Why do we need cultural diplomacy? My answer is: because the world is changing. And if the world is changing, politics, in its higher meaning of serving the community interests, must change too. The famous German strategist Clausewitz considered that war is a continuation of politics, but with other means. I believe that peace can also be a result of politics, obtained through other means. One of these means is cultural diplomacy. It should not replace the traditional diplomacy of dialogue between parties having different interests, dialogue enforced through different types of pressures, and force threats. It can complement it with a new element: a dialogue based on understanding the motivations of other parts and, in a wider meaning, based on a better understanding of the world we live in.
The challenges of the present are so urgent and important, that we are very often bound to come up with an answer even before we see the signs of an uncertain future. In the meantime, the world is rapidly changing around us. To talk about a way of rising up to the challenges of the third millennium is first of all an intellectual challenge. Claiming to bring up a really new perspective may seem audacious. In a globalized world that lays the foundation for the knowledge society we perceive the present as subordinated to the future. Even for Europe, whose two millennia past is at the same time elevating and painful, present reveals itself as a memory of the future.
In order to elaborate a long-term common strategy for global and regional peace, it is necessary for us to make an effort of understanding and anticipating the evolution (or degradation) tendencies of the world we live in. The changes within the security environment can be understood only if take into account the changes within the nature of the international relations, the rules, the norms, the actors’ typology, the goals and the action mechanisms.
Our contemporary world can be characterized as a uni-multipolar one, with an anarchic periphery. Within this context, even a super-power like the USA cannot act by itself, but only together with other powers. The West itself is multipolar and uneven. The Western multipolar is generated by the domestic democracy and the one present within the international bodies and institutions it had created.
In our contemporary world, states can no longer be divided into blocks because the reactions following different interests lead to changing the alliances and the opposite parts due to different topics or subjects. On one hand, it is a reflex of the contemporary world democratization, but also of the governments’ pragmatism forced to respond to the needs of their own citizens.
Preventing conflicts or managing post-conflict situations requires a comprehensive balanced vision, which takes into consideration the interests of various ethnic and religious communities, the rights and obligations of independent states’ citizens, the conjectural, and the long-term interests of the regional actors. This vision cannot be developed without the involvement of representatives able to understand and express the plurality of voices, questions, and desires of millions of people. This is why political structures should be supplemented by civil society structures dedicated to world security issues. Only such a process of consolidated respect for human beings, democracy, and common security may reach the depth which only peoples’ true will can guarantee.
The preventive vocation will be the keystone of diplomacy in the future. This involves a rising complexity of the analyses and action ways. The repetitive crisis has shown that, unfortunately, punctual preventive interventions are not enough and should be inserted in a complex of long term actions which need to take into account the overall aspects of some regions and the overall aspects of the problems that might destabilize them, from economic difficulties to the stereotypes anchored in divergent mentalities, from poor communication channels to unconventional risks for security.
Cultural diplomacy could function as a laboratory where a political culture of global security through mutual trust, negotiation, and cooperation is created. It can identify major risks, could elaborate and implement programs of cooperation, both inside countries with high conflict risk as well as in areas with conflict potential.
In my opinion, the first step of the cultural diplomacy should take would be to make a conceptual map of the international political universe. On it we could draw the different worlds populating our planet, the post-modern, the modern and the pre-modern ones. Only on such a foundation, we can build politics and security strategies proper for a fast-changing and contradictory world.
Common security policy fundamental remains the “soft” power: the use of diplomacy – supported where necessary by trade, aid, and peacekeeping – in order to solve conflicts and bring about international understanding.
Diplomacy in its traditional sense, no longer exclusively represents an instrument for forwarding foreign policy interests, but is used as a platform for promoting international cooperation and partnerships among diverse independent international non-governmental actors. Cultural Diplomacy, therefore, implies a twofold action, intended not only to create a cultural presence, but also to create a framework for the other person or nation to recognize this presence, to achieve an understanding that transcends stereotypes. A ‘great conversation of mankind’ should now be encouraged, where wider groups of people will engage in the process of the free flow of ideas and knowledge throughout the world.
International politics, as well as classic diplomacy, were built on power and force relations and will continue to be so a long time from now on. The concept of “soft power” is far from being functional. Cultural diplomacy is still in its infant stage. I want to be well understood, I do not plead for replacing classic diplomacy with the cultural one. It would mean for me to encourage a dangerous utopia. I plead though for a combination of them. From my experience gained as a scientist, as a man of culture and as a statesman, I can say that cultural diplomacy is in the same relation with classic diplomacy as is the non-Euclidean geometry with the Euclidean geometry, the relativistic physics with the Newtonian physics, the principle of included third party with the principle of the excluded third party of the Aristotelian logic, the modernism with the post-modernism, the classicism with the neoclassicism in literature, music, art, and so on.
Cultural diplomacy should not be taken as a panacea. It only shows that we have more values and principles that can unite us than the ones able to divide us. It can help us build a climate that gives us hope that trust, in a globalized world, could be rebuilt not only between states but also between governments, politicians, and citizens.
So far, both major powers and international organizations like the UN, UNESCO as well as civil society try to create a political culture of security through negotiation and cooperation. In order to promote peace and understanding in the world one searches the lowest common denominator around which we can agree upon. My belief is that we must put forth much more. If we want to achieve a true peace and understanding between people, we should focus not on the lowest common denominator, but to relate to the highest common denominator.
Twenty years ago, people in Eastern Europe were ready to fight and die for freedom and democracy. In a new millennium, let us rediscover faith. Not to use it, as in a long mankind history, against others, but to understand our mission on earth. Peace is the name of God, whether we are Christians, Muslims, Hebrew, or Asian religions’ believers. Only human arrogance made man forget the message of God, whatever the name we give him in our language or in our faith.
If we desire a world of peace, we should build it, fight for it and we should not be overwhelmed by the fear of some evil considered inevitable. If globalization cannot be avoided, then it should be molded. We shall survive in this still divided world not through what we possess, but through who we are.
The greatest contribution of the cultural diplomacy to the world’s architecture of security will be the prevention of wars, which will not happen anymore, mainly as a result of the creation of institutional dialogue mechanisms and the participation of civil society to the development of a Universal Culture of Peace.
Note: This paper was presented during the International Conference “Evolutions in Fighting Terrorism and the New Challenges of the Middle East”, held in Bucharest on the 5th of July 2017.