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Soft power is essential for peace building, says Manal Ataya, head of Sharjah Museums

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Establishing museums with expansive programs, investing in arts education and higher academic learning of international universities, is how the UAE is fostering cultural diplomacy, according to Manal Ataya, director general of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA).

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She was participating at the Arab Forum Webinars, a two-day event that kicked off on Monday and was organized by ICCROM -- Sharjah’s Regional Office for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in the Arab region.

Ataya spoke of UAE and Sharjah’s continuous efforts to launch initiatives that help provide cross-cultural experiences for their public audiences.

“The UAE is effectively leveraging soft power as an essential tool, positively promoting culture and arts and enhancing its reach and appreciation through organizing major events, performances, and art exhibitions that bring people together simply because culture connects people and inspires new thinking and better understanding,” she said.

Titled “Cultural Diplomacy in the UAE: The Role of Museums in Peace Building,” Ataya's session highlighted how museums under SMA are accessible places and platforms for soft power, presenting opportunities for communities and individuals to meet, exchange ideas, explore similarities and have true meaningful intercultural and interfaith dialogue.

“At SMA we steadily continue to strengthen our social and educational role in providing a space for learning, embracing new ideas and encouraging cultural appreciation that positively impact and strengthen social cohesion locally and global ties,” said Ataya.

In order to promote cross-cultural dialogue and scholarly output, SMA has signed a number of MoUs with its counterparts from across the globe and organized major never seen before exhibitions over the past few years including ‘So that you might know each other’ exhibition that was held in the UAE and Australia in collaboration with the Vatican Ethnological Museum.

In 2018, SMA launched its ‘Crossroads: Cultural Exchange between the Islamic Civilization, Europe and Beyond’ exhibition, which was held in collaboration with the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin.

SMA also collaborated with the Institut français in the United Arab Emirates in 2017, to launch the ‘40 Years of Emirati – French Archaeological Cooperation’ exhibition.

The Authority had also teamed up with Jordan’s Department of Antiquities to host the ‘Petra, Desert Wonder’ exhibition in 2016.