On 5 July 2013 NPCU Co-Director Ben O'Loughlin was appointed Specialist Advisor to the new House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s Influence. The committee is investigating how the UK uses soft power in furthering its global influence. A country's soft power refers to its ability to get what it wants through attraction rather than coercion or payments, according to Jo Nye. Since attraction and influence are often intangible and hard to measure, foreign policymakers are recognising that the use of soft power presents a conceptual as well as practical challenge. However, there is concern that rising powers are putting increased resources into promoting their soft power, and that a fast-changing media ecology makes it more difficult to control how a country is perceived by others. The committee has an opportunity therefore to get at some of the big questions about how states approach international affairs in the 21st century.
Ben is advising on the selection of witnesses from politics, business and culture to be invited to give evidence, the questions they will be asked, and how evidence should be interpreted. He will help write a report due 14 March 2014, to which the government will respond. On Monday 15 July the committee will question Peter Horrocks, Director of the BBC World Service and Martin Davidson, Chief Executive of the British Council, while the following weeks will focus on trade and aid.
The remit of the committee covers ground explored in Ben’s forthcoming book with Alister Miskimmon and Laura Roselle, Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order.