1 February 2014 saw the Federation of Internationally Recognised Catalan Organisations hold its 13th Conference on “International projection, local government and civil society” in conjunction with the Diputació de Barcelona (Provincial Government of Barcelona).
With spokespersons from the Catalan local association movement and public authorities among the audience, the main topic of the debate focussed around the necessity of constructing a joint national strategy for external action.
As part of the conference inauguration, Teresa La Porte, an expert in public diplomacy strategies and in analysing international communication, explained the audience the general context. In her words: “cities are emerging as a global player within the context of the crisis in the traditional state – or nation – model. Even if increased power on a local scale is a clear fact, it still hasn’t been fully accepted as a player on the diplomatic stage”. We therefore find it more necessary than ever to intensify our actions towards a public diplomacy strategy, with the understanding that this aim is to achieve communication at all levels.
Ronald Grätz, General Secretary of ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen – Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations) in Stuttgart, who was a speaker at the first round table, emphasised the importance of intense networking in order to construct a “nation brand”. As an expert in cultural diplomacy and thanks to his extensive experience in Germany cultural foreign policy, Grätz insisted on the importance of sustainability and continued effort in order to achieve good results, which on many occasions can take years in becoming obvious. This linked up with the idea that arose at the beginning of the Conference when Mònica Sabata, President of FOCIR, explained how “internationalisation shouldn’t be the result of crazed growth. It’s about taking lots of little steps, not trying to run before you can walk”.
Francesc Morata, Professor in Political Sciences at the UAB, added that democracy is no longer centred around the idea of a state, but is now based on interaction between lots of different players and public and private networks; it is within this new democratic context and institutional change that public democracy can really spread its wings – but only with an informed civil society that exerts pressure to change by offering different alternatives.
Jordi Bacaria, Director of the CIDOB (Barcelona Centre for International Affairs), held the closing speech to the first round table with a presentation on the different models of diplomacy and soft power that Catalonia could, and should, lead in the future. With these ideas firmly on the table, we opened the second round of presentations which were more focussed on practical examples of cooperation between civil society and local entities working towards promoting Catalonia’s place on the international stage.
Click on the following links to see the full presentations:
Opening speech: The growing role of cities in international relations: growth and possibilities offered by multi-level diplomacy
Teresa LaPorte, Senior Lecturer in Political Communication at Navarra University
1st Round Table: Public diplomacy and a country’s international presence: the utopia and reality of Catalonia
Jordi Bacaria, Director of the CIDOB
Francesc Morata, Professor in Political Sciences at the Autonomous University of Barcelona
Ronald Grätz, General Secretary of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) in Stuttgart
2nd Round Table: Key action areas for multi-level public diplomacy: good practices in city & citizen diplomacy
Joaquim Ferrer, Consultant at Sestrategic
Joan Chicón, Head of the International Relations Service at Terrassa City Council