In the 21st century, cultural diplomacy has become increasingly important as our world has become increasingly interconnected by economic and technological advancements. Cultural diplomacy refers to the exchange of ideas, information, art, and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding. This form of grassroots diplomacy is a soft power, which aims to influence others through attraction and persuasion, rather than coercion or force. It is unique from many other forms of diplomacy in that in that cultural diplomats--artists, scholars, and religious leaders who travel abroad to share their nation's culture--use art, religion, music, etc. to connect with people and promote respect, understanding and sustainable development.
Cultural diplomacy has three advantages. First, can build trust and respect between different countries. The cultural diplomats a country chooses can help build up a more positive image of the country and its people, as well as reduce stereotypes and prejudice. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, the Jazz Ambassadors program sent famous jazz musicians from the U.S. like Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck to perform around the world. The program focused on countries under the influence of communism or facing social unrest, sharing American culture and values of freedom and democracy and countering negative stereotypes and propaganda through jazz.
Second, cultural diplomacy can bring countries closer together through joint programs or initiatives focusing on cultural exchange or artistic collaboration. For example, the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy partners with embassies and government agencies, creating cultural exhibits and exchanges around the world to foster understanding, respect, and dialogue among different cultures. The Meridian Center also holds an annual culture diplomacy celebration called Culturefix, which celebrates the arts and culture’s role in solving global challenges and presents the Meridian Cultural Diplomacy Awards to artists and cultural leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to using the arts and culture to unite people, promoting the value of cultural diversity, and fostering greater international cooperation on global challenges.
Third, cultural diplomacy promotes a culture of peace and tolerance. By promoting cultural distinctiveness, cultural diplomacy exposes people to the world’s cultural diversity and facilitates social cooperation and dialogue among countries and organizations. This enhances international relations and renews cooperation among countries beyond prioritizing competing interests to instead address pressing global issues such as social justice, disinformation and climate change. The British Council is a good example: They create knowledge and understanding between the U.K. and other countries in the fields of arts and culture, reaching over 80 million people directly and 791 million people overall. Through their initiatives, they use culture to build trust, dialogue, and cooperation on global issues. For example, their Cultural Protection Fund supports projects and efforts that foster, safeguard, and promote cultural heritage at risk in conflict-affected regions, and their Festivals and Seasons provides a cultural platform to a partner country in the U.K. or vice versa.
As you can see, cultural diplomacy plays an important role in ensuring successful international relations. It allows countries to introduce people around the globe to the uniqueness and richness of their cultures, while building trust and respect and encouraging cooperation in addressing pressing global challenges. This approach is instrumental in securing global peace and driving progress at a worldwide scale.