Op-eds

Country: Know Thyself - an Op-Ed by Jake Townsend, GMAP10

The Huffington Post

Just a scant four weeks ago on July 9, 2011, the world bore witness to the birth of its newest nation, the Republic of South Sudan, and while inspiring images of jubilance and flag-raising were present on our screens for just a few moments, they were almost as quickly replaced by another, and yet another story that seemed just slightly closer to home. Such is the cycle of news; there is always something more pressing waiting at bay to usurp yesterday's top story.

It bears repeating: a new country came into being last month. After the tireless work of so many Sudanese people (now South Sudanese), foreign diplomats and development professionals -- not to mention the many millions of people who gave their lives directly and indirectly to a bloody civil war that lasted decades, to disease, famine and mass migration, all results of a seemingly intractable instability that was its defining characteristic -- the once-largest country in Africa was no longer. In its place are now two distinctly different -- and disparate -- places, whose very identities are in flux.

When the dust clears, as it seems to be, and the business of getting a country operating from nearly scratch is well underway, there is an issue at hand that deserves more attention than it receives: the importance of a clearly and accurately defined national identity (or 'character,' or 'brand' -- these are interchangeable terms), and a strategic public diplomacy plan as part of an overall strategy for development. Development assistance, for all its good intentions, is missing this crucial and oft-overlooked component needed by failed, or failing states as is the case in Somalia, and by nascent democracies as is the case in South Sudan...

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