A Point To Focus: Cultural Diplomacy and MRU

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From relationships based on blood ties to sharing common space and other forms of social fraternities, what binds or holds society remains fundamental to the social phenomena of mankind. Beyond bonds or ties, socially constructed tenants and other inherent societal factors which shift groups dynamics have also been at the crux of sociological and international relations  studies.

For example, the French Sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the term mechanical solidarity to explain how social bond based on common sentiments and shared moral values emphasizing tradition   generate a cohesive pattern. This is something essentially associated with rural live. (Macionis, J.; 2004).

Hence, making claims that significant aspects of international relations are historically and socially constructed, rather than inevitable consequences of human nature or other essential characteristics of the world politics (Jackson, P.T. &Nixon,H.); constructivists have argued the significance of norms and values and how they influence structures to operate. For instance, Alexander Wendt espouses that “the structure of human association are determined primarily by shared ideals rather than material forces and identities and interest of purposive actors are constructed on these shared ideas rather than given nature ”(Wendt, A.; 1999).

Hence , the paper explores how shared values bind political entities of similar nature postulating the  context of what binds society on the basis of sub-regional integration of the Mano River Union (MRU) with lessons learned from the cohesive nature of the  European Union (EU) albeit a regional organization.

It firstly identifies cultural diplomacy as a crucial factor that binds nations considering intricate significance of national security and establishes how this can be applicable in the MRU region, also providing the contextual relevance and prospects of the same.

Background/Introduction

Cultural diplomacy has been defined as a type of public diplomacy and soft power that includes exchange of ideas, information, art and other aspects of culture among nations and peoples in order to foster mutual understanding (Waller J.M, 2009 p.74). Working to achieve countries political and economic interests  can be built through   cultural diplomacy as it has been argued by Mary N. Maack in her piece “ Books and Libraries as Instruments for Cultural Diplomacy in francophone Africa During the Cold War” (Maack, M. N.,2001).

The conviction of Waller’s argument that cultural diplomacy canal so be linked to national security comes from his assertion that the perception of power obviously has important implications for a nation’s ability to ensure its security (Waller, J.M; 2009 p. 93).

The Mano River Union (MRU) is an international association with a sub-regional identity established in 1973 between Liberia and Sierra Leone with the goal of fostering economic cooperation. Guinea joined in 1980 and later in 2008; the Ivory Coast agreed to join the Union.

Historically, The European Union was founded with the aim of ending wars which were fought across Europe. Regional cooperation among neighbours in the region was fundamental to formation of the European Union. Since its formation early 1950s by the European Coal and Steel Community, centrally tailoring unity for European countries; the EU has focused political stability and economic prosperity.

Originally, the union comprised the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. Currently EU members amount to about 28 members.

Thus, it can be agreed that the fostering of peace amongst state of European which were constantly at war with each other was essential the formation of the European Union (EU).

Analysis

This section views the structural relativities of the MRU with the EU and identifies areas of prospects of the MRU.

As part of man’s long time existence, the account of war covers significant amount of human history. The triggers have differed across many societies. Claude Waltz describes war as the extension of politics by other means while cultural anthropologist Margret Mead associated war with “inborn tendency”, asserting that war is an innate characteristic that is passed on from one generation to another.

While these postulations may be argued, the history of wars in countries of the MRU stands as factual accounts. Each country has experienced a fair share of mass violence /civil conflict.  At some point in time the situation began typical to the psychological perception “mirror image”. Each saw the other as an existential threat to the other.

During the 1900s the early 2000s, the entire sub region was in a state of disarray. The perennial in the eyes of many due to constant allegedly cross borders attacks. The view of peaceful co –existence which amongst member countries is a foreign policy tool was at the lowest and animosity and acrimonious sentiments became so common. This was quite challenging and disallowed free movement and cross border trade.

The question is after these years of turmoil, are there prospects of greater collaboration and integration? Or what are the fundamental problems which have existed?

Historical efficacies which provide broader insights to answering these questions will take various dimensions including a classical example of the organization of the European Union.

Despite the awful past of continuous wars across Europe, the establishment of the European Union has manifested the outcome of peace, stability and economic prosperity. This has precipitated many things including more than 60 years of peace and stability, helped raise population’s living standards, launched a single currency (the euro) and making progress on building a single Europe- wide market for goods, services, people and capital.

After many years of regional instability in Europe, the establishment of norms and values that led to a regional organization there after stabilizing Europe can be articulated as socially constructed phenomenon against the odds of wars. This can also be applicable to the MRU region reconciled with some fundamental factors.

Aligned with the above case study, firstly the author argues that there are key factors which propel growth and subsequently peace and economic prosperity. They include Political stability, Education, health, economics among others.

Education in the entire region still appears more   challenging whereas economic situations of inequalities are alarming.

To address the concern of spiraling economic mechanisms, political stability is crucial and will depend on a number of factors. “People- to -people relationship” is vital, something the author describes as “foot path diplomacy”: the interaction of close relatives along borderlines despite geographical boundaries.

Education can change the thinking of populations and easily promote policy out looks. This is crucial for the region. When these factors are put in place, trade is bound to boom as inter trade routes are multiple in the region.

Therefore, how the real deal of pragmatism can surcease? Ascending toward the mentioned goals align with cultural diplomacy in ways that support exchanges of students, projection of policy and issues through arts and cultural displays. Teaching local languages of member states in the region to all member- states to reduce language barriers.

Since the2004 reactivation summit, the Union has experienced renewed assurances of collaboration at various levels. Prospects are huge as the region population mostly comprises of youths which would turn out to be more productive when afforded the requisite education at various levels including Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

Major Assumptions

The hostilities in the member state stalled free trade movement while “mirror image “reduced free movement thus affecting track III / people to people diplomacy. This can be revamped by increased cultural diplomacy.  Despite issues of land areas which have existed amongst member’s state, the conflicts in the MRU region were more political than ontological and deeply associated with the post -cold war effects that saw violent internal conflicts across Africa. Thus, the prospect for greater collaborations shows with evident track for peaceful co-existence while the cutting-edge of economic viability illuminates.

Conclusion

The paper has identified what holds society together in the context of bringing nation states together under the framework of integration and regional solidarity. The situation of civil war in the region was discussed describing the nature of the wars. The success of the EU region post regional conflict was mentioned in an attempt to validate the significance of socially constructed structures as well as the relevance to cultural diplomacy.

Thus, Cultural diplomacy is the crux of the paper and stands as a recommended approach to spur people-to -people cohesiveness which affirms support to peace and upsurge free movements that give rise to economic activities. To maintain the peace and promote innovation and expertise as well as sound policy orientations, focus on education was emphasized with the assertion that many people still face challenges of access to quality education in the region.

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