The founding members of NATO understood the importance of informing public opinion. As early as August 1950, a modest NATO Information Service was set up and developed in the Autumn with the nomination of a Director. The service – similarly to the rest of the civilian organization of the Alliance – did not receive a budget until July 1951 and effectively developed into an information service in 1952 with the establishment of an international staff headed by a Secretary General (March 1952), to which the information service was initially attached.
The Committee on Information and Cultural Relations (CICR)
By that time, two entites existed: the Working Group on Information Policy and the Working Group on Social and Cultural Cooperation. These Working Groups were merged in 1953 to form the Committee on Information and Cultural Relations (CICR). The CICR was the precurser to the existing Committee on Public Diplomacy.
The role of this committee was to address the challenges of communicating the Alliance’s policies to the public. It held regular meetings with the NATO Information Service to exchange and share information on the development of NATO and national information and communication programmes. It was, nonetheless, made clear from the start that even if the NATO Information Service was later to develop into a coordinated service where programmes would be disseminated NATO-wide, it would never supersede national responsibilities and efforts in the information field. The CICR and the representatives’ respective countries would continue to work in tandem with the International Staff to raise public awareness and understanding of NATO’s policies and objectives.
The Committee on Public Diplomacy (CPD)
The CICR changed its name to the Committee on Public Diplomacy in 2004 when the Office of Information and Press became the Public Diplomacy Division, therefore better reflecting its aims and objectives.
The CPD continues the functions of the CICR, giving advice on the methods and means used to communicate NATO policies and activities to a broad range of audiences with the goal of increasing the level of understanding and awareness of the Alliance.