Saturday, November 28, 2020

PH Embassy Singapore and ASEF Collaborate on Webinar “How Relevant is Cultural Diplomacy in the Face of a Global Crisis?”

Posted on Tuesday, 15 September 2020 

Screenshot of the ASEF Public Diplomacy Webinar “How Relevant is Cultural Diplomacy in the Face of a Global Crisis?” which was held via Zoom platform on 10 September 2020. Shown from top to bottom are Ambassador Leon Faber (ASEF Deputy Executive Director/Speaker), Ms. Anupama Sekhar (ASEF Director of the Culture Department/Moderator), Ms. Marie Le Sourd (Secretary General of On The Move/Speaker), and Assistant Secretary Eduardo Martin R. Menez of the DFA Office of Strategic Communications and Research (Speaker). (Photo: Gonaranao B. Musor)

11 September 2020 – As part of its cultural diplomacy initiatives in the new normal, The Philippine Embassy in Singapore’s Sentro Rizal collaborated with the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) in conducting the webinar “How Relevant is Cultural Diplomacy in the Face of a Global Crisis?” on 10 September 2020 via Zoom platform.

The event, which is the 3rd installment of ASEF’s Public Diplomacy Training Webinar Series, aimed to (1) equip diplomats, cultural practitioners, and public servants with strategies and best practices on how to conduct cultural diplomacy amidst a pandemic using online and digital platforms, (2) enable participants to have a new appreciation and understanding of cultural diplomacy in the new normal, and (3) discuss the impact of the pandemic on Asia-Europe cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

Moderated by ASEF Director of the Culture Department Anupama Sekhar, the panelists were Ambassador Leon Faber, ASEF’s new Deputy Executive Director; Ms. Marie Le Sourd, Secretary General of, On The Move, a cultural mobility information network active in Europe and worldwide; and Assistant Secretary Eduardo Martin R. Menez of the DFA Office of Strategic Communications and Research.

Around 400 registered for the webinar, 100 of which were logged in on the Zoom platform while others watched through YouTube livestream.

Screenshot of Assistant Secretary Menez on ASEF’s Twitter Feed as he discusses how PH has made the most of online and digital platforms despite the limitations faced by the country in terms of connectivity. (Photo: Gonaranao B. Musor)

Assistant Secretary Menez opened the discussion by answering directly the title of the webinar: “Cultural diplomacy is even more relevant today as the world has become a captive audience where minds need to be nourished to replace the loss of physical socialization and movement, and as we now live in a world of virtual congregation and escape. As UNESCO recently tweeted – ‘In time of crisis, we need culture to make us resilient, give us hope, remind us that we are not alone.’

Meanwhile, Ambassador Faber emphasized that “although cultural diplomacy is considered a relatively new concept, it has actually been applied since time immemorial. Today, it is a pillar of bilateral cooperation amongst countries.”

Despite the advantages created by digitalization for cultural diplomacy, Ambassador Faber admits, “It is not just the same as the real experience. After all, we do not just see and hear. We also smell and taste.”

Ms. Le Sourd agreed that the “pandemic adds another layer of complexity” to cultural diplomacy. Nonetheless, “online activities…now fills in the gap caused by the absence of physical mobility. You can get in touch with people you probably would have never met before,” she added.

Other major takeaways during the discussion were: (1) need for a sustainable funding model for artists in a new post-COVID-19 ecosystem; (2) training is essential for both cultural professionals and diplomats; and (3) a higher level of dialogue between government officials in charge of culture and those working in culture is needed.

On the third point, Assistant Secretary Menez cited as an example the Cultural Diplomacy Partners Consultation Conference that the DFA convened in November 2019 and January 2020 that gathered academics, artists, cultural practitioners, and other government partners culminating in the crafting of a Cultural Diplomacy Strategic Plan 2020-2022.

“For Asia-Europe cultural cooperation, the near-term activity insofar as the Philippines and other Asian states along the circumnavigation route are concerned is the Quincentennial in 2021. Our histories and futures are intertwined in many ways, and we look forward to working with ASEF in exploring more avenues to further widen and deepen our collaborations, Assistant Secretary Menez added.

The recording of the webinar can still be viewed through the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajuZCyBEmu8&feature=youtu.be. So far, the video has garnered  972 views and 75 likes. END

Assistant Secretary Menez cited the following as examples of cultural diplomacy conducted in the new normal: (Clockwise) (1) The ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (COCI), in commemoration of ASEAN Month and the 2020 Year of ASEAN Identity produced “Break the Chain: The Arts Respond to COVID-19 – An Awareness Campaign.” The video project promoted health and safety protocols through a compilation of video performances of traditional, folk, and classical dances from ASEAN Member States broadcast on social media; (2) A celebration of Philippine Independence Day by the Filipino community in Toronto, Canada where they staged a 2-day 18-hour streaming event from their website, which was a compilation of traditional and contemporary cultural performances interspersed with interviews of Embassy and Canadian government officials and prominent Filipinos in Canada; (3) Video of the ballet production of Mir-i-Nisa – a love story of a Muslim princess in Mindanao in celebration of the Eidl Fitr; (4) Screengrab of DFA’s collaboration with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Quincentennial Commission on a series of webinars on PH history and activities in preparation for the celebration of the Quincentennial next year which illustrates an example of Asia-Europe cultural relations; (5) Collaboration with the Cultural Center of the Philippines on the staging of a Filipino zarzuela or musical theater production to celebrate Buwan ng Wika at Buwan ng Kasaysayan; and (6) Collaboration with a young multi-awarded chef Louise Mabulo for 5-minute cooking segments that mixes PH history, tourism, and cuisine. (Photo: DFA-OSCR)