Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent visits to Egypt and Britain were of political, economic and security significance as they addressed matters that are often discussed between governments through the usual official channels, i.e. ministries of foreign affairs, economy, defense and others.
What was interesting were the cultural activities that accompanied these visits particularly the activities sponsored by the MiSK Foundation through its several cultural initiatives, visits, forums and discussions. This is in addition to forging partnerships and agreements with museums, research institutions and various scientific and technical companies.
Arts and cultural activities strengthen countries’ foreign policies and pave the way for new areas of cooperation which other fields, like politics and economy, cannot do. This is because arts and culture reinforce common values between peopleHassan Al Mustafa
Diplomacy of art
These initiatives led by MiSK are nothing new as the foundation has done them in the past, like the event it organized at the World Economic Forum in Davos to acquaint the audience with the culture and traditions of the Arabian Peninsula.
The Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information also organized musical evenings, fine arts exhibitions and cultural forums. All of these events show the intellectual and aesthetic aspects of the Saudi society, which was hijacked by extremism and which fundamentalism sought to silence for years.
The MiSK Foundation initiatives may be more bold and eclectic than other government initiatives since they cut through the bureaucracy and have a clearer vision than other institutions. MiSK also includes the dynamism of young cadres that allows it to grow faster than other institutions.
Enhancing citizen potential
All these initiatives are important for strengthening the values of the new Saudi Arabia, which seek the development of Saudi citizens and to enhance their potential, making them capable of effectively contributing to the change taking place in the country. These initiatives are thus an effective tool in forging foreign relations, not just in strengthening the kingdom internally.
Arts and cultural activities strengthen countries’ foreign policies and pave the way for new areas of cooperation which other fields, like politics and economy, cannot do. This is because arts and culture reinforce common values between people and create powerful, sustainable partnerships that go beyond borders, sects or races.
Modern diplomacy should have a strong vision for culture, art and civil society institutions and for their role in resolving conflicts, easing tensions, making alliances and strengthening relations inside the state. Certainly this is not only a marketing campaign or a public relations exercise. It envisions a long term partnership, a sharing of experiences and an opportunity where the youth can build the world the way they see it. The youth have the wisdom of previous generations and an eagerness to take risks without fear of losses. This is the innovative spirit and the most important element of diplomacy.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in middle east and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters. His twitter handle is @halmustafa.
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