If war is too important to leave to the generals, foreign policy
may be too important to leave to the guys in the striped pants.
Several countries are trying new ways to involve their citizens
international issues - especially the "new" issues less easily
addressed through traditional channels, such as immigration,
and the environment.
Canada has established itself as a leader in this field,
called "public diplomacy."
In round-table discussions and other forums, knowledgeable
citizens have joined politicians and diplomats not only to consult
but actually to make foreign policy.
Just days after a discussion on East Timor in February, for
example, Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy issued a statement that
followed the citizen recommendations very closely.
Both the statement and citizen recommendations supported the
United Nations tripartite process, demanded an immediate cease-
and called for establishment of a UN presence in East Timor.
Moreover, the Canadian model is having wide influence. "We
consider Canada among the pioneers of this concept, especially since
Minister Axworthy took over," says Rdiger Lemp, an official at the
German Embassy in Ottawa.
As an example of German initiatives inspired by Ottawa, Mr. Lemp
cites a broad public forum in Germany this month on global issues,
including the environment.
One center's key role
The Canadian Centre for Foreign Policy Development (CCFPD) is at
the heart of Ottawa's efforts to include citizen policymakers. Over
the past 15 years, says CCFPD national director Steven Lee, "There's
been an awareness that the public can add value to thinking about
Canada's internationalism is related to its nationalism,
reflecting both altruism and the desire to make a distinctive, maple-
leaf-shaped mark in the world. Axworthy has cut a high profile by
championing such "human security" issues as banning land mines and
controlling small arms.
His ideas about "soft power" have been criticized by conservatives
as naive or worse. But in the main, his approach connects with
deeply held Canadian values.
Last spring the center held a series of discussions called
National Forum Meetings to gather citizen input on Arctic policy.
Local government officials, economic development activists,
journalists, academics, and even a sprinkling of high school
Results included a discussion paper candid enough to ask whether
circumpolar policy has "any relevance or importance for the
overwhelming majority of Canadians," and to ask further, "If so,
is it, and how can Canadians be convinced? …