The Political Future of Catalonia and the Role of Public Diplomacy. Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, George Washington University // Washington DC, United States of America
North American and Catalan experts debate about self-determination of Catalonia and the role of public diplomacy at a conference organised by DIPLOCAT in the capital of the USA.
On 16 March 2015, the Elliot School of International Affairs of the George Washington University hosted today the conference “The Political Future of Catalonia and the Role of Public Diplomacy”, which the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia organised in cooperation with the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication of the university in Washington DC.
Inauguration and Round Table: The Political Future of Catalonia: Views From a Global Perspective
The conference was inaugurated by Roger Albinyana, Secretary for Foreign and European Union Affairs of the Government of Catalonia, who acknowledged that Catalan and Spanish governments have been moving into opposite directions for a while already, with the former claiming more autonomy, while the latter is in a recentralization phase.
In the first of the two round tables, Marc Sanjaume, Visitant Professor, University of Québec in Montreal, Department of Political Science, specialist on Self-determination Processes, described the territorial model of the Spanish state and its regions to explain the Catalan process. According to Sanjaume, Spain has never been a multinational state, nor has it recognized its diversity and richness.
Francesc Vendrell, Adjunct Professor of International Relations, Johns Hopkins University and former UN Assistant Secretary-General, started by recalling that international law is not static and evolves over time. In this respect, he recalled the consensus in favor of self-determination of nations resulting from the break-up of the USSR and Yugoslavia. He also asked for a more open dialogue and less blocking on the part of the Spanish government.
Finally Paul Williams, Rebecca I. Grazier Professor of Law and International Relations, American University and Founder, Public International Law & Policy Group, started with a provocative statement: the problem of Catalonia is not Madrid, which always has a predictable attitude, nor international judges in The Hague, able to interpret international law flexibly, nor the United Nations in New York, which is traditionally opposed to self-determination but has said yes on 36 occasions. According to Williams, the real problem of Catalonia is Brussels, which has no definite opinion on the subject, but a constant head-in-the-ground strategy, and which removed the issue of self-determination after the recognition of Croatia until it reappeared so uncomfortably with Scotland. Williams expects that the issue of continuity of Catalonia in the EU is a key issue that Brussels will face, taking into account that it is impossible for the EU to disenfranchise 7 million European citizens.
Round Table: The role of Public Diplomacy in Today’s International Relations
The second round table specifically dealt with the role of public diplomacy in international relations today, with focus on the Catalan experience. Albert Royo, Secretary General, Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia was asked to explain the work done by the Council and to present the different public diplomacy tools used. Royo spoke about the number of academic conferences at universities around the world, the international visitors programme and activities in the media, among others.
Arturo Sarukhan, former Mexican ambassador to the U.S., Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy and Metropolitan Policy programs at Brookings explicitly stated that nation-states have since a long time lost the monopoly in international relations, in which now non-state entities such as NGOs or sub-state actors such as Catalonia are also very involved. According to the first ambassador in Washington to actively use a twitter account, this is possible in part thanks to new technologies.
P.J. Crowley, Fellow at the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, George Washington University and former Assistant Secretary of State/State Department Spokesman, reflected on the challenge of converting the results of soft power into real influence. Both he and Sarukhan recognized that although states relate primarily to other states, they sometimes accept to deal with non-state actors and it is then that tensions will play out. In the case of Catalonia, it is clear that the official attitude will be to "wait and see".
Sean Aday, Associate Professor, Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs and Director, Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, George Washington University, acted as host and moderator, encouraging discussion and questions by the participants.
In partnership with:
The Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication (IPDGC), established in 2005, is a leading organization in the field of public diplomacy and global communication. Based at The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs and jointly administered out of the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Institute provides a forum for faculty, students, and working professionals on these issues..
Last updated: 30 March 2015