Doha, 16 August 2020
Qatar National Library in collaboration with United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) held recently virtual forum participated by experts on vital role of national libraries in the developing world. Title of the forum was ‘Cultural Diplomacy : The Role of National Libraries in Developing Nations.
Among participants included government leaders, foreign ministers, high commissioners and independent policy advisors.
Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, Minister of State of Qatar and President, Qatar National Library welcomed the participants. He expressed his deep sympathies at the recent explosion in Beirut. He regarded city of Beirut as Distinguished Cultural Capital, not only in the Middle Esat, but across the world.
He said that Beirut has very special place in the hearts of every Arab – the city of the greatest writers, poets and artists. He added: “Lebanon’s intellectual freedom made it a refuge from the harshest conditions for every oppressed writer, thinker, novelist and creative artist. Doha, under its slogan ‘Arab culture is a homeland, and Doha is its capital,’ shares Beirut’s grief and affirms its confidence in the continuing cultural status of Beirut.”
Speaking on cultural diplomacy, Al Kuwari said that it “has long been complementary to, and supportive of, traditional diplomacy through the mutual representation of countries and the role of embassies. Transcending official channels, cultural diplomacy is manifested in many forms throughout human history. Let’s take advantage of our time of advanced technology. Through such online meetings, we bring libraries closer together than ever before and enhance our cooperation, he stressed.
Talking on important role being played by national libraries in the current climate, said “National libraries must not lag behind in their vital role of promoting constructive interaction between nations and creating opportunities for cooperation and interaction that empower our universities, research centers, scholars and intellectuals.”
He said that sports is another sector wbich can boost cultural diplomacy to spread wider and reach bigger audiences, and Qatar is a leader in this field.”
Talking on Qatar National Library activities and initiatives, he said that Library hosts Digital Library dedicated to the history and culture of the Gulf region and beyond. This archive resulted from a years-long productive partnership between Qatar Foundation, the British Library and Qatar National Library. He said that additional collection in partnerships with libraries, archives and institutions including from UK, Vatican, Italy, US, India, Argentina and Gambia are in pipeline. He said that library is currently undertaking vital digitization projects, that will have a strong impact on the region and beyond.
He said that library section “Our Children’s and Young Adults’ is one of the most active areas in the Library, with a rich collection of books and materials. Moreover, various activities and workshops are added attraction for youth. In addition, there is a dedicated area for those with visual impairments where necessary equipment and special books are also provided.
Al Kuwari said that Qatar National Library mission and vision is to be hub of knowledge, research and science for the community, the region and the world, with mutual cooperation, we can achieve this,” he concluded.
Rabih El Haddad, Director, Multilateral Diplomacy, UNITAR in his speech said that “Cultural diplomacy is the foundation of knowledge sharing, embracing cultural relations and building bridges across nations towards achieving cosmopolitan peace.”
Felix Ulloa, Vice President of ElSalvador said that his government is combating with gang violence through cultural diplomacy. He said that with the help of Chinese government, new library building is under construction as it was damaged in earthquake.
Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor and expert on nation branding said that “If a country has a positive image, trade and investment are easy. He said that country’s image cannot be built by spending money, there is no correlation between the amount of money spent on improving a country’s image and its success—it has to earn that reputation through cultural relations and its behavior.”
Kenyan Minister of Sports, Heritage and Cultural, Amna Mohamed spoke about a digital application developed to share the diverse cultures of the 44 different groups that make up the nation of Kenya. She said: “If you are able, as a country, to create the image that you care about your culture and want to show it to the rest of the world, it becomes a very powerful tool that acts as a catalyst for acceptance across communities and across the world.”
Mamadon Tangara, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Gambia, spoke about Africa’s need for empowerment through libraries. He said: “The importance of cultural diplomacy cannot be overemphasized. We salute the cooperation between The Gambia and Qatar to give a new lease on life to our libraries and serve as a great opportunity to help us bridge the digital divide.”
Among other speakers included Bocchit Edmond, Advisor to the President of Haiti and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship; Ramonjavelo Manambahoaka Valery Fitzgerald, Secretary General, Presidency of Madagascar; Ambassador Ali Said Faqi of Somalia: Peter David, Foreign Minister of Grenada; Harold Tavares, Chief of staff to the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde; Moses Mose, Solomon Islands Ambassador to the EU; Dr. Simon J. Rofe, Reader in Diplomatic and International Studies in the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London.
Among personalities present on the occasion include Humberto Gabriel Lopez La Bella, Director General of Cultural Diversity, Rights and Processes, Ministry of Culture in Paraguay.