DC-Cam Introductory Remarks
Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam)
July 24, 2013
Repression, censorship, and state terror demand a bold response. Indeed, we must stand firm in our position that human rights are an immutable fact that will not be compromised or bent under any circumstance. But while bold action and an unwavering commitment to one’s cause are commonly cited as the most necessary elements of the campaign to confront the human rights problem in Myanmar, we must be careful not to overlook the critical element of strategic diplomacy.
While you may have expected a speech that will stir the soul, my goal is not necessarily to inspire or embolden you to assume greater risks or bolder action. Instead, I want to challenge you to address an equally important aspect of your human rights campaign—the art and science of strategic diplomacy. Strategic diplomacy is an important part of your campaign because it will open up opportunities that heretofore have not been seen or were otherwise unavailable. Strategic diplomacy will allow you to gain leverage in your political campaign and it will guarantee your long-term sustainability by way of ensuring your capacity to respond to Myanmar’s ever-changing environment.
But what is strategic diplomacy? Strategic diplomacy describes the nuanced approach of communicating and dealing with political stakeholders without compromising strategic objectives. DC-Cam has a long history in using strategic diplomacy to leverage political stakeholders in Cambodia. While DC-Cam is committed to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, it is sensitive to how this commitment is articulated to various political stakeholders in Cambodia. DC-Cam believes that civil society actors can still work with governments and the elite—without compromising core principles—so as to exploit opportunities for making progress toward one’s strategic goals. Under this approach, the civil society actor may oppose a government in areas that it deems to be clearly in contravention to its core strategic goals but also seek out activities where government and opposition hold a mutual interest.
In addition to managing one’s relations with political stakeholders, strategic diplomacy also entails a nuanced communications strategy. A nuanced communications strategy refers to a strategy of using multiple angles and audiences to influence national discourse and ultimately gain greater leverage in one’s strategic activities.
DC-Cam’s experience in a post-conflict society illustrates the value of addressing challenges from multiple angles. For example, prior to the establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), DC-Cam organized a multitude of activities spread out across a variety of media, institutions, and political ideologies to influence the creation of the court. Even today, DC-Cam continues to use radio, newspapers, magazines, books, films, public education forums, and a host of educational and academic initiatives to influence national discourse. While one must be careful not to sacrifice programmatic quality for the sake of quantity, an organization should always be seeking out new angles and audiences for achieving leverage in its strategic objectives.
In summary, DC-Cam is encouraged by the great success and commitment of Myanmar’s human rights activists. DC-Cam is also eager to assist and advise Myanmar’s human rights organizations as they progress in their strategic goals and it looks forward to future opportunities for collaboration.