Public Diplomacy at the Baker Institute

The Baker Institute plays an active role in public diplomacy, and at the request of past and current U.S. administrations, the institute has advised senior officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations to provide them with a strategic game plan on public diplomacy in the broader Middle East.

In 2003, Ambassador Edward Djerejian, the institute’s founding director, was asked by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to chair the Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World. After extensive consultations with U.S. and foreign decision-makers, the group’s findings were published in the 2003 report “Changing Minds, Winning Peace,” which has become a template for how the U.S. government should conduct its public diplomacy in the Arab and Muslim world and for what should be done to bolster the image of the United States in the region.

The recommendations in the report outline strategic direction for the United States in the “struggle for ideas” in the Arab and Muslim world, defining diplomacy as the ability to “first listen and understand, and then inform, engage and influence foreign audiences.” Other recommendations were made with respect to the roles of the White House, U.S. Department of State, secretary of state, under secretary of state for public diplomacy, and human resources.

The report also examined several key instruments of public diplomacy, including the American Corners program, access to American education and exchange programs, and English and foreign language training, as well as the advancement of technology and communications resources.

As chairman of the bipartisan congressionally mandated advisory group, Djerejian worked closely with then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and then-Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes during the administration of President George W. Bush to implement many of the recommendations in the report and to reorganize the Department of State’s public diplomacy apparatus.

The findings of the report have also been presented to the Barack Obama administration. President Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo epitomizes many of the recommendations for the future direction of U.S. public diplomacy in the broader Middle East made in “Changing Minds, Winning Peace.”

In 2010, the Baker Institute formed the Public Diplomacy and Global Policymaking program, which invites Rice University students to discuss relevant issues with students in the Middle East. In 2010, the inaugural Rice cohort held a colloquium in Cairo, Egypt, with students from the American University in Cairo. In 2012, the student colloquium took place in Doha, Qatar, in conjunction with an international conference on stem cell research and policy organized jointly by the Qatar Foundation and the Science and Technology Policy Program at the Baker Institute.