British American Group

British Council CEO On Tour

Posted on: December 10, 2007

British Council CEO Martin Davidson
Kicks Off United States Tour

Davidson to Visit Midwest and East Coast to Highlight
Need for Strengthened Cross-Cultural Dialogue

Washington, December 6, 2007 – Today, Martin Davidson, CEO of the British Council, the United Kingdom’s international organization for cultural relations, launched a U.S. tour to introduce the British Council’s approach to public and cultural diplomacy. In visits to Iowa, New York and Washington, D.C., Davidson will meet with key leaders in cultural affairs, public diplomacy and international relations to share the British Council’s vision to develop enhanced cross-cultural dialogue and collaboration to address the 21st century’s emerging challenges.

The British Council seeks to build mutual understanding between people in the UK and other countries through cultural relations. The British Council’s approach to cultural relations emphasizes a genuine openness to listening to other points of view. By engaging people around the world with our cultures in their widest sense – our educational opportunities, our arts, literature, language, scientific endeavors and sport – misconceptions can be reversed and at the same time our understanding of the wider world is deepened.

Davidson explained, “While we live in a world characterized by closer and easier communication, we are also witnessing growing mistrust in some parts of the world. Cultural relations builds a platform of influence for countries through the development of initiatives that facilitate long term engagement, understanding and trust between peoples, communities and cultures. It is only through real dialogue and discussion that countries can break down the barriers of mistrust which are the source of so many of the tensions in the world today. This makes cultural relations a powerful aspect of our countries’ foreign policy.”

Traditionally, governments have followed a public diplomacy model designed primarily to influence or inform foreign audiences. In a post-9/11 world of changing communications channels, international terrorism and economic globalization, the British Council’s approach highlights the advantages of fostering two-way dialogue to overcome issues of difference, cultural fault lines and societal misunderstandings. Though funded in part by the UK government, the British Council is in the unique position of operating independently, which has allowed the development of a more flexible, inclusive approach to addressing global challenges and international distrust.

“In our experience, cultural relations is best delivered independently from government. My goal for the next week is to discuss and explore our approach, and more importantly, to talk with others who are working to address the same shared global issues,” said Davidson.

Davidson will also provide an overview of the British Council’s most effective cultural relations tactics, including access to international educational opportunities (such as students studying in the United Kingdom); programs that use the arts as a catalyst for discussion (including the recent New York and Los Angeles performances of The National Theatre of Scotland’s “Black Watch,” which examines the Iraq War from the perspective of U.K. soldiers); and multilateral programs that bring together emerging leaders.

Davidson’s multi-city tour begins today at the University of Iowa, where he will address students, faculty, administrators, and influential members of the community. Davidson’s host at the University will be Christopher Merrill, a noted author and poet and a recognized figure in cultural affairs.

Davidson will continue on to New York City this weekend, where he will hold private meetings with key contacts in the worlds of cultural and diplomatic affairs.

Davidson will then travel to Washington, D.C., for several events with the Washington political and cultural community. On Monday, December 10, Georgetown University’s Gervase Programs, a multifaceted organization dedicated to improving intellectual life on campus, will host Davidson at an event with students and faculty. At the luncheon, he will speak to the British Council’s new vision and engage one-on-one with attendees to gather feedback and insight from their own experiences.

Davidson will continue his tour on Tuesday, December 11, when he will speak, along with Ambassador Hussein Hassouna of the League of the Arab States, at a cultural diplomacy roundtable jointly hosted by the British Council and the Aspen Institute Global Initiative on Arts, Culture, and Society. The event will bring together 30 experts from politics, media, arts, culture, business and academia to explore the reasons why culture is vitally important in international relations; what it will take to persuade governments, the business world, and the civil society to invest in public and cultural diplomacy; and the challenges of assessing and measuring success in international cultural cooperation.

Davidson will conclude the visit on Tuesday with a panel discussion hosted by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). Other panelists will include Angelos Pangratis, Deputy Ambassador of the European Union’s Delegation to the United States; John Burgess, deputy foreign editor at The Washington Post; and Will Somerville, senior policy analyst at MPI. The discussion will revolve around Somerville’s new book, Immigration Under New Labour, which discusses the effect of massive immigration in Great Britain since the beginning of Tony Blair’s term as Prime Minister.

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ABOUT THE BRITISH COUNCIL: The UK’s international organization for educational and cultural relations, the British Council builds long-term relationships between the US and the UK and fosters appreciation of the UK’s creative ideas and achievements.

We increase recognition of the wide array of learning opportunities available in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and facilitate educational cooperation between the U.S. and UK. Through transatlantic artistic partnerships, we introduce the American public to high-quality, groundbreaking creative achievements from the UK, and our science programs build networks that draw upon the UK’s innovation in climate change and other disciplines. We also develop initiatives that give a voice to the next generation of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, encouraging them to work together to explore solutions to current and future global issues. 
This message is for the use of the intended recipient(s) only. If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete it. The British Council accepts no liability for loss or damage caused by software viruses and you are advised to carry out a virus check on any attachments contained in this message.

The British Council is a registered charity 209131 (England and Wales) SC037733 (Scotland). Our purpose is to build mutually beneficial relationships between people in the UK and other countries and to increase appreciation of the UK’s creative ideas and achievements.

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