Soft power, which has been defined as ‘the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments’, is seen as increasingly important in international relations as new communications technology changes the power balance between individuals and the state, and recent military actions have shown the limitations of hard power.
The Committee will take evidence from a wide range of stakeholders working in a variety of sectors, including businesses; the culture, sport, design, and universities sectors; media and communications; the tourism sector; Government institutions and publicly-funded bodies; think-tanks; people who work with the Commonwealth, EU, UN, and other international networks; and the humanitarian and international development sector.
Lord Howell of Guildford, Chairman of the Committee, has recorded a YouTube video setting out the background to the Committee’s inquiry and why this is an issue of vital importance in the 21st century.
The Committee has set out a number of questions on which they are inviting evidence. These include:
- How important is a country’s soft power? What evidence is there that soft power makes a difference?
- How does soft power interrelate with ‘harder’ exercises of a nation’s power including trade sanctions and military force?
- In a digitally connected world is soft power of increasing importance? If so, why?
- What are the important soft power assets that the UK has? How can we make the most of these? What is the role for non-state actors?
- How should the UK’s foreign policy and approach to diplomacy respond to new global communications networks including social media and new media organisations such as Al Jazeera?
- What parts do sport and culture play in the UK’s influence and soft power?
- What opportunities are there for the UK with the increasingly standardised use of the English language in business and online?
Commenting Lord Howell of Guildford, Chairman of the Committee, said:
“We have seen in recent years the limitation of hard power and military action in a world where winning hearts and minds is at least as important as winning battles.
“The UK has always been influential culturally, but are we making the most of that influence to further our interests in a totally transformed international landscape? How do we develop our soft power and influence in the modern world where smartphones mean so many people have a computer and camera in their pocket, and can use social media to communicate globally? How does this development change the relationship between citizens and the state?
“These are vitally important questions in the 21st century and my Committee will try and get to the bottom of them. In order to do that, we need evidence from a wide range of witnesses. I would encourage any interested parties to send us evidence by 18 September.”
The Committee is inviting written evidence to be received by 18 September 2013.