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  • Writer's pictureYunus Emre Institute

TÜRKİYE CONFERENCE: The Role of Public Diplomacy in Turkish Foreign Policy

The Yunus Emre Institute co-hosted the Türkiye Conference with the Master of Public

Diplomacy Program (MPD) at USC Annenberg. The conference took place at USC

Annenberg Wallis Hall on Friday, September 29th. The event covered key academic

concepts in the field of public diplomacy and its impact on Türkiye’s foreign policy. The

panels and speeches came from highly educated individuals from many different

backgrounds of experience.

Professor Dr. Banks, the MPD Director, opened the conference by hoping to open a space for free dialogue and debate throughout the conference and beyond. Then, our president, Prof. Dr. Şeref Ateş welcomed the audience to the conference on behalf of the Yunus Emre Institute. With the academic discourse throughout the conference, his opening remarks about public diplomacy “stretch[ing] out to the world,” and it not occurring “behind closed doors,” relates back to our goal as an institution, which is to connect people through language, food, history, and many other cultural items. We continue this mission in over 65 countries with 86 cultural centers all around the world.

This speech led right into our keynote speaker, Türkiye's Ambassador to the United States, Hasan Murat Mercan, sharing his personal experience with public diplomacy in his career as a diplomat and professor. He started his speech by explaining that establishing strong “communication channels” is incredibly important, because “without communication channel[s] we cannot do any diplomacy.” This was followed by him quoting the founder of Türkiye, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, “Peace at home and peace in the world.” He explained that on the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Türkiye, we still have the same approach in the global dynamic. He finished his speech by mentioning “the more connected we are through communication, the more we connect culturally.” He mentioned these cultural connections can lead to politicians easing tensions and starting cooperation around the globe, which is why he emphasized interconnectivity and open dialogue as being key components for success in today’s society.

This speech then transitioned into the first academic panel. The guests, former Ambassador to Türkiye and Iraq James Jefferey, USC MPD Professor Dr. Nick Cull, and Woodbury University Media Studies Department Professor Dr. Senem Cevik, all gave their informed opinions on Turkish foreign affairs from the academic perspective. A common theme in this panel was Türkiye's growing influence around the world through their public diplomacy. They all highlighted the different ways Türkiye shares its culture globally. For example, Ambassador Jefferey discussed how Türkiye navigates its own national interests in different regions of the world depending on what country they are cooperating with. Dr. Cevik also pointed out Türkiye’s efforts to expand beyond the comforts of the EU, and offer more flights and new channels to the global south. Dr. Cull pointed out “the importance of deeds…it [diplomacy] isn't just about what you say, it's about what you do.” Either through heritage diplomacy, gastro diplomacy, sports diplomacy, or more, they all discussed how Türkiye influences their presence in the diverse, multipolar global field, both economically and politically. Between the panels, a brief intermission filled with Turkish cuisine for all the guests to enjoy and they had an opportunity to have a taste of Turkish cuisine, and to have a

dialogue about the culture and diplomacy.

After the short break concluded, the final panel began. This panel’s guests, The Yunus

Emre Institute USA’s executive director Gökhan Coşkun, CEO of O3 Media Saner Ayar,

and MPD students Demme Durrett and Yara Alas, continued on with the educational

discourse. Mr. Ayar spoke on the constantly growing influence Turkish media has had on

people across many different cultures globally. On the other hand, Mr. Coskun discussed

the Yunus Emre Institute’s recent areas of focus for public diplomacy. The academic

exchange trip that the institute hosted for the MPD students is just one example of the

many accomplishments recently made. The students ended the panel with their personal

experiences on the trip, and their thoughts on the future of public diplomacy for Türkiye.

Ms. Alas mentioned that “cultural diplomacy has historically… not been given enough importance,” in diplomatic matters as a whole, so continuing to strengthen these kinds of

programs for cultural exchange and using other forms of public diplomacy is paramount for influencing foreign publics moving forward. Dr. Banks concluded the conference and highlighted that the event was designed by and for the students to show what organizing a real world public diplomacy event was like. As the guests left the venue, they were all given a gift bag with Baklava, Turkish tea, and a ceramic dish, as a souvenir of the event.


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