CD Statement - The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in Today's World

By Prof. Dr. Vasile Puscas (Former Romanian Minister for European Affairs – ICD Advisory Board Member)


Due to globalization, states can no longer exist individually. Therefore communication must also work horizontally between them, not just at political-diplomatic levels, but also at other, less conventional levels. Considering the irrefutability of the economy as a primary force in interdependence, communication should be approached with this in mind.  But it is important not to forget the role of culture and education.

Cultural diplomacy can be defined as a track II, non-conventional diplomatic practice, aimed at identifying cultural patterns of behavior as well as the commonalities of two or more competing groups in order to find a common ground of dialogue, while preserving culturally sensitive aspects. Sharing culture can lead to mutual understanding and acceptance of another’s identity.

An absence of war does not automatically mean the presence of sustainable peace. While some nations and communities involved in conflicts may abide to internationally brokered peace agreements, in depth there often still a lack of understanding and acceptance of each other’s differences. By enforcing non-conventional diplomatic practices through state and non-state actors, one can move from rejection, disintegration, segregation and isolation to acceptance, understanding, celebration and integration in societies torn by internal, ethnic and religious conflicts.

Although less glamorous and heavily under-represented in the global media, cultural diplomacy has worked well at both grassroots and middle level decision making, in regions with a diversity of ethnicities and religions, rich histories and cultures but torn apart by war, frozen conflicts or dictatorships such as the Balkans, the Caucasus/Central Asia or the Middle East and the Arab world.

It is important to note, however, that cultural diplomacy is not just a modest success model for conflict torn regions. Inside an expanding EU, culture has been extremely present, with the aim of celebrating diversity and cross-border interaction. Probably the most visible success story of very different nations coming together for common interests while still preserving national cultural identities, the EU may become a model to be exported in other parts of the world.

Vasile Puscas