Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Public Communication: Psst, MOFA, You Have a Problem (or Two, or…)

Foreign Policy claims in a report entitled “Who Has Contributed What in the Coalition Against the Islamic State?” that as of Nov. 11, 2014, Japan had “given more than $6 million in humanitarian aid to northern Iraq.” Given Japan’s policy preference for checkbook-over boots on the ground diplomacy, this looked like an extraordinarily low-ball figure. So I went to the MOFA website and, lo and behold, a September 19 press release entitled “Emergency Grant Aid in response to IDPs in Iraq and Syrian Refugees in Lebanon affected by the ISIL offensive” states that “the Government of Japan decided to extend Emergency Grant Aid of 22.70 million US dollars (approximately 2.2 billion Japanese yen) to Iraq and Lebanon, in order to provide emergency shelters and relief items etc. for these IDPs and refugees,” bringing the “total amount of additional contribution as countermeasures against ISIL” to “25.50 million US dollars, including other assistance which has already set (sic).” Granted, that still may not be a lot of money as far as the magnitude of the conflict and its impact is concerned, but it matches up quite well to the numbers given for other OECD member countries, and there are limits to the amount of cash that the efforts can absorb.

I don’t know where Foreign Policy gets its numbers from, but I don’t really blame them for this particular oversight. The MOFA webpage with the relevant information can only be reached from four directions; 1) the Japanese-language webpages for counter-terrorism, 2) the Japanese-language webpages for public communications, 3) the Japanese-language webpages for Iraq or Syria, or 4) the English-language webpage for “Crime.” Essentially, MOFA is doing a very poor job of taking online steps to get its contributions recognized by the overseas public.

Also troubling is the fact that no one at MOFA seems to be paying attention to Foreign Policy. If they had, someone would have noticed, or at least checked to see that it had got the facts right. FP may not be Foreign Affairs, and it does carry some fluff pieces from time to time, but it has excellent writers such as Stephen Walt and, more importantly, does carry articles on Japan from time to time and has a wide readership.

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