How should Wales project itself on the world stage?

As the Welsh rugby team compete for a place in the world cup final in Yokohama – with Japanese and Welsh fans singing ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ and ‘Calon Lan’ in support – an event on Monday will consider how Wales should project itself on the world stage, and make better use of its soft power.

Coinciding with the development of the Welsh Government’s International Strategy, the Learned Society of Wales’s Wales and the World series of events aims to expand the discussion and deepen our understanding of Wales’s soft power. This is particularly important when the nation’s post-Brexit position is unclear.

Soft power, defined by Professor Joe Nye as the “power of attraction”, represents a powerful tool for a small nation such as Wales. Sport, education, heritage and culture are a means of influencing others, and of raising the profile of activities which have wide ranging benefits to Wales, both within and outside our nation.

In a video message for the event, Professor Nye reminds us that the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly thirty years ago is an example of the historic impact of soft power, as it was brought down by those people behind the Iron Curtain whose minds had been changed by the ‘soft power’ of the west:

“A country’s soft power depends not only on the actions of the government, but on the attraction of its civil society […] individuals also have soft power. Many of our interactions involve persuading others.”

A broad range of stakeholders will be represented at the event, including cultural organisations, the third sector, universities and colleges, and government.

The Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, will speak at the event. She said: 

“It is more important than ever for us to do all that we can to promote Wales overseas. This means using every asset as our disposal. Over the past few weeks we have seen how soft power can help promote Wales on the world stage. Our language, our creativity, our culture and of course our love of rugby have captured the imagination of Japan in an unprecedented way. Partners in Wales and overseas have a key role to play and we achieve more when we work together.  This event provides a timely opportunity to explore how we can further maximise the benefits that soft power presents for Wales in an evolving and challenging political and economic context.”  

President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff Metropolitan University Professor Cara Aitchison said,

“I am delighted that Cardiff Metropolitan University is hosting this first event in the Learned Society of Wales’ timely series on Soft Power Strategies for Wales and it is a great pleasure and honour to welcome speakers and guests to our university today.  The influence of Soft Power in a global context cannot be overstated and the role of higher education in Wales is significant in achieving impact. 

“Our teaching, research, innovation and wider activities are already deeply embedded with the values and behaviours associated with cultural diplomacy. Cardiff Metropolitan is one of the UK’s most internationalised universities with students from 140 countries including over 9,000 students studying Cardiff Metropolitan degrees at our partner institutions in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Vietnam, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

“Our staff, students and alumni make a significant contribution to cultural diplomacy, not just through education and research but through sport performance, art and design practice and tourism research. Our Olympians, European and World Champions, along with our world-renowned award winning artists and designers, are cultural ambassadors for Wales who, through their international mobility and engagement, represent a powerful resource for Wales in the wider world.”

Discussions on the day will aim to offer practical suggestions to develop Wales’s international profile, and will reflect on:

  • What is soft power, and how and why is it relevant to Wales?
  • How is Wales’ soft power boosted or constrained by its position within the UK?
  • To what extent does Wales make the most of its ‘brand’ and ‘soft power’ resources?
  • How do we unlock this potential for the benefit of the people, the culture and the economy of Wales?

Speakers will include:

  • Eluned Morgan AM, Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language
  • Professor Karen Smith, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics
  • Paul Brummel, Head of Soft Power and External Affairs, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Imants Liegis, Latvia’s Ambassador to France
  • Peter Florence, Hay Festival
  • Rob Humphreys, Chair of British Council Wales Advisory Board
  • Susie Ventris-Field, Chief Executive, Welsh Centre for International Affairs
  • Owen Hathway, Sport Wales

The series of events is supported by the Welsh Government.