Honorary Consuls of Viet Nam abroad: The 'extended arms' of cultural diplomacy

Director General of the Department of Cultural Diplomacy-UNESCO Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mai Phan Dung has highly appreciated effective role of Honorary Consuls of Viet Nam abroad in cultural diplomacy.
Honorary Consuls of Viet Nam abroad: The 'extended arms' of cultural diplomacy
Director General of the Cultural Affairs-UNESCO Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mai Phan Dung. (Photo: Tuan Anh)

Cultural diplomacy is one of the three pillars of modern diplomacy, alongside political and economic diplomacy. On February 14, 2011, the Prime Minister signed and promulgated Decision No.208/QD-TTG approving the strategy on cultural diplomacy strategy through 2020 with the goal of promoting the image of the Vietnamese country, people and culture; strengthening trust-building with countries around the world; bringing the relationship between Viet Nam and partners into depth, stability, and sustainability, thereby enhancing the country's position in the international arena, creating favorable conditions to support socio-economic development.

Speaking at the first Conference of Honorary Consuls of Viet Nam overseas on 14 October, Director General of the Department of Cultural Diplomacy-UNESCO Affairs Mai Phan Dung emphasized that cultural diplomacy over the past 10 years has made substantive and effective contributions to the success of the country, upheld soft power, and contributed to the successful implementation of the tasks assigned by the Party and State to the diplomatic service.

Refering to the comments by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong at the opening session of the 13th Party Congress that "Never before has our nation had the fortune, strength, position, and prestige it has today", Dung expressed his hope that the Honorary Consuls of Viet Nam abroad would actively contribute to the implementation of Viet Nam's cultural diplomacy strategy, enhancing trust with countries around the world, thereby bringing the relationship between Viet Nam and its partners into depth and stability.

The Strategy for Cultural Diplomacy to 2020 has identified five main activities of cultural diplomacy as (i) opening and establishing relations with countries and regions that have not many relations with Viet Nam; (ii) promoting, increasing, and deepening understanding with other countries; (iii) promoting the image of the homeland and people in the international arena; (iv) lobbying for more Vietnamese heritages to be recognized by UNESCO; and (v) absorbing the cultural quintessence of mankind so as to enrich the national cultural identity.

The “materials” to be exploited

With a rich cultural tradition and long history, Viet Nam has many unique "cultural materials" that Honorary Consuls of Viet Nam abroad can use to promote the image of Viet Nam to international friends.

According to Mai Phan Dung, Viet Nam's Honorary Consuls abroad can focus on introducing and promoting Vietnamese culture in 5 aspects as followed:

The first is the spiritual values of Viet Nam, such as the heroic history of 4,000 years full of ups and downs of building and defending the motherland.

That history has molded for the Vietnamese people a spirit of heroism, indomitableness, resilience, love of peace; formed the precious qualities of the Vietnamese people such as kindness, tolerance, respect for love and morality, solidarity, industriousness, creativity, friendliness, approachability and hospitality.

The second is the unique, diverse, and rich Vietnamese culture with 54 ethnic groups, each of which has its own culture but also has a blend and cohesion.

The Vietnamese culture is open and ready to receive quintessence from other cultures. Up to now, Viet Nam has 13 intangible cultural heritages registered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) such as Hue royal court music, Quan ho Bac Ninh, Ca Tru,...

The third is a beautiful country with endless natural wonders to admire. Viet Nam has 8 world heritages registered by UNESCO including Ha Long Bay, Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Trang An, Hoi An, Hue Ancient Capital...

The fourth is a dynamic, modern, and potential rising Viet Nam, an attractive destination for investment, trade, and tourism cooperation...

From a backward agricultural economy in the early years of renovation, in 2020, Viet Nam's GDP has reached 343 billion USD, ranking 4th in ASEAN, reaching the top 40 largest economies in the world, one of the 15 fastest-growing economies in the world over the past 15 years…

The fifth is the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, friendship, cooperation, and development... Viet Nam is always ready to be a friend, a reliable partner, and an active and responsible member of the international community.

Cooperation and coordination needed

Despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic during the past time, cultural diplomacy in Viet Nam has been implemented in creative and flexible forms, taking advantage of social networks.

In the near future, the COVID-19 pandemic may be more complicated with the appearance of new strains. However, cultural diplomacy will likely be more active and full of activities with the cooperation, coordination, and participation of the Honorary Consuls of Viet Nam abroad - the bridges connecting culture among countries.

Mai Phan Dung has made some recommendations in order to promote cultural diplomacy activities in the coming time.

Firstly, Viet Nam's Honorary Consuls can coordinate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries, localities, and Vietnamese representative missions abroad to carry out annual cultural diplomacy activities in the host country such as Viet Nam Week/Day Program, activities honoring national heroes and cultural celebrities of Viet Nam, participating in organizing cultural exchange and cooperation activities between Viet Nam and the host country.

In addition, they can promote culinary culture, fashion, art, and organize photo exhibitions, cultural exchange programs and festivals in the host country...

Secondly, Honorary Consuls actively provide information, documents and publications about Viet Nam to local officials, researchers, media and people interested in Viet Nam.

Thirdly, Honorary Consuls proactively organize and participate in local cultural fairs and festivals to introduce the country, culture, and people of Viet Nam to international friends.

Finally, Honorary Consuls can support Vietnamese language teaching and learning activities in the overseas Vietnamese community and for foreigners wishing to learn Vietnamese.

As one of the main agencies implementing the cultural diplomacy strategy, Mai Phan Dung said that the Cultural Diplomacy-UNESCO Affairs Department and relevant units of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are ready to provide information and publications about Viet Nam's country and people, support and coordinate with Honorary Consuls in organizing cultural diplomatic activities in the host country.

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