In 2018, the UAE established the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy (OPCD) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Cultural diplomacy includes, but is not limited to, exchange of ideas, art and language for the greater purpose of creating understanding between nations and people. One of the ways in which the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy achieves this is by embedding cultural diplomacy in the mandate of UAE Ambassadors as a means of promoting understanding and the richness and diversity of human experiences, opening doors for dialogue and strengthening connections between nations.
Some of the international initiatives of the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy and its partners include joint film festivals, joint youth initiatives, joint exhibitions, hosting literary conversations, and culture seminars, among others.
Below are a few of the main initiatives implemented by the Office of Public Diplomacy, which have served as excellent platforms for engagement and collaboration with partners around the world:
* Literary Conversations Across Borders:
o This initiative, launched by OPCD and the Emirates Literature Foundation, promoted international cultural understanding through the power of books and words. Called 'Literary Conversations Across Borders', the project used a digital platform to host Emirati writers, artists, intellectuals, journalists and commentators in live discussions with high profile experts from around the world on a variety of critical topics.
o This program provided an exceptional platform to share important discussions featuring notable Emiratis with a live audience from all over the world. Discussions ranged from the pandemic's effect on our future, in terms of world politics, sustainability and food security, to lively discussions on religion versus science and the changing face of journalism. It examined the implications of the Hope Probe Mission to Mars, looked back at our country's beginnings in Neolithic times, and experienced an outstanding poetry event bringing together the brightest and best performance poets from the UAE, UK and USA.
o The program was originally designed to be a travelling project, bringing Emirati writers to international book fairs and literary festivals to highlight Emirati culture and cultivate awareness of Emirati authors, speakers and poets. It was adapted to be delivered online following the pandemic, and as the world practiced social distancing, it provided the opportunity to bring the conversations with Emirati authors directly into people's homes.
* Cultural Marathon Symposium:
o The Cultural Marathon Symposium Series is an initiative launched by HE Zaki Nusseibeh, UAE Minister of State, to send a message of unity and solidarity in response to current global challenges.
o The inaugurating event was an online 24-hour marathon of talks, which was moderated by UAE Ambassadors in Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Belgium/Luxembourg/European Union, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
o The symposium witnessed the participation of museum directors, artists, design specialists and heads of cultural institutions, who discussed in-depth the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while offering insights on future trends.
o The Cultural Marathon Symposium went on to become a 7-part weekly talk series that discussed numerous topics, including space diplomacy, cultural cities post COVID-19, Latin American cultural diplomacy, the Mars Mission, sustainability and embassies of the future.
* Norway-UAE: +40 Years of Culture Exhibition:
o The exhibition, <>, presented the story of the Norwegian Seaman's Center, which was established in Dubai 40 years ago and quickly became a facilitator for social, cultural, professional and religious exchanges in the Scandinavian expatriate community of the UAE. The documentary exhibition presented the history of the Norwegian community in the UAE and the story of the cultural ties between the two nations through family photographs, videos, historical documents, art works and archival materials.
o The exhibition was presented at MESH - The Nordic Creator's Community in Oslo. It was inaugurated by the UAE Embassy in Oslo and OPCD. Birgitte Bentzrod presented a first hand account of her visits to the Seamen's Center in Dubai.
o OPCD relocated the exhibition to UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in the UAE in July 2019, which was opened by HE Zaki Nusseibeh, Minister of State and HE Jens Eikaas, Norwegian Ambassador to the UAE.
* Global Art Forum: Past, Present and Future:
o Global Art Forum is an annual transdisciplinary arts conference that brings together a diverse line-up of artists, curators, musicians, writers and thought leaders from around the world to explore a contemporary and forward-looking theme through a series of talks, panel discussions and performances. This special edition of Art Dubai's Global Art Forum was a two-part exhibition that took place for the first time at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and the second at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore. These events were held in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and supported by OPCD.
o Under the title "Global Art Forum: Past, Present and Future", the London edition focused on the past, present and future of art, culture, and ideonomy (the science of ideas). The highlight of this event was a discussion held between HE Zaki Nusseibeh and Hans Ulrich Obrist about cultural diplomacy in the UAE, the artist Christo and the Mastaba Project presented at the Serpentine. A series of panel discussions and presentations also took place about the UAE's cultural past, present and future. The event brought together notable figures from the art, architecture, cinema and futurism worlds, who shared stories about one of the fastest changing countries of the 21st century.
* Gandhi-Zayed Museum:
o India was selected as the partner country for the UAE's Year of Culture initiative in 2018. The Gandhi-Zayed Digital Museum, staged at Manarat Al Saadiyat, was the first joint digital initiative between the UAE and India. The exhibition's opening event in Abu Dhabi strengthened the ties between the two countries, and brought together heads of state and VIPS from both communities. HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and HE Sushma Swaraj, External Affairs Minister of India, jointly inaugurated the museum that commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi in December of 2018.
* Al Falaj Exhibition:
o A collaboration between OPCD and Case Design, this exhibition highlighted the shared cultural heritage between Bahrain and the UAE, creating a forum for exchange and interaction. The material exhibited was derived from ongoing research conducted across the UAE. These studies, carried out by Anne Geenen and Samuel Barclay, were based on authentic examples of Falaj channels still in use and aimed to explore how they could be adapted for use today, especially in the UAE's rapidly globalising cities. The exhibit also included contributions by civil architects Hamed Bukhamseen and Ali Karimi, highlighting Bahrain's agriculture, best exemplified in its Qanat channels. Applied over centuries of development, the Falaj and Qanat systems have become places where public and private realms meet, facilitating exchange and interaction. Their unique technique of dividing water and sharing resources in this climate results in strong communal societies. The exhibition was attended by HE Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities and Chairperson of the Board of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage
* FMBI Peace Carpet Initiative:
o In collaboration with the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Al Nahyan Initiative (FBMI) and multiple UAE embassies and international entities around the globe, OPCD organized numerous exhibitions of Peace Carpets in celebration of the Year of Tolerance.
o These exhibitions were organised in partnership with UAE embassies in Riyadh and Rome and were held in the Culture Palace in Riyadh and the Confraternita Di S.Giovanni Battista De'Genovesi Church in Rome.
o It also launched at the EU Parliament in Brussels in collaboration with the UAE Embassy to Brussels. The exhibition was inaugurated by HE Mohammed Abu Shahab. UAE Ambassador to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg and MEP HE Antonio Lopez-Isturiz, President of EU-UAE Friendship Group. Several ambassadors to the EU and to Belgium attended alongside many members of the European Parliament. The closing FBMI exhibition took place in the UN Headquarters in Geneva.
* History of the Emirates Film Screening:
o In partnership with National Geographic, the UAE Embassy in Washington and OPCD, the UAE embassy hosted a film screening of 'History of the Emirates', which is an Image Nation Abu Dhabi produced documentary chronicling the history of the UAE stretching back 125,000 years.
o The screening was followed by a panel discussion and was attended by leaders, archaeologists and professions from National Geographic, Meridian International Centre, United States Department of State, Smithsonian Institute, Georgetown University and several other education, government and business organizations.
* Art in Embassies:
o The Art in Embassies initiative aims to promote the Emirati art scene across UAE missions globally and to encourage UAE embassies to showcase Emirati artists in the cultural scenes of their respective host countries. To distribute these artworks, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) formed a committee that specializes in artwork selection. The committee also considers each artist's personal history and each embassy's designated theme before distribution.