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Ann Packard explores Culture as the 'social glue' in society, and the value it adds to External Relations in Scotland

The impressive central Edinburgh venue – the French Consulate and Institut Francais d’Ecosse - generously donated for this RSA Fellows’ Media, Creative Industries, Culture & Heritage Network event - evidences Culture Adding Value to External Relations.  That the Consul-General of France in Scotland is an RSA Fellow demonstrates the importance attached to his culture brief as Institute Director.  

By the same token, the fact that delegates from several countries heard speakers from Austria, Ireland, England, Italy, France, Germany, Scotland and the USA also bears evidence to the importance each speaker, both personally, and, as relevant institutionally, attaches to such Adding of Value.   Scotland’s contributors included distinguished Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Dr John Francis and Sir David Edward, Creative Scotland’s CEO Janet Archer and Mark Muller Stuart QC. Mark is the UN’s lead Senior Mediation Advisor to the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in the Syria Peace talks in Geneva. He is also the Founder Director of Beyond Borders, on whose imaginative, purposeful and ambitious proposal for a special unit in government, to add prestige to Scotland’s External Relations “profile”, Fellows might reflect and comment.  It is hoped to set up another meeting for him to address Fellows in more detail.

Culture, in the vernacular and the widest of definitions, might be described as “social glue”. It self-evidently offers a diversity of employment. It offers opportunities to work between generations, creeds, nation states (and countries and regions within states), disciplines, races, genders, governments, civic bodies and institutions and every other “between” imaginable. Could, therefore, the proposed unit, elaborated a little below, become a globally significant “between” in our volatile world?

Culture is life and skills enhancing, and health and economy sustaining. The Creative Industries Federation’s 30th November 2017 figures indicate a UK economy contribution of £92 billion. SHEA 2016 indicated that the Historic Environment contribution to Scotland alone stood then at £2.3bn (being c. 1.5% of the total spend in Scotland, supporting also 55,400 full time posts direct and induced). Add to this the cited (2015) overnight and day visitor value of tourism of £8.9billion (14.6 million visitors) which includes elements of Cultural Tourism and the economic and societal impact of culture is significant and demonstrable. Tourist spending also generates c. £12billion in the wider Scottish supply chain (c. 5% of total Scottish GDP). 

And add to this Creativity: The Future of Jobs report, published at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, 20-23 January 2016 in Davos-Klosters, showed that, in a list of the top ten most important skills for businesses, creativity is set to move from tenth place in 2015 to third place by 2020. Together, therefore, culture and creativity are often truly empowering and collaborative, as initiatives mentioned on 24th November demonstrate. Some will be evidenced in the future collation of available texts, availability to be advised in due course. 

Between the “Provocations” listed below and the Q&A and Networking sessions over coffee and lunch, the range of topics was wide. It included ethics, linguistics, civic society, rights and responsibilities, communities and resilience, engagement between state and citizen, peace initiatives, interpretations of Soft Power (see also Portland Soft Power Index), legal tradition and precedent, art forms, science (ranging from bio-diversity to water science and thus public health), creativity, the built and natural heritage and many others, including, importantly, the 2018 Year of European Cultural Heritage. Graham Bell of NECT is an RSA Fellow and UK Co-Ordinator and can provide an events information upload template.   

Outcomes from the event have already included one or two actual or potential collaborations, invitations extended to represent the RSA at other events, invitations to speak at other events in mainland Europe, and clear support for the United Kingdom to sign the UNESCO Convention for safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage (passed by its 2003 General Conference).

To this should be added the proposal by Mark Muller Stuart QC of Beyond Borders that the time is now right for a special unit, with its own budget line, to be established by the First Minister, to help support Scotland’s growing contribution in the field of conflict resolution, peace-making and international rule of law building. The unit might be developed by and through non-state soft power institutions such as Beyond Borders, which have used cultural diplomacy and Scotland as a platform to good effect to encourage dialogue and exchange between regions, nations and groups around the world who are either involved in conflict or experiencing difficult political transition. 

As I write this blog, and review my reference to culture as “glue” in its widest sense, it would seem to me this proposal would build well on both the existing respected work of Beyond Borders and the international mediation work to which Mark Muller Stuart has contributed extensively, and to which he is so committed. It might well help position, or better re-position, Scotland’s role in the world and afford a source of demonstrable international expertise and leadership.  

The MCICH Network – which designed and delivered this event - owes a genuine debt of gratitude to the speakers and to all those who helped fund this event, allowing the RSA to welcome guests and delegates from various countries. And in an extra cultural “twist” the vote of thanks was given by a delegate with links to both Canadian and Indian cultural activities. The delegate pack showing sponsors and speaker biographies is available as a pdf on application to MCICH Network chairman Ann Packard via Networks@rsa.org.uk

 

H.E. Dr Martin Eichtinger (Austria):

Culture: A Core Element of Austrian Foreign Policy

Consul General Dr Mark Hanniffy (Ireland):

Cultural Diplomacy and Global Engagement: A View from Ireland

Dr Eutimio Tiliacos (Centesimus Annus Foundation, Vatican City):

Culture as Mediator and Facilitator of International Relations in the digital Age

Dr Rupert Graf Strachwitz FRSA (Maecenata Foundation, Germany): Culture - More than an Added Value!

Dana Linnet (USA): Cultural Diplomacy:

Soft Power and Beyond

David Fajolles (Europa Nova Board Member, France):

National Agendas and European Cultural Strategies in External Relations: Time for a Re-balance?

Graham Bell (NECT [England], Europa Nostra & The Renaissance Foundation, Hungary):

Ties that Bind

Janet Archer (Creative Scotland, Scotland):

A Creative Scotland Perspective

Dr John Francis FRSGS FRSE, FRZSS (Scotland):

UNESCO: The Idea and Thereafter – whatever next?

The Rt Hon Sir David Edward KCMG QC FRSA FRSE (Scotland):

Law as a Reflection of Culture

Mark Muller Stuart QC FRSA (Scotland):

Understanding and Using Culture to Negotiate Peace and Transform Conflict

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