Dr Amy Szarkowski and Dr Yukinori Komine highlight the concepts behind Soft Power and how it applies to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Their study examines the applicability of the concept of soft power in US foreign policy with regard to international treaties, in particular the CRPD, through the lenses of both political science and psychology. Soft power, the practice of multilateral public diplomacy based on persuasion through one’s cultural and normative influence, has increasingly captured the interest of scholars and policy-makers. In practice, the US government has demonstrated diverse reactions to international treaties. The George W. Bush administration was critical toward international treaties, including the CRPD, regarding them as an interference into US domestic politics. The Barack Obama administration has advocated accepting the international treaty of disability rights as a US diplomatic attempt to enhance human rights at home and within the international community. This study applies the concept of soft power to the question of US implementation of the CRPD. It argues that by taking an active initiative in enhancing the rights of a particular minority group, the community of persons with disabilities, the US could increase its influence and play an important role in the issue of human rights internationally. The study concludes by making policy relevant suggestions regarding US implementation of the international treaty governing rights for persons with disabilities. Doing so has the potential to enhance U.S. prestige in the international community as well as serve its national interests in the long-term.
Dr Amy Szarkowski & Dr Yukinori Komine
Amy Szarkowski, PhD, is a Psychologist in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and an Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Clinically, she specialises in conducting psychological assessment with children who are Deaf or hard of hearing and providing counseling services to families impacted by hearing loss. Areas of research interest include social-emotional functioning and quality of life issues in Deaf and hard of hearing children (including those with complex medical conditions), combined autism and hearing loss and disability rights issues.
Yukinori Komine, PhD, is an Associate in Research at the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University. He is an internationally trained political scientist whose area of expertise is US Foreign Policy and International Relations of the Asia-Pacific region.
Dr Szarkowski and Dr Komine were Spotlight Speakers at The Asian Conference on the Social Sciences 2014 in Osaka, Japan.