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CULTURAL EXCHANGES AND DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENT
Paper by Senator Pell
I can think of few more important issues for consultations between the United States and Western Europe than the encouragement of democratic development and the observance of human rights throughout the world. Too often, the human and moral dimensions of international relations are overlooked or consciously downplayed in favor of other, supposedly more vital, aspects of national security and foreign policy.
I believe, however, that at a time when liberal democratic principles are increasingly threatened by varying forms of totalitarianism around the world, it is in the national interest of democratic societies to encourage the democratic elements struggling to assert themselves in so many countries. I happen to believe that nations, just as individuals, have a moral obligation—if they consider themselves civilized-not to ignore oppression and abusive practices wherever they occur. For those who take a more calculating view of national interests, it ought to be a matter of grave concern that democratic societies could become an ever decreasing minority in a world increasingly hostile to democracies, their values, and their interests.
Having said all this, what role can and do cultural exchanges play in furthering democratic development and promoting human rights?
NO ONE-WAY STREET
Before proceeding to answer that question, I would like to make it clear that I do not look upon exchanges as part of a process of political manipulation or interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Even less do I look upon exchanges as a one way expression of cultural conceit in which non-Western societies are viewed as backward consumers of advanced Western culture, including democracy.
Rather, the principal purpose of exchanges is, and should continue to be, to maximize constructive contacts and mutual give and take between influential or potentially influential people in other societies in order to promote a better understanding of and respect for the achievements and values of each other's culture and institutions. Ultimately-and hopefully-such understanding and respect will influence the behavior of governments and will lead to more cooperation and less confrontation among nations regardless of their forms of government.
There is, however, another dimension to exchanges which relates directly to democratic development. A couple of years ago, the Hazen Foundation, a small private organization in New Haven, Connecticut, studied the impact of cultural exchanges on governmental behavior and concluded that cultural relations "are the chief means to shape the future of men and nations, to change their directions through creative mutual borrowing and to strengthen an awareness of shared values. . . ."
It is this concept of "creative mutual borrowing" that I would like to relate to the theme of this morning's discussion. Exchange programs, if they are well planned and carried out, provide a two-way market place of ideas, many of which hopefully will be relevant to the needs and aspirations of participants on both sides of the exchange.
CREATIVE MUTUAL BORROWING
Among the important ideas and related value systems which the democracies have to offer is their political system and respect for human rights. To the extent that democracy is shown as a system responsive to the needs of its people and it is demonstrated that government can function on the basis of the consent of the governed and the minimum use of coercion, so too will the prospects be maximized that democracy will form part of the "creative mutual borrowing" process.
It should be borne in mind, however, that whether or not democratic ideas or values are borrowed by another nation will depend more upon the needs, conditions, and quality of leadership obtaining in that country than by whatever exposure is fostered through contracts with a democracy. Yet, where conditions are favorable for democracy, contacts with legislators, educators, journalists, and jurists in democracies provide important encouragement, support, and intellectual stimulation to democratically inclined elements.
In this connection, it is encouraging that many recently established democracies are actively seeking help in making their new institutions work; other nations which have experimented with democracy intermittently have not ruled out a return to democracy; and a third group of countries-while closed and in some cases rigid, totalitarian societies-at least pays lip service to democratic principles. There is, consequently, a potential receptivity for democratic ideas and a nucleus of democratically inclined leaders in much of the world. That should be a source of optimism!
LUXURY OF CONSENT
On the other hand, it should be realized that many countries have not yet consolidated their nationhood to an extent that consent can replace coercion as the basis of their political organization. Before that essential aspect of democratic development can occur, history has shown us that bonds of mutual loyalty and kinship must first be forged within a state. The prospects for democratic development are, therefore, less encouraging where the internal consensus to live together as a nation is weak or non-existent as compared with a state with a strong sense of nationhood.
In addition, there are nations, some cohesive in terms of their nationhood and others not, in which animosity toward democracy, either deriving from their colonial experience or for other reasons, is so strong that there is little likelihood that any "creative mutual borrowing" can take place. In these cases, it will first be necessary to break down the barriers of prejudice and suspicion-which are often mutual, I might add. Faced with this kind of obstacle, it will be sufficient if a dialogue aimed at creating understanding and mutual respect can be initiated and maintained.
Ideally, exchange programs are most effective if an effort is made to bring together people who are either already favorably inclined toward learning about each other or are sufficiently openminded to permit a fruitful exchange of ideas. In addition, the ideal exchange visitor should be someone whose personal, professional, or power potential is such that he can make a difference in his own country. Quite often, as we have seen, it will not be possible to combine both of these ideal aspects of cultural exchange, and the process of facilitating democratic development through cultural exchanges will often be a slow one. But breakthroughs do occur. In one recent case that has come to my attention, a high official of a radical developing country remarked that his visit to the United States changed his ideas about America and Americans and that his first-hand impressions were totally different from the anti-American propaganda he had been exposed to back home.
In cases such as these, it is success enough if a foreign visitor is able, through an exchange program, to compare his own perceptions of another country, or those of his government, with the real thing. In fact, in many cases, the very exposure of foreign visitors to a free flow of ideas, even if they do not involve politics, may raise expectations about individual rights and opportunities and thus generate resistance to political constraints.
Given the potential good that cultural exchanges can promote, it is discouraging to me that governments spend so little money on them. In a world which is spending more than $250 billion for military purposes, it seems to me that it is logical and sensible to devote more attention to cultural exchanges and make them a major activity warranting at least one-half of 1% of the amount devoted to military preparations.
For some time, I have been arguing for a reordering of American foreign policy priorities and have called for a contraction of certain military and political activities in favor of an expansion in the economic and ideological areas. In this latter area, I have pointed out that the Department of State spends only $60
million on the exchange of persons programs and that a ten-fold increase in that amount would only be the equivalent of two nuclear powered guided missile cruisers.
CONFIDENCE IN NATIONAL VALUES
What would be the response of the rest of the world if the United States and other democracies were to increase sharply their exchange programs? I am thinking particularly of the reaction of those countries which now look with disfavor upon democracies and are reluctant to engage in extensive exchanges of their citizens. I believe those countries would find it difficult to stay aloof from a major effort designed to break down the suspicion, prejudices and hatred which have characterized international relations for too long. Moreover, I believe that national and cultural pride would cause countries everywhere to want to participate fully out of concern that failure to do so would indicate a lack of confidence in their own traditions and values.
It seems to me that no country would admit that its way of life and its social, political, and economic system will not stand the light of scrutiny, that its citizens are vulnerable to losing their national ties through contacts with foreigners, and that they have nothing to offer in an exchange of ideas.
In closing, I would like to observe that in addition to being America's bicentennial year, 1976 is also the 30th anniversary of the Fulbright exchange program which is probably the largest planned program of education exchange in the history of the world. While the impact of this program, or another interchange of people and ideas, is difficult to assess with any degree of precision or confidence, I believe that it has not only generated a greater and more favorable understanding of America and its people but that it has also contributed to the furtherance of respect for democracy and human rights generally.
I am convinced, however, that neither we in the United States nor others in the Western community ought to be content with what has been achieved in the past through cultural exchanges. More can and must be done, for I fear that the future challenges to democratic values and the ability of disparate nations to live together in peace are greater than is generally realized.
Comments of Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman on Senator Pell's Paper In the United States and throughout Western Europe, the concepts of human rights and democratic development have evolved not from our various political institutions, but are instead fundamentals of our cultural heritage.
As Senator Pell has so thoughtfully pointed out in his paper before us this morning, cultural exchanges help to "maximize constructive contacts . . . in order to promote a better understanding of respect for the achievements and values of each other's culture and institutions." It is this respect and understanding that hopefully "will lead to more cooperation and less confrontation among nations regardless of their forms of government."
The importance of this needed interchange cannot be overstated in an ever increasingly interdependent world compounded by the increased importance of national identity in a post-colonial period. Unfortunately, as the Senator also states, there are those who use cultural programs solely as part of a process of political manipulation or interference.
Whatever our individual national policies are concerning the use of cultural programs, we must recognize and comprehend their use by other nations. For instance, the Soviet Union leads the world in many categories of cultural and information services as measured by total expenditures and volume of output. Their external programs are coordinated at the highest levels of government to be used solely as a tool for the implementation of their foreign policy.
In the fields of broadcasting, films and printed cultural information discrimination, they are world leaders. Each week, they broadcast over 1,980 hours in 84 different languages. They produce over 450 documentary films and print over 140 million books each year for distribution in foreign countries. I might add that one of their prime targets is Western Europe. (Comparison figures follow statement.)
Around the globe, the Soviets spend an estimated $800 million a year to support such programs as 72 cultural centers, 195 news gatherings and distribution agencies and provide scholarships to Soviet universities for some 19,000 students in the developing world.
With such an intensified effort by the Soviets alone, it would seem to indicate their belief that cultural programs can be very beneficial to their objectives. Senator Pell asks the question, "what would be the response of the rest of the world if the United States and other democracies were to increase sharply their exchange programs?" I believe we should also ask the question, what are we losing by not increasing those programs?
The approach we take in responding to the need for increased exchange programs will be of great importance. The value and usefulness of such programs, as the one in which we are now participating, has been proven over time. Government sponsored approaches work well to bring together the leaders of nations who are already inclined toward learning about each other and have no misunderstandings concerning each nation's motives. However, I think we must recognize the contribution that is made in the free world by the private sector. Unlike the Soviet Union where all foreign activities are regulated by the government, we enjoy the benefits of the free and uncensored exchange of ideas, values and impressions made possible by a vast network of private organizations. In what is clearly a reflection of the differences in the two political systems, we should encourage those activities to demonstrate our view of the concepts of human rights and democratic development.
It is unlikely that the impressions gained by the 19,000 students from the developing nations now studying in the Soviet Union will provide them with an appreciation of democratic principles. I have no doubt, however, about the experiences gained through exchange programs as provided by the independent community colleges such as in my own congressional district. Those students from this nation and abroad, will learn not only who we are and what we seek, but more importantly what we are and what we have to offer.
Perhaps a contribution that this interparliamentary forum can make towards that goal would be to help create a Commission on Cultural Exchange to support and encourage the spread of democratic ideals throughout the world. The need is there, and as Senator Pell concludes, "the future challenges to democratic values ... are greater than is generally realized."