British diplomat discusses culture, tradition
Posted February 7, 2013 at 11:43 pm in News
Though public diplomacy is a well-known phrase when it comes to international issues, Director of the British Council to the United States Paul Smith stressed his preference of the term âcultural relationsâ on Thursday at an event hosted by the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.
âTo a degree, I would argue that [cultural relations] does differ quite significantly from public diplomacy,â Smith said. âThe relationship really is about trying to engender trust between people who may not initially have reason to trust each other.â
The importance of understanding other cultures remained the focus of Smithâs talk to an audience of about 30, many of whom were graduate students in the public diplomacy masterâs program.
âGetting public diplomacy to happen is the challenge of our times,â Smith said.
To Smith, the use of the term âcultural relationsâ also better encompasses the efforts that he has been a part of throughout his career.
âOver the years, the British Council has moved towards using another phrase and that phrase we use is cultural relations,â Smith said. âWe believe that all the work that we do comes from the umbrella of that phrase.â
Smith previously served on the British Council in Nigeria, Burma, Chile, Germany, Bangladesh, New Zealand, West India, Egypt and Afghanistan before coming to the United States last August as Director of British Council and Cultural Counsellor at the British Embassy in Washington D.C. In line with his experience, Smith emphasized the importance of all nations having diplomacy efforts.
âIt is an essential attribute to most countriesâ international foreign policy to have public diplomacy programs,â Smith said.
Smith likened nations to a âfour-legged chairâ rather than the traditional âthree-legged stool,â explaining that the three traditional legs of governance, economics and security are not enough to support a nation.
âIf itâs a three-legged chair, itâs going to fall over,â Smith said. âThat fourth leg is culture.â
Lauren Allison, a first year masters student in public diplomacy, came to hear Smith because of his vast experience in the field of public diplomacy.
âI find it really fascinating,â Allison said. âItâs really great to have someone at USC who has insight and 30-plus years of experience in cultural diplomacy around the world.â
Kia Hays, a second-year student in the masters program on public diplomacy, said she enjoyed how Smithâs talk mirrored a lot of what she was learning in the classroom.
âI agreed very much with a lot of what he said,â Hays said. âIt is nice to see a professional saying the same things we see in an academic setting.â