The 21st century has been hailed as the century for advanced globalization; interactions and integrations between people, organizations, and governments around the world have been growing significantly due to advancements in economic and technological investments. At the same time, though, people in less fortunate situations seem to be losing out on the basic benefits of a developing and interconnected world. From famines and malnourishment to the chaos of regional conflicts and the subsequent suffering of individuals from vicious crimes against humanity, millions of people continue to be dehumanized and detached from the world around them.
One solution that has been bringing attention to these injustices and to alleviate peoples’ suffering has been cultural diplomacy, a more grassroots and engaging form of diplomacy that encourages the exchanges of norms, ideas, and customs that promote respect, understanding, and sustainable development. This deliberate form of relationship building has been a voice for the voiceless and a key opportunity to educate people about the issues that have plagued our society for so long.
This kind of diplomacy possesses a unique aspect that surpasses inter-governmental engagement between countries; these kinds of diplomats use art, religion, history, music, theater, and much more to connect with masses and create a sense of empathy and respect.
Some examples of these kinds of exchanges can be found within regions around the globe: Skateistan, as an example, brings education and social engagement to young girls in Afghanistan through the skill and fun of skateboarding. These kinds of intersections pave the way for overcoming stereotypes and allowing young people to make learning fun!
From this example, we learn about a key audience that needs to be involved in this proccess: the youth, or the future generations of leaders and changemakers in communities of culture, faith traditions, and social justice that can set the standard for greater accountability, resilience, and service to those in need.
Youth need to be at the forefront of the work in cultural diplomacy for many important reasons, but probably the biggest asset at their disposal is their growing up in such a technologically advanced world. For the millions of voices that can raise concerns and fight inequalities on many platforms is something thay could never be done before. Youth have a place in making the world’s greatest decisions and in making sure every perspective is accounted for in the greater debates and discussions that involve decision making. We can look to the role of Egyptians and other Arab communities who used Facebook to call for mobilization in the face of travesty to change their ways of government through interweb rebellion!
Organizations like the Hope Not Hate campaign of AMP Global Youth amplify these perspectives and bring to light the necessity of social discourse through social media platforms. The use of applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and many others play their role in connecting the world on the topics that matter and sharing the stories that promote community and diversity.
One example of such cultural diplomacy through youth and social media is being explored right now as we work with the Eurasia Foundation and Skyless Game Studios on our very own game application for mobile phones! In this bilingual online game, cross-cultural teams will proceed through a series of scenarios based on a social problem that fosters collaboration, teamwork, respect for diversity, and shared understanding between college students in the United States and the Middle East.
If you would like to take part in our opportunity of being a cultural diplomat, learn more about our project and see how you can take part! Go to ampglobalyouth.org/stevens-initiative/ and join us today!