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Cambodia’s cultural diplomacy 2.0

Sambor Prei Kuk temple, an archaeological site of Ancient Ishanapura, is seen in Kampong Thom province, Cambodia May 20, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

Rich in history and cultural assets, Cambodia has a great potential and comparative advantage to expand its international networks of friendship and partnerships through cultural diplomacy, and project its soft power based on the contribution to human civilisation.

Currently the government is investing more efforts and resources to advance its cultural diplomacy under cultural diplomacy 2.0, which means assuming more of a leadership role in promoting international cultural exchanges and transforming cultural diversity into a source of long-term peace and sustainable development.

Cambodia is projecting itself to be at the crossroads as well as a connecting point of Asian civilisations. As a small country, it has an advantage in providing an open platform for people from different backgrounds, cultural values, and political identities to interact and form a healthy human ecosystem that values diversity and inclusiveness.

As identity politics is on the rise in different parts of the world, building a bridge of trust and tolerance between different cultures is an urgent issue. Fighting against extremism is a global campaign, which requires collective leadership with a common purpose. Cambodia can do more to help make the world a better place for humankind.

Over the past three decades three main Khmer tangible heritage sites were inscribed in the Unesco’s list of world heritage sites. In 1992, the Angkor Temple complex was registered as the first world heritage site in Cambodia followed by the Temple of Phreah Vihear and Sambor Prei Kuk, which were listed in 2007 and 2017 respectively. Several Khmer intangible heritages such as the Royal Ballet were also inscribed in Unesco’s list and most recently Lkhon Khol was also added to it.

The bilateral agreement between Unesco and ICAPP (the International Conference on Political Parties) together with the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), an affiliated body of ICAPP, was signed yesterday in Siem Reap. It paves the way for the official formation of the ACC which is scheduled to be launched on January 15, 2019. Cambodia will host the secretariat of the ACC in which Prime Minister Hun Sen will be the honorary founding chairman.

The ACC’s main objectives are to promote cultural cooperation and exchanges to help secure peace and prosperity, improve quality of life, and build mutual understanding and trust, offer platform for dialogues on linking culture with sustainable and inclusive development, and empower local communities to be more resilient through cultural governance and local development.

As Cambodia is thriving to realise its vision to become a high-income country by 2050, cultural values and identity will become even more crucial for sustainable and inclusive growth. Development and peace cannot be sustained without the promotion of culture of peace and social values on sustainability.

To stay vibrant and resilient Cambodia needs to connect and integrate itself with the international community, and cultural diplomacy can help Cambodia to be more connected and integrated in the region and the world at large. Cultural diplomacy 2.0 will help Cambodia position itself as a connecting dot of civilisations in Asia.

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