Cultural Diplomacy, Religion, and Multiculturalism

By H.E. Amb. Ian Biggs (Australian Ambassador to Turkey)


The first requirement for successful diplomacy in any region is for people to understand each other. Religion has oft been misused in the Middle East context and Cultural Diplomacy is a very effective way to make people familiar with each other and what matters to them. In this regional context, understanding religions is going to be the first part of culture. There will be other things that can be done as well. In the Turkish case, everyone’s familiar with the power of television and soap operas as a way of making people feel at ease in each other’s company.

I believe that we have one of the world’s most generous and open immigration systems, and that has been to the enormous advantage of the Australian community. Multiculturalism in Australia is not even controversial now. It’s a society, a nation, built on the contributions of people from all around the world, and we have been able to take advantage of the skills and the enthusiasm of people from many parts of the world and will continue to do so. The refugee intake is a challenge for the whole of the international community, but Australia has been, by far, among the most generous in our efforts to take in people fleeing conflicts in many parts of the world.

- The Ankara Conference on Peace-building & Reconciliation; Ankara, Turkey, April 2012