Cultural Diplomacy among the Youth

The example of l’Institut de l’Engagement

November 20th, 2017
Zoé Kompa, CD News

Frequently when we evoke cultural diplomacy, we think about actions between two countries or two continents, but we forget that cultural diplomacy can take action among a group of people in one society. Mark Donfried reminds us that, “cultural diplomacy may best be described as a course of actions, which are based on and utilize the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation, promote national interests and beyond; Cultural diplomacy can be practiced by either the public sector, private sector or civil society."

Unlike what most of the society thinks, cultural diplomacy can be practiced in a particular group of people in a society such as, the youth, women, or the disabled, to promote certain values or ideas. Their aim is to promote mutual understanding in society, an improvement of their situation, or their right: a better integration into society... Emmaus or Association des paralysés de France, are good examples of charities which represent these specific groups of society (the poorest, the disabled here).

As for the youth, cultural diplomacy is paramount. They represent the future of society, so their education is going to influence the future of their country. As said by the South African political leader, Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world.” Governments with the Ministry of National Education work to improve the youth education but the civil society is there to complete the action of the government. Every organization apart of the civil society has its own aim, but most of them want to promote certain values such as equality, multiculturalism, or mutual understanding.

It’s the case for l’Institut de l’Engagement. When Martin Hirsh and Claire de Mazancourt created that organization in 2012, their aim was to promote the commitment of its “lauréats” (laureates) and its partners. After a period of volunteering in specific programs such as le Service Civique, le Service Civil Européen, or le Volontariat de Solidarité Internationale, l’Institut de l’Engagement selects its laureate for their potentials, their values and their involvement in the society, which have no distinction of their gender, their academic degree, or their social origins. Besides helping them to find their place in society with: more ambitious studies, finding a job, creating their company or charity, it organizes “Universités de l’Engagement” which aim to help the “lauréats” to strengthen their projects and to make them aware of the major challenges of the society and the world. Thanks to these “Universités” the laureates can meet and exchange reflections about their commitment, their projects or about their life and the issues they are facing.

This is a good example of cultural diplomacy. Different groups of young people, which were not supposed to meet, are gathered for their commitment and will exchange their ideas and their values… Therefore, they will learn from one another. What is more important, are the partners of l’Institut de l’Engagement, companies and organizations, during these “universités” organize workshops, debates and conferences about their field of competence. This allows interactions between these two worlds and their interactions are useful for both parties. Comments and questions asked by the young people can change companies and charities’ point of view on certain topics such as work conditions, ethics in companies, and diversities. In the meanwhile, the laurates have a clear view of the business world or major challenges they are going to face or that they are facing now. The exchanges between these two groups help them to better understand and to learn from one another. For the companies and the charities, it is also very advantageous because, they can have a different point of view which can help them to improve their functioning and they can recruit their future employees among the laureates.

To conclude, l’Institut de l’Engagement promotes certain values such as commitment or diversity, and helps to bridge a gap between the youth themselves, between young and the business world, and between the partners themselves. It is a powerful and successful example of cultural diplomacy in a group of people within a country.


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