Public Diplomacy in Asia 2021 Conference Recap

The Singapore International Foundation held the Public Diplomacy in Asia 2021 virtual conference from 26 to 30 July 2021, as part of a year-long celebration of its 30 years in building people-to-people ties.

Organised in partnership with the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy, this first-of-its-kind conference brought together over 40 public diplomacy practitioners, experts and scholars from 16 countries to examine the development of public diplomacy practice in the Asia region. Speakers discussed new strategies for international people engagement, and ways in which individuals, civil society, private corporations and governments can all be involved in creating a better shared future.

More than 1,900 participants from 93 countries signed up to attend Public Diplomacy in Asia 2021, signalling a growing global interest in Asian viewpoints on a subject hitherto dominated by Western scholarship.

The 11 panel discussions that took place over the five days were framed around areas of interest associated with the conduct of public diplomacy. Topics included the roles of youth, businesses and even cities in public diplomacy strategy; varying perspectives in measuring and assessing public diplomacy impact; and the opportunities and challenges associated with digitisation of public diplomacy.

The conference also saw the launch of the SIF’s publication on Winning Hearts and Minds: Public Diplomacy in ASEAN by Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. The publication comprised a series of essays on how each ASEAN member state approached public diplomacy over time, shaped by its historical and political circumstances. Dr Balakrishnan reinforced the importance of public diplomacy in his speech, saying that it was even more important now than ever before to build coalitions and extended networks of support for the future.

Despite this being a virtual event, international visitors were able to experience Singapore via the Gateway to Singapore – a compilation of specially-curated videos that offered a glimpse into how locals live, work and play.

Conference participants also met like-minded delegates at the Kopitiam Networking sessions to network, make friends and listen to stories from the SIF’s Human Library of Global Ambassadors. At the virtual exhibition space, participants could meet other public diplomacy agencies in Asia and learn about their work.

Video recordings of the panel discussions as well as the Winning Hearts and Minds: Public Diplomacy in ASEAN e-book are available at https://pdasia.sif.org.sg. The conference website will remain available for public access till June 2022.


About the Singapore International Foundation

The Singapore International Foundation makes friends for a better world. Our journey over the last 30 years, has taken us to more than 28 countries and impacted nearly 16 million lives. We do this by bringing Singaporeans and world communities together to uplift lives and effect positive change.

Our work is anchored in the belief that cross-cultural interactions provide insights that strengthen mutual understanding. These exchanges often inspire action and enable collaborations for good. Our programmes have brought diverse communities together to share ideas, skills and experiences in areas such as healthcare, education, arts and culture, as well as livelihood and business.

We do this because we believe we all can, and should, do our part to build a better world, one we envision as peaceful, inclusive and offering opportunities for all.


A guest contribution by the Singapore International Foundation. TPBO was a media partner of the conference.

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