Cultural diplomacy for sustainable development

In the context of deep integration and complex international and regional changes, cultural diplomacy has been closely linked to political diplomacy and economic diplomacy, contributing to the effective implementation of the foreign policy of the 13th Congress.
Ngày 5/6/2023, tại Paris, Bộ trưởng Ngoại giao Bùi Thanh Sơn gặp và làm việc với Tổng giám đốc UNESCO, bà Audrey Azoulay. (Nguồn: UNESCO)
Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son met with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Director-General Audrey Azoulay in Paris, France on June 5, 2023. (Photo: UNESCO)

General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong commented: “Foreign affairs is about culture, representing national culture in exchanges with other peoples”. Thus, cultural diplomacy is one of the important and indispensable components of the “Vietnamese bamboo diplomacy”. Over the past three years, cultural diplomacy has jointly contributed to firmly protecting independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity; helped the country quickly escape from the Covid-19 pandemic and soon reopen for integration; seized opportunities, proactively promoted cooperation; strengthened Vietnam’s position in the international arena.

Strengthened Awareness, increasingly perfected institutions

In 2011, cultural diplomacy was officially affirmed for the first time in the document of the 11th Party Congress: “to closely coordinate the Party’s foreign affairs activities, State diplomacy and people’s diplomacy; political diplomacy, economic diplomacy and cultural diplomacy; foreign affairs and national defense - security”. Implementing this policy, the Cultural Diplomacy Strategy for the period 2011-2020 was introduced. After 10 years of implementing the strategy, awareness of the role and meaning of cultural diplomacy has been raised to a new level, drawing the attention and participation of all ministries, branches, localities and the entire society. In 2021, on the basis of the review of 10 years of implementing the Strategy for the period 2011-2020, the Government launched the Cultural Diplomacy Strategy for the period 2021-2030 to meet the requirements of the new situation. This is the framework for cultural diplomacy activities to be implemented synchronously and comprehensively.

In addition, Vietnam and UNESCO signed a Memorandum of Cooperation for the period 2021-2025 during the official visit to the French Republic of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh. This document strengthens the foundation for Vietnam and UNESCO to jointly promote the value of culture, education and science and technology in implementing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

Comprehensive implementation

High-level cultural diplomacy activities are especially prominent with strong pervasiveness and of profound impact. Some can be named as the General Secretary read poems by William Yeats during his talks with President Biden; The President presented the book “One person, one journey, one history: Ho Chi Minh - Letter to America” to the US President; The Prime Minister presented the calligraphy “Sincerity, Affection, Trust” to the Japanese Prime Minister; The Chairman of the National Assembly presented the book “Some theoretical and practical issues on socialism and the path to socialism in Vietnam” to the Chairman of the Cuban National Assembly.... Senior leaders use cultural diplomacy to: (i) send strong messages about the country and people of Vietnam, the Party’s guidelines and State policies (ii) gain international attention and public support for Vietnam (iii) tighten the relationship between our senior leaders and heads of countries. Cultural diplomacy activities at the ministerial /sectorial level are paid attention and respected. Cultural diplomacy is a component of commemorative activities and those promoting cooperation with 109 countries within the even/odd year marking diplomatic relations and partnerships establishment. Cultural diplomacy has performed well the function of paving the way, promoting relationships, images, campaigning for world recognition and absorbing the cultural quintessence of humanity.

Các nghệ sĩ biểu diễn nhạc cụ dân tộc Việt Nam trong chương trình “Ngày Việt Nam tại Pháp”, ngày 6/11. (Nguồn: TTXVN)
Artists perform Vietnamese traditional musical instruments in the program "Vietnam Day in France" on November 6, 2023. (Photo: VNA)

At the local level, about 9,000 festivals are held each year, including 7,000 traditional folk festivals, 1,400 religious festivals, 400 historical/revolutionary festivals... In these activities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has always accompanied and been a reliable partner with localities, ministries and branches to comprehensively and effectively exercise cultural diplomacy, contributing to raising and expanding foreign relations as well as sustainable local development.

Cultural diplomacy at the mass level is very bustling and diverse. The Vietnam Federation of UNESCO Associations alone has 136 member associations/clubs with more than 14,000 participants spread across regions of the country in all fields from culture and arts to museums, heritage, education…. Some leaders of the Federation participate in the Executive Board of the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Union.

President Ho Chi Minh honoring activities abroad

Nothing is more effective and relevant than introducing the country and people of Vietnam when introducing Vietnamese people, especially “Ho Chi Minh - Hero of national liberation, outstanding cultural celebrity of Vietnam”. Activities were widely implemented in many countries, including 56 countries and 22 areas that President Ho Chi Minh visited. Diverse activities such as organizing activities to commemorate the birth/death anniversary of President Ho Chi Minh; organizing seminars, publishing Uncle Ho’s works in many different languages, producing films and exhibitions about Uncle Ho’s background, life and career… have been carried out.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Political Publishing House republished “The world people’s affection for President Ho Chi Minh”, which was later translated and published into many different languages and popularized in England, France, the Netherlands, Czech... while building a sample bookshelf about Uncle Ho and provided books about President Ho Chi Minh to Vietnamese representative agencies abroad.

Thứ trưởng Ngoại giao, Chủ tịch Ủy ban quốc gia UNESCO Việt Nam Hà Kim Ngọc phát biểu khai mạc Hội nghị sơ kết 03 năm triển khai các hoạt động tiếp tục tăng cường tuyên truyền, giới thiệu, tôn vinh Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh ở nước ngoài, ngày 5/10/2023. (Ảnh: Anh Sơn)
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Ha Kim Ngoc, Chairman of the Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO delivered an opening remarks at the conference to review the three-year implementation of a conclusion issued by the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat on the continued promotion of communications about President Ho Chi Minh to the international community on October 5, 2023. (Photo: Anh Son)

Vietnam - UNESCO: a model of effective and practical cooperation

Promoting the tradition of good cooperation and on the basis of the Vietnam - UNESCO Cooperation Memorandum for the period 2021-2025, cultural diplomacy activities within the framework of UNESCO and with UNESCO have been impressive. In 2022, the Director General of UNESCO visited Vietnam. In 2023, Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son paid a working visit to the Director General of UNESCO in Paris. Vietnam was elected to be a member of the five most important mechanisms of UNESCO at the same time. This is an important historical milestone, recognizing Vietnam’s ability to contribute and its capacity to manage and implement cultural diplomacy. In the past three years, 12 heritage sites/biosphere reserves/famous people have been recognized by UNESCO, totaling 60. These are specific contributions of cultural diplomacy to the green and sustainable development of the country.

Innovative and creative implementation method

There are many innovations in the Vietnam Day program which target the specificities of the localities, and have been positively received by the local public. Up to now, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has hosted 20 Vietnam Day activities (8 in Asia, 8 in Europe, 1 online, 2 in America, and 1 in Africa). The Vietnam Day Abroad program has brought the unique values of Vietnamese culture to other countries and communities. Cultural diplomacy is also demonstrated in: (i) successfully organizing many activities at multilateral mechanisms and programs for the Diplomatic Corps such as the Day to Learn about Vietnam; ASEAN Family Day in Hanoi; International culinary festival; Introducing Cao Bang, Quang Ngai; Pho Day in Nam Dinh... (ii) activities towards Vietnamese overseas such as Homeland Spring program, organizing delegation to visit Truong Sa, activities to teach Vietnamese to Vietnamese people abroad, etc.

2024-2025 is the second half of the period of implementing the foreign policy of the 13th Congress and is also the remaining time to implement the 5-year socio-economic development plan 2021-2025. The achievements of this period will create momentum for efforts to realize the 2021-2030 strategic goals. In the context of many difficulties and challenges, cultural diplomacy needs to be deployed in a good spirit, as Former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan once said “When material force is not strong, spiritual force must be high”.

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