British Council

British Council Celebrating 75 Years of Cultural Relations: The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in European Foreign Policy 22 October 2009 by Gijs de Vries   Netherlands Court of Audit

Most countries have found that one way of mobilising their power of attraction is by mobilising their cultural attractiveness. It is by familiarising others with one’s own language, films, books, music, architecture, and so on, and with one’s people and their thinking, that countries are often able to touch hearts and minds, and to win friends abroad.

Cultural Diplomacy - It is about the intellectual life of a nation in the widest sense: its scientific research as well as its art, its social and political life as well as its literature. Crucially, cultural diplomacy is about the values that are at a country’s understanding of itself, and about the ways in which these values manifest themselves in daily life.

Cultural diplomacy therefore has a reflective, self-critical component. In reaching out to others, it dares to reflect on a country’s shortcomings as well as its ambitions and achievements.

Secondly, cultural diplomacy differs from public relations in terms of its timeframe. Cultural diplomacy entails the establishment of long-term partnerships, not ad hoc projects. Its focus is not on improving a country’s popular image in the short term, but on building a positive reputation, which, by definition, requires consistency and continued dedication.

Third, cultural diplomacy differs from cultural public relations in terms of its purpose. Cultural diplomacy is not only about soliciting admiration or sympathy through the showcasing of national cultural achievements. It is above all about building trust. Its purpose is to establish mutually beneficial cooperation and partnership. It is about establishing mutual benefit as the basis for mutual trust.

Across the world, cultural and natural heritage is subject to a multitude of threats, from neglect, warfare, and pillage to climate change. Working with foreign countries to help preserve their cultural and natural heritage is a powerful expression of respect for the cultural identity of the country concerned, and thus an important instrument of cultural diplomacy.

People-to-People Contacts - Last, but not least, it is important to recognise that Europe has a lot to learn from other cultures and traditions, as well as a lot to offer. As mentioned earlier, our purpose should be, in the words of the British Council, to build lasting relationships on trust, mutual understanding and respect. Our focus should be on exchanging ideas, sharing knowledge and learning from countries outside the EU.

It is important for our efforts internationally, also, to reflect the diversity in cultural and ethnic terms of Europe today. Europe is no longer a white, Christian continent and the voices and images the Europe portrays should be reflecting this reality.

British Council intends to link 10,000 schools in the UK with a similar number overseas. EU Ministers of Education could set Europe-wide targets, building on this example. By 2015, Ministers could agree, all schools in the European Union should be linked to a partner school abroad, either in another EU Member State or elsewhere in the world. Working towards such international connectedness would be a powerful way of enabling European children to think of themselves as citizens of the world, who are familiar with foreign cultures and experiences.

Multilingualism - Cultural diplomacy is about dialogue, not monologue. The capacity to listen is conditional, among other things, on our capacity to speak foreign languages. Multilingualism must be a requirement for a strategy of cultural diplomacy that involves civil society. Multilingualism should involve not only the learning of European languages, but also the learning of non-European languages such as Chinese, Hindi, Arabic and Turkish.

Presentation Talks 2014

Religion Culture Diversity

Multi Faiths Calendar

27June Ramadan 2014
Astronomy eBook

Main Menu

SMSC Culture Education

Primary Education
Training Teacher eBook