BackgroundThis paper entitled “Cultural Diplomacy inASEAN: Collaborative Efforts” was written by Ratih Indraswari Ma from the ParahyanganCatholic University, Bandung in 2015. As the topic suggested, this paperexamined the implementation and initiatives to promote cultural diplomacy amongthe Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states. This paperfurther discussed about the ASEAN approaches to cultural diplomacy; the mechanismto maneuver cultural diplomacy in the region; and the expected role of the ASEANCommunity in fostering close relations and cooperation among the member states. IntroductionIndraswari (2015) suggested that culturaldiplomacy provided substitute solutions in catering international relationissues by advocating culture as the basis for soft power. As compared to theearly description, cultural diplomacy was just a potential of culturalexpression through the exchange of ideas and information among the nations’communities in developing common respect.
She further highlighted that inmodern concept of diplomacy, it offers involvement of the non-state actors.Therefore in the ASEAN concept, culture diplomacy might be an appropriateinstrument in forging regional integration. Indraswari further elaborated thatcultural diplomacy was not limited into the inter-state affairs, but alsoreaching the public masses, and it offered new methods in creating an awarenessamong the society of the member states towards a regional identity which was a corefundamental for the establishment of ASEAN Community in 2015.
DefiningCultural DiplomacyIndraswari cited from the US Department ofStates that cultural diplomacy as a “direct and continuous engagement betweenpeople of different states in order to form a better environment ofinternational trust and understanding in which official relations can operate.”She argued that some people tried to define or align cultural diplomacy as amanipulation of cultural elements for spreading propaganda, while some mightunderstood that it is a part of public diplomacy which is used to outreach thepublic masses through cultural means. Therefore, in this paper Indraswariproposed to interchangeably use both cultural diplomacy and public diplomacydue to both similar characteristics in driving the policy such as trainings,conferences, exchange of communications and media access. She also agreed thatcultural diplomacy as a smart power tool, which was defined as a hybrid of hardpower of using pressure and compensation with soft power of attraction andencouragement. Through the attracting function of smart power, culturaldiplomacy may offers alternative channel for negotiation if political, economicor military approaches could not; and persuasive ability using culture, valuesand thoughts. Indraswari also discussed on cultural diplomacy’s advantages inwhich it promotes an interactive, two-way communication instead of usingforces; it provides dialogue platform for trust-building; increasesunderstanding between people and culture; and it can be implemented for asustainable, long-term period which can engage people from conflicting sidesduring crisis or negative relations and may become as the only channel forsolution when conflict took place.
CulturalDiplomacy: the ASEAN’s ApproachAlthough the member states holds different andunique political, economic and social progress it does not stop them to attaintheir common plan in becoming as a single community with a shared regionalidentity and a people-centered integration. Indraswari raised two arguments onhow cultural diplomacy could provide options in advocating integration motionand what type of cultural diplomacy do ASEAN adopt. The first argument would beon cultural diplomacy could foster the integration process, in which byallowing the culture socialization process to take place, it would assist increating a conducive platform to address the ASEAN culture and identity to theASEAN people. Thus, a positive engagement will emerge and driving forward forregional cooperation and relations. For the second argument, Indraswari pointedout comparative analysis from three school of thoughts. The first school viewedcultural diplomacy was led by state, meaning that culture is a tool of statepolicy.
The second school viewed that cultural diplomacy is operating withoutpolitical intrusion, by combining the roles of both state and non-state actors.While the third school viewed cultural diplomacy is operating beyond the stateinfluence, which means that diplomatic activities are organized by non-stateactors, culture of a country is promoted by the people and the activities arenot limited by state policies and concerns. She further elaborated by agreeingto the second view as the type of cultural diplomacy recently implemented bythe ASEAN. Theobligation to promote cultural diplomacy undertaken by ASEAN comprises of twomain components, firstly the deliverance of programs are financed by the ASEANmember states, and alternatively is by coordination of ASEAN agencies either bythe ASEAN Secretariat or the ASEAN Foundation. In order to understand culturaldiplomacy from the ASEAN perspective, Indraswari cited the definition ofculture by the ASEAN Declaration of Cultural Heritage 2000, where culture is a “compositevarieties of spiritual, intellectual, emotional and material features thatcharacterize a society”, which consist of arts, human life, norms and values,creativity, knowledge, traditions and faiths.
ASEAN style of cultural diplomacyemphasized mostly on culture and art shows, subject to the region’s renowneddiverse religion and ethnic backgrounds with vast natural resources. It wishedto connect people by exchanging ideas and building capability through educationencouragement. Steeringthe ASEAN’s Cultural DiplomacyThe author further examined the organizationalfunction of the ASEAN, whereby the Secretariat consisted of three main thrustnamely the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), the ASEAN Political and SecurityCommunity (APSC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASSC), in which playedan important role in materializing the establishment of the ASEAN Community in2015. Under the Secretariat is the ASEAN Minister for Culture and Information(AMCA) that responsible for cultural affairs, and efforts to promote culturaldiplomacy are supported by the ASEAN Foundation which is complementing theSecretariat in meeting ASEAN’s objectives and priorities as been underlinedunder the framework of Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of theASEAN Foundation. She argued thatalthough ASEAN has yet to found a particular regional cultural policies sinceeach member states has their respective unique culture and implementing theirnational interest, ASEAN members had organized programs and activities byemphasizing people-to-people engagements.
Inaddition to that, she defined that the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprinthighlighted that the foundation for ASEAN Community is the people-centeredinitiatives, by taking into account that the prominence of multilink culturalrelationship by involving the roles of Government-to-Government andpeople-to-people collaborations is vital in ensuring the spread of culturalvalues across the region. Indraswari provided some occasions to supported hercase on cooperation between state and non-state actors in delivering culturaldiplomacy in ASEAN, one is the ASEAN Youth Camp (AYC) co-organized by the ASEANCommittee on Culture and Information (COCI) Sub-Committee on Culture togetherwith the member states and other ASEAN agencies, which is an annual event topromote stronger sense of belongingness in the community with emphasize onattracting youth participations. Other example of collaborations are such asthe organizing of ASEAN Cultural Week, ASEAN Best Performing Arts, and theASEAN Cultural Show and Exhibition. Indraswari also providedexample from Indonesia on state-led cultural diplomacy where the collaborationbetween the ASEAN Secretariat together with the Ministry of Tourism andCreative Economy organized the ASEAN Fair and ASEAN Jazz Festival during theIndonesian Chairmanship back in 2011. She claimed that these efforts are thefew attempts to uphold diverse cultural image in ASEAN and believed that thisactivities helped in the exchange of interest and propagates the socializationprocess among the ASEAN people. She also highlighted occasion of privatecorporations participated in the ASEAN cultural diplomacy in publishing the”ASEAN Today” program broadcasted in Indonesian TV channel of Metro TV, whichwas supported by the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Indonesia and AirAsia as theirmain partners.
Also the promotion ofpuppetry programs through the initiatives of Puppetry Symposium, Dialogues andFestival by the ASEAN Cultural Heritage and co-funded by the Japan-ASEANSolidarity Fund in order to preserve varied Southeast Asian arts and culturalheritages.CommentsIndraswari wished to underline collaborativeefforts and initiatives taken by the ASEAN Secretariat in driving culturaldiplomacy as an instrument to strengthen mutual cooperation among member statesin political, economic, social and defense capacities. The ASEAN Secretariatwas firmly built based on the three pillars that caters the capacitiesrespectively, with the involvement of individual member states and othernon-state actors such as private corporations and joint foundations. Itbelieved that cultural diplomacy is a tool for smart power by combining hardand soft elements. Among the advantages of implementing cultural diplomacy inASEAN are supporting dialogues in building trust, increasing insights among thepeople, and can be adopted during conflict and tension periods.
However, theauthor lacked on addressing the real situation challenges and limitations ofpracticing cultural diplomacy. The author further discussed on thefunction of ASEAN Community besides bringing together the people of ASEAN as anintegrated society, it also provided platforms for cultural socialization andinteraction that may accelerate for regional partnership. The roles of stateand non-state actors are vital in driving for founding the community throughgovernment-to-government and people-to-people collaboration in spreadingcultural values into the region. ASEAN emphasized on arts and performances as amean to promote and enhances the image of diversified culture in the regionlike music, exhibition, puppetry and TV programs. Indraswari also agreed that byorganizing youth participations in summer camp is the best way to attract theirinvolvement at the same time a sense of community and appreciation of otherheritage can develop. She also supported the participation of externalfoundation and corporate enterprises in co-funding cultural programs hosted inthe region besides utilizing the Secretariat’s budgetary.