Regular readers of this blog will know of my love for the American children's TV programme, Sesame Street, and my conviction of its role in international outreach. Its role in developing educational programmes around the world has been one of the greatest public diplomacy (or education diplomacy) success stories, mainly for two reasons: (i) it demonstrates the importance of acting positively and creating new opportunities and relationships with audiences (the importance of actually doing something, rather than just talking about it); and (ii) by encouraging local media organisations to create their own versions of Sesame Street that are embedded within local cultural contexts, the producers demonstrate a sensitivity to their audiences: "The US government thought it was on to a winner when it gave $20m (£13m) to fund a Pakistani version of the show, hoping it would raise the country's woeful literacy rates and help turn a young generation away from the siren call of religious extremism."
A report in yesterday's Guardian newspaper is therefore quite disturbing (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/05/pakistan-sesame-street-funding-withdrawn?INTCMP=SRCH).
It seems that the US Agency for International Development is withdrawing funding for the Pakistani version of Sesame Street, Sim Sim Hamara, because of 'financial irregularities', mismanagment and even corruption. Obviously the local prodcers, Rafi Peer, have denied the allegations.
Whatever the reason this is a very regrettable episode, and over above the soft power interests of developing a local version of Sesame Street, the only losers are Pakistan's children trapped in illiteracy.