effectiveness and value for money
101. Last year, Lord Carter of Coles completed a
review of the Government's public diplomacy work.
In light of his findings, we decided to hold a short inquiry into
public diplomacy and reported our conclusions to the House on
7 April 2006.
The Carter Review recommended that public diplomacy work, funded
through Government, should be defined as:
Work aiming to inform and engage individuals
and organisations overseas, in order to improve understanding
of and influence for the United Kingdom in a manner consistent
with governmental medium and long term goals.
102. The Carter Review found that a need existed
for a new framework for the oversight of government-funded public
diplomacy work, recommending the establishment of a smaller Public
Diplomacy Board and a new Public Diplomacy Unit within the FCO
to support the new Board. The Government accepted this recommendation.
The new Public Diplomacy Board is now responsible for co-ordinating
and appraising the Government's overall public diplomacy effort.
A member of the British Council's staff has been seconded to the
FCO to head the new Public Diplomacy Unit which supports the Board.
103. The new Board is chaired by Lord Triesman of
Tottenham, the Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for
public diplomacy, and he is supported by an independent vice-chair.
Other Board members include the Director of the BBC World Service
(who has observer status in view of the BBC's editorial independence),
the Director-General of the British Council, senior officials
from the Foreign Office and a further independent member with
relevant experience and expertise of public diplomacy work.
The Board has adopted Lord Carter's definition of public diplomacy.
The remaining members of the defunct Public Diplomacy Strategy
Board such as DFID and UKTI have regrouped as an advisory panel
called the Public Diplomacy Partners Group, under the chairmanship
104. In our Report on Public Diplomacy, we agreed
with Lord Carter that the Government's public diplomacy strategy
should be aligned with the FCO's strategic global priorities and
the Government's medium and long term goals. We also came to the
conclusion that more needed to be done to measure the impact and
effectiveness of the British Council's, the BBC World Service's
and the FCO's public diplomacy work to account for and appraise
the public funding they receive.
105. We shared Lord Carter's opinion that a government
Minister chairing the Public Diplomacy Board would in future bolster
accountability to Parliament for government-funded public diplomacy
expenditure and that the Board's reduced membership would by nature
make it a more focussed and effectual mechanism for co-ordinating
All the same, we accepted wholly the importance and the significance
of the BBC World Service's editorial independence and the British
Council's operational independence from Government as we made
clear to the House.
In response to our Report, the Government agreed that these
constitutional principles of independence for both the BBC World
Service and the British Council respectively should be preserved.
106. In April, Lord Triesman wrote to inform us that
the Board had embarked on the task of setting a list of priority
countries for government-funded public diplomacy activity and
that it had begun formulating specific objectives within pilot
Public Diplomacy Board is of the view that public diplomacy resources
should be targeted particularly "on those countries which
are of most relevance to the UK and where public diplomacy can
make the most significant difference."
As a result the Board stated that resources would be allocated
geographically and thematically in line with the Government's
We agree with this approach.
107. When the BBC World Service appeared before us,
we asked its Director, Nigel Chapman, what changes he thought
were likely in the way the World Service operated in the advent
of the strengthened Public Diplomacy Board. Mr Chapman did not
see the new Board leading to "a fundamental shift in resources
and priorities", but thought it was legitimate for public
diplomacy partners to sit round together to be clear that money
being spent on public diplomacy was spent "in the right places"
and "in the right way".
Mr Chapman went on to say:
what you would hope would come out of it [the
new Board], standing back now not as a World Service Director
but as somebody who is concerned about spending all that public
money, you would be looking for alignment, definitely in terms
of geographical priorities, it strikes me. It would be pretty
strange if one organisation is saying it is really important that
we spend more money and have greater impact in the Middle East
and the Islamic world and then another organisation is spending
loads of money in other places and is not realigning its effort
and energy to broadly fit within those strategic priorities [
That does not mean that each organisation does not have its own
job to do but you do need, I think, to be aware of the overall
108. We put the same question to Sir David Green,
Director-General of the British Council. He believed that the
initial signs were good in terms of the way partners were co-ordinating
their work but emphasised that each organisation had "different
things to bring to the table".
Sir David told us:
we are not trying to homogenise public
diplomacy but we are recognising that the British Council has
something different that it can offer to the BBC World Service.
I think there is also recognition that it is a more complex area
of activity than perhaps was first thought. I welcome that because
public diplomacy is very nuanced and it is a complex activity.
What progress we [the Board] have made so far is to start talking
about how we interpret the international priorities in terms of
geographical priorities and see which organisations can best contribute
in those countries.
109. Another key finding of the Carter Review was
the need for an improved central system to measure the impact
of public diplomacy activity in order to assess overall performance
in terms of value for money.
The development of effective systems to do this will be a substantial
challenge. On this point, the FCO recognises that it is very difficult
to measure the effectiveness of public diplomacy because of it
being "often indirect and long-term in nature" and concedes
that it needs to do better on this.
We were told by Dickie Stagg, the FCO's Director-General of corporate
affairs, that there were some very important and interesting questions
to be examined about a large amount of FCO expenditure, both internal
to the FCO and money spent by its NDPB partners.
110. In 2005, the Carter Review even considered recommending
that the ring-fencing around the BBC World Service's and British
Council's grant-in-aid be removed but concluded that "the
better approach was to make an attempt to improve matters through
improved collective arrangements".
111. In line with Lord Carter's Review, the FCO commissioned
a consultancy exercise, which was taken on by River Path Associates,
to scope the design and development of common performance measures
to assess the public diplomacy work undertaken by the FCO, the
British Council and the World Service.
It is envisaged that any new central measures would complement
rather than replace the measures already employed by the BBC World
Service and the British Council.
Clearly, any new means
of measuring overall performance will need to be worth its cost.
112. We recommend that in its response to this
Report the FCO set out the progress made so far by the new Public
Diplomacy Board on identifying geographical priorities, target
audiences, priority themes, action plans and measurable outcomes
for public diplomacy work. We further recommend that the FCO explain
how the Government proposes to measure the overall value and effectiveness
of its public diplomacy expenditure and how it intends to assess
the opportunity costs of public diplomacy expenditure vis-à-vis
work undertaken by the Government and its Non-Departmental Public