Counter terrorism with simple and clear communication, not diplomatic speak

-     Politics and diplomacy are all about communication: PDGCF experts

The success of politics and diplomacy depends on effective communications and not using complex jargon, experts at the Public Diplomacy and Government Communication Forum (PDGCF) said.

“Politics is communication. Diplomacy and International Law is all about communication,” Dr Bernardino Leon, President of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, told delegates at the Media Security – Strategic Narratives session at the forum. “However, while crafting the communications strategy, it is important to ensure implementation of the strategy.”

While speaking about his own experience in dealing with the civil war in Spain, especially with regards to dealing with ETA militant group, he said, terrorism is about making the public vulnerable. The objective is to inflict fear and terror among the public.

“So, the first objective in dealing with terror incidents is to reassure the citizens and convince them of the government’s ability to combat terrorism. It essentially boils down to communication and how the government machineries function while delivering the essential message,” he said.

Countering Terrorism
“However, there are a few key pointers in dealing with terrorism. First, the country needs to be united against terrorism. Second, taking care of the victims and standing behind them firmly and third, it is important to gain international support in the fight against terrorism  - be it ETA, FARC, Al Qaida or Daesh.”

One issue in public diplomacy is the use of complicated language in delivering the government’s message – that often confuses the public, experts said. While government officials and diplomats use diplomatic language, militias often use simple, brief and clear narratives that attracts more people and are very effective.

“Learning from failures in my 16 years’ career in public diplomacy and counter-terrorism activities, I have drawn a few lessons and that includes simple, brief and easy to understand narratives – that’s what most of the militias use to deliver their messages to unite people or tribes,” Dr Howard Gambrill Clark, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Counter-terrorism at the National Defence College, said.

“During my time in Afghanistan and dealing with some of the anti-Taliban militias, I have seen how they communicate with their followers. Their messages are brief, simple and very clear, as opposed to complicated narratives used by diplomats and government officials dealing with them.
Simple is not Dumb
“Some people might think being simple is dumb – but I found it to be a very powerful tool in communication.”

Organized by the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO), the Public Diplomacy and Government Forum looks at a range of communication issues that governments encounter in the light of recent political, social, environmental and security developments.

The event discusses communication success stories and learnings from major campaigns, crises and events. The Public Diplomacy and Government Communication Forum brings together ministers, senior government officials, academics and experts in the fields of communications and media from the region and across the world.

Informative sessions, covering a range of topics including crisis management, national campaigns, public engagement, social media and digital diplomacy, offer strategic yet practical content that addresses the major communication themes of today. The one-day event features an engaging mix of local, regional and international speakers.

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