Getting to Know You: Reflections on the Social Psychology of Citizen Diplomacy

By Metta Spencer, Erindale College, University of Toronto
A paper presented to the annual conference of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association, University of Windsor, June, 1988.

Among the many strategies for ending the Cold War is a campaign to create dialogue and friendly personal relations among the citizens of the East and the West. Cities “twin” with other cities in the other bloc. Phil Donahue links up youthful Soviet and American audiences by satellite to talk about their sex lives. A team of Soviets and Canadians skis across the North Pole together. Busloads of pacifists traipse across the steppes, singing and handing Maple Leaf lapel pins to passersby. Pen pals in Novosibirsk and Medicine Hat exchange snapshots of themselves and their cats. The Soviet Peace Committee runs an almost continuous, year-round series of meetings, hosting Western peace activists.

The name for this flurry of contact — “Citizen diplomacy”— is as new as the activity itself: the effort by which grassroots citizens to bridge the East-West Cold War barriers for the sake of overcoming bloc rivalry. Governments do not necessarily favor this usurping of their monopoly over foreign affairs. For example, the Logan Act in the United States makes it illegal for a citizen or a Congressman to negotiate with a foreign country1. Nevertheless, as long as citizens are able to travel, little prevents them from pursuing, according to their own lights, world peace.

At least four logically possible types of contact exist-those between: (1) Eastern officials and Western officials; (2) Eastern officials and Western citizens; (3) Western officials and Eastern citizens; (4) Eastern citizens and Western citizens.

Only two of these possibilities will concern us here, since official-to-official meetings are not “citizen” diplomacy but conventional diplomacy, and since discussions between Western officials and Eastern citizens are too rare to mention. We are interested, then, only in the dialogues between citizens of East and West and the dialogues between Western citizens and Eastern officials.

The flow of independent tourism to the Soviet Union has been increasing steadily. In 1972, there were 2.3 million tourist arrivals in the Soviet Union;2 by 1983 there were 6.8 million.3 Within a space of two years, the number of groups registered in Soviet education and exchange programs with the Institute for Soviet American Relations doubled.4 From the Eastern side, an increasing, but still almost insignificant, amount of independent travel abroad is permitted for visiting relatives and friends.5 However, sponsored trips by officials, as well as cultural exchanges, are strongly promoted.

The “Citizen Diplomacy” approach to the betterment of international relations rests on the same commonsense theory that provided the rationale for the struggle against racism in the sixties. Therefore, while little direct research has been done on the effects of Citizen Diplomacy, it is possible to appraise some of the likely outcomes of such a strategy by reviewing analogous studies of intergroup relations and tourism. I will distinguish between the contacts of individuals who travel independently, and the sponsored visits of persons selected specifically for their potential in altering public opinion or policies concerning East-West relations.

1. The Effects of Contact

At the simplest level, Citizen Diplomacy is promoted on the basis of the view that negative mutual appraisals by members of different groups are “stereotypes” or “prejudice” — i.e. inaccuracies resulting from a lack of first-hand experience. This belief implies that personal acquaintance with the “enemy” would disprove such mistaken views. Accordingly, an antidote to prejudice is prescribed: the expansion of normal human contacts and occasions for discussion, To this end, expeditions are organized to build friendships across the barriers. To know one’s enemies, according to the theory, is to love them. Such visits are expected to dispel prevailing myths and warm the international climate; then, as the hearts of the citizens are moved, so (eventually) must be their governments.6

Some evidence does support these assumptions. Thus it has been long established that as one person becomes more familiar with another, he or she tends to like that other person more.7 However, this is not always the case; indeed, most murderers are not strangers, but members of their victims’ families — a telling argument against placing too much stock in the harmonizing effects of familiarity. Nor on a macro level can we say that familiarity necessarily makes for neighborly relations: wars are fought less often between countries located in different continents than between neighbors.8 Moreover, studies of ethnic conflict shows that anti-Semitism and racism have often been most virulent, not so much where Jews and blacks are absent, as where they are numerous.9 To know another group is not necessarily to love them.

Social psychologists have, especially a few decades ago, tried to specify the circumstances under which familiarity enhances liking between members of different ethnic communities. Several factors seem to be involved, the main one being degree of similarity. People generally like others who are similar to themselves. If, in getting acquainted, they find more similarities than differences, the contact tends to enhance their mutual appreciation. In addition, the compatibility of interests counts, People who are in competition for some scarce resource or social benefit do not tend to like each other, even if they know each other well. This explains, for example, the fact that inter-group hostility is especially marked where the two groups find themselves in competition for jobs or where the financial gain for one community comes at the expense of the other community.10

Person-to-person contact does tend to improve relations. Thus studies of black-white relations in the United States show that increased contact tends to reduce antagonism, as well as prejudice and stereotypes. This effect was established in a classic study of racial relationships during World War II when black and white soldiers fought together against a common enemy and were not competing between themselves.11 On the other hand, the conflict- reducing effects of integration should not be overestimated; in numerous cases, an increase in racial contacts has instead occasioned the intensification of conflict.

When we turn from the social psychological research on inter- ethnic relations to studies of the attitudinal impact of tourism, we find a smaller literature with equally inconclusive findings. Some proponents of tourism claim that it improves international understanding.12 Others deny this. As P.L. Pearce appraises the scanty evidence tourists do develop, albeit marginally, more positive attitudes to their hosts as a consequence of their travelling,” but on the other hand,Pearce also concludes that travel experiences tend to confirm pre-existing attitudes13 These equivocal findings ought not to surprise us, indeed, it would be even more astonishing to find people automatically liking everyone they meet in their travels.

Still, some attitudinal regularities have been identified in the phases of contact between tourists and the local people they encounter. For example, when an area begins to be frequented by tourists, there is typically a certain elation, a euphoria, in the feelings of the locals toward the tourists. Gradually, however, the thrill wears off and the joy is replaced, in turn, by apathy, annoyance, or even antagonism.14

In the case of East-West contacts where none had existed before, the euphoria is today still pronounced. Westerners travelling off the beaten path in China are still a novel sight to local people, who press their noses against bus windows, staring uninhibitedly. Travelers to the Soviet Union often receive spontaneous gifts from people in the street who want to express their desire for peace and friendly relations. As travel becomes commonplace,such euphoric encounters become rare.

The warmest exchanges tend to be those that take place in a context of hospitality. Psychological advantages flow from invitations to public or family social gatherings.15 Most independent tourists to the East lodge in hotels and other accommodations that are organized on a commercial basis by travel agents. Even so, euphoric encounters take place with friendly people who are naturally hospitable. There is one formal impediment to this: In 1984 a law was passed in the Soviet Union forbidding citizens from giving shelter, transportation, or anything else to foreigners without official permission. However, the law is evidently not enforced and the only Intourist guide whom I queried about it professed never to have heard of it. Only about half of the Western participants in exchange programs are peace activists.16 The non-activists tend to be those who travel in parties organized by commercial travel agencies, not as invited guests. As travel to the Eastern bloc increases, we may expect a larger proportion of it to constitute commercialized tourism.

Since hospitality and commercial exchange are diametrically differing relationships, the transition from the one to the other is bound to be somewhat awkward. One researcher, Sutton, has identified a hostile phase during the growth of the tourist industry in a new resort area (which he calls the “predatory phase,”) when locals tend to extract as much as they can in dealing with tourists, regardless of the consequences of this behavior for future tourist flows.17 Gradually, however, as tourism grows in a given area, charter flights and package-deals increase, lowering the costs of trips and bringing in a tourist clientele whose income levels are more modest. The income gap narrows between the tourist industry personnel and the rich visitors whom they serve. In time, campers and backpacking hitchhikers become commonplace, and accordingly, resentment of visitors declines among the local people.

Of course, we need not assume that East-West contacts will ever go through the predatory stage just because Third World countries have so often done so. No doubt, the resentments and mutual appreciations that will unfold with the increase of tourism will be shaped by the comparisons people make of their relative situations. And obviously, people of the East and West will refer to quite different factors, for historical and ideological reasons, when making invidious comparisons, than do people of the South in comparing themselves to the North. Hotel employees in a socialist country, for example, may neither envy nor wish to emulate their clients in same way as their Third World counterparts.

2. Sponsored Contacts

Up to this point we have focused on the effects of travel and other types of contact made by individuals for their own purposes, such as holiday travel. Few such excursions are undertaken with the intention of influencing anyone. It is an unusual tourist who thinks of herself as a “Citizen Diplomat.” When mutual liking is increased for both the visitors and the local people, it is a happy, but incidental, side effect.

However, what are most interesting are the many group trips that are organized for the specific purpose of “bridge-building” between East and West. In such cases, the travelers are ordinarily chosen as delegates or invited guests, and their expenses are often paid, either by groups in their own society or by public funds supplied by their hosts. The guests know all along that they are expected to participate in the revising of public opinion. They may be uncertain, however, as to what that expectation actually entails. In several respects, the participants may face ambiguities or dilemmas in the expectations of their role. Even in an era of glasnost,an era when polls show the Soviet leader to be more popular among well-educated Americans than their own President, any performance (however informally) of diplomatic mediation between East and West,involves considerable role strain.’ will consider here only the problems facing a Western “Citizen Diplomat,” not one from the Soviet Union or an Eastern European country.

A would-be Citizen Diplomat’s remarks will need to be formulated with due regard to the following three factors: (1) the auspices under which the East-West contact takes place; (2) the intended audience of one’s interventions; and (3) the comprehensiveness of the agenda under review.

2.1 Auspices

Sponsored visits with Eastern citizens entail that a participant is a guest or a delegate — or sometimes both. Participants to, say, a conference on East-West military policy, may be chosen as a spokesperson by peace groups back home, or alternatively by their hosts because they are thought to be amenable to persuasion. Almost all Eastern- sponsored gatherings are funded and backed by official government agencies. As a guest, one may feel a special diffidence about criticizing the “internal affairs” of the host society. Just as polite houseguests are not supposed to seem to notice unseemly facts about the family they are visiting, so too it may seem insensitive to query the hosts about their unfulfilled economic ambitions, their crime rates, their ballistic missiles, or their mistreatment of political dissidents.

On the other hand, the visitor may be a `delegate” sponsored by groups back at home who include, say, descendants of Ukrainians who starved because of Stalin’s agricultural policies. For example, tours from “twinned” cities are often funded by municipal governments. City councils,when deciding whether to fund citizens’ junkets to their twin city, sometimes have to placate local opponents by suggesting that the delegates ask hard questions of the Russians at every opportunity. Moreover, even when they are not officially instructed to represent the concerns of their home sponsors, many “Citizen Diplomats” feel that it would be disloyal to listen, without responding, to one-sided criticism of their own society. Others, seeing things differently, do avoid contentious issues — at least in public — and stick to unproblematic topics, such as music, jobs, and sports. Such a decision reflects the interpretation of one’s role as being a guest, not a delegate or agent of a reference group at home in the West.

2.2 The Intended Audience

Citizen Diplomacy is the influence of opinions. However, not all would-be Citizen Diplomats are clear about whose opinions they intend to address. Presumably, all activists hope to influence their own officials; some hope to influence the officials of the other bloc, and some hope to influence the citizens of the other bloc.

2.2.1 Western Citizens talk with Soviet Officials

Oddly, it is often easier for Western citizens to influence the leaders of the other bloc than their own elected government officials. Western activists are often invited to meet with extremely high ranking Soviet officials, whereas they might be unable to visit their own Foreign Affairs or Defence Ministers. (The converse is not the case, however; grassroots activists from Eastern countries are invited to peace conferences by neither their own government officials nor by Western ones.) Apparently the Soviet organizers of such meetings compose their guest lists with a view to influencing Western public opinion. They presumably hope that when their guests go home they will campaign for the goals they share.

Nevertheless,the Russians listen impressively well. For example, the fundamental concepts of current Soviet military policy (e.g. “nonprovocative defence” and “reasonable sufficiency”) were used, year after year, by Western peace activists in the perpetual dialogues in Moscow, Prague, Vienna, and elsewhere.18 To their great credit,the Soviets obviously learned from these encounters.

I will cite only two or three examples of the dozens of international organizations sponsoring contacts between citizens of the West and officials of the East. A prestigious but ageing group of scientific experts, Pugwash, holds frequent conferences that do not depend on government funds. Other groups, such as Women for a Meaningful Summit, present their views to the NATO and WTO foreign ministers (so far more successfully with the latter than the former group).19 Another group of women, The Great Peace Journey, visited officials in all countries belonging to the United Nations, seeking their commitment to disarmament if all other nations agree to do likewise,

Two main organizations of a socialist orientation sponsor contacts between Western activists and Soviet officials. These are the Soviet Peace Committee and its international surrogate organization, the World Peace Council, While neither of these organizations is exactly a creature of the government,it would be quite a mistake to consider either of them independent of the government in the sense that Western peace groups are autonomous.20 There is no individual membership in the Soviet Peace Committee, though millions of persons contribute to the fund that the organization administers.The amount raised in 1987 was more than 273 million roubles, or the equivalent of about $1.50 for every Soviet man, woman, and child. The money comes from donations and from thousands of extra shifts of work dedicated to peace. The money will be channelled into definite projects, including those of Soviet Scientists for Peace and the International Physicians for the prevention of nuclear War, Peace to the Children of the World, and Ecology and Peace. It will help a program of Soviet-American children’s and youth exchanges. Money will be spent on economic conversion of arms factories to peaceful production.. Humanitarian aid is given to regions that are affected by hunger, war, and natural disasters — this year to Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and the national liberation movements of Southern Africa.21 Weapons are never bought with these funds, but such items as textbooks and hospitals. Among its other activities, the Soviet Peace Peace Committee organizes lessons about peace for 45 million students each September. And, of course, it entertains hundreds of Western guests who participate in three- or four-day dialogues with Soviet officials each year.

With glasnost, everything is changing — including the Soviet Peace Committee. The current chairman of the organization, a TV writer, Genrikh 8orovik, devotes all his free time to the role, though it is an unpaid position. He writes, “I believe it is imperative for the Peace Committee to be a more democratic and more public organization. It should be a centre for public diplomacy advancing foreign policy proposals and ideas on behalf of peace. We are reaching out into new areas by including environmental protection in the range of our activities and inviting writers and artists to take a more active part in our work.22 Until recently, however, the Committee never criticized Soviet foreign or military policies. On the other hand, foreign participants invited to the dialogues sponsored by the Committee have been entirely free to criticize Soviet policies.

The relations between the Soviet Peace Committee and the World Peace Council (with headquarters in Helsinki) are not completely clear. Most nations have regional affiliates of the Peace Council,and it seems clear that the organizations have more money at their disposal than they could raise by themselves. How much or by what means the Soviet Union contributes to the organization’s funds is not well-publicized. In any case, the Council organizes an ongoing series of conferences (mainly in neutral European countries) to which many Western activists are invited.

Besides these huge organizations, there are smaller, ostensibly independent groups in the West that offer as much hospitality as they can to visiting Soviet officials, given their presumed dependence on private funds. For example, there is a Canada-USSR Association in Toronto which maintains offices and a small library, shows weekly films, and hosts receptions and question-and-answer sessions with most of the Soviet travellers who come to town. Since these associations have been supported for decades by people who are devoted to the Soviet Union, the dialogues that take place under their auspices display some resistance to the “new thinking” that is taking place in the USSR. For example, during the question-and-answer period of a Toronto gathering in May, the Soviet guests seemed to have difficulty with questioners who were deeply skeptical about glasnost and perestroika.

2.2.2 Eastern Citizens talk with Western Citizens The Chosen Citizen

Westerners who wish to do so can, without difficulty, visit Soviet citizens under approved auspices. Twinned municipalities, for example, often send delegations of citizens on exchange visits, and through repeated tours friendships often do develop. Teachers often visit the homes of other teachers, choir directors visit other musicians, and so on. Soviet teenagers have participated in international friendship camps in Scandinavia and elsewhere. Cultural exchange tours are acceptable again, after a hiatus of several years following the invasion of Afghanistan, when a number of Western countries showed their displeasure by interrupting such exchanges.

In such sponsored citizen-to-citizen visits, there is no longer much reason for diffidence about raising political issues. On the other hand, a Western peace activist who is well-informed about the comparative military policies is not likely to find a counterpart among the Soviet citizens to whom the officials introduce her for sociable encounters. Whereas the average Soviet citizen is keenly alert to the dangers of nuclear war, facts about the numbers and locations of various weapons, say, have been harder to come by in the Soviet Union than in the West. Nor have many citizens yet acquired the habit of discussing military policy in a critical way. The Unchosen Citizen

To many Western peace activists, therefore, it is a special pleasure to make contact with Soviet citizens whom they view as their natural counterparts — people who try to find out what is going on in the military sphere and form their own opinions of their country’s policies. Groups of such independent peace activists began to form in the early 1980s, and numerous Western activists began to visit them.23 For example, the Moscow Group for Trust immediately became well-known abroad and even in the Soviet Union as a result of coverage by the illicit but popular Radio Free Europe. Throughout the Eastern bloc, similar unauthorized groups sprang up: Dialogue in Hungary, Freedom and Peace in Poland, Charta 77 in Czechoslovakia, Protestant church-based groups in East Germany. Three peace dialogues have been organized with some success so far by groups in the East (all in 1987) without the permission of their governments.24 These were conferences held in Warsaw, in Budapest that October, and in Moscow in December, when Press Club Glasnost invited foreign visitors to confer with them. Freedom and Peace is hosting a two-week international peace festival in July, 1988.

By no means have all Eastern activists found themselves in immediate agreement with the Western peace movement. For one thing, their main challenge was simply to exist. Their top issue, therefore, was to establish a legitimate space for open discussion in their societies. They began during the Brezhnev, the Chernenko, the Andropov years; anyone joining these independent groups had to expect to lose his or her job, to be assaulted on the street, to be jailed or incarcerated in a mental hospital, possibly to lose custody of her children. As important as the discussion of specific issues, therefore, was the ongoing concern about securing the freedom to speak and to meet. For this reason, the independent groups often identified themselves as pursuing democracy and human rights above everything else. Some groups (e.g. those in Poland and Czechoslovakia, while calling for a halt to the nuclear arms race, denied that they were “peace” groups. Indeed, the word “peace” had been drained of meaning to these people because it had been appropriated by unwelcome regimes that had deprived them of freedom. (In a parallel sense, many Westerners feel that the word “freedom” has been drained of its meaning by people such as Reagan, for example by calling contra terrorists “freedom fighters.”)

Only after five years of regular discussion have the independent movements of East and West found a consensus on a range of issues. Nevertheless, the discussions have been of enormous importance. With the growing strength of glasnost as a principle, the obstacles are diminishing against such contacts and numerous new independent groups are forming. What they have in common is the claim that, however pleasant it may be to be granted relative freedom to speak and criticize public officials, the danger is not past. They point out that what one government may give, a subsequent one may take away. To build true and lasting democracy, they call upon citizens of all countries to strengthen what they now call “civil society” — the space for autonomous associations. The government and the military must become accountable to society, no longer its master.

From the very beginning, these East-West contacts have stimulated long-term, visionary planning. European Nuclear Disarmament (END) holds annual conferences that particularly encourage East-West dialogue. After the END conference in Perugia, Italy in 1984 a sustained dialogue began among key intellectual leaders of the various independent European movements; it came to be identified as the Network for East- West Dialogue.25 Despite being harassed by police and denied entry to neighboring countries for conferences, the Network produced a consensus document in 1986, “Giving Real Life to the Helsinki Accords,” which was circulated for broad endorsement through peace movements in all countries that belong to the Conference on Cooperation and Security in Europe (CSCE). In November, 1986, the document was made public at the opening of the CSCE Conference in Vienna. Its broad proposals constitute the common agenda for the peace movements of Europe for the next generation, calling for an end to the polarization of the blocs, a restoration of democracy to all societies, and a gradual,balanced demilitarization. It was a substantial accomplishment to win the assent of some of the delegates (notably the Poles) to the vision of a Europe with a reduced military presence. While the activists signed as individuals, not on behalf of their organizations, almost all of the independent groups of Europe saw that some of their leaders signed. Western Citizens Talk with The Folks Back Home

Policy-talk with foreigners is a bracing experience, whether they are officials, “chosen” citizens, or “unchosen” (but mouthy) dissidents. For a Citizen Diplomat, however, the most important conversations are those that come later — back at home. The real challenge is to pass along the insights that are gleaned from traveling in Europe. This is harder than one ever expects. For one thing, even one’s best friends don’t listen. However — and fortunately — one’s best friends’ beliefs usually need little fixing. Far more daunting is one’s sense of obligation to “preach to the unconverted.”

Not everyone feels such a calling, but for those who do, it is helpful to behave in a consistent manner that builds up credibility over time. Indeed, the choices one makes in visiting others abroad establishes the range of possible conversations back home. Consider, for example, the most hawkish communities in Western society — refugees from Communist regimes. Though they comprise the bastion of support for militarism, these people are nevertheless worth addressing in dialogue. Their votes count, and their fears are real. If, in traveling abroad, the Citizen Diplomat views her task as primarily that of allaying the fears of Soviet officials and the average Soviet citizen, she will have nothing to say to a Peace-Through-Strength Czech or Lithuanian refugee back in Canada or the United States. Unfortunately, disarmament is not being slowed by the Soviet citizens or officials, but by the anxious Czech or Lithuanian refugee. It is necessary to assure that person that, in one’s dialogues abroad, one has not failed to speak on his behalf, and especially that one has visited the brave people in his native country who continue, even today, their defence of democracy and freedom. Fortunately, it is not difficult or risky to look up such people abroad — especially in the era of Gorbachev. And, besides the depth of perspective one can gain, there are other important reasons for doing so.

After all, hawks have to conjure with their own ambiguities. Those who have fled Europe’s Communist regimes are deeply loyal to the heroes who stayed and fought — such as those in Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, or Moscow who went to jail for their convictions. No expatriate Czech can fail to praise the activists of Charta 77, for example. When those whom they so admire now are found in an alliance with Western peace activists, these old friends abroad have to moderate their castigation of the peace movement.

While one of the most constructive actions of a Citizen Diplomat is to create a basis for respectful and persuasive conversations with Western enemies of detente, this is fraught with pitfalls; one is almost invariably caught between the old antagonisms of the Cold War.

2.3 The Comprehensiveness of Agenda

For many, peace activism began with a narrow agenda; to stop Canada’s testing of cruise missiles. The cruise was not stopped. In the effort to stop it, many activists learned that a single-issue campaign does not succeed. Too many factors are interdependent, and no one of them can be controlled without recognizing how they form a comprehensive agenda.

At first, a comprehensive agenda looks more difficult. No single slogan will sum it up. It takes longer to explain. Opposition may come from more varied sources. It is harder to put together a unified consensus when the objectives are varied. Canadian activists tend not to support comprehensiveness, but to work with the “lowest common denominator” platforms.

A Citizen Diplomat, nevertheless, will find that the movements for social change are grappling with similar issues all around the globe. Agendas everywhere abroad are being seen comprehensively, as the links become more apparent between environmental degradation, military expenditure, economic inequality, underdevelopment, political oppression, and nuclear proliferation through the spread of nuclear reactors.26 Anyone who visits independent movements in Europe or the Soviet Union will find groups addressing all these interrelated concerns — an agenda that has been called “the global imperative.27 The productivity of dialogue, as a Citizen Diplomat, depends upon one’s capacity to entertain larger ambitions than merely the halting of first one weapon system and then another.

For a long time, Soviet policy was to exclude from discussions with Western guests such topics as the use of nuclear power (even after Chernobyl it was treated as irrelevant) and the “human right” to debate political issues without repression. These are still sensitive topics, though as they are addressed, some of the tension is being reduced.

The only time when Mikhail Gorbachev showed anger during the Washington summit was when the topic of human rights arose. There are probably two reasons. First, it is the single subject about which Westerners feel entitled to self-righteousness of tone — an attitude which Citizen Diplomats properly avoid. But equally telling was Gorbachev’s own explanation — to the effect (and I am only roughly paraphrasing), “I would not remain in office one day if I went along with what you are demanding” regarding human rights. This may be the truth. Russian-speaking Western travellers report that public opinion is overwhelmingly unfavorable to dissidents in the Soviet Union. It is possible that to seem too lenient with people who are regarded as traitors is a political liability for the reformers. Vet harsh repressiveness toward the same dissidents is a heavy liability in terms of international reputability,

The Soviet Union very keenly hopes to host the next meeting of the CSCE, which will deal with human rights questions. The Western Europeans and North Americans are not willing to accept a Moscow venue unless some major concessions are made, such as the pledge that any dissidents who would be able to attend the session in Paris (the Westerners’ preferred site) will be equally free to attend if the session is in Moscow.

Notwithstanding their eagerness for this outcome, the Soviets have been far from forthcoming when negotiating on human rights questions in the present CSCE session in Vienna. Indeed, they are accused to attempting to reverse agreements that were made in early sessions of the Helsinki process.28

Another sign of this ambivalence comes from a curious conference in January at the headquarters of the Soviet Peace Fund, The Soviets have established a forty-member Commission for Humanitarian Affairs and Human Rights. Seven of these officials invited several Western human rights activists (including the Canadian lawyer, Irwin Cotler) to meet with them. The Westerners, intending to put glasnost to the test, invited several members of Press Club Glasnost to accompany them to this conference. These Russians had all been imprisoned for making statements five years ahead of time — statements which the Commissioners now support openly themselves. Reluctantly, and only after much urging by their invited guests, the Commission permitted one of the dissidents to speak.

Three months later in Vienna, a follow-up meeting was held with the Commission and again the Westerners mentioned Press Club Glasnost. The Commissioners still expressed their unwillingness to meet with these of their countrymen.29 Nevertheless, several members of the Western group give the Soviets good marks for the changes that have taken place so far, and are optimistic about further advances.

3. Taking it Seriously

How significant is this new notion, Citizen Diplomacy? The answer must vary. At the simplest level, merely to visit another country as a tourist, if one behaves civilly, can be a contribution. The research on tourism and the effects of contact on ethnic conflicts, as we have seen, show modest results in terms of mutual liking, both by the traveller and the people she visits.

Far more can be expected of Citizen Diplomacy, however, than simple human contacts. In a classic study of inter-group rivalry, Muzafer Sherif demonstrated the importance of “superordinate goals” as a way of surmounting group hostilities.30 Whatever common cause Westerners and Easterners undertake together can have this harmonizing effect. For example, in 1986 the Soviets and Americans collaborated to airlift grain to relieve the Somalian famine.

Other, more regular, kinds of relationships will develop as the Cold War barricades come down and mutual activities proliferate. Joint enterprises are much desired by Gorbachev’s economic planners. By the end of 1987, over 250 proposals had been received from foreign firms.31 The contacts made in such projects seem more promising, at least a priori, than those resulting from ordinary trade relations. (According to Singer’s research, trading partners are not less, but more, likely to make war against each other than nations that do not engage in trade.)32

Beyond the friendly, normal relations that arise from travel and joint activities, there are no bounds to the potential consequences of Citizen Diplomacy. Its effects depend on the quality and nature of the conversations in which the visitors engage. To fully appreciate this, we must have in mind a model of interaction that is sensitive to the depth and texture of relations, even those between transient participants in a conference or a cocktail hour. All discourse is global in extent and fully open to our participation. When we fill a conversation with substance, it will ramify and make the visit into a turning point. Such is the service potential of ordinary talk, when seen as the work of Citizen Diplomats.


1 This regulation can be compared with the notorious “anti-peace laws” of Israel, which are designed to prevent contacts between Israeli citizens and the Palestine Liberation Organization. It too implicitly recognizes the potential power of citizen diplomacy.

2 United Nations Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook 1976 (New York: Publishing Service United Nations, 1977).

3 United Nations Statistical Office, Statistical Yearbook 1983-1984 (New York: Publishing Division United Nations, 1985), p. 987

4 Nuclear Times, Nov. Dec. 1986, p. 11.

5 “Soviet Union Allowed 1086 Jews to Leave.” New York Times Service article in The Globe and Mail, May 18, 1988, p. A9.

6 See, for example, Anne Hume, “Toronto/Volgograd: A Venture in Citizen Diplomacy,” Canadian Woman Studies, Spring 1988, pp.75-76.

7 Jonathan L. Freedman, J. Merrill Carlsmith, and David O. Sears, _Social Psychology_(Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall, 1970, pp 70-74)

8 J. David Singer, “Accounting for International War:The State of the Discipline,” in Annual Review of Sociology, p. 359.

9 Charles Y. Glock, Robert Wuthnow, Jane Allyn Piliavin, and Metta Spencer, Adolescent Prejudice, New York: Harper and Row, 1975, p.5.

10 Edna Bonacich,” A Theory of Middlemen Minorities” American Sociological Review,1973 Vol. 38, pp. 583-94.

11 S. A. Stouffer, E.A. Sunman, LA. DeVinney, L. C. Star, and Robin M. Williams, Jr., The American Soldier (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949)

12 S. R Waters, The American Tourist,” Annals of the American Academy of Political Science, 1966, pp 109-18.

13 P. L. Pearce, The Social Psychology of Tourism (New York: Pergamon, 1962), p. 92. See also Erik Cohen, “The Sociology of Tourism,” American Review of Sociology 1984 (Palo Alto, California:Annual Reviews), p. 381,

14 V. Doxey, “A Causation Theory of Visitor-Resident Irritants” (1978) cited by Cohen, op. cit.

15 UNESCO, The Effects of Tourism on Socio-Cultural Values, Annals of Tourism Research, Nov-Dec. 1976, p. 87.

16 Jim Garrison, a co-author of The Russian Threat, cited in Nuclear Times, Nov. Dec. 1986, p. 12.

17 W.A Sutton, `Travel and Understanding: Notes on the Social Structure of Touring,” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 1967, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 215-2

18 Michael Lucas claims that these concepts have been advocated by West European security experts as well, but in my experience, the Soviets were for ahead of Western military planners In grasping these concepts. See Lucas’s “The United States and Post-INF Europe,” World Policy Journal, Spring 1980, p. 193.

19 Peace Magazine, June/July 1988.

20 Marion Kerans, The Soviet Peace Fund,” Peace Magazine, Oct-Nov 198

21 “Millions Given to Peace Fund,” Soviet Weekly, March 19, 1988, p. 6.

22 Elena Setunskaya,“Taking a Stand,” Soviet Weekly, March 19, 1988, p. 10.

23 John Bacher, “Independent Peace Movements in Eastern Europe,” Peace Magazine, December 1985, pp.

24 Brian Morton and Joanne Landy, “East European Activists Test Glasnost,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, May 1988, pp. 18-26. These were conferences held in Warsaw, in Budapest that October, and in Moscow in December, when Press Club Glasnost invited foreign visitors to confer with them.

25 Contact address: Dieter Esche, Nieburhstrasse 61, 1000 Berlin 12, Germany.

26 World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future (The Brundtland Report), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

27 Matthew Speler, “The Development of a New Field of Study: Peace and World Order Studies in Global Perspective” a paper presented at forum on peace education. Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association, June 6, 1988, Windsor, Ontario.

28 Statement of Ambassador Warren Zimmerman at a press conference in Vienna in March. His charge was confirmed by members of the press corps with whom spoke, especially by Sue Masterrnen, CBC Radio’s correspondent.

29 Jeri Leber, “Mission to Moscow,” New York Review of Books, June 2, 1988, pp. 6 -8.

30 Muzafer Sherif, In Common Predicament (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966) pp.

31 Vladimir Kamentsev, Economic Ties: A Prerequisite of Lasting Peace, Moscow: Novosti Press Booklet, 1988.

32 Singer, op. cit.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books