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The Place of Arts and Culture in Canadian Foreign Policy

June 17, 200817 June 2008

Culture, international trade and foreign policy

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This discussion paper, prepared in advance of the November 2007 conference on culture and public diplomacy, provides greater detail than the conference summary document about the nature of public diplomacy, its history, its practice in Europe and America, as well as its practice and history in Canada.

The report argues that “there now exists a constant and unmediated global exchange, ‘cultural’ and otherwise, between citizens of the world on a daily basis”. It should be recognized that culture represents and connects people “in ways that certain state measures – chiefly military, economic and political – cannot”.

The report contends that “Canadian foreign policy is at an important crossroads: it is confronting the challenges of relating and communicating to foreign publics in new ways, expanding current foreign policies and also initiating new ones.” Despite this important time, “cultural relations are disturbingly absent at [the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade], as is any mention of a public diplomacy strategy”.

Some key challenges for Canadian culture abroad include: the predominance of American cultural industries; the relationship of “culture” and “values”; and the perception of an image or identity problem for Canada.

The report cautions that, without due involvement in public diplomacy development, “the cultural sector runs the risk of becoming a tool rather than a component of foreign policy”. The report argues that cultural relations, educational exchange and international broadcasting are important instruments of public diplomacy.

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