This article was released in the ICOM Canada September 2019 e-newsletter on Cultural Diplomacy. See more articles from this issue here.
The “Cultural Diplomacy at the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy” report is the first parliamentary review of cultural diplomacy since the 1995 Canadian foreign policy review. This report, which views cultural diplomacy as a country’s promotion of national interests through arts and culture, echoes one of the earlier review’s main points: to establish cultural diplomacy as a pillar of Canadian foreign policy.
After 27 hearings with more than 60 witnesses and a number of written briefs by the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the report was launched at the National Gallery on June 11, 2019. The report urges the Government of Canada to create a comprehensive cultural diplomacy strategy, as in the words of Committee chair, Senator Raynell Andreychuk, “[t]he full reach and potential of cultural diplomacy, as an essential pillar of Canadian foreign policy, has yet to be maximized.”
The report notes that the arts and culture are undervalued assets for Canadian foreign policy, in part due to the fragmentation of federal roles and responsibilities for cultural diplomacy, and insufficient and inconsistent funding. The Committee stresses the need to ameliorate this to avoid being left behind by other countries.
The report identifies six principles for a cultural diplomacy strategy:
- Projecting a modern image of Canada, including by taking full advantage of Canada’s leadership in innovation and creativity in the cultural sector;
- Identifying commercial opportunities for artists and cultural entrepreneurs in international markets;
- Taking a people-centred approach in leveraging the talent of artists and creators from across the country, especially emerging and young artists;
- Strengthening international collaboration based on the principle of reciprocity and the exchange of experience;
- Supporting innovative approaches to reflect the new modes of creativity resulting from technological advances; and
- Ensuring that cultural diplomacy be entrenched as a priority within Canada’s foreign – and trade – policy.
The report develops the following elements for a strategic policy framework:
- Canada’s brand and social diversity;
- The commercial development of Canada’s creative sector;
- The role of digital technology;
- The need to ensure a coherent policy approach backed by a sufficient level of investment, collaboration among different levels of government, and the establishment of measurable goals and objectives;
- The promotion of Canadian Studies abroad; and
- The enhancement of the role played by Canada’s diplomatic missions abroad.
Additionally, a number of recommendations speak to a leading role for Global Affairs Canada in cultural diplomacy, to strengthening the capacity of missions abroad to deliver on cultural diplomacy objectives, and to providing cultural diplomacy training. The report also calls for the three levels of government to better work together on cultural diplomacy initiatives.
ICOM Canada welcomes this report and applauds the impetus to firmly lodge cultural diplomacy within Canadian foreign policy priorities, but notes the limited attention paid to museums. As an organization, ICOM Canada is deeply committed to cultural diplomacy. Museums play a key role in achieving mutual understanding and trust between nations, organizations, and peoples, which is a cultural diplomacy objective. ICOM Canada is ready to work with government to further the goals of the report and contribute to achieving a renewed cultural diplomacy for Canada that takes into account the full breadth and potential of the cultural and creative sector.