3rd EU – China High Level Cultural Forum, Gerald Lidstone



Gerald Lidstone, Director of ICCE, was invited to speak as at the 3rd EU -China High Level Cultural Forum as part of the closing ceremony of the EU China year of Intercultural Dialogue. Gerald represented with two other speakers the EU commission and were joined by thee speakers from China. He had been invited in his role as Vice President of ENCATC [European Network of Cultural Administration Training Centres] based in Brussels. The day revolved around the policy trends in cultural diplomacy/cultural relations revealed in research by Rod Fisher and Carla Figueria based in ICCE referring to some key drivers of policy change and likely challenges and opportunities that face governments and their agencies. This also covered the terminology employed in cultural relations (on which there remains confusion in and beyond Europe).

Gerald cited the recent Ditchly Foundation report highlighting the role of commercial contribution from countries that may have a greater impact than those official actions by countries. Looking at examples such as Psy from Korea and Borgen and Forbrydelsen from Denmark, as well as fashion and ‘product’ diplomacy – but also making the case to fund future projects that work on a ‘people to people’ level which do not have proscribed outcomes – that allow for risk and trust, to build stronger relationships. He also quoted the recent speech by Berthold Franke, director of the Goethe-Institut Brussels:

“Cultural exchange without the broad absence of interests is no cultural exchange. If you want to facilitate exchange of this kind, then you must create the possibility for encounters free of interests and free of power, and also always assume that this possibility exists, so as to achieve the true liberation of the potential that is held within the concept of intercultural dialogue”.

Gerald looked at reinforcing the potential for dialogue without the state – through social media and the joint development of cultural industries. At the end of the event a new agreement was signed by the Ministers of Culture of the EU and China to develop new instruments to develop intercultural dialogue.

A follow up conference in the new year in Brussels will start with the idea that:

“the classical definition of diplomacy is insufficient to encompass the existing interactions. Culture plays a crucial role in the relations between nations and in the definition of identities. Increasingly, foreign relations on both bilateral and multilateral levels are driven by public diplomacy, cultural and environmental cooperation. This is why ‘soft diplomacy’, a new angle of examining diplomacy, which involves new and non-governmental actors, becomes more and more relevant to bridge the gap between different cultures.”

It is therefore apposite that ICCE will start the first MA in Cultural Policy, Relations and Diplomacy in September 2013

Gerald is very grateful to ICCE MA students who translated his presentation for him.