Cultural diplomacy is considered by many to be the fourth pillar of foreign policy, together with political, economic and military diplomacy. It is widely practiced by states today, yet it is ill-defined, under-theorised and often undervalued as an instrument of foreign policy. In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks on the United States of America there is a renewed interest in the theory and practice of cultural diplomacy as an instrument to build strong international relations, foster effective (diplomatic) channels of communication between nations, and exert influence in the global arena. As a manifestation of this renewed interest, South Africa recently announced its intent to develop a cultural diplomacy policy. The study proposes that global best practices offers lessons for South Africa, and that building blocks for the development of a South African cultural diplomacy policy already exist.
The theoretical limitations and range of application of cultural diplomacy informed the primary research question: Given current thinking on cultural diplomacy and drawing on best practices globally what would be the critical components in designing a cultural diplomacy policy for South Africa? Three aspects informed the response; the trend in scholarly writing including the 5-element adapted model of Gienow-Hecht & Donfried recognising cultural diplomacy as a key instrument of foreign policy; secondly an overview of best practices in cultural diplomacy globally reflecting a diversity of approaches and institutions; and thirdly, the South African context demonstrating the existing building blocks of a cultural diplomacy policy.
A reflection on the origins and elements of cultural diplomacy as practiced by different states responded to the secondary research question: What is the current understanding of global trends in cultural diplomacy? The trends indicate an expansion, greater formalisation and publicising of cultural diplomacy, as an increasingly recognised instrument of foreign policy. Considering the links between cultural diplomacy and other forms of ‘soft power’ responded to a further secondary research question; How is cultural diplomacy distinct and differentiated from, or linked to public diplomacy and soft power tools of foreign policy? Evidence revealed cultural diplomacy differs substantively from other ‘soft power’ tools in its aim, audience and content, but they may be used in unison or to support each other. Uniquely cultural diplomacy embraces the national cultural character at the centre thereof, as manifested dualistically through art works, performances, literary works, music, drama, poetry and dance, but also though identity, language, values, beliefs and behaviour.
In the South African case study, two further secondary research questions were considered: What is the recent historical and post-1994 South African context and thinking that informs the development of a cultural diplomacy policy for South Africa?; and, What role is there for non-state actors in shaping cultural diplomacy in South Africa? Applying the adapted model revealed a cultural diplomacy orientation steeped in the struggle and liberation politics of South Africa’s past, and a concerted post-1994 effort to address the previous marginalisation and neglect of (some) cultures. Increased awareness and progressive development of cultural diplomacy programmes, acknowledging the role of non–state actors, provide further building blocks of a cultural diplomacy policy.
Lastly consideration was given to a final secondary research question: ‘How do the current elements or building blocks of South African cultural diplomacy conform to the Gienow-Hecht & Donfried model and its two theses/propositions on ‘distance’ and ‘interactivity’? The evidence was mixed and recommendations are made for adjustment of the theses for the South African context. Building on global best practices, and with key elements already in place, this study proposes that a comprehensive South African cultural diplomacy policy can be designed, developed and pursued in an effective and sustainable manner.
Key terms: Culture, cultural diplomacy, diplomacy, foreign policy, international relations, national identity, propaganda, public diplomacy, soft power, South African cultural diplomacy.
Mini Dissertation (MDIPS)--University of Pretoria, 2016.