Ban Ki-moon: Soft power transcends borders & builds bridges

Ban Ki-moon, 8th UN Secretary-General, to launch world’s most comprehensive global soft power research study

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  • Ban Ki-moon to give keynote speech at first Global Soft Power Summit hosted by Brand Finance over two days in London & Oxford
  • Ban Ki-moon to say: “Soft power transcends borders and builds bridges”
  • “K-Pop music, Korean food, and Oscar-winning film Parasite are increasingly popular. Korean Wave has captivated foreign publics the world over”
  • Summit serves as unveiling of Global Soft Power Index – world’s most comprehensive research study on perceptions of soft power, surveying opinions of over 55,000 people across 100 countries
  • Soft power superpower – USA tops ranking despite reputation damage
  • Runner-up Germany admired for governance and Angela Merkel’s international leadership
  • Brand Britain undented by Brexit, ranks as world’s 3rd soft power nation
  • Japan ranked first for Business and Trade, thanks to brands the world loves
  • China and Russia rank high on influence, while Nordic countries among most reputable; Greta Thunberg earning Sweden top spot for climate action
  • World’s most generous nation, Canada ranks in top 3 for more soft power disciplines than any other nation, but wins too few golds to top medal table
  • Spain is the world’s friendliest nation, but lags behind on Governance
  • UAE is Middle East’s top scorer, familiarity high following Nation Brand launch
  • Full ranking, charts, commentary, expert contributions, and in-depth spotlights on Australia, India, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, UAE, UK, Central & Eastern Europe, and Latin America available in the report.

View the Global Soft Power Index report by Brand Finance here

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London & Oxford, 25th February 2020: His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations will inaugurate the Global Soft Power Summit organised by Brand Finance, the world’s leading independent brand valuation consultancy. The two-day conference will be held at London’s Queen Elizabeth II Centre and the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government on 25-26 February and is set to welcome over 600 delegates representing more than 100 countries. The summit will be attended by government officials, nation branding experts, academics, diplomats, and international media.

Speakers representing the various pillars of soft power will include Sir Ciáran Devane, Chief Executive of the British Council; Lord Sebastian Coe, President of World Athletics; Dr Yu Jie of Chatham House China Programme; Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former permanent representative to the United Nations; Paul Brummell, Head of Soft Power at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Amish Tripathi, Director of the Nehru Centre; and Omar Salha from SOAS Centre of International Security and Diplomacy.

The world’s most comprehensive research study on perceptions of soft power

The Global Soft Power Summit serves as the unveiling of the Global Soft Power Index, the world’s most comprehensive research study on perceptions of soft power, surveying opinions of over 55,000 people across more than 100 countries. Respondents representing both the general public and specialist audiences were interviewed online and by telephone during Autumn 2019 about the influence that nations around the world exert upon each other.

Top 60 nations were scored across three key metrics: Familiarity, Reputation, and Influence, as well as the seven soft power pillars: Business & Trade, Governance, International Relations, Culture & Heritage, Media & Communications, Education & Science, People & Values.

David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance, will say:

“We are delighted to be joined by our guest of honour the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations – His Excellency Ban Ki-moon – to announce our inaugural ranking of the world’s top soft power nations.

The Global Soft Power Index is the result of a ground-breaking fieldwork research, the most inclusive of its kind, with over 55,000 respondents in 100 countries. It allows us to see in aggregate how the world views the top soft power nations, but it also enables – thanks to the scale of the sample – a more granular snapshot of nation-to-nation attitudes. These findings are vital for governments seeking to better manage their nation brands and improve their soft power influence in specific countries and on specific metrics.”

In his keynote address at the QEII Centre, Ban Ki-moon, the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations will say:

“Building on the strength of the Brand Finance Nation Brands report, and featuring the opinions of over 55,000 people in more than 100 countries, I am confident that the Global Soft Power Index will serve as a great contribution to the theory and practice of diplomacy and foreign policy moving forward.

As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I led the Organization with the understanding that soft power is an essential ingredient in international diplomacy. Additionally, soft power can help further the peace and development goals of the United Nations, particularly the UN SDGs, and reinforce global progress.

In fact, the three pillars of the UN – peace and security, development, and human rights – are all in line with the same objectives of soft power and can help bring nations and peoples together through cooperation and partnership.”

USA - Soft Power Superpower

With the highest Global Soft Power Index score of 67.1 out of 100 and distancing the runner-up by more than 5 points, the United States is arguably the world’s only soft power superpower, winning on more characteristics than any other country. The US has posted top scores for Familiarity and Influence among others, balancing low ranks on Reputation (13th) and Governance (16th).

David Haigh, Chairman and CEO of Brand Finance, will say:

“Soft power cannot be rapidly achieved, nor lost. The United States has shown that ultimately, despite the reputational challenges of impeachment and unpredictable foreign policy, its position as the rule-maker in the international system and the world’s only soft power superpower is unrivalled, and it will remain so as long as its economy, media, and culture reign supreme.”

With an overall score of 61.9 and wielding the most soft power in Europe, Germany marginally beats the United Kingdom (61.8) to second place in the Index. A testament to its deliberate focus on soft rather than hard power, Germany ranks in the top 3 for five out of the seven soft power pillars, boosted especially by positive perceptions of its stable economy and governance. Despite mixed feelings about Chancellor Merkel’s legacy at home, perceptions of her leadership within the EU and the bold response to the migration crisis have been recognised abroad as the nation ranks first for being helpful to countries in need and second for influence in diplomatic circles.

Two, perhaps unexpected, nations in the top 10 are China (58.7) and Russia (51.0), claiming 5th and 10th position in the Global Soft Power Index respectively. Their high rankings have disturbed the Western, liberal soft power status quo. However, both nations’ Reputation rankings are considerably lower than their Influence ranking. For Influence, China sits in 2nd and Russia in 7th, whereas for Reputation, China falls to 24th and Russia to 26th.

Brand Britain undented by Brexit

Despite ongoing uncertainty following the Brexit referendum and subsequent withdrawal from the European Union, the United Kingdom ranks 3rd overall, with a Global Soft Power Index score of 61.8 out of 100 proving that the UK has transformed a sense of universal Familiarity and favourable Reputation into Influence on the global stage. Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family have been pivotal in maintaining the nation’s relevance as Britain’s economy and hard power are being dwarfed by the rise of the East. The world’s longest reigning monarch, the Queen is a powerful symbol of the nation and the Commonwealth.

Arguably one of Britain’s greatest soft power tools is the BBC, which reaches a colossal 426 million viewers and listeners abroad per week. The BBC’s high level of credibility is reflected in the UK’s 2nd place ranking in the Media & Communications pillar. With the continued success of the media powerhouse in leveraging soft power, several nations have emulated the service by launching their own global networks.

The UK ranks in the top 3 for the Culture & Heritage pillar and scores particularly well for its influence in arts and entertainment and for its rich heritage. The allure of Britishness prevails, from Shakespeare to the hugely popular period TV dramas such as Downton Abbey or The Crown, which have amassed a cult following.

Asian soft power titans

In Asia, the highest-ranking nation is Japan (60.2), claiming 4th spot globally and ranking consistently in the top 10 on all key metrics. Despite an economic slowdown, Japan has reaped the benefits of its strong brands, solid consumer spends, and high levels of business investment, ranking first in the Business & Trade pillar. As the 3rd largest global economy, Japan is a forward-thinking and outward-looking nation with the second highest spend worldwide on research and development, reflected in its 2nd spot on the Education & Science pillar.

One of the top trading economies for volume of goods and services, South Korea (14th – 48.3) is scoring similarly high on both Business & Trade and Education & Science. Boasting an impressive portfolio of high-performing tech brands such as Samsung, Hyundai, and LG, South Korea continues to pave the way for innovation, working alongside its Japanese neighbour to pivot soft power further to the east.

His Excellency Ban Ki-moon will also speak about Korean soft power:

“My country Korea is currently enjoying considerable soft power on the global stage. Korean soft power assets such as K-Pop music, Korean food like kimchi and bibimbap, and our Oscar-winning best picture film Parasite are incredibly well-known and increasingly popular around the world. This Hallyu, or Korean Wave, has captivated foreign publics the world over.”

Nordics held in high esteem - Greta a soft power champion

The Nordic nations in particular have been boosted by their perception among the general public as climate friendly, with Sweden ranking first globally for this metric. This is likely attributable to the efforts of Greta Thunberg who has become the voice of millions of young people demanding action to prevent irreversible changes to the environment.

Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland all rank in the top 10 for Reputation as well as for the Governance pillar, but lag behind on Influence. Trailblazers on specific issues, whether it be climate change, social welfare, or employees’ rights, and garnering appreciation around the world for their relentless efforts, these nations often lack sufficient clout to influence other nations to follow their leadership. The Paris Agreement on climate change is an example of how the withdrawal of a single but influential nation, such as the US, can undo years of work by many smaller ones.

World’s most generous nation, Canada wins most medals

Canada ranks highest globally for the People & Values pillar. The effects of a liberal asylum and migration policy on its soft power are clear – general public respondents rank Canada as the world’s most generous nation, 2nd for friendliness, and 3rd for tolerance. Also its International Relations score benefits from its open policies, with the nation perceived as helpful to countries in need (2nd), acting to protect the environment (2nd), and maintaining good relations with other countries (3rd). Canada ranks in the top 3 for 13 soft power characteristics – more than any other nation – but wins too few golds to top the medal table.

Spain is the world’s friendliest nation

Just behind Canada in the medal table, Spain derives its two golds from the People & Values pillar. The world’s view is that the Spanish people are the most fun and friendly of any nation in the world. The people from the land of long lunches, late nights, flamenco, food-sharing, and football are incredibly well-liked across the globe. This is largely driven by the fact that Spain is undoubtedly still an international benchmark as a nation of leisure and tourism – a sector that contributed 14.6% to the national GDP in 2019.

Overall, Spain ranks 16th out of a total of 60 nations in the Index, with a final score of 47.6. Despite positive results on People & Values, Spain’s performance is mixed in other areas, such as Governance, International Relations, and Education & Science. Recent issues involving Catalonia, troubles building a coalition government, corruption scandals, and the lingering impacts of the Great Recession are likely to be at fault here. Strength and stability at home is obviously a precursor for influence abroad.

UAE Mars Mission propels its soft power

As the Middle East’s highest ranked soft power nation, the United Arab Emirates is in 18th position in the Index and receives a Global Soft Power Index score of 45.9 out of 100. The UAE’s main soft power strength is its appealing business environment, stable economy and consensus that it is a great place to do business in and with. The responses from specialist audiences were particularly positive, especially among business leaders. From non-business audiences (Media, Academics, General Public), scores are solid but lag behind market leader nations such as Singapore, Switzerland, and the US.

The UAE’s reputation is weakest across science and technology specifically, although this could be set to change drastically since the recent announcement of the Emirates Mars Mission, a planned space exploration probe mission to Mars launched by the United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. Carried out by a team of Emirati engineers in collaboration with foreign research institutions, the Mission is a contribution towards a knowledge-based economy in the UAE. The UAE’s positive brand image, such as its new unified Nation Brand unveiled in December 2019, has allowed the young nation to succeed when other Arab states have faltered

Expand to 193 nations

Brand Finance defines soft power as “a nation’s ability to influence the preferences and behaviours of various actors in the international arena (states, corporations, communities, publics etc.) through attraction or persuasion rather than coercion”. The London-based consultancy intends to commission annual waves of the research, extending the breadth and depth to cover all 193 nations in the UN. The Brand Finance Institute will also be developing a programme of best practice in global soft power together with academic and nation brand partners.