FSI09: Role of Diplomats & Diasporas in Civil Resistance

The tenth presentation at the Fletcher Summer Institute (FSI) for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict focused on how diplomats can assist democratic movements and what role the diaspora plays in the democracy movement.

The Diplomats Handbook is designed to give diplomats options regarding what they can do vis-a-vis diplomatic intervention. The golden rules for diplomats include listening, respecting, understanding and sharing. Guidelines are provided on how to demarche governments (like Iran’s currently) and how to inform the media (like in Burma); providing a space for meeting; attending rallies (like Ukraine) to act as a witness; ultimately to protect (like Italian embassy in Tehran).

The diaspora plays 4 important roles in the democratic process:

  1. Act as the voice of conscience to the world.
  2. Lobby diplomats for internationa support and cooperation.
  3. Mobilize activists for grassrooots involvement both inside and outside the country.
  4. Provide psychological and financial support to the movement.

In building a partnership with the international community, diasporas call for the:

  1. Protecting human rights.
  2. Spreading democracy.
  3. Building of civil society.

Actions are also needed from foreign diplomats. These include:

  1. Promoting the cause within one’s own government.
  2. Sending a unifying message regarding human rights and democracy.
  3. Exert pressure against human rights violations.
  4. Engage democratic groups.
  5. Support grassroots independent organizations.

One participant noted that the diaspora can also play a negative role by acting as spoilers in a particular process. Cuba doesn’t really qualify but I’m struck at how different the perspectives of Cubans in Miami are from those of Cubans on the island. Once the Castros are gone, how will the relationship between the diaspora and Cubans on the island be managed?

In the case of Vietnam, the nonviolent opposition groups in the diaspora make a point to go back to Vietnam on a regular place to work side by side with counterparts in country.

Another conversation that ensued was on the role of the US State Department, and specifically how nonviolent movements can manage that relationship. In one case, a participant mentioned that the State Department has been one of the most frustrating impediments. Another participant volunteered guidance: with the State Department, you need to apply a lot of pressure and make friends with the right people in State.

One final observation emphasized the need for the diaspora to be the voice of conscience both outside the country and also within the country.

Patrick Philippe Meier

4 responses to “FSI09: Role of Diplomats & Diasporas in Civil Resistance

  1. Really important topic. I think of the Diaspora angle a lot since we work with so many groups in living in exile. Diaspora solidarity with their homeland can often be a very tricky subject, and a fine line to walk. In addition to geographic barriers, there are often issues of class and ethnicity that compound differences. So I think it’s extremely important to examine both the positive and negative ways members of the Diaspora can impact the situation in their homeland.

    I’m intrigued by the mention of Cuba … such a complicated case. The exiled Cuban community is quite diverse and not monolithic in their opinions, but it is pretty well documented how the actions of a small but powerful lobby have in many ways impeded progress on the island, at the very least enabling the US-imposed embargo to continue well past the time when the policy should have been abandoned. Whether the embargo itself is the source of problems on the island is irrelevant so long as the government can use it to expose Yankee (and Diaspora) meddling and use it as a scape-goat. The majority of Cuban-Americans now favor ending the embargo, but the vocal minority still holds much sway. The Cuban government has proven resilient in many ways to outside pressure, and I’m not sure I’d count Cuba out as an example of how a Diaspora has negatively affected the human rights and grassroots movements inside a country.

    Vietnam I am much less familiar with, but the example you cited is great – I’d love to know more. I recently heard a fascinating segment on this American Life (episode Turncoat – http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?episode=381) that tells the story of the first Vietnamese councilwoman of San Jose, Ca. When she made a decision that angered her Vietnamese constituents, they called her Communist and she faced widespread opposition. It’s a fascinating look at a Vietnamese community in the US.

    Finally, a brief and inspiring anecdote from Sept. 2007, when the monk-led protests were happening in Burma. Not only did the Diaspora play an important role in sharing information, I had Burmese friends in the US who were getting calls from the inside alerting them where the protests were happening, and they would then call and tell other friends inside who otherwise had no way of knowing how to join the marches.

  2. Pingback: Brokekid.net » Monkey Vs Robot – My Weekly Idealist post

  3. what are the roles of diplomats in jurisprudence?

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