Counter-Daesh Coalition Communications Cell

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The Counter-Daesh Coalition Communications Cell is a propaganda unit in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that works closely with the US State Department and the UAE in The Global Coalition Against Daesh. The Cell is also known as the Counter-ISIL Coalition Communications Cell. It was set up in September 2015.[1] According to an MoD report on Information Advantage:

The UK Government’s counter-Daesh task force created several cross-government bodies that successfully neutered Daesh’s online presence. The UK led the coalition communications cell that effectively marshalled overt, international media and communications. This provided a strong counter-narrative, and using consistent messaging then applied a range of increasingly covert operations to negate Daesh’s ability to create effect through the information domain. Much of these operations must remain secret, but as Director Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has recently stated, at their most complex we were able to synchronise and fuse the special intelligence agencies output; cyber, kinetic fires, overt and covert messaging, and the military campaign, to render Daesh’s online and media persona significantly downgraded to the point that the previously triumphalist ISIL brand looked badly threadbare.[2]

Comms Cell

According to a letter by the UK Foreign Secretary:

The UK, with the US and UAE, co-chairs the Global Coalition’s Strategic Communications Working Group. The UK has provided £10m to set up a Counter-Daesh Coalition Communications Cell, based in the FCO. The Cell brings together the 66 Coalition partners behind one communications initiative. Through this work the FCO is setting the direction for counter-Daesh communications, sharing expertise on strategic communications tools and building the capacity of Coalition partners in the region.[3]

The Global Coalition’s Communication Cell, is said to be 'embedded in the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London'. The head of that cell, Dan Chugg, stated in an interview with a US propaganda outlet Unipath:

To defeat Daesh in the propaganda war, the cell manages campaign activity that aims to hasten the collapse of the Daesh ‘brand,’ targeting the group’s claims to statehood, success and supremacy. The cell seeks to achieve this by working in partnership with others, sharing best practices and pooling resources. Campaigns in Iraq and Syria provide testimony on the truth of life under Daesh. Working with and through credible voices, we are leaving no space uncontested; targeting key audiences; revealing Daesh’s failed proposition; and emboldening and empowering moderate voices. The overarching narrative is that Daesh is failing on their own terms. By defining and highlighting Daesh failures, and by making clear that only Daesh is responsible for its actions, we will make the Daesh ‘brand’ less appealing. Conversely, we should not concentrate too much on coalition success, as this risks playing into Daesh’s narrative of victimhood.[4]

History

The Cell was created in 2015. The LinkedIn profile of Alicia Kearns (who later joined the PR firm Global Influence) states that she was 'Cross-Government lead for Counter Daesh, Syria and Iraq Effort' FCO, August 2014 – August 2016.[5] This suggests that the work she did in 2014 and 2015 before the Cell was formally set up, related to Syria and Iraq and to the government strategic communication programme on Syria created back in June 2012.

People

  • Nancy Jamal
  • Dan Chugg - former Head, Counter Daesh Coalition Communications Cell
  • Despo Michael Deputy Head, Counter Daesh Coalition Communications Cell [6]
  • Sofia Lyen Head of HMG Comms for Counter Daesh[7]
  • Alicia Kearns 'Cross-Government lead for Counter Daesh, Syria and Iraq Effort' FCO, August 2014 – August 2016. [8]
  • Chris Berthoud Head of Digital, Counter Daesh Communications Cell
  • Ramin Navai, Counter-Daesh Coalition Communications Cell, circa March 2018[9]
  • Owen Bassett Head of the Counter Daesh Comms Cell. [10]
  • Erika Thompson Head, Private Sector Engagement, Global Coalition Against Daesh Communications Cell, UK FCO, circa 2017.[11]

Resources

References

  1. Gov.uk UK action to combat Daesh. Accessed 24 October 2019.
  2. Ministry of Defence Information Advantage], Joint Concept Note 2/18, November 2018. Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre. Retrieved frm the Internet Archive of 3 December 2019 on 3 December 2019.
  3. Foreign Affairs Select Committee The UK's role in the war against ISIL following the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria in February 2016: Government response to the Committee's Third Report of Session 2015-16 Appendix: Letter from the Foreign Secretary and Government response, 8 June 2016.
  4. JOHN REDFIELD MANAGING THE MESSAGE, Unipath Volume 8.
  5. LinkedIn Alicia Kearns. Accessed 2 May 2018.
  6. Government Communication Service People Finder Despo Michael, Accessed 17 November 2017.
  7. Government Communication Service People Finder Sofia Lyen, Accessed 8 April 2018.
  8. LinkedIn Alicia Kearns. Accessed 2 May 2018.
  9. Egmont Institute Belgium, Britain, and Europe: Future Security and Defence Cooperation, Belgium, 21 March 2018.
  10. Twitter @mrobassett. Accessed 30 March 2020.
  11. 2nd International Conference on Digital Diplomacy, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Agenda, 5-7 December 2017.