His Excellency Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, Minister of the State of Qatar and President of Qatar National Library, speaks about his belief in the power of cultural diplomacy
Throughout my experiences as a diplomat, and my journey through life, I have realized that the path towards global harmony starts by reinforcing the value of culture in international relations. This is why I believe that cultural diplomacy is the key to enhancing relationships between people, and that it represents a genuine ‘safety valve’ for nations who are searching for peace.
While cultural diplomacy may have enjoyed a recent re-emergence, I do not believe it has ever been entirely absent from the Middle Ages onward
Politics has not been a sufficient solution for problems that exist between nations, and this was illustrated from the end of World War II until the emergence of two polar opposite systems: capitalism and socialism. Consequently, politicians saw the need for a more effective method of negotiation. They discovered the impact of culture on citizens, and the power it holds in shaping international relations.
When the term ‘soft power’ first emerged at the beginning of the 1990s, it provided culture with a new international role to play. The power of a country was no longer measured solely by the strength of its economy, or its political and military presence. Instead, it was measured by its ability to establish cultural relations with other countries, and assume leading positions within international organizations.
And while cultural diplomacy may have enjoyed a recent re-emergence, I do not believe it has ever been entirely absent from the Middle Ages onward. Rather, it has diverse and deep-rooted origins. Cultural diplomacy is considered to be the most advanced form, among many others, of cultural and symbolic exchange between countries.
For centuries, gifts represented an intention to communicate with others, and became a symbol of forming close relationships. In his book Relics and Antiques, Al-Qady Al-Rashid bin Al-Zubayr (5th century AH) provided information about the gifts and artifacts exchanged between kings and rulers, including a compilation of the most unusual collectibles. This book indicates that wide-ranging ties were being established between nations, and proves that gifts were used to form close relationships.
I am confident that the role of cultural diplomacy will further expand in the future, and that traditional diplomacy will not be able to function without it
I am confident that the role of cultural diplomacy will further expand in the future, and that traditional diplomacy will not be able to function without it. In Qatar, we have long been fully aware of this, and so we have sought to excel in our cultural diplomacy practices. This, in turn, has helped to strengthen our country's stature in the global arena, and our engagement with the world.
The Years of Culture that continue to be held between Qatar and other countries are a special symbol, indicating the role of culture in building bridges between nations, enhancing understanding through the exchange of creative experiences, and exploring cultural diversity and the interaction of civilizations.
Many cultural organizations have followed the same route and developed ongoing initiatives for cultural diplomacy. Over the years, this has been reflected in the cultural programs offered by Qatar Museums, Qatar Foundation, Katara – the Cultural Village Foundation, and Qatar National Library. As a result, Qatar has strengthened its relations with other countries, and it has become a civilizational crossroads for cultures around the world.
I believe that cultural diplomacy is becoming increasingly successful as more academics and academic institutions embrace it
The Education Above All foundation, and its global Educate A Child program, have also contributed to strengthening diplomatic ties by promoting a culture of peace, which is a message central to education. Additionally, hosting the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ will also enable Qatar to strengthen its ties with the rest of the world, as sport plays an essential role in soft power.
I have witnessed the impact of cultural diplomacy by practicing it myself during my candidacy campaign for the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The campaign achieved impressive results due to Qatar’s prominent position in this diplomatic field.
I believe that cultural diplomacy is becoming increasingly successful as more academics and academic institutions embrace it. The purpose of university education is not only limited to providing our community with competent workers, but to produce trained citizens who embrace the value of dialogue and cultural exchange to help promote understanding.
Consequently, cultural diplomacy will play an active role among the educated youth and a protective role for future generations. For that reason, the world – with all its political complexities – must value cultural diplomacy if is to foster understanding and help its nations co-exist with one another.