Cultural Diplomacy & Identity

By The Hon. Charles Clarke (Former Home Secretary of the United Kingdom)


The core point about Cultural Diplomacy is the need for different groups of people, whether religions, faiths, political groups, or ethnic groups, to understand others and to understand what they are trying to achieve, and what they’re preoccupied with. For me, the number one word is respect. There was a British Olympic athlete called Linford Christie, who was a great hundred-meter world champion. He had an organization for him called ‘Nuff Respect, and he was trying to promote the idea of respect, in particular for the long battle, for any kind of coherent community cohesion in Britain was based on the argument that everybody deserved respect. And that’s a large part of what I think Cultural Diplomacy is all about. It’s about respecting other people individually, other people’s cultures. But I think there’s another dimension to it too which is very important, and which for me is summed up in a book by Amartya Sen, called Identity and Violence. What he said was that each of us has within us a whole series of different forms of identity- being man, being British, being white, and so on. And I have the right to decide which of those identities I promote in my own life, and take forward in my own life. I think that’s a very important belief and I think it has big implications for Cultural Diplomacy, because you stop classifying people just as being a woman, a black woman, a white women, a white man, or whatever, but say that actually every individual has a whole set of identities which they chose for themselves in the way they want to express themselves. That has implications for Cultural Diplomacy, and I think it is the way we should be looking at the world much more these days…”

- The International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy & International Economics 2012; Berlin, Germany, June 22nd, 2012