If Francois Hollande wins the French presidency then a major cultural challenge has been set for him. With nearly one in five French voters expressing a preference for a racist party, and the (hopefully) outgoing president making statements which are not out of place at a le Pen rally, France really has to get to grips with its attitude to racism.
Something is clearly wrong. It will mean changes to current practices, in employment, in all sectors. Current policies have clearly failed. A President Hollande will need to mobilise a changed cultural sector to help in the anti-racism programme. Changed? Yes. How open is the cultural sector, from museums, theatres, orchestras, to independent arts organisations and groups to a multi-cultural programme. Audience extension and development. An interesting take on the Musee de Quai Branly for example is here. Personally I loved the architecture but really disliked the approach taken in the exhibits, as did the author.
The report in Germany on the future of museums makes an interesting point. Ignore the headline grabbing comment about closing half the museums and focus on the comment about the need to engage closer with the tax paying public.
In addition, he argues, cultural institutions should be organised differently and [be given] more detailed targets, not only in regard to visitor numbers, but also guidelines about where visitors should come from and what age groups in particular should be attracted to the museums.
This is not only a domestic issue. France’s soft power and cultural attraction is weakened with such a growing vote for the extreme right. And if the right win in the second round?
Canada is frequently held up as a model country. It sits near the top in many global league tables. But are times changing? Daryl Copeland (of Guerilla Diplomacy fame) reports that public diplomacy is on the decline in Canada. Far from maintaining its pioneer role the government is almost ending its PD programmes.
Copeland points out Canada’s leading role in the landmines campaign, in climate and environmental issues. All now seemingly consigned to history.
Mark Leonard once argued that a country’s reputation internationally was 15 years out of date. Is Canada now along the way? Is it any longer demonstrating its progressive agenda as a global leader or reverting to narrow nationalistic interests?
On the environment, and indeed climate change, it has regressed. Withdrawing from Kyoto (straight after Durban and increasing its oil sands extraction (a method, according to Wikipedia: If combustion of the final products is included, the so-called “Well to Wheels” approach, oil sands extraction, upgrade and use emits 10 to 45% more greenhouse gases than conventional crude). As the Arctic warms up it opens up vast swathes of accessible land for Canada to exploit.
Canada has been a leading participant in international military adventures. One key priority of its remaining public diplomacy programme is to promote its role in Afghanistan.
Changing political priorities are nothing new. When they change so does the politically orientated public diplomacy, public relations programmes and messages. What needs to change is the impact on reputation. That takes longer for Canada to lose its position as a progressive member of the international community.