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Personal Statement

个人陈述 Statement of Purpose

 
 
 

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Personal Statement 公共外交范文 - Princeton  

2009-09-20 16:51:19|  分类: 国际关系 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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While there is still no commonly accepted definition of Public Diplomacy, the basic role
of Public Diplomacy, as defined by the USIA1 , remains: “to promote the national interest
and the national security of the United States [or of any other country] through
understanding, informing, and influencing foreign audiences.” But the priorities of
foreign policy are constantly in flux, as are Public Diplomacy initiatives within this context.
Governments must first understand the foreign audiences whom they hope to influence.
Our international and multilateral reconstruction efforts in conflict or post-conflict
countries and regions have painfully demonstrated the need for knowledge of local
languages, customs and networks, outside the framework of official government
structures.

Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia are only the most obvious recent examples
which demonstrate the importance of “the local factor” in building sustainable peace
through national reconciliation and through promotion of democracy from within. In Arab
and Muslim countries, social networks, some with strong religious influence, remain the
most reliable and influential providers of community services from health to education,
but their importance has been denigrated by their own authoritarian or semi-authoritarian
governments, and misunderstood or ignored abroad.
This became clear to me during my first diplomatic posting, in 1997 in Tirana. Albania
was among the poorest European countries, and Tirana was considered a hardship post.
My application for the post had been uncontested; no one else had applied.
The break-up of the Soviet Union had been followed by the collapse of Albanian
Communism, and President Sali Berisha was legally and democratically elected in 1992.
However, a liberal democratic parliamentary state could not easily be superimposed on
the chaos left by the doctrinaire communist Enver Hoxha’s forty years of unpredictable

 

and despotic rule. Berisha was unable to stabilize political life or the economic
underpinnings of civil society.
When I arrived in Tirana in the early spring of 1997, Albania’s hesitant transition to a
liberalized economy was brutally interrupted by the collapse of the national pyramid
investment funds, endorsed by government officials in the mid-1990s. These pyramid
funds have been characterized as “Ponzi schemes” – named for the American broker,
Charles Ponzi, who achieved a dubious fame in the 1920s as a purveyor of foreign
postal coupons, promising fabulous rates of return to his investors.
Lured by get-rich-quick promises, approximately two-thirds of the Albanian population of
3.4 million put their money in these pyramid funds, which were actually fronts for money
laundering and weapons dealing. In March 1997, the inevitable collapse of the
investment schemes meant a total loss of $1.2 billion – more than half of the country’s
gross domestic product. Widespread rioting and violence followed, completely
undermining the unstable government of Sali Berisha.

 

 

Secret ammunition camps were looted: more than a million light and heavy weapons,
plus ammunition, fell into the hands of the civilian population, including children.
Meanwhile, the so-called “Security Forces” which were sent into the streets to suppress
the uprising, instead took part in the civil disorder and made it worse. Owning a weapon
– and using it – symbolized virility, power – and despair. During my time there,
approximately 2,000 people were killed. I witnessed some extraordinary scenes; on one
occasion, in the Parliament, while we foreigners stood behind bullet-proof windows and
watched in horror, some of the parliamentarians fired at each other. And on election day
in the autumn of 1997, some Albanian families went to the polls – armed to the teeth.
Public unrest led to the overthrow of the government, and the country descended into
anarchy and a near civil war. A state of emergency was proclaimed and a curfew
imposed. Many Albanian government officials disappeared: some hid in the re-
established local fiefdoms of their family clans; some fled the country; a few even locked
themselves up for safety in the now-emptied prisons. The Austrian Ambassador
barricaded himself in the Embassy and sent most of his staff home, fearing for their lives.

 

With no government in place, most shops and offices closed, and normal lines of
communication inside the country disrupted, Austria’s diplomatic activities were reduced
to survival strategies. Our immediate concern was not diplomacy – “public” or otherwise
– but securing Austrian citizens, mostly business people and representatives of NGOs,
who were scattered across the country, some in the very remote and inaccessible
northern mountains. This was more than a month before the first multinational forces
under UN mandate arrived in Albania. Our own security personnel consisted of four
Austrians who were confined to the premises of the Embassy and immediate
surroundings. Many roads were blocked by local gangs, and moving around the country
was risky.
In these circumstances, we had to find new avenues of communication to reach
Austrians in Albania. We quickly learned how to tap into local informal networks, making
contact with influential individuals with good connections – for instance, the clan systems
in the traditional fiefdoms. These clan systems had withstood every attempt by the
Albanian communist regime to eradicate them, and now, in this general climate of
insecurity, they played a stabilizing role, providing their members with the means of
survival: above all, food and personal protection.

 

It was not always easy to connect with the family clans because we were confined to
Tirana, but some of our local staff proved to be seasoned middlemen and drew upon
their own clan relations. On several occasions we succeeded in securing our fellow
Austrians with the assistance of armed clan members, who accompanied them across
their own territory and assured a safe transit across neighbouring fiefdoms through
traditional means: bribes, and respect for the ancient, unwritten code of hospitality and
honor.
Understanding this code of honor and, more importantly, the unwritten legal system
known as “Kanun” on which it rested, became the key to our communication. The Kanun
originated about 600 years ago; at that time, it regulated the daily life of rural Albanian
communities of the north. Based on the principles of arbitration and mediation, Kanun is
administered through highly respected clan chieftains, mostly men – but occasionally by

 

women, who become eligible by swearing an oath of virginity, dressing as men, and
assuming a masculine role in society. Even today, these chieftains judge and punish
offenses, from petty thievery to murder, rape, and adultery, even regulating the conduct
of the not-entirely-repudiated custom of the blood feud. In the extraordinary
circumstances of Albania in 1997, this traditional system functioned as a replacement for
the disintegrated state-run control mechanisms, especially in northern Albania, the
traditional stronghold of Kanun.
The historically good standing of Austria – Albanians constantly reminded us of the
Austrian Empire’s support for Albania’s independence in 1912 – proved an asset in
gaining support from these influential clan leaders, whose consent is essential to
everything that happens in their fiefdoms. The goodwill of these clan leaders proved
indispensable in securing the safe conduct of Austrian citizens.
*****
I believe that the case of Albania in 1997 is of interest beyond my personal experience,
because it points to tools which Public Diplomacy can employ to implement unpopular
but necessary reforms in countries lacking stable democratic institutions.

The Albanian situation in 1997 was clearly not a typical setting for the exercise of Public
Diplomacy in the usual sense, which – according to the above-cited USIA definition –
generally operates “through publications, motion pictures, cultural exchanges, and radio
and television”. But it illustrates the need for foreign policy specialists to become familiar
with traditional social networks and customs. There is surprisingly little expert knowledge
of the practice of Public Diplomacy in countries in transition, and thus, scant literature on
the subject.
Mediation through traditional instruments of Public Diplomacy presupposes a stable
internal environment in which countries have functioning democratic institutions and
more or less independent media. The Public Diplomacy initiatives used in non-
democratic states, as was the case during the protracted and ultimately successful battle

against Communism waged by US counter-propaganda in the Soviet Union, also would
not fit the Albanian scenario. Albania was, and still is, considered a country in transition,
where political life and social customs are still dominated by two streams of culture
which predate its devastating but relatively short-lived experience with Communist rule –
the generalized European liberal nation-state culture of the 18th and 19th centuries, and
the particular, traditional culture of the Ottoman Empire – a complex network of personal
relations and a highly developed sense of social responsibility, which are unrelated to
the formal government.
Take the case of Kosovo, whose population consists of approximately 90% ethnic
Albanians. After the end of the Yugoslav war in 1999, Kosovo was administered by the
United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). Within the framework
of UNMIK’s civil crisis management program, international judges were sent to Kosovo -
then still part of Serbia – to try war criminals on their own territory. It soon became
evident that Albanian defense attorneys repudiated the authority of foreign jurisprudence,
and they did not cooperate. One obstacle among many was that Albanians who had
been part of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army), a guerrilla group fighting for Kosovo’s
independence from Serbia, and who were now standing trial for killing Serbian civilians –
sometimes by stoning – were perceived not as war criminals but as local heroes who
fought in a just cause. Under these circumstances, it was difficult for the general
population to accept either the concept of “individual guilt” as distinct from “the fight for
freedom” or that crimes had to be properly prosecuted by international judges.

A workable solution to this seemingly intractable problem was found when the foreign
judges began to tap into the traditional judiciary structures in Kosovo – again, the Kanun.
By engaging the widely accepted and respected Albanian village mediators, by including
their views into the preparations for the arbitration process, in particular heeding their
emphasis on the need to eradicate the causes of conflict – and by spreading word of this
cooperation through the media covering the trials – the authority of UNMIK’s foreign
judges grew over time.
While it is unlikely that Western policy-makers will draw their inspiration from traditional
Albanian customary law, it is worth mentioning that the idea of prioritising reconciliation

and elimination of the sources of a conflict over the punishment of the “culprit” is
becoming increasingly recognised. It has led to various reforms in the European Union
as well as in various European countries. The mechanism of alternative dispute
regulation, for instance, allows for mediation in certain types of conflict: consumer
litigation, conflicts between tenants and landlords, or conjugal conflicts.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that the decision to reach out to existing social
structures abroad in a context such as I have described is not merely a possible tool of
Public Diplomacy, but should be a foreign policy priority. Especially in countries
undergoing a slow and difficult transition to democratic rule, experience in the field and
knowledge of local background is required for the successful implementation of Public
Diplomacy, which tries to “understand, inform, and influence foreign audiences.” This
knowledge is so critical to the success of our reconstruction efforts that it should be part
of the policy planning process of foreign policy from the very beginning, and should also
be incorporated in the evaluation of the consequences of specific policy initiatives.
The topic of Public Diplomacy interests me deeply enough to make it my object of
research, and I am looking forward to an exciting exchange of views.

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