Cultural Diplomats Of All Countries Unite!

By Dr. Jacques F. Poos (Former Deputy Prime minister of Luxemburg – ICD Advisory Board Member)


Analysing the fundamental changes which occurred during the past eleven years of this new century, it appears that the use of cultural diplomacy or soft power, as opposed to the use of hard power, could have prevented many human tragedies. Close to us are the Arab Spring and the sovereign debt crisis, neither of which have reached a conclusion, and both of which have a cultural dimension.

At the forefront of the Arab revolutions stood neither political, nor religious leaders; they were essentially inspired by social and cultural aspects of society. Here, the young generation were battling for better living conditions, and for self-determination. The uprising was initiated by those countries whose identity and development had been violated and restrained by centuries of colonial rule, and decades of dictatorship. Against this background, the Arab Revolutions were cultural revolutions. The West (Americans as well as Europeans) would do well to base their future relationship with the Arab World on the universal principles of tolerance, respect and solidarity, rather than on teaching them how to proceed. The transition to democracy and nation-building will need time.

In a quite different field, the current financial crisis has brought to the surface a cultural difference which had previously been pushed aside as the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union was created.

The ‘hard currency countries’ carry forward good reasons to avoid any behaviour conducive to budgetary imbalances and inflation. ‘Weak currency’ countries (whether we call then ‘peripheral’ or ‘PIGS’) have a cultural tolerance for deficit spending, followed by adjustments through devaluation -one might easily guess to which of these two categories the USA would belong. A rather smooth functioning of the world-economy between 1998 and 2008 wiped out the underlying cultural differences of financial behaviour. Unsurprisingly they surfaced again as the financial crisis deepened.

The common European House can only be brought to order through cultural diplomacy. The ‘hardliners,’ which draw a lot of advantages from the present situation, must accept more solidarity; the ‘weakliners’ must accept more fiscal discipline and a deepening of political integration. Amending the present treaty is the on-going exercise aiming to get the policy-mix right and to bridge the cultural gap. The European Union will survive this exercise.

More important yet, and more threatening for the future of mankind is the big power-shift as the 21st Century unfolds. At the end of October 2011, the United Nations celebrated the birth of a little Philippino girl, named as the world’s 7 billionth human being. 50% of our planet’s population live in Asia, and India will surpass China in a few years from now in terms of total population. China will then surpass the United States as the first economic power at the horizon of the present decade.

These global changes are potentially explosive. Their impact on psychology, economy, military positioning and so on, has been scarcely analysed. Cultural diplomats of all countries should unite in order to make sure that the transition is a peaceful one.

Dr. Jacques F. Poos