Cultural diplomacy operates on the basis of the belief that shared understanding can be nurtured through the promotion of cultural exchange and dialogue, thereby resolving misunderstandings and preventing conflicts
Spain, as a country with a foreign policy that dates back centuries, is no newcomer when it comes to cultural diplomacy. In fact, in 2021 we celebrated the centenary of the establishing of the Office of Cultural Relations within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representing the first step towards the institutionalisation of culture, as an essential part of our foreign policy.
Spain’s cultural diplomacy is today at the forefront of our international activities and is pursuing two core objectives. The first is to promote Spain’s unique cultural heritage, which is the result of an incredible diversity of historical influences and regional differences. This includes, for example, promoting our language (the second most spoken native language in the world), our heritage (as the country with the third most UNESCO World Heritage sites) or our gastronomy, with Spanish cuisine ranked among the best in the world. Our culture also includes many intangibles, like our personality, character, ingenuity and creativity, which form the very foundations of our national identity and traditions and have given birth to an endless list of influential international figures in all the arts and crafts, both classical and contemporary.
The second is to explain that Spain is much more that all this; much more that fiesta, siesta, bulls, paella, sea and sun. Forty years after the end of military dictatorship, Spain is today a modern, solid, pluralistic democracy committed to advancing key issues like social and gender equality, development and inclusivity.
Culture builds trust through exchange programmes, collaborations and education, fostering personal connections that promote dialogue and lasting relationships
It also has a strong and stable economy and is at the forefront of digital transition, renewable energies, creativity and innovation. Spain is also an active, reliable and fully committed member of both the EU and the UN-centred multilateral system, and it is supportive of world peace and stability. This is something that people wouldn’t normally think of when Spain is mentioned.
In this context, it is easy to understand how cultural diplomacy refers to the use of cultural elements, such as the arts, language, tradition and values, to shape and promote our country’s image, reputation and influence on the global stage. However, cultural diplomacy is much more than this.
Cultural diplomacy operates on the premise that promoting cultural exchange and dialogue can lead to the finding of common ground, the resolving of misunderstandings, and the mitigating and avoiding of conflicts. It is therefore easy to understand how culture quickly becomes an indispensable instrument of any foreign policy. It enables exchanges of ideas, values, experiences and perspectives between peoples. By learning about and appreciating different cultures, nations can develop better mutual understanding, overcoming stereotypes and prejudices that are generally the source of confrontation.
Culture is one of the best instruments to build trust through cultural exchange programmes, artistic collaborations and educational projects that offer opportunities for people from different cultures and countries to interact and establish personal connections. These connections help build trust, promote dialogue and foster lasting relationships. They even open channels of communication between nations that can serve as a foundation for resolving problems and even avoiding future conflicts.