National Identity, Soft Power and Diplomacy – The Collections of Artefacts at the United Nations in Geneva

Silvia Naef (University of Geneva)

30th UEAI-congress, Utrecht, the Netherlands

9.07.22, 9 am

The Geneva headquarters of the United Nations and its related agencies house rich collections of artworks, including originals, copies or artefacts of various types that have been donated by member states or artists between 1920 and the present day. This collection has been little studied so far. The present paper proposes to examine a specific category of such donations, namely those made by the states in the Middle East and North Africa.

Considering the crises shaking this region, as well as the largely negative international perception resulting from wars and terrorist acts, it seemed particularly interesting to analyze the image that the states that constitute the region want to convey to the international community through these donations, which can be considered an expression of cultural diplomacy. Recently developed, the notion of “cultural diplomacy”, which considers international relations through the lens of cultural exchanges, shows how “soft power” – the cultural influence that a country exercises – can have a considerable impact on the way it is perceived at the international level, thus facilitating its political and economic projects.

More information here.

Caption: Anonymous, Virgil, Mosaic, 120 x 120 cm. Reproduction. Donated by Tunisia. Located in the Palais des Nations – West anteroom (Assembly Hall) Photo : United Nations.