then and now.

Subject(s):

Counterinsurgency—United States [Browse]
Counterinsurgency—Great Britain [Browse]
United States—Military relations—Great Britain [Browse]
Great Britain—Military relations—United States [Browse]

ISBN:

9781626164918 (hc ; alk. paper)
1626164916
9781626164925 (pb ; alk. paper)
1626164924
(eb)
LCCN:
2017002310
OCLC:
973199719
Other views:
Staff view
Main Catalog


Nepal-China ties gather pace under President Xi


Ritu Raj Subedi, china.org.cn

Image from article, with caption: China opens its first combined transport service to Nepal on May 11, 2016.

Excerpt:
Nepal-China relations have witnessed accelerating momentum since President Xi Jinping assumed office in 2012. During his first five-year tenure, the two nations signed landmark deals aimed at boosting mutual cooperation, connectivity, infrastructure development, trade, economy and cultural bond.

President Xi has a diplomatic vision of "comprehensively developing relations with peripheral countries, consolidating good-neighborliness and friendship, and deepening mutually beneficial cooperation."

In his opening remarks at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing last Wednesday, he highlighted China's policies towards neighboring countries, saying relations would be deepened "in accordance with the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness."

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that President Xi unveiled as his flagship global project in 2013 has significantly defined China's foreign relations. Considered to be a project of the century, the BRI so far has brought together around 70 countries to seek shared prosperity.

China envisions Nepal as the gateway to South Asia under the BRI, and nations such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are already participating. China seeks to integrate its comparatively underdeveloped western pockets in Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan with South Asia through massive investment in roads, railways, commerce, industry and public diplomacy. ...

Exploring digital diplomacy as a ‘new diplomacy’


diplomacy.edu [original article contains a video]

image from article

Is digital diplomacy a proper area of study or a set of tools used to extend traditional diplomatic communication? How can Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) fully harness the potential of digital diplomacy? Does digital diplomacy empower civil society and social movements to the extent that they become diplomatic actors in their own right? How do social media and digital diplomacy solve the overlap of stakeholders’ interests? How do we engage with different realities promoted by social media?
DiploFoundation’s October WebDebate, moderated by Diplo’s lecturer, Ms Ginger Paque, focused on digital diplomacy. The guests, Mr Ilan Manor, PhD candidate at the University of Oxford, and Dr Katharina Höne, lecturer and research associate at Diplo, addressed the above questions.
Paque introduced the debate by highlighting that digital diplomacy, or e-diplomacy, is much broader than the use of social media by diplomats and others. It includes Internet governance debates and digital policy-making. With regard to social media and Twitter diplomacy, she questioned whether their use constitutes a distinct area of diplomacy or rather simply a set of tools used to extend diplomatic communications. Further, she wondered whether Twitter diplomacy can actually help to resolve differences and further understanding – two key ingredients of diplomacy.

Social media and MFAs

Manor focused on the advantages and limitations of using social media in diplomacy, in particular on the ways in which some MFAs have used social media successfully to overcome some of the limitations of traditional diplomacy. He began his intervention by outlining three reasons for the turn to digital diplomacy: the US desire to counter-act Al-Qaeda’s online recruitment, the Arab Spring, and the idea of practising a new public diplomacy (marked by the desire of diplomats to create long-term relations with foreign populations, as opposed to focusing only on foreign governments).
Manor used three examples to underline his case that the use of social media can overcome some of the limitations of traditional diplomacy. His first example, Virtual Embassy Iran, was launched in 2011 by the US. Since the US has no diplomatic ties with Iran, the virtual embassy is used to engage in public diplomacy and, to a certain extent, to replace a brick-and-mortar embassy. It focuses on engaging Iranian citizens via public diplomacy, advice for studying in the US, and visa-related services. In his second example, Manor referred to the launch of Israel’s Twitter embassy to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The idea here is to overcome traditional gatekeepers and communicate directly with audiences in theses countries, in order to explain Israel’s foreign policy. His third example was Palestine in Hebrew, which was also launched in 2015 and is a virtual embassy of Palestine to Israel, created with the aim of communicating a positive and credible vision for the future of the Palestinian state and its values.
Looking towards the future of digital diplomacy, Manor argued that we see a move from relationship building to creating strategic narratives, which offer an interpretative framework and aim at controlling the media environment. This also means that social media portrays different realities with different narratives promoted by various actors. Not only does this lead to contestation, it also harbours a potential problem, because ‘without reality, diplomacy cannot function’. 
Three specific future trends that he sees are investment into algorithms for social platforms to create tailored diplomacy, use of bots (dedicated social media programmes) that are deliberately employed to promote a tailored version of social reality, and an increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) in consular affairs and public diplomacy. 

Social media and civil society

In her contribution, Höne focused on civil society and social movements in digital diplomacy, paying particular attention to Twitter as a tool for communication and potential empowerment of non-state actors. She emphasised that digital diplomacy is much more than social media use, but that it is useful to explore the potential of new technology to empower new actors.
Höne used three examples to make her case. First, she discussed the so-called Twitter revolutions and their relevance for digital diplomacy.  We often hear the argument that Twitter played an important part in supporting social movements and protests in Moldova (2009), Iran (2009-2010), and Tunisia (2010-2011). Yet, she warned that technology is neutral. In other words, in almost equal measure, social media offers unprecedented opportunities for communication and connection but also control and suppression. In terms of social media as a tool for diplomacy, she argued that it allows for monitoring, reporting, and perhaps even predicting the situation in another country. Social media also emerges as a useful communication tool in times of crisis.
Second, Höne used the example of the Occupy Wall Street movement to highlight how so-called scale shifts happen on social media. As part of Occupy Wall Street, physical protests in the streets of New York and other cities around the world occurred in September 2011. It is interesting to note that the hashtag #OccupyWallStreet appeared several months earlier in July. It can be observed how this hashtag gained traction, how low-level re-tweets and re-uses occurred for a few days and then how a scale shift from 100-500 to 10 000-30 000 tweets per day happened by September. She cautioned that while there is potential for prediction, we need to keep in mind that this is not an exact predictive science. Occupy Wall Street protests could not have been predicted exactly by simply looking at the use of the hashtag. Yet, in some cases, spikes in the use of the hashtag fall together with key moments in the history of the movement.
Höne ‘s third example looked at how the Youth Climate Justice movement uses Twitter during the yearly Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Activists follow the diplomatic discussions and issue critiques, and engage in naming and shaming. This happens in situ but is also reflected on social media. The question for diplomats raised here is how to engage with these uses of social media by civil society and social movements. At the very least, monitoring can yield important insights about the direction of the discussion.
Based on questions from the audience, the participants also debated the potential for big data and AI in diplomacy, the aspects of control of social media access by governments, and the need for foreign ministries to adapt to a changed social media and communication environment. 
(The writing of this summary was supported by Mr Luka Radjenovic, an intern with DiploFoundation)

Yunus Emre Institute hosts event to discuss cultural, public diplomacy


dailysabah.com

Image from, with caption: Map showing the distribution of Yunus Emre Institute branches in and around Europe.

Turkey's Yunus Emre Institute has organized an event in Istanbul that will bring together representatives from the Global Public Diplomacy Network (GPDNet) to discuss issues related to cultural and public diplomacy and coexistence. The conference, which began yesterday in the historic Sultanahmet district, will end on Saturday.

Head of the Yunus Emre Institute, Şeref Ateş, drew attention in his opening speech to the increased significance of cultural diplomacy in "transformed public communication," saying the institute has filled the gap in Turkey's need in this regard.

"We provide wider knowledge of Turkish history, music, language, fine arts and other areas and promote Anatolian culture worldwide, which is the cradle of civilizations," Ateş said. He added that the institute has initiated many projects in coordination with GPDNet members.

The Yunus Emre Institute, which is named for the famous Turkish poet who lived from 1238 to 1320, has taught Turkish to nearly 100,000 people and has reached 600,000 people through cultural activities around the world since it was founded in 2009. It also organizes annual summer schools, where it brings 700 youngsters from different parts of the world to various provinces of Turkey to teach them the Turkish language, culture and traditions with practical activities.

It already has 53 offices in 42 countries and also cooperates with 83 universities in 44 countries as part of the Turkology Project. In total, the institute has 135 affiliates in 60 countries.

The institution is now the head of the GPDNet and is projected to remain so until 2019.