Committee on Public Diplomacy (CPD)
The Committee on Public Diplomacy (CPD) acts as an advisory body to the North Atlantic Council (NAC) on communication, media and public engagement issues. It makes recommendations to the NAC on how to encourage public understanding of, and support for, the aims of NATO. In this respect, the Committee is responsible for the planning, implementation and assessment of NATO’s public diplomacy strategy.
To support its objectives, members of the CPD share their experiences on national information and communication programmes and the perception of their respective publics regarding the Alliance and its activities. The CPD discusses, develops and makes recommendations regarding NATO’s public diplomacy strategy and activities, where appropriate, in conjunction with national information experts.
The CPD was created in 2004, succeeding the Committee on Information and Cultural Relations (CICR), which was one of the Organization’s first committees to be created. This reflected the importance given to information and awareness-raising by NATO’s founding members. A modest information service was created as early as 1950 and was supported in its efforts by the creation of the CICR in 1953.
Role of the Committee on Public Diplomacy
The Committee on Public Diplomacy (CPD) steers the planning, implementation and assessment of NATO’s public diplomacy strategy and advises the NAC on relevant issues. It analyses the current and long-term challenges in encouraging public understanding of, and support for, the aims of Alliance.
Members of the CPD discuss and exchange views and experiences on national information and communication programmes, in addition to sharing information regarding public perception of the Alliance. Together, they identify potential collective actions and, whenever needed, coordinate national actions to raise public awareness and understanding of NATO’s policies and objectives.
To improve and reinforce information dissemination in NATO partner countries, the CPD also designates Contact Point Embassies (CPEs). Within these non-NATO countries, the CPD agrees on an embassy from a NATO member country to act as the point of contact for information about the Alliance in the respective host country. Each CPE serves in this position on a rotational basis.
In addition to its role in forming the policies that determine the way in which the Alliance communicates with the public, the CPD also maintains a collaborative dialogue with non-governmental organisations such as the Atlantic Treaty Association.
Representatives from each of the NATO member countries constitute the CPD, with the Assistant Secretary General of the Public Diplomacy Division serving as the Chair and the Public Information Advisor representing the Director of the International Military Staff.
For reinforced meetings, communication experts from the capitals of member countries or invited third parties also contribute to CPD discussions. During committee meetings, the CPD examines and approves an annual Public Diplomacy Communications Strategy or equivalent. The Committee may also make additional reports or recommendations to the North Atlantic Council as necessary.
The CPD meets regularly, based on a calendar of planned NATO activities, in addition to coming together as needed in response to unexpected events. As regular meetings are usually limited to member countries, the CPD also meets in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) format in order to allow participation by representatives from partner countries. Periodically, representatives from Contact Point Embassies in partner country capitals also attend CPD meetings.
The CPD reports to the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s principal political decision-making body. It is supported by staff from the Public Diplomacy Division and does not have any subordinate committees under its remit.
Evolution of the Committee on Public Diplomacy
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 organisation 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 entities existed: the Working Group on Information Policy and the Working Group on Social and Cultural Co-operation. These Working Groups were merged in 1953 to form the Committee on Information and Cultural Relations (CICR). The CICR was the precursor 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.