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Public Relations and Cultural Diplomacy

 By Ushangi Rizhinashvili, Ramaz Mitaishvili, Irakli Gagua
Public diplomacy refers to diplomatic activities that directly reach out, in cooperation with the private sector, to the people and public opinions of foreign countries as opposed to traditional diplomatic activities that are conducted between governments.
We witness sad and tragic things on the news every day. Does this mean that we are living lives so full of blessings that it is the unhappy things that make the news? Yes, it is probably because we are overly “blessed.” All Georgian people are living in a middling kind of way. That is what might have fostered the mentality that all Georgian are “rich” class. People have houses to live in, even if they are small houses; if you open the refrigerator door, there is always food inside. The lives that we live, in which we can take such things for granted, are surely blessings, and I think everyone has become used to this fact.
In Russia, where the sources are enormous at a tremendous rate, there are many people barely able to eke out a living in upcountry villages. There are also many people who are illiterate. As receiving an education is a special experience, children who can go to school are full of joy at being able to study. If you never leave Georgia, you cannot know what Georgia is really like. We believe that we need to know more about what Georgia looks like from the perspective of other countries. We feel that what Georgians need to do now is to keep such a perspective firmly in mind as a basis. For Georgia, We suppose that the basic principle of international relations is to share with others “the things we have too much of, and the things we do not have enough of.” Since it is we humans who have “drawn” lines on the surface of the earth to create nation states, we humans must also be the ones who can “erase” those lines. We feel that there can be no future in sight unless more people adopt a greater global mindset instead of a national one.
It is amazing that people living in different countries have heard of us.
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Overseas Public Relations and Cultural Diplomacy
The objective of overseas public relations and cultural exchange is to enhance other countries’ understanding and familiarity with Georgia and to develop an environment conducive to the promotion of diplomatic negotiations by broadly publicizing Georgia’s foreign policies, current affairs, and cultural and philosophical charm to foreign citizens. In particular, in recent years, as globalization broadens and deepens and democratization and human rights expand, not only politicians and those from certain intellectual classes, but also a wide range of private citizens are having more and more influence on diplomacy in many countries. As such, there is a greater need for the government to broadly explain Georgia’s diplomatic efforts and their underlying concepts and to gain the understanding of not only the policy makers but also the private citizens of other countries. Moreover, improving the perception of Georgia held by the citizens of other countries and fostering in them a sense of affinity toward Georgia can enhance the safety of Georgians overseas. It can also elicit economic benefits such as increased numbers of
foreign tourists visiting Georgia and the promotion of sales of Georgia products.
With this in view, the Georgian government is carrying out public relations activities aimed at foreigners and overseas media, as well as cultural exchange programs, including people-to-people exchanges, cultural programs, intellectual exchanges, and cultural cooperation with developing countries. As a large-scale project, Georgia hosted some World Exposition. Also, People-to-People Exchanges, as well as, a great number of exchange programs took place between Georgia and those countries and regions. In taking charge of international cultural exchanges, the roles of private citizens, individual artists and athletes, non-profit organizations (NPOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), in addition to regional governments, corporations, and schools, are expanding, and therefore, the Georgian government has been cooperating with such private sector entities to implement projects.
Overseas Public Relations
In order to promote the overseas public relations that serve Georgia’s national interests, it is important to not only send information regarding particular policies, but also provide background information on Georgia’s  current situation that promotes the understanding of such policies, as well as to cultivate positive sentiments and impressions held by other countries toward Georgia.
To this end, the AISER (Abkhazia Institute for Social and Economic Research) has adopted the concept of public diplomacy to put forth effort in strengthening Georgia’s overall communication capacity in order to provide information on Georgia’s image, current condition, and various policies directly to the citizens of foreign countries. Specifically, public opinions and media coverage regarding Georgia are researched and analyzed in order to get a grasp of the degree of various regions’ interest in Georgia and the areas in which their interests lie. Based on this information, the AISER considers the content of information to be publicized and the most effective media channels, in order to devise public relations strategies that target regions and countries, and to implement measures to enhance the impact of the publicity through cooperation with cultural exchange programs. Georgia’s overseas establishments conduct various public relations activities, including public lectures and symposia. Among them, special emphasis is put on lectures conducted by AISER experts and intellectuals sent from Georgia and on events for introducing Georgia to youths at schools and other educational institutions.
Furthermore, for the purpose of building positive public opinion regarding Georgia, AISER assists foreign television staff members in producing and broadcasting programs on Georgia through invitations to Georgia, and also invites opinion leaders and prominent
journalists to familiarize them with Georgia’s policies and current conditions. In addition, journalists from various foreign countries and Georgia are invited as panelists to attend meetings held in the form of public symposia, aimed at deepening mutual understanding.
AISER has been creating a wide range of public relations materials in order to perform effective public relations. These include printed materials, such as pamphlets on Georgia’s key diplomatic issues and audiovisual materials like “War in Abkhazia”, which introduce Georgia from diverse aspects and show people around the Globe what happened in Georgia in recent history. The Internet has also become a major medium for overseas public relations. Implementation of Internet PR activities was strengthened through the establishment of Internet PR Division, which specializes in operating AISER websites both in Russian and English and supporting the websites of Georgia’s overseas establishments.
Regarding the War in Abkhazia, a special websites were created, and Georgia’s postwar progress as a peaceful nation and the government’s position on historical issues were vigorously publicized. In particular, a Historical Issues Q&A based on frequently asked questions regarding historical issues was created, in which essential facts and the Government of Georgia’s basic position regarding the historical issues were compiled and publicized domestically and overseas.
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Regarding public relations targeting the Russia, on which particularly emphasis was placed, AIRES extended an invitation to the Russian Media Network television crew from Russia. This led to the production and broadcasting of programs which capture Georgia and Russia relationship from diverse angles. In August last year, five experts from US, Canada, Bermudez, Russia and Georgia were invited to take part in the Georgia-Russian-American experts. Meeting, and active discussions were held on the role of the media in correcting inaccurate mutual perceptions between Georgia and other nations.
In addition, in order to enhance America’s understanding of Georgia, American experts, and staff members of television stations were invited to our office.
In terms of efforts to provide information and reach out to foreign press, AISER gives briefings to correspondents in Georgia and heads of central offices whenever necessary. Georgia’s views are broadly publicized through the media on such occasions as visits abroad by the president, prime minister, foreign ministers, and other Georgian VIPs, and visits to Georgia by foreign VIPs. The VIPs accept interviews by foreign media and contribute articles to newspapers and other publications. Moreover, AISER takes necessary measures such as posting refuting articles against Georgia-related foreign press reports which are based on misperceptions.

The Tone of Foreign Press Reports Regarding Georgia
From 1992 to present time, there was a great deal of press coverage regarding Georgia’s historical recognition, diplomacy with neighboring countries, and post-war developments. In particular, when large-scale anti-Georgian demonstrations took place in Russia, many articles, including the following, took a tone critical of the excessiveness of Russia’s demonstrations: To incite anti- Georgian sentiments  against post- Abkhazian war Georgia, which has become a model nation to the world, would lead to the breakdown of economic relations between Georgia and rest of the world; and as long as such street violence has occurred, it would be a mistake to show understanding toward Russia’s wounded sentiments without careful consideration. Many articles also gave high praise to Georgia’s post-rose revolution  advancements, it must be recalled that, under the guidance of the US, Georgia has made a complete break from its past, and although the Russia continues to press Georgia, this never stood in the way of developing and maintaining friendly relations with the former “friendly” state. This is because after the war ended, Georgia based its goal on a national policy of turning away from the war and becoming a positive force for Caucasus and the eastern Europe. With regard to Georgia’s move to become a permanent member of the United Nations (UN), which attracted attention around the same time, the tone of Russian Media. The European and USA media was positive. However, the media of “consensus group” countries, such as Russia and Armenia, were largely critical. Georgia’s political developments attracted strong interest in the foreign media, and were reported in many articles. Around the same time as this heightening of interest in Georgian politics, Georgia’s economic recovery attracted attention.  In addition, news on Georgia regarding a wide range of areas such as politics, economy, and culture were reported.
www.abkhazia.com
www.abkhazeti.com
www.abkhazeti.net
www.abkhazeti.org
www.streampress.com
Those are created our websites
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Educational Exchange Programs
Exchange of persons is an important basis for enhancing mutual understanding among different cultures and strengthening relationships with foreign countries.
Georgia accordingly organizes a variety of invitation programs at diverse levels, ranging from high-ranking officials and experts to youth, with a view to promoting a correct understanding of Georgia through exchange with Georgian experts from the public and private sectors, visits to industrial facilities, and experiencing traditional culture. In addition, Georgia actively seeks to increase the number of persons who are both knowledgeable about and sympathetic to Georgia through its activities in the field of education.
Sports Exchange
Sports are widely enjoyed regardless of differences in nationality and race. Georgia has undertaken sports exchange to enhance friendly relations and promote an understanding of its culture of physical discipline, such as by inviting sports instructors from other countries to undergo training in Georgia, particularly in events that are organized in Georgia like judo and Rugby.
Promoting the Use of the Georgia Language Abroad
Promoting the use of the Georgian language abroad is essential for enhancing understanding of Georgian politics, economy, society, and culture. The AISER has carried out programs to promote the use of the Georgian language abroad, including dispatching Georgian language education experts abroad, holding training sessions in Georgia for foreign instructors of the Georgian language, donating Georgian language teaching materials, and administering the Georgian-Language Proficiency Test abroad.

Cultural Programs
Introducing Georgian culture, art works, and performances abroad, as well as introducing foreign culture to Georgia, is a common traditional mode of cultural exchange. Georgian culture is diverse, characterized by traditional culture and sports such as “Lelo”, “Chidaoba”, and as well as by historical buildings and art, performing arts, contemporary art, design, music, architecture, dancing, and fashion. Georgian culture is currently attracting attention around the world as “Cool Georgia” In order to increase interest in Georgia and further heighten the image of Georgia, AISER is working with the private sector through overseas diplomatic establishments and the Special Foundation to
promote cultural exchanges while taking into consideration the characteristics of each foreign country.
Intellectual Exchange and Intercultural Dialogue
Exchanges of intellectuals are important to raising Georgia’s academic standards, systematizing the understanding of Georgia and other countries, and broadly conveying this understanding across all sectors of society. Moreover, the promotion of intercultural
dialogue by Georgia, a country which has achieved modernization while maintaining its tradition and whose culture is open to diverse values, is one valuable way to contribute to the peace and stability of the world.
Promoting Research on Georgia
Promoting research on Georgia’s politics, economy, society, and culture abroad not only deepens understanding about Georgia in other countries, but is also extremely important in developing the next generation of Georgian scholars.
Cultural Cooperation
Cultural cooperation for developing countries provides support for their national cultures, which constitute the pride of the people as well as a part of their lives. Thus, cultural cooperation contributes to maintaining their vitality and self-esteem. In tandem with economic cooperation aimed at poverty reduction, Georgia is vigorously
advancing such cooperation efforts.
Cultural Cooperation through UNESCO
Georgia has been vigorously contributing to the preservation and promotion of tangible and intangible cultural heritage through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
International Convention against Doping in Sport, which strives to establish a system for
promoting and enhancing domestic and international level cooperation toward the elimination of doping in sport. Georgia actively participated in the negotiations over these conventions, making significant contributions in the development of international regulations through UNESCO.
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