Cultural diplomacy and peace on Monica Baldi

7 Feb 2022 - Culture

Cultural diplomacy and peace on Monica Baldi

On the 40th anniversary of the University for Peace, I believe it is important to make a picture of the situation and to know the personality thought committed to promoting peace, human rights and dialogue among civilizations. I express my warmest appreciation for the initiative and my best wishes, for even greater successes, to the Rector Dr. Francisco Rojas Aravena, to the Chancellor H.E. Mr. Enrique Barón Crespo and Ambassador David Fernandez Puyana who is coordinating with the editorial staff.

UPEACE is considered a unique place of education of its kind, true excellence in the service of peace, with training programs based on solidarity, intercultural dialogue and peaceful coexistence, focused on environment, development, peace, conflict and international law. With great foresight, it has connected universities scattered all over the world and has entered into relevant agreements such as last year with the Pontifical Lateran University for the training of peace operators.

This year, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations: the organization, born following the devastating consequences of the Second World War, founded on the sharing of the values of freedom, peace and democracy, which has contributed to the solution of international conflicts. Over the years, the United Nations has organized and directed complex multilateral cooperation operations to achieve peace and stability in crisis areas, in compliance with the rule of law and the dignity of the person, managing to manage articulated humanitarian assistance, even where terrible natural disasters have occurred.

In recent years, the UN has contributed to spreading a global culture of legality and human rights, peace and security, becoming an essential reference for the international community, which has believed in the inspiring principles of the Charter, which are also the basis of the European Union, born 70 years ago with the declaration of Robert Schumann.

Cooperation and solidarity are essential to address crises that affect us all, such as: climate change, cyber-attacks and above all defeating the terrible Covid-19 pandemic, which has become a scientific challenge and a real test of resilience.

To achieve positive results, international and intersectoral cooperation is needed that encourages collective shared action. The implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and the 2030 Agenda are the best concrete examples.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was born with the ambitious aim of transforming our world. It is an action program based on the Millennium Development Goals that aims to complete what has not been achieved, taking into account the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental dimensions.

It is founded on a spirit of reinforced global solidarity and aims to fully realize human rights, to respect gender equality, to strengthen universal peace, to fight poverty, to protect the planet from degradation with interventions in areas of crucial importance for humanity.

Certainly, with shared rules and principles, we can make states safer, allowing everyone to live in peace and freedom, safeguarding our economic, cultural and environmental heritage.

Article 6 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) proposes the need to implement:

It proposes a model for cultural cooperation among European countries, national cultural organizations and public and private bodies, drawing inspiration from “cultural diplomacy” to promote a world order based on peace, the rule of law, freedom of expression, mutual understanding and respect for fundamental values. > Although cultural policy is, in principle, a matter for the individual member states of the European Union, Article 6 TFEU establishes that the EU can intervene in this area in order to assist, coordinate and complement the action of the Member States.

The theme of culture is to be considered central in the action of diplomacy.

It is said that Jean Monnet, to those who asked him about the process of European integration, said: “if I had to start over, this time I would start with culture”.

Throughout history it has significant European cultural contribution that featured numerous territories beyond the borders of the Old Continent and which has allowed many countries around the world to initiate important development and growth processes. The identities of many nations have been influenced, with tangible and intangible assets, such as: art, music, architecture, customs, literature, science, technology, sports, gastronomy, crafts.

Precisely all these aspects, which characterize individual cultural inheritances, are correlated with each other in “cultural diplomacy”, which is counted as the art on which actions aimed at exchanging projects, ideas, traditions are based as the numerous artists, teachers, traders, scientists, travellers and explorers knew well.

Cultural diplomacy, by promoting intercultural dialogue, intends to enhance supranational interrelationships to build socio-cultural cooperation tools and also strengthen the political and economic interests of a nation.

Furthermore, cultural diplomacy has the task of learning, sharing and respecting the various ideologies, as well as carrying out dialogue processes in respect and recognition of diversity, justice, equality, equity and to build programs for the protection of human rights and for the stability of communities.

For these and many other reasons, Cultural Diplomacy plays a strategic role in solidarity and sharing programs, proving to be a fundamental component within, also, the most complex diplomatic and governmental processes.

The art of dialogue – through the universal language of painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, writing, music, science, sport – is the basis of major projects of diplomacy and solidarity.

The use of the term cultural diplomacy is quite recent, although this form of soft power has existed for centuries, so much so that explorers, travellers, traders, teachers and artists, who have brought their culture around the world, can be considered living examples of early “cultural diplomats”.

In fact, the establishment of regular trade routes has allowed, in the past (and still allows it today), a frequent exchange of information and cultural expressions, both among the traders themselves and among government representatives.

The interactions among peoples, the exchange of languages, ideas, the arts and social structures have improved, throughout history, the relations among divergent groups and, all this, has meant that cultural diplomacy, previously relegated to the margins of discipline of international relations, could establish itself as an autonomous theory and practice.

Therefore, cultural diplomacy represents a fundamental action of international politics, considering that culture allows the exercise of soft power, not only from the point of view of values, but also from an economic and commercial point of view.

This “excellence” contributes to the growth of citizens, favouring intercultural relations between different countries and continents, through the strengthening, development and diversification of mutual collaboration.

Cooperation becomes more incisive and profound, especially in relation to the protection of the cultural and environmental heritage, considering the importance of involving the relevant organizations and institutions operating in the area.

The dialogue becomes important to establish educational and scientific relationship and activities – with exchanges of know-how on new techniques, such as in the restoration and conservation – based on the preservation of peace.

The richness of cultural heritage is a common factor in many countries, as is evident in the history of Latin American States.

The history of each people is defined by internal and international conflicts.

The common feature of every armed conflict is, rather, add up the damage to cultural, artistic, architectural and environmental, caused to populations who have to endure the tragic consequences that are now strictly evaluated by the bodies responsible for protecting human rights, cultural and environmental heritage at risk.

The destruction of cultural evidence is a strategy, in total violation of International Humanitarian Law, which aims at the complete annihilation of the adversary, through the complete cancellation of all those elements that build his cultural, religious and social identity.

Serious violations of attacks against Cultural Heritage can be considered: national and international crimes, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

There are numerous international treaties and norms that are the basis of International Humanitarian Law whose general principles govern decisions in the context of military operations. The key issue is the distinction between civilian objects and military objectives, which is based on the principles of humanity, distinction, proportionality, precaution, restricting the means and methods of combat. DIU (International Humanitarian Law) defines rules that protect both people and property involved in the conflict.

It was with the Second World War that the importance of cultural heritage became known, so much so that an impressive and widespread action was implemented to make the works and historical sites safe and, the governments allied with the declaration of London, of January 1943, declared forbidden: “any robbery of works of art and science”.

Three centuries ago, in Florence, the Electress Palatina was the forerunner of that concept, then consecrated by legislation in fairly recent times, for which the enhancement, conservation, protection of a work of art cannot be separated from its proper contextualization and the usability of a large audience.

The great merit of the Elector Palatina, Anna Maria Luisa de ‘Medici – the last descendant of the grand ducal branch of the ruling house – is in the drafting of a legal act, the so-called “Family Pact”, stipulated in Vienna with the Habsburg-Lorraine in 1737, with which she bound to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, all the assets that were part of the immense and extraordinary Medici collection accumulated over the centuries by her family.

“[…] or take out of the capital and the state of the Grand Duchy, galleries, pictures, statues, libraries, jewels and other precious things, from the succession of the Serenissimo Grand Duke, so that they would remain for the ornament of the state, for the benefit of the public and to attract the curiosity of foreigners.”

In fact, it is due to her enlightened mind, her far-sighted intuition, her devotion to art and her boundless wisdom that the enhancement and permanence in Florence of a cultural, historical and artistic heritage without equal is due.

Incidentally, the same Italian Constitution (in force since 1948) art. 9 states: “The Republic promotes the development of culture and scientific and technical research. It protects the landscape and the historical and artistic heritage of the nation”.

The protection of cultural assets, today, is defined by conventions, protocols and treaties, taking into account that: “attacks perpetrated on cultural assets, to whatever people they belong, constitute attacks on the cultural heritage of humanity”.

Cultural assets are protected both because of their civil nature and because they are part of the cultural and spiritual heritage of peoples. With the protection of cultural assets, we intend to protect monuments and artifacts, memory and collective and individual identities.

Unfortunately, recently, conflicts of both a strategic and ideological nature, to generate a strong emotional impact, destroy the Cultural Heritage, as a symbol of historical memory, considered objects of ethnic cleansing intended to annihilate emblems that constitute the heritage that represents the deepest identity of a people.

The terrible attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 was frightening, both for the many victims, for the enormous damage suffered, and for the destruction of a symbol recognized all over the world.

For this reason, artistic, religious and monumental assets have always been among the “privileged victims” throughout the history of armed conflicts. Just think of the huge cultural heritage destroyed by ISIS, with the annihilation of unrepeatable ancient sites such as Palmira, Ninive, Mosul, Aleppo.

Some destructions occur for strategic reasons, considering the characteristics of the constructions useful in wartime, such as the Abbey of Montecassino, in Italy, the Library of Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Old Bridge of Mostar, in Bosnia, whose demolition has been called “crime against humanity”. The bridge served as a union between the Christian and Muslim banks on the Neretva River and was considered by the Serbian and Croatian factions a symbol and an integral part of Bosnian culture, united and multi-ethnic, to be dismantled as such.

During the second Gulf War, the National Library and the State Archives were burned, which guarded the national identity of the Iraqi people, together with the Baghdad Museum, which was looted with thousands and thousands of artifacts, now largely recovered from the illegal market.

In recent years it was accomplished a veritable slaughter of the world’s art treasures.

With the destruction of cities, models of culture and commerce, they want to annihilate the secular symbols of peaceful coexistence among different ethnic groups, religions, ideologies and nationalities.

Unfortunately, the violations against cultural heritage, the devastation and looting have not stopped and, in recent decades, we have witnessed a worrying proliferation of violations of international obligations with the systematic destruction, or even damage, of several sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

UNESCO has always contributed to the “maintenance of peace and security, strengthening, through education, science and culture, collaboration among nations, in order to guarantee universal respect for justice, law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, for the benefit of all, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, and which the United Nations Charter recognizes for all peoples”.

Cultural Assets are defined as: The Hague Convention of May 14, 1954 has contributed a lot to the evolution of law and the very concept of a Cultural Property – from 1902 to today – accompanied by a Regulation and an Additional Protocol, the result of the sad experiences of the Second World War.

The convention establishes two models of protection: general protection, granted to all non-military cultural objects, and special protection, granted to a limited number of cultural objects of great importance registered in a special list, as well as permanent shelters intended to house movable cultural assets during a conflict.

In the Convention the concept of “universal cultural heritage” emerges for the first time since, as we read in the same prologue: damage caused to cultural heritage, to whatever people they belong, constitutes damage to the cultural heritage of all humanity as each people contributes to world culture. We have therefore moved from the concept of protection of heritage understood as a common (national) good to the broader one of world heritage, also establishing a principle of reciprocity in the protection of assets. And the “Blue Shield” is the symbol chosen, in 1954 by the aforementioned Convention, to represent the elements of the cultural heritage to be safeguarded in the event of armed conflict. Therefore, in defence of Cultural Heritage, protection, prevention and safety actions are promoted in all risk situations, such as armed conflicts and natural disasters, coordinated by the International Committee of the Blue Shield, ICBS (International Committee of the Blue Shield), which brings together the knowledge, experience and specialized international networks. ICBS was initially established in 1996 by the four non-governmental organizations: ICA (International Council of Archives), ICOM (International Council of Museums), ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations) which also represents archives and libraries. In 2005, CCAAA (Co-ordinating Council of Audio-visual Archives Associations) was also added. These organizations bring together a range of professionals in the field of advice and assistance on the occasion of events, such as: the war in the former Yugoslavia or Afghanistan, the devastating hurricanes in Central America and the earthquakes in the Far East. ICBS is an international, independent and professional organization that aims to coordinate the protection, prevention and security of cultural assets in all risk situations, including armed conflicts. The “Blue Shield” has become a significant example of risk management in the event of natural disasters, bringing together the experiences of different professionals and institutions in the cultural sector, collaborating with the military authorities and emergency services. But the inadequacy of the results achieved in applying the 1954 Hague Convention led to the adoption, in March 1999, of a Second Protocol, which created a new model of protection: reinforced protection. There is also a register for this model, but the procedures are simpler, based on tacit consent and without any specific marking.

In 2009, the Council of the European Union included the conservation of cultural heritage among the issues for which it is necessary to coordinate the research programs of the member states. And, in 2018, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union established “The European Year of Cultural Heritage”, The protection of cultural heritage in crisis areas and the fight against the illicit trafficking of works of art were also among the priorities of the first Ministerial for Culture of the G7, held on 30 and 31 March 2017 in Florence. And it was on that occasion that, with reference to the UNESCO “Unite4Heritage” initiative, Italy proposed the establishment of a Task Force to protect the world’s artistic heritage with the creation of the “Blue Helmets of Culture”, that is an emergency group with highly specialized mixed civil and military personnel, consisting of a first nucleus of Carabinieri from the Cultural Heritage Protection Command, art historians, scholars and restorers. Their task is to assess the risks and damage to cultural heritage, to study action plans and urgent measures, undertake training courses for local staff, provide assistance to the transfer of movables in safe shelters and strengthen the fight against looting and illicit trafficking in cultural goods. Considering that the “Global Coalition Unite4Heritage” is the initiative created by UNESCO – in June 2015 on the occasion of the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee – to sensitize the member states of the Organization to enhance and protect cultural heritage, protecting it from damage in war zones, and to educate young people around the world to preserve culture as a tool for integration, growth and sustainable development. Taking into account that the Italian Command “Tutela Patrimonio Carabinieri” was chosen as the first military police force in the world, specialized in the protection of historical, artistic and cultural heritage, thanks to its considerable experience and unparalleled investigative capacity, both at abroad and on the national territory.

And on the eve of the G7 Culture, on 25 March 2017, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved resolution 2347, presented by Italy and France, making use of the important technical contribution of the Carabinieri as ” Blue Helmets of Culture”, intended for the protection of cultural heritage at risk in situations of armed conflict. This is the first resolution, focused exclusively on cultural heritage, which condemns the destruction and looting of archaeological sites, museums, archives, libraries and the smuggling of artifacts through which international terrorism is financed. It encourages States to cooperate and strengthen the operational modalities implemented by the previous resolutions of the Security Council and also welcomes the request to include, when requested, a cultural component within the UN peacekeeping missions.

In November 2017, the Italian Presidency of the United Nations Security Council was set on “Building peace for tomorrow”, based on an integrated civil-military approach. Among the priorities were indicated appropriate measures for the protection of cultural heritage in order to protect cultural diversity and historical symbols, emblems of different identities, which are brutally destroyed in areas of crisis. The intention was to promote and include effective measures for the protection of cultural heritage, hindering the trafficking of antiquities in the peacekeeping mandate.

In 2007, we set up a Committee to raise awareness of both the work carried out by civilian operators and that carried out by the military and carabinieri, engaged in international missions for the protection of Archaeological and Cultural Heritage in crisis areas. The Committee – formed, in addition to myself, by the late Prof. Giovanni Pettinato, by Dr. Silvia Chiodi and by the lieutenant CC Renato Spedicato with the support of the Hon Gerardo Bianco – organized a series of conferences in Italy, which ended with the publication e-book book “cultural heritage and armed conflicts, natural disasters and environmental disasters, the challenges and projects of war, terrorism, genocide, organized crime.” The commitment of the aforementioned Committee focused on making the institutions and the international community reflect on the importance of civil-military cooperation, in the context of the protection of the extraordinary cultural heritage, which risks being more dispersed in the areas of conflict. From the various meetings, it emerged that it becomes necessary to study specific actions and rules for the protection of cultural heritage in crisis areas, following a “Code of Ethics”, which should be the fundamental guide for developing collaboration between the institutions themselves and civil society , in order to create a coordinated intervention network in compliance with the reciprocal and different specializations and skills.

The modus operandi of the armed forces in the so-called “theatres of war” should take into account local sensitivities and the difficult situations experienced by wounded indigenous communities. Respect for the identities and cultural and religious heritages of the communities involved in the tragedies of war constitutes a qualifying element of the approach to this type of mission which includes, in addition to the usual commitments on strictly humanitarian issues, also interventions on cultural heritage. All this makes it possible to recover damaged masterpieces and contributes to the restoration of conditions of peaceful coexistence between different communities and often divided by centuries-old conflicts.

A policy of rebuilding the democracy and peace process, as well as with military missions, it is possible if appropriate and coherent tools are used with international operational ones. A true reconstruction policy must strive to remove the “structural causes” produced by the current development model, capable of increasing inequalities and reducing millions and millions of people to misery, such as: unfair trade rules, commodification and privatization processes commons, military spending, economic processes, devastation of natural resources, debt issue.

The recovery and protection of cultural heritage, as a witness to our own history, civilization, culture, identity and tradition, is one of the most fertile and innovative soils and cultural heritage, if well preserved and promoted, can be an important economic and social resources, as well as the foundation for democracy.

However, it is necessary to work in cooperation among the political, diplomatic, cultural, university, military and civilian worlds.

The various initiatives on the subject should be grouped in a more cohesive and coherent way, organizing an international training program, considering the professional profiles existing in the various countries, to equip future operators with the skills and tools necessary to operate in this specific sector of cultural heritage, closely connected to delicate international relations, intercultural dialogue and social integration, which represents an extraordinary challenge for our present and for our future.

I believe that much can be done to prevent and resolve conflicts if the history and culture of crisis areas are known. In this sense, the role played with passion and professionalism by scholars, together with the Italian military and the carabinieri, was important in southern Iraq because, in addition to the discovery of a significant archaeological heritage, for the first time, the mapping of archaeological sites was carried out, identifying places at risk of looting. Besides the contribution to security and the restoration of democracy, it is necessary to work on the reconstruction and protection of cultural heritage, in the belief that the democratic process must invest more in culture and civil-military cooperation in international missions. Only in this way is it possible to lay the foundations to safeguard the heritage of significant places, guardians of the largest and most ancient civilizations in the world.

Indeed, it would not be possible to contribute to the reconstruction of a country without protecting the testimony of its historical and cultural roots. The link between the protection of cultural heritage and the maintenance of international peace and security is inseparable.

Throughout history, many cities have been destroyed by conflicts and natural disasters and it is thanks to art and architecture that we feel a deep emotion in remembering the tragic events.

Many architects and artists have dedicated places and works to peace: both to denounce the violation, either to support the desire of humanity, is to warn to not to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past, and is to give voice to an eternal hope.

Various and commemorating the works and places celebrating peace by well-known architects:

  • Kenzo Tange designed the Peace Center in Hiroshima, Japan (1949-55).
  • Le Corbusier – with 17 works included among the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO – created “La Main Ouverte” in Chandigarh, Punjab (India) in 1952: a large-scale work conceived on the occasion of the planning of the urban plan of the new capital, which has become the symbol of the city.
  • Josep Luis Sert created the Chapel of Peace in the Carmelite convent in Mazille (1968-71), and the pavilion of the Spanish Republic at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1937, with Picasso’s Guernica and works by Miró and Calder.
  • Tadao Andō – known for the concept of solidity and lightness in places of peace – conceived, in 1995, the Space of Meditation in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris using irradiated Hiroshima granite.
  • Mario Botta, in Italy, designed the Piazzale della Pace: a large green area bordered by the palaces in the historic center of Parma (1996-2001).
  • Likewise, peace, in the art of painters and sculptors, creates strong and intimate emotions, especially when they sublimate their pain in works that testify to the senselessness of human violence:
  • Costantino Nivola created the “Man of Peace” monument in Mexico City on the occasion of the 1968 Olympics: a work with a dove symbol of peace at the top.
  • Mark Rothko painted the Ecumenical Chapel in Houston and, believing in the power of art over peace, exhibited at the Pace Gallery.
  • Sir Pieter Paul Rubens, considered the painter in the service of peace, as a Diplomat, participated in numerous missions aimed at achieving peace in Flanders. It is known his painting “Allegory of Peace” (1629-1630) where the Peace, personified by the woman at the centre, pours her generous gifts. Also, of great pictorial quality, the painting “The Consequences of War” (1637-1638).
  • Marc Chagall, a Belarusian painter of Jewish origin, naturalized French, he created the “Peace Window” in the United Nations Building in New York in 1964: a stained-glass window that is a hymn to universal peace. In 1962, with an extraordinary play of light, he managed to make the stained-glass windows made for the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem move. Some of his works are at the “Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall” in Nice. For his work in favour of peace, in Paris in 2013, the exhibition “War and Peace” was organized.
  • Pablo Picasso, the Spanish artist known for Guernica: the painting representing the dramatic air attack that levelled the Basque city on April 26, 1937. This “Icon of Peace” with the evocative power of its message as an “infinite scream against the war” is exhibited at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid; while the corresponding tapestry (from 1955) is placed on the wall at the entrance to the hall of the United Nations Security Council. France has dedicated the “Musée National Pablo Picasso Chapelle La Guerre et la Paix” in Vallauris to the artist (1950 / 52-53).
  • Sofía Gandarias, Basque painter, paints the great Triptych Gernika (1998-99) revisiting the symbols with great innovative power: while Picasso represents the tragic scene with a gradation of Gray, Gandarias, in the diffused brightness of the shadow, uses shades of Red, whose anguish is perceived in the vibrations of the dense and dark chromatic drafting, marking the tragic scene with the testimony of human architecture.
    Both artists paint on large canvases that represent, according to the deepest ethical convictions, direct commitment to democratic and civil choices.

The universal value of peace is the common denominator of these artistic and architectural works. Without peace and stability, it is not possible to rebuild the reputation of a nation, nor to reopen interrupted geopolitical dialogues, nor to carry out reconciliation projects in post-conflict areas. To rebuild cities, it becomes necessary to design public spaces, which embrace diversity, in equitable and sustainable well-being, and to ensure that citizens, urban or rural, of different cultures and religions, can interact and live together peacefully.

There is still much to be done for cultural diplomacy to become a solid pillar of foreign policy, despite its strategic role as soft power. And government activity cannot exist without the private sector, which plays a key role, considering that the government does not create culture, but it limits itself to making it known externally and to defining the impact of this action on national policies.

Cultural diplomacy must be understood as a bilateral exchange, where the main purpose is to foster mutual understanding and support among different countries.

We must never forget that cultural heritage belongs to the community and we have a duty to pass it on to future generations.

And precisely in this particular year, to promote universal values in the world through Culture and the Arts – together with the President Enrique Barón Crespo, the Maestro Andrea Ceccomori and the Dr Anna Rüdeberg – we have given life to the Ars Pace project, with the main objective of restoring balance and harmony, adopting a real dialogue of peace through the language of music, art, architecture, culture, science and economy; addressing issues such as: cultural heritage and training activities; music and identity; environment and territory; politics and development, peacemakers and crisis areas; integration and hospitality.

Thus, we intend to contribute to the primary purpose of peace-building – taking into account the delicate international relations, intercultural dialogue and social integration – by organizing concerts, conferences, seminars, meetings, exhibitions, courses and scholarships.

Our logo, acronym of Ars Pace, represents the dragonfly as a symbol of freedom, peace, balance, awareness, transformation in the changeability of life; it teaches to go beyond appearances, encouraging us to find our own identity, to affirm our personality and to find freedom in peace.

Book “Promoting peace, human rights and dialogue among civilizations” – UPEACE 2020

Foto: “La Main Ouverte” Chandigarh Le Corbusier (1950-1965)


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