Demos on Cultural Diplomacy

February 13, 2011

From my enormous  ‘I missed this or I didn’t read this when it came out pile’ I’ve pulled out  a report from Demos (A British think tank usually associated with Tony Blair and the ‘third way’) from 2007 on Cultural Diplomacy.

This report was sponsored by The British Council, The British Museum, the British Library, Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum, Royal Opera House, and the Victoria and Albert Museum ie major cultural institutions.  Part of the argument is a very familiar one that in the current international environment  culture is becoming more important and is a source of national competitive advantage.   What was new to me was the discussion of the international linkages of the sponsoring cultural institutions and the request that these linkages should be more involved with the UK public diplomacy.  Essentially the argument is that we have these linkages anyway and if we had more of a steer as to PD priorities we could garner more benefits from them.  Part of the problem is that the cultural institutions have a closer linkage with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) than with the Foreign Office and while the DCMS has a role in cultural diplomacy and international cultural relations there is a question mark of the level of coordination.  Having said this at the moment the DCMS lists its number one priority as delivering the Olympics.  In addition the report recommends that cultural institutions which don’t have explicit international strategies should develop them.

One thing that is a bit intriguing about the report is that an appendix lists over 140 individuals or organizations in China, Ethiopia, France, India, Norway, UK, US that were interviewed to provide a comparative perspective, however beyond a 7 page appendix ‘snapshots of cultural diplomacy’ the report hardly makes use of this data  (excluding summary etc there’s 71 pages of text) so what was done with all this material?  There’s probably enough there for a book length study of comparative cultural diplomacy.


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