Rytis Paulauskas is Director, Information and Public Relations Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Lithuania. Formerly, he was Lithuania’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. Here he reflects on his own experiences of cultural diplomacy in light of his contribution to the latest King’s Cultural Enquiry report ‘The art of soft power: a study of cultural diplomacy at the UN Office in Geneva’. The report will be launched in London on Thursday 9 November.
It was a great opportunity for me to be a part of The art of soft power project in collaboration with Melissa Nisbett and James Doeser of King’s College London and Francesco Pisano, Director of the United Nations Library in Geneva. We should all appreciate that the research was led by practice rather than by abstract theorising. This helped to reveal the rather exclusive, confidential and politically sensitive competitive processes surrounding soft power and cultural diplomacy. As a firm believer in cultural diplomacy, I will advocate for the diplomatic community to incorporate the study’s findings into their thinking and operations. Those responsible for allocating financial resources for cultural programmes should be aware of this research too.
Throughout the last twenty-five years, it has been essential for Lithuania to re-establish itself on the bilateral and multilateral diplomatic stage to create new political alliances and bonds between nations. Culture has always been part of these processes, widening Lithuania’s cultural landscape and forging new artistic bonds. Lithuania is ready to contribute more to the dialogue of civilizations, facilitating mutual understanding, peaceful co-existence and international cooperation.
As Lithuania’s former representative in Geneva, I had the privilege through the UNOG’s Cultural Activities Programme (CAP) to make a small contribution towards achieving these important goals. I concur with The art of soft power’s finding that the CAP is important for smaller nations in order for them to have their voices heard. The report also points out that some states use culture to preserve and express hard political power. It also provides us with concrete examples in which cultural activities highlight a clash of values which some may perceive as closer to propaganda than cultural diplomacy. Raising awareness, as this report does, is an important step, which I believe might be of help in strengthening the UN mechanisms responsible for the CAP.
Finally, it may not be that soft power and cultural diplomacy will always be immeasurable. With the speedy development of digital technology, we should also explore the digital dimension of cultural diplomacy. Perhaps there we could find some necessary hard data to measure the effectiveness of cultural diplomacy and move closer to answering the study’s question: what works? I very much look forward to continuing to collaborate on further research into soft power.
Words: Rytis Paulauskas