chapter  26
9 Pages

Public Diplomacy à la française 1

WithFrederic Charillon

Public diplomacy has never been a natural trend in France, a state-centered country. Still, after several diplomatic setbacks and in response to new trends in international relations, France had to adapt and build new tools to promote its image and the image of its diplomacy in the world. At least six avenues have been explored: (a) the use of cultural action and audio-visual programs to promote France, its political sensibility, and its way of life, has long been considered as the essence of public diplomacy; (b) the promotion of French language—or Francophonie—as a vector of influence remains cherished; (c) digital diplomacy has been developed more recently, with undeniable progress but also with many limits; (d) partnerships with French non-state actors of international renown have been launched, although by no means comparable to practices prevalent in other Western democratic powers? (e) the use of local actors and their own international initiatives (“decentralized cooperation”) in support of the national foreign policy has increased, without reaching the levels of federal states such as Canada, the United States or Germany; (f) international cooperation in education and research, plus the action of think tanks, is a key element in France’s public diplomacy, but competition is becoming fiercer and French think tanks need to be developed; (g) a more natural French trend consists of relying on the head of state to promote the image of France. As a French idiom states: “necessary, but not sufficient.”