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Engaging for Enduring Outcomes

Our outcomes are enduring because they are culturally tailored and acceptable from the outset. This approach is effective whether the cultural divide is due to unfamiliarity in the international community or just between domestic regions or business sectors.

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Strategic Social brings a unique, industry-best approach to achieving success in complex environments. Our robust efforts are guided by a simple process: Understand, Empathize, Engage, and Transact.

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Digital Diplomacy: Overcoming Contentious Relations and Expelled Ambassadors?

At a recent event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, panelists discussed how the rise of social media has fundamentally altered how governments interact with their citizens and the way states manage the relationships associated with traditional statecraft.

While the U.S. State Department employs a variety of social media services as part of a new “21st Century Statecraft” initiative, Twitter has been increasingly embraced by U.S. embassies to advance foreign policy objectives.  Some U.S. embassies have official Twitter accounts while others link to the personal Twitter account of their ambassadors.

The U.S. Embassy in London primarily focuses on cultural events in America and the U.K. Occasionally, non-citizens of the U.S. tweet at the embassy about passports and visas, but the embassy typically seems unable to answer specific questions. The U.S. Embassy in Paris mainly shares news articles about foreign affairs and often re-tweets messages from the State Department, White House, and U.S. Ambassador to France, Charles H. Rivkin. In general, both Twitter feeds have more outgoing content than interactions with their followers, an approach that indicates a lack of strategic listening.

However, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo demonstrates how the social media tool can be used for state engagement with local populations. Individuals and organizations frequently tweet at the embassy and the embassy regularly tweets back and attempts to facilitate conversation. For example, an Egyptian tweeted “the US will serve American interests first and foremost, then u can talk abt anything else.” The embassy tweeted back “We believe a democratic Egypt is in interests of Egypt, region, US, and world.” Dialogue conducted via tweets may be limited to 140 characters, but the responsiveness of the U.S. embassy clearly still plays an important role in the diplomatic equation.

 

 

 

 

A similar approach has been taken in Syria where diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Syria have taken a turn for the worse.  The U.S. pulled its diplomatic mission from Syria several months ago and recently expelled the Syrian diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C. While intergovernmental relations have broken down, the U.S. has still attempted to maintain a connection with the Syrian people. U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford continues to use social media to converse with Syrians and bring international attention to the violence and repression occurring in the country. The U.S. Embassy in Damascus Twitter account consistently links to messages from Ambassador Ford via his Facebook page and to his responses to questions and criticisms on U.S. policy. The use of Twitter is unique in that it offers a way to circumvent state-owned traditional media channels and to foster a direct dialogue between foreign individuals and the U.S. government on a large scale.

It is clear that Twitter is a new kind of unofficial diplomacy, in which citizens get to participate in the conduct of statecraft even if they are not involved in the traditionally closed-door world of diplomacy. Twitter can help humanize international relations, particularly in countries that have a more contentious relationship with the U.S. The technology itself is value-neutral but takes on the intentions of its users. As traditional political structures in countries like Egypt and Syria are increasingly viewed by citizens as invalid representations of their concerns, digital diplomacy may serve to tie foreign officials with local populations and, perhaps, more effectively help the U.S. achieve its foreign policy objectives.

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Elections in Egypt: Opinions from the Street

Egyptians are lining up at polling stations across their country this week to cast votes in their country’s most free presidential election in decades. They are, however, doing more than choosing a leader. The successful completion of this election will represent an enormous milestone in a country that has faced a tumultuous year following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

The past year has not been an easy one for the people of Egypt. Protests have continued nearly unabated as discontent brewed over the governing of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the military’s ruling body.  Religious tensions have flared between Muslims and Copts and the military has reportedly used deadly force to quell riots. Nonetheless, things seem to be moving forward. A constitution has been passed, a parliament has been elected, and presidential elections are being held.  In an April Gallup poll, 86 percent of respondents stated they plan to vote and 82 percent believe the elections will be honest. This represents a huge improvement in faith in elections since the fall of the Mubarak regime (up from 28 percent in 2009).

Progress is all well and good, but where are these elections heading? A recent study by the Pew Global Attitudes Survey found that even though a majority (60 percent) of Egyptians believe their laws should strictly follow the Qur’an, it is important to note that the voters are entering the polling stations with an agenda larger than religion. Western media tends to focus on the secular vs. Islamist debate but this issue may not be the most important to Egyptians.

That same study revealed that although the presence of religious parties in government and a civilian controlled military were important to many respondents, they were by no means the most important issues to the electorate. In the study’s table below, it is obvious that years of authoritarian rule have pushed issues like a fair judiciary, uncensored media, and freedom of speech to the front of people’s minds.

Another Pew poll demonstrated that improved economic conditions and law and order are “very important” to the Egyptian people, as high unemployment sparked Egypt’s transition over one year ago and maintaining security amidst an instable government has brought these issues to the fore.

It has been a challenging year for Egypt, but it seems the majority of the Egyptian people have remained confident and hopeful their country will emerge from this difficult time stronger than before.

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