The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2016
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PDAA Award Winners

Demonstrate Creativity

in Challenging



n May 15, the Public Diplomacy

Alumni Association held its 19th

annual presentation of Awards for Excel-

lence in Public Diplomacy.

PDAA is a volunteer, nonprofit organi-

zation of current and former State Depart-

ment, broadcast, academic and private-

sector public diplomacy professionals.

Nominations were received from U.S.

embassies in every region of the world

and from Washington. Each was unique

but remarkably consistent in the excel-

lent work that is done every day by dedi-

cated public diplomacy practitioners.

Winner Tanya Brothen, an AFSA

member and assistant information

officer in Kabul, showed, as her nomi-

nation put it, “extraordinary creativity,

diplomacy and tenacity in bringing the

documentary film ‘Frame by Frame’ to

premiere in Afghanistan at U.S. Embassy

Kabul—an initiative that influenced

efforts to legislate protections for media

practitioners and foster a free press in


Joining Tanya as winners of the 2016

PDAA awards are Public Affairs Officers

Stephen Ibelli and Brenda Soya, both

AFSA members, as well as Coordinator

Milica Raskovic and Program Coordina-

tor Marko Bumbic from the American

Corner in Novi Sad, Serbia.

Ibelli received his award for promot-

ing the U.S. presence in conflict-ravaged

Libya while working from Tunisia.

The citation reads: “For exceptional

analysis, innovation and single-handed

hard work in creating robust social

media outreach that engaged Libyans

on U.S. policy and culture, established

contact with a new generation and

re-established exchange programs, all

while working under the extreme chal-

lenges of a post in exile outside the host


Soya knew that the U.S. ambassador

to Burkina Faso wanted to get outside

the embassy fortress in Ouagadougou to

connect with the Burkinabe, exchange

alumni, government officials and others

and to build “the image of an ambassa-

dor as someone who knows Burkina well

enough that I could deliver difficult mes-

sages without offending people.” Soya’s

efforts to get “out of the bubble” greatly

helped U.S. relations in the country.

Finally, Milica Raskovic and Marko

Bumbic received a PDAA award for their

extensive programming initiatives in an

environment where only 20 percent of

the population has a favorable attitude

toward the United States.

Their efforts have become a model

for American Corners throughout the

region, says nominator William Hen-

derson, public affairs officer at U.S.

Embassy Belgrade.

For full coverage of the PDAA awards

and a complete list of PDAA’s award

winners since 1993, visit



—Gemma Dvorak, Associate Editor

Diplomats Dissent on

Syria Policy


n mid-June (as we were about to go to

press), 51 State Department diplomats

signed a Dissent Channel message that is

sharply critical of the Obama administra-

tion’s policies in Syria, according to Mark

Landler, writing in

The New York Times


The story has since been picked up by

numerous other media outlets, including


New Yorker ,


On Point



Washington Post .

Remarkable for the number of signato-

ries, the memo urging “a more muscular

military posture under U.S. leadership”

was submitted via the State Department’s

confidential Dissent Channel a week after

Syrian Prime Minister Bashar al-Assad

vowed to retake “every inch” of his coun-

try from its enemies, defying the United

States and the United Nations.

A draft of the cable was leaked to the

press, a move which has frustrated the


Public Affairs Officer Brenda Soya, left, dances with a student at a school for the deaf in

Burkina Faso during the Arts Envoy program.