WASHINGTON: At the request of Congress, the State Department is launching an inquiry into its campaign to polish America's image in Muslim countries over the past two years.
The move comes just one week after a new Pew Global Attitudes survey showed that negative views of the US are on the rise in the Middle East.
Edward Djerejian, a veteran Middle East diplomat, has been tapped to assemble and lead an advisory group that will review what's been done so far and recommend changes by October 1. Most of the work Djerejian will be reviewing was spearheaded by former ad executive Charlotte Beers, who left her post as undersecretary of state for public affairs and public diplomacy in March for health reasons.
"This committee has about a three- or four-month time period to develop a paper," said Patricia Harrison, Beers' temporary replacement. She added that all efforts under review, known collectively as Shared Values, will continue during the inquiry. "Things have not stopped in terms of our focus on reaching younger, wider, and deeper populations, especially in Muslim-populated countries."
According to Djerejian, now director of the James Baker Institute for Public Policy, his group will consist largely of private-sector PR and media experts, though no one has been selected as of yet.
"My purpose is not to come out of this with just another paper on public diplomacy,"
said Djerejian, "but to have a viable instrument that can be used to manage and conduct public diplomacy at this very critical time."
A House appropriations committee made the request for the review in a supplemental spending bill. "The Committee expects the Department to establish an advisory group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim world...The group should include individuals with extensive expertise in public diplomacy, media, public relations, and the region."