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Cultural diplomacy plays role in building societies
KUWAIT: Sheikha Hussa Al-Salem Al-Sabah welcoming the participants on Monday.
KUWAIT: The role of cultural diplomacy in building bridges among different people came under focus at a symposium organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Monday at the UN House in Mishref. The symposium, a first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa, saw experts from various walks of life bringing their experience to the table.
These included Sheikha Hussa Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Director of Dar Al-Athar Al- Islamiya. Iman Y. Ereiqat, Chief of Mission of IOM Kuwait, noted that ‘diplomacy’ is a science, a way of management, and the art of handling contradictions and negotiating for achieving results that could satisfy all concerned parties. “In view of the importance of diplomacy, we find it necessary to hold this forum, which is the first of its kind in the Middle East and Northern African Region, to highlight the role of diplomacy in understanding cultures of different people, and building bridges among them, to enable discussion based on mutual respect and sharing with others,” she pointed out.
The main theme of this conference was “The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in Building Bridges between Cultures”. “We, at IOM Kuwait, are proud that, in cooperation with “Aware Centre”,we managed to take this leading step of introducing such an important, distinguished and modern subject in the Arab World,” she added. “We look at you, young people, as our future, and thus decided that the invitees to this forum should be university and highschool students who have a genuine desire for learning and benefiting from the experiences of the speakers.
We all work together for participating in building real societies capable of accommodating different strata ; societies that understand others, respect them, and defend their privacy; where everyone can live without discrimination or exclusion,” Ereiqat further said . Terming the forum as a first step along the path, she said, it would be held annually and would focus on one area that can “help bridge gaps between cultures.” “We are working (so that) that the next versions will be on a regional level,” she concluded.
On his part, Dr. Ebraheen Al- Adasani from the Aware Center said that although cultural diplomacy existed since long, still many regard it as a means of exporting cultural values of one country to another, rather than engaging in a cultural interaction. “For the purposes of this symposium, I define cultural diplomacy as the pursuit of better mutual understanding with the aim of eliminating differences of perceptions between nations. Knowing one another is the essence of cultural diplomacy. And in order for it to be effective, it should be an exercise of give and take rather than a one way street. The goal is not to prove that one culture is superior to the other, but rather to understand that certain concepts are perceived in a different manner in other cultures.
This awareness will help us avoid misunderstandings,” explained Al-Adasani. Nowadays, the internet and different social media platforms have made interaction between countries and individuals of different cultures much easier and more intense. “This means that cultural diplomacy has become essential in contemporary relations. While classical diplomacy is handled almost exclusively by the State, cultural diplomacy requires the involvement of multiple actors from various sections of society.
This includes higher education institutions, NGOs, sportsmen, artists and professional associations,” he pointed out. “The Aware Center, one of the NGOs in Kuwait, works towards combating the risks of misperception and misunderstanding through cultural exchange and constructive dialogue,” he concluded. The Ambassador of the United States of America to Kuwait, Matthew Tueller, said, “We as Americans see great value in cultural exchanges and cultural diplomacy.
While we do not have a Ministry of Culture as many other countries around world do, there is an entire branch of our Department of State which promotes U.S. culture abroad, brings international visitors to the United States for cultural exchanges, and promotes U.S. Education.” On the cultural diplomacy in the Middle East, he said, “Many of you may recall President Obama’s “New Beginning Speech” that he delivered on June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Egypt.
I was fortunate to be among the audience that day and I can tell you that the atmosphere was electric. Never before had an American President embarked on such an ambitious plan to bridge the gap between America and the countries in the Middle East,” and proceeded to quote the President. “What the President articulated in Cairo is something that our Embassies around the region endeavor to put into practice every day.
At times this work can be quite challenging as many peoples’ views of America are influenced heavily by movies and TV shows or by media that distorts the image of the U.S. So, working overseas, our Embassies, and particularly our Public Affairs Sections, seek to offer a more realistic picture of the American people,” stressed Tueller. “Facilitating exchanges and face-to-face interactions between individuals is the bread and butter of our public diplomacy work.
Our Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs works around the clock to maintain a wide range of high-quality exchanges between youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and emerging leaders in the United States and more than 160 countries,” he noted. Finally he spoke about the future of cultural diplomacy and the role of technology in helping reach even more people. “The importance of social media and connective technology is to help us reach local communities that we previously did not engage with directly.
Listening to local communities is a key element of successful cultural diplomacy. Kuwait has the highest levels of social media usage compared with other countries in the region, in spite of its small population. Kuwaitis are more active than ever on social media like Twitter and Instagram,” concluded Tueller
By Nawara Fattahova, Kuwait Times Staff