Time: October 04, 2018
One week ago, the Secretary General of the International Communication Association (ICA), an agency affiliated with the United Nations, announced that the largest hall at the ICA was named after Saudi Arabia. He made the announcement while attending a function at the headquarters of the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) in Riyadh. The Secretary General also announced the signing of a number of agreements with leading Saudi agencies working for the creation of smart cities and innovation centers. The UN official also discussed with Saudi officials the role they should play with those who are concerned with the communications and IT sectors around the world.
This event is an important indication of the efforts being made to ensure Saudi Arabia’s representation in international organizations at a time when the corridors of the ICA at the UN are witnessing intense competition among member states to seize the opportunity to have the hall named after their respective countries. However, the Saudi team, which represented a group of youth of high caliber and proficiency, was able to conduct serious negotiations that turned the decision in their favor.
This incident also raises the question of the preparedness of our representatives in international organizations in exercising the influence that is appropriate for the new image of Saudi Arabia, along with the nation’s aspirations and ambitions. When examining the mechanisms used by countries to exercise influence within these organizations, we find that there are three significant strategic skills that are of prime importance in this regard. They are the capacity to create consensus, lobbying and the ability to create advocacy groups whose purpose is to build opinions and positions in one’s favor.
In order to achieve these strategic goals, Saudi representatives should focus on building a deep culture of work techniques and strategies in these organizations by employing these skills with the support of key factors such as politics, history, economy and community.
The naming of the ICA hall after Saudi Arabia emphasizes the significance of activating a concept of public diplomacy that keeps pace with all types of representation of the Kingdom in international organizations. This aspect was not given due significance in the agenda of the Kingdom’s representation in the past.
Hence, this is the importance of the naming of the hall, a remarkable step that has been taken for the first time since the formation of the United Nations in 1945. This hall will host more than 500 people and will be a real example of the consolidation of the Saudi trademark that will be mentioned in any publications concerned with the topics being discussed in the hall.
It is also important that there should be coordination among all sectors representing Saudi Arabia abroad so as to unify messages about the Kingdom through proper communication channels. This will help eliminate any confusion and avoid the waste of money. The best way to achieve success in communications is by means of consistency and coordination.
It is also a matter of prime importance to concentrate on developing qualified diplomats capable of representing the Kingdom in international bodies and activating public diplomacy. The portrayal of global media was, for example, in some cases in the past instrumental in creating erroneous notions about the Kingdom.
However, I am not ruling out the role of media as an influential factor. This is especially evident in the case of media in Europe and the United States. Along with utilizing the influence of media, public diplomacy should also be utilized to the maximum benefit of the Kingdom. There should be a strong representation of Saudi Arabia in international bodies to achieve this goal.
Public diplomacy has to be used as an effective weapon, and South Korea is a good example of a country that has done so. Hence, it is essential to employ digital diplomacy in various languages as the United States has focused on in the recent past.
Zaid Al-Shakri is a specialist in journalism and social media. Follow him on Twitter:@alshakri