Making Cultural Cooperation Popular

As we discuss different approaches and practices for successful public diplomacy, Japan’s concept of ‘cultural co-operation’ seems particularly interesting and underestimated in its power.

Described by Ogoura for the Journal of the East Asia Foundation, cultural co-operation implies “activities as helping developing countries to stage theatrical performances, providing them with lighting or recording equipment, furnishing showcases for museums and giving them technical assistance in arts management”. As Ogoura points out, in Japan’s case, this type of public diplomacy proved especially effective, positioning it as a strong international player on the stage of cultural diplomacy. The highlight of this strategy was the establishment of a special fund within UNESCO, dedicated to preservation of cultural heritage in developing countries.

It seems that the concept of cultural co-operation is particularly powerful and does not get enough attention in discussion about public diplomacy. Usually, when cultural diplomacy is discussed, the context implies use of a nation’s culture to attract attention and leverage the public image and the soft power of that nation on the international stage. However from a ‘giving is receiving’ perspective, it is a brilliant strategic move to invest in other nations’ cultures.

As we discussed in class, culture is an inherent and usually very emotional part of every national identity, that influences values, perceptions and behaviors on individual as well as on collective level. Therefore encouraging and strengthening cultural diversity is likely to buy a country powerful positive image and support from publics, as well as spark an interest towards that country’s culture in an indirect, subtle fashion.

4 thoughts on “Making Cultural Cooperation Popular”

  1. Dear Alona,
    Your assessment of “cultural cooperation” as an under-explored area of PD is important precisely because it points to necessary implications for future research and policy re-shaping in the field. Throughout this semester we have explored the notions of soft and hard power and their dynamics with respect to State’s public diplomacy strategies. In this context, PD was mostly about one-way, authoritative communication to steer public opinion in a very specific direction. While the “cultural cooperation” maintains the diplomatic objective of securing international support for domestic policies, it does so in a more subtle way. Power is less of a component in it than dialogue, intercultural interaction, and multiple-layered communication. It creates good propaganda for states (and organizations) involved, simultaneously, which essentially create channels for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. It is all about transformative diplomacy.
    Moreover, cooperative diplomacy involves new public diplomacy actors in the sense that it acknowledges the power of ignored PD strategies and neglected values pertaining to a successful PD, such as culture, whose importance you discuss in your post. This makes me think about the role of global netizens as influential actors in cooperative diplomacy. How can we take part in this process, not as policymakers, but as individuals belonging to interconnected, virtual communities? How can we leverage this “commonplace experience” as PD practitioners or scholars? Really, this concept of cultural cooperation is particularly appealing to the media and journalists as well, as it can transform the traditional standards on media framing and agenda setting. This strategy could certainly transcend cultural barriers and engrained stereotypes, perpetuated by the media, and engulf the myriad of actors in the new public diplomacy era in entrenched flows of diplomacy- or, in other words, communication. Interesting niche to be mindful of in the coming years in the field of public diplomacy, indeed!

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