Public Diplomacy Leverages Innovation To Promote Economic Growth

U.S. Department of State - DipNote Blog

Tara D. Sonenshine serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

As we advance deeper into the 21st century, emerging countries are seeking to leverage their economic strengths as foundations for political and diplomatic leadership across the world. At the same time, from challenges facing the eurozone to those in the post-Arab Spring regions of the Middle East and North Africa, global markets and economic forces are driving an ever-larger share of our foreign policy realities.

The best way for America to remain central to the world’s diplomatic leadership is to put a premium on advancing our economic statecraft, so that our foreign policy reflects the growing power of economic forces, and contributes to growth abroad and here at home.

As Secretary Clinton has said, our global challenges see no divisions between global economics and international diplomacy. Neither should our solutions. That’s why the Department of State is using 21st century economic public diplomacy tools to address strategic challenges; encourage innovation; promote open, free, transparent, and fair economic systems worldwide; and promote economic renewal at home. With these and other initiatives, we can create better markets for our goods and services.

In order to achieve these goals, we are working closely with our Foreign Service officers and locally-employed staff at embassies overseas to generate and implement innovative economic diplomacy.

For years, our public diplomacy programs have worked to build a base of knowledge among foreign publics about the U.S. economic and financial systems and the benefits of open, free, and transparent market-based economies. We do this in a variety of ways, from the U.S. Fulbright scholars who teach in economics departments abroad, to the curriculums that integrate information about entrepreneurship into English lessons.

As part of the Secretary’s Economic Statecraft agenda, we are redoubling these efforts. We are encouraging our diplomats to use 21st century economic public diplomacy tools — not only to address important foreign policy issues, but also to support our own economic renewal at home.

One such example of retooling current programs to focus on economic statecraft is our Innovation Fund for Public Diplomacy. Over recent years, it has funded more than 150 public diplomacy projects in embassies around the world. So we created a “Special Edition” of the Innovation Fund, which encourages our men and women in missions abroad to submit proposals for creative projects that would enhance the economic objectives of U.S. foreign policy.

The response has been overwhelming. U.S. Embassies and consulates on every continent sent us 96 innovative proposals — and the winning ones answered our challenge. They included empowering young entrepreneurs — men and women — from El Salvador to Ethiopia, engaging editorial cartoonists and budding artists to tackle corruption in Bosnia; and familiarizing business leaders in Zimbabwe with corporate social responsibility.

We are deploying these economic and public diplomacy tools to address even our most recent strategic challenges. In Libya, for example, we approved funding for a plan to place 15 Libyan economics and business administration students in summer internships at American and Libyan corporations in Libya. They will also create business plans for their own start ups.

Nurturing entrepreneurs to build their own societies is only part of the economic statecraft agenda. In China, where film piracy threatens the movie industries in both our countries, Consulate General Shanghai will invite young filmmakers to participate in a short film competition. The theme of this competition — the adverse economic effects of piracy — will foster awareness about intellectual property rights, particularly among youth.

What we like about these projects: They seek to leverage the aspiring talents and assets in communities across the world. By doing so, they can empower young people to fulfill their potential, strengthen their economies, and join the global community as problem solvers. With these public diplomacy efforts to strengthen U.S. foreign policy and the global economy, we can build a rising tide that can lift all boats while reinforcing our economic strength at home.


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