Cultural Diplomacy argues that, more than ever before, culture has a vital role to play in international relations. This stems from the wider, connective and human values that culture has: culture is both the means by which we come to understand others, and an aspect of life with innate worth that we enjoy and seek out. Cultural enables us to appreciate points of commonality and, where there are differences, to understand the motivations and humanity that underlie them.
As identity politics exert an increasing influence on domestic and international exchanges, culture is therefore a critical forum for negotiation and a medium of exchange in finding shared solutions. Cultural contact provides a forum for unofficial political relationship-building: it keeps open negotiating channels with countries where political connections are in jeopardy, and helps to recalibrate relationships for changing times with emerging powers such as India and China. In the future, alliances are just as likely to be forged along lines of cultural understanding as they are on economic or geographic ones.
However, culture should not be used as a tool of public diplomacy. The value of cultural activity comes precisely from its independence, its freedom and the fact that it represents and connects people, rather than necessarily governments or policy positions. Cultural Institutions and others in the cultural sector must not only retain their independence, but also be brought more into the policy-making process.
Download John Holden's Launch Speech: 28th February 2007
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