18th Eurasian Economic Summit

Sagacious Men Session: Road to Peace: where does humanity go?


Speech of Prof. Dr. Emil Constantinescu

President of Romania 1996-200


Cultural Diplomacy, a chance for peace in the globalized world


On Thursday, the 14th of June 1325, the second day of Rajab 725 after Hejjira, the 21-year-old Abu Addullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta had left Tangier. Thirty years later, after traveling through the Middle East and Central Asia over more than 75,000 miles, he returned to Fez, Morocco and wrote a book: “The Famous Travels of Ibn Battuta”. His stories reveal us the important role played by merchants traveling the land and seas in a time when travel, trade, education and faith coexisted in a space of dialogue and converging civilisations. My attention was captured a long ago by his Memoirs are a significant historical source for the early Renaissance history of my country, Romania, where the Silk Road linking Spain and China crossed the Amber Road descending from Scandinavia to Greece.

The cultural heritage has always been a difficult and extremely sensitive topic for all those interested in preserving history and making the most of it. The main issue here is the most subjective essence of the heritage idea. Given the circumstances, the only way to actually solve dissensions of this kind is dialogue, a dialogue structured according to various aspects of reality: scientific, sociologic, cultural, artistic, and, last but not least, religious.

When looking at the current development of the relationship between the great monotheistic religions, it is very hard to think about the balance we were talking about just seeing the conflicts, the mutual intolerance or the lack of any desire for dialogue. Yet, we must not forget that all these are nothing but the effects of a half-understood history, a history out of which sides have chosen to retain only the dark side. Given this situation, we are bound to ask ourselves a very simple yet pertinent question: do we really know our own values and norms? Or is it that everything reduces to a shallow understanding of things, the more convenient, and the more dangerous. Above all, culture means a dialogue everyone has something to learn from.

In fact, the common denominator is the human being in all its aspects, and from this perspective Muslim, Christian or Jew can work together to understand the greatest mysteries of this world: MAN.  

We live in an open world, in a world of communication and continuous interaction, in a world whose continuous evolution can not be withhold. In such a world, closed societies have no chance. At the same time, globalization cannot be linked only to trade, to be analogized – due to the free market dynamics – with some assets, with the most competitive products. Beyond all these things, globalization means acknowledgement of certain values, certain symbolical goods, it means knowledge and - why not? - closeness and understanding.

Diversity in ways of living and regimes is a sign of human freedom, not a sign of error. And so, having different alternatives of achieving prosperity, then the choice should not be necessarily a tragic one.

The accelerating transformations in the contemporary world are imperatively asking for our engagement in a process of re-thinking the global society, the human relationships, and most of all the politics and the political action significance. Politics area can not be considered as a separate place, isolated from the day to day reality, somewhere on the edge of morality, governed by esoteric rules, understood only by initiated people, a space monopolized by closed circles, not accessible to the majority, separate or even opposite to it. The politics of the day cannot afford to limit itself to just manage the relationship between friends and enemies; on the contrary, it must be seen as the best way of coexistence, as a collection of practices meant not to divide, but join together all the society major parts around a common project.

Cultural diplomacy is becoming more and more a tool to promote liberal democratic values ​​and a democracy of participation.

Cultural diplomacy should not be taken as a panacea. It only shows that we have more values ​​and principles that can unite us than the ones able to divide us. It can help us build a climate that gives us hope that trust, in a globalized world, could be rebuilt not only between states but also between governments, politicians and citizens.

A „great humanity conversation” must now be encouraged as for larger and larger groups of regular people would develop a freer flux of ideas and knowledge worldwide.

Not understanding „the other’s” motivation had led, during history, to many wrong decisions of foreign policy that triggered conflicts or wars. The common values policy as a dialogue basis can bring about the stability within the globalized 21st century world.

International politics, as well as classic diplomacy, was built on power and force relations and will continue to be so a long time from now on. The concept of "soft power" is far from being functional. Cultural diplomacy is still as its dawns. I want to be well understood. I do not plead for replacing classic diplomacy with the cultural one. It would mean for me to encourage a dangerous utopia. But I stand up for associating them. From my experience gained as a scientist, as a man of culture and as a statesman, I can say that cultural diplomacy is in the same report with classic diplomacy as there are the non-Euclidean geometry with the Euclidean geometry, the relativistic physics with the Newtonian physics, the law of included middle with the law of excluded middle of the Aristotelian logic, the modernism and the post-modernism with the classicism and neoclassicism in literature, music and art. All these are illustrations of the order-disorder ratio, and modern approaches trying to manage uncertainty as classical ones underlie certainty.

I believe that we can hope for more. For the moment, both the big powers and the international organizations UN, UNESCO or the civil society try to create a political culture of security through negotiation and cooperation. In order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world we are looking for the lowest common denominator on which everybody can agree. My opinion is that we should plan for more. If we want to make a real peace and understanding between people, we must focus to identify not the lowest common denominator, but we should relate ourselves to the highest common denominator.

Twenty years ago, people in Eastern Europe were ready to fight and to die for freedom and democracy. In a new millennium, let us rediscover faith. Not in order to use it, like it happened during the long history of humanity, against each other, but to understand our reason on earth. Peace is the name of God; either we are Christians, Muslims, Jewish, or believers of Asian religions. Only man’s arrogance made him forget the message of God, no matter how we call his name in our language or faith.

Perhaps after the “human face communism” project has failed once and for all, it is the right time for the new democracies to create a “human face capitalism” project. Thus, the new twenty first century revolutions will be not only for liberty, but also for human dignity.