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Overview

Relief programs are an important vehicle through which countries attempt to build, repair and/or expand upon their image abroad. A variety of relief programs, such as disaster relief or long-term development funding after an emergency, may become vital public diplomacy tools. In the United States, humanitarian relief become the centerpiece for former Undersecretary of State Hughes' Diplomacy of Deeds initiative [1]. According to Hughes, humanitarian relief given after the 2004 Asian Tsunami and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan exemplified some of America's best public diplomacy practices. Many prominent scholars, such as Joseph Nye, joined Hughes by heralding America's efforts after the Tsunami as boosting the nation's soft power , [2], [3], [4].

At first glance, it appears that well publicized humanitarian aid does provides a boost to a nation's image. After the Tsunami and Earthquake, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that anti-Americanism in both Indonesia and Pakistan declined after receiving American humanitarian relief [5]. Despite this polling data, it is far from conclusive as to whether or not humanitarian relief is an effective public diplomacy strategy. There is little empirical research to support the correlation between increased aid and favorable attitudes. At this time, the lack of conclusive evidence demands not only further research but also skepticism towards those that trumpet humanitarian relief as a public diplomacy strategy.

Survey of the Current Literature

On May 19, 2008, the Brookings Institution hosted an event entitled "Public Diplomacy and Humanitarian Response" [6].

Controversy over Humanitarian Relief and Public Diplomacy

Organizations

Relief Efforts

Public Opinion Polls

Further Reading

The Price of Hunger, Los Angeles Times',' June 23, 2008

Candy bombing for 2008, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2008

Food diplomacy works, Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2008

Useful Links

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