LONDON --- “Cultural diplomacy” has a nice ring to it; it brings to mind folk singing, dances around the Maypole, children’s finger-painting exhibitions, and other such feel-good exports that can make even global adversaries think kindly of each other, at least momentarily.

I am writing today from the world city of London.

Australia’s international policy portfolio has been left hanging after Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s surprise resignation from his post – announced from Mexico in the aftermath of the G20 meeting. Rudd’s resignation, a deliberate retaliation strike against the current Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the ruling Australian Labor Party for the unceremonious leadership coup they pulled off against him some 24 months ago, while fascinating to the political observer, is potentially devastating for Australia’s international image projection.

Before public diplomacy, there was propaganda, a term coined by Pope Gregory XV in 1622 when he founded a new college to train missionaries to be sent to Protestant Northern Europe, Asia, and the New World. In this context, it is often noted that the Pope’s intention in making his new congregation responsible for ‘propaganda fide’-literally, propagating the faith-was not to endorse a shared information policy based on deceitful practices. Rather, the connotation of this first use of the term ‘propaganda,’ and its meaning until the twentieth century, was a value-neutral one.

On 1 December 2010, the European Union (EU) inconspicuously launched the new European External Action Service (EEAS). Much of the world was unaware that anything had changed. But despite its quiet beginnings, the EEAS is actually a major innovation in the field of diplomacy as the first supranational diplomatic service of its kind. To be sure, it was not created from scratch. It builds upon the infrastructure of the 136 Commission delegations around the world that were already in place.

LONDON --- For much of the past decade, “soft power” has been touted as a means for making foreign policy more effective by emphasizing enticement rather than coercion, conversation rather than conflict. The concept has won applause, but putting it into practice has often been half-hearted, especially by nations that possess significant military muscle. They prefer macho diplomacy and remain wary of the public diplomacy that puts soft power into practice.

From Pristina to Dhaka: My hope for two countries to join hands