jackfruit of the week (12.31.08), New Year's Edition

Birthday jackfruit via Jill York. She notes that "it's a disney world jackfruit, grown in epcot's 'living with the land.'"
I closed out 2006 with a list of predictions for 2007, including the death of Museveni from gout (still waiting) and the discovery of Salim Saleh's closet shrine to Jay-Z (less probable, though not entirely impossible). Those were strange times.

I blogged less this year than in 2006 or 2007 (though I did provide you with some truly awe-inspiring Artocarpus heterophyllus), an unfortunate casualty of leaving Kampala for Kansas and, now, New York. I'm looking forward to landing at Entebbe Airport in five days, picking up a copy of the Daily Monitor and seeing what new venture the Aga Khan has planned in my absence.

Until then, I'm hesitant to predict anything. Instead, I offer hope for a swift end to the recent LRA uprising and apologies that I never got around to writing my reviews for the 2008 Africa Reading Challenge. May 2009 be a better year all around.


Twitter Diplomacy

San Francisco Demonstration in Solidarity with Gaza, from isa e
Unless your holiday season involves complete and total hibernation, you've probably heard about this weekend's attacks in Gaza. More than 350 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed so far, and neither Israel nor Hamas shows any sign of backing down.

A few minutes ago I got an e-mail from Jill York announcing that the Israeli Consulate in New York will be holding a press conference this afternoon to field questions about Israel's offensive. Slight twist: they'll be holding it on Twitter, where they set up an account yesterday.

Anyone can submit questions to @israelconsulate, and David Saranga, Consul of Media and Public Affairs in New York, will do his best to answer, either via Twitter or by posting a link to the Consulate's blog.

Israel isn't alone in using Twitter to communicate with the public; the United States is getting some Web 2.0 diplomacy action as well. Last week Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy published an editorial in the Washington Post on her own usage of Twitter to connect to people in the countries she visits. She writes:
Not that long ago, communicating diplomat-to-diplomat was enough. Agreements were reached behind closed doors and announced in a manner and degree that suited the schedule and desires of the governments involved, not the general population. In fact, the public was by and large an afterthought. But the proliferation of democracies and the emergence of the round-the-clock media environment has brought an end to those days. Now, governments must communicate not only with their people but also with foreign audiences, including through public diplomacy.

In short, public diplomacy is the art of communicating a country's policies, values and culture. If diplomats want to engage effectively with people, we first need to listen, then connect and then communicate. In the part of the world that I know and cover, Europe and Eurasia, most people are tuned in to television, and the younger generation is using text messages and the Internet. So, we need to be there, too.

Graffy's tweets tend toward the personal (Need to get a new laptop. Have always had a PC. Friends are telling me to get a Mac. I'm scared. Have others survived the transition?), while the Israeli Consulate has focused so far on the upcoming press conference. Still, both efforts represent genuine ventures on the part of government representatives to engage one-on-one with people around the world.


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World AIDS Day: HIV+ bloggers around the world

To commemorate World AIDS Day 2008, the Global Voices team has created a Google map of HIV-positive bloggers around the world. Africa only has two entries so far, one in the DRC and one in Botswana. The map is a work in progress, so if you know of anyone in Uganda (or elsewhere), please email Global Voices Public Health Editor, Juhie Bhatia.

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