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Saturday, 19 April 2014 19:09

#DigitalDiplomacy Town Hall

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Diplomatic Courier is excited to present the Diplomacy+SocialGood Summit in Washington, DC on April 22nd, bringing together embassy communicators, public diplomacy experts, and technology innovators to discuss the future of diplomacy and technology for social good. Watch the livestream here.

But we don't want the conversation to stop there! Join us here until April 25th to ask our panelists in this town hall your questions about digital diplomacy, technology for social good, and the ways our world is changing.

When you think of early adopters of technology, innovative designs to streamline manufacturing, or having thousands of songs in your pocket, you typically think of private sector ingenuity. Imagine if you could take a dash of that private sector ingenuity, blend it with the entrepreneurial appetite for risk and infuse it into government programs and initiatives. What types of risk would you see?

On April 5, 2014, 11 million citizens are eligible to vote in Afghanistan’s third presidential election—arguably the country’s most important election since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. One thing is certain: the next elected president will not be current president Hamid Karzai, who is unable to run due to term limits. Karzai won the previous two elections (amidst alleged voting fraud in 2009) after being appointed by the National Assembly in December 2001. The presidential and vice presidential candidates at the forefront include an ophthalmologist, a former World Bank advisor, a former foreign minister, and several ex-jihadi warlords.

Singapore’s 100-foot concrete supertrees tower over Gardens by the Bay, part of the government’s attempt to create "a city in a garden." These mammoth steel and concrete structures serve as cooling ducts for conservatories, generate solar power, and collect rainwater. But supertrees are just one example of Singapore’s horticultural innovations. Singapore’s strides in modern agriculture herald the beginnings of a green revolution—including the Hort Park rooftop gardensand Sky Greens, one of the world’s first commercial vertical farms.

“Carpe Diem”—seize the moment, seize the day! It was not the set of the “Dead Poets Society”, but rather on one of the back seats of Air Force One that two warriors had this aphorism on their mind for U.S. national interests and for world peace. They discussed normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Both had served in Vietnam; one had been a resident of the famous “Hanoi Hilton” for five and a half years and the other was a swift boat captain in the troubled waters of Vietnam and Cambodia. As U.S. senators, John McCain and John Kerry both ran unsuccessfully sought to become president. They were, however, successful in their goal of helping normalize U.S. relations with Vietnam. On February 11, 2014, both leaders spoke at the 20th anniversary of the normalization of trade relations between Vietnam and the U.S.

The inaugural of Myron Belkind as the 107th President of the National Press Club (NPC), held on January 25, 2014, was a diplomatic event par excellence. Club photographer Noel St. John captured the occasion in a series of stunning photographs. Twenty-five of the diplomats who attended the event, which was given an international theme to reflect Belkind’s global career assignments, were ambassadors from various countries. Roger Isaacs of the South African Embassy sung beautiful renditions of the national anthems of both the United States and South Africa.

Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:00

The Victim Left Behind

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While recent efforts to acknowledge that children trafficked for sex are victims are commendable, they beg the question: what about grown women who are also sold for sex? While there may be some sympathy for a 13-year-old girl who is pimped on the streets by her 24-year-old “boyfriend,” we scoff at a woman who is barely 18 and women much older who are in the same predicament. Why are we so much more willing to view minors who are trafficked as victims, but not the minors who are trafficked for months and then years until they know no other life and feel they have no other option?

Village life has never been easy in China, especially in the mountainous central and western regions, mostly arid and poor, which were once the refuge of Mao’s communist movement. This has changed little over the past three decades. It appears that China’s villages have fallen victim to the very policies of economic reform and opening up that have lifted over a hundred million people from poverty since the 1980s. Many villages, still hidden from the outside world, shrink and wither as more young people go off to work in city factories.

The Mongolian economy, not long ago the darling of the global investment community, has hit another rough patch—with a bank collapse, slumping commodity exports, a devaluing currency, and a sharp slide in government bond prices all conspiring to produce a string of bad news. Mongolia’s recently re-elected president has reacted with dismay, and financial firms that track Mongolia are sounding alarm bells. Indeed, this October the government called an extraordinary session of parliament, the same month that the World Economic Forum hosted a special session in Ulaanbaatar to discuss possible solutions to Mongolia's economic travails.

These are exciting days for those of us who teach and practice public diplomacy. Aimed at establishing mutually beneficial relationships between governments (as well as non-governmental organizations) and citizens of foreign nations, our field is viewed as transformative by some, while somewhat idealistic by others. With the stated goal of "winning the hearts and minds" of foreign publics, the U.S. government has invested large sums of money into a variety of international engagement programs.

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