26 October 2017: Knowledge Diplomacy – Linking Science, Education and Cultural Diplomacy

In day-to-day foreign relations – but especially in times of crisis and conflict or when political tensions arise - we need a space that allows for continuous communication and exchange between people. The concept of science and cultural diplomacy takes up this idea.

The seminar “Knowledge diplomacy. Linking science, education and cultural diplomacy” organized by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with support from the German Permanent Representation to the European Union discussed with 100 participants the German and European approach for integrating science, education and culture in external policy.

The German Academic Exchange Service is a central actor in the “German foreign culture and education policy”. Five projects from the DAAD portfolio, ranging from Iran to Russia, Colombia as well as the support to Syrian students and the presentation of German science abroad, were presented at this seminar. They highlight the important role of university cooperation in building bridges between countries and people.

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Iris Haidau

“We work to open-up spaces for communication and cooperation, especially in situations where these spaces are shrinking” said Heidrun Tempel, Director for Research and Academic Relations Policy and Cultural Relations Policy at the German Foreign Office, to explain the concept of German Foreign Culture and Education Policy. Peter Greisler, Head of Directorate Universities at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) added that “especially in these difficult times, we need to build bridges between our societies more than ever”.

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Iris Haidau

In 2014 – a particular difficult year in European-Russian relations - the German-Russian Institute of Advanced Technologies was officially opened. “Our Russian partners were grateful that we did not leave them”, said Prof. Scharff, Rector of the Technical University Ilmenau, the German partner.

Prof. Marauhn from the Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen presented another example of “higher education diplomacy”. He works to setup a German-Colombian Peace Institute, as “a peace process does not materialize with signing an agreement, its implementation needs the involvement of the civil society”.

Besides university collaboration, the DAAD supports individuals through scholarships. In the end, it’s people who change societies. Alaa Kanaieh, a Syrian student, came to Germany to study Informatics. She is also following a course on good governance to acquire skills that may one time be helpful to her in rebuilding her home country.

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Iris Haidau

“What is better in times of war than education” Alaa Kanaieh, Syrian scholarship holder

The seminar’s discussion aimed at contributing towards the development of a European science, education and cultural diplomacy. To achieve this, Pietro de Matteis from the European External Action Services stressed the need of various actors working together: Member States, the European External Action Service, European Commission Delegations, but also, and most importantly, universities, academics, artists and other relevant actors from civil society. “We need not only a top-down, but a joint approach”, he said.

Indeed, “although governments should support, they cannot force collaboration. Each cooperation needs to be based on the intellectual and academic interests of academics.”, Ulrich Grothus, Deputy Secretary General of DAAD reminded the audience. The DAAD, an association of German universities and student bodies, funded by the German ministries and the European Union, combines these interests and acts as a “Mittler” (intermediary) in this respect.

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Iris Haidau

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