News from Berlin

The developing role of cultural diplomacy in international relations - Interview with H.E. Amb. Malam Djassi, Ambassador of Guinea Bissau to Germany

February 19th, 2014

Interview with H.E. Amb. Malam Djassi, Ambassador of Guinea Bissau to Germany


News from Berlin. Your Excellency Ambassador Malam Djassi thank you for the honor of joining us today at the Embassy of Guinea Bissau in central Berlin.

We would like to ask you some questions in order to hear your thoughts and opinions on some salient issues.

Q1. Based on your experience as the Ambassador of Guinea Bissau to Germany, how would you personally define Cultural Diplomacy, and what does it mean to you?

I think it’s a very important branch of diplomacy because culture can help us get to know each other; and knowing each other can help us understand our divisions and this knowledge can help us to find solutions to our differences. Culture in diplomacy is very important.

Q2. Could you give an example of how you have seen the bilateral relations between these two countries strengthened through means of Cultural Diplomacy?

Along time ago, the relations between Guinea Bissau and Germany were stronger but as you know, at this time, Guinea Bissau is under European Union embargo. We had a coup d’etat on the 12th April 2012. We are waiting for the new elections in March and after that, if the elections are fair and credible, we will restart our relations not only with Germany but all countries from the European Union and with that, we can try again. Guinea Bissau is a small country of 36,000 square kilometers and 1.6 million inhabitants but has 23 different languages, different cultures and almost different civilizations. The inhabitants are concentrated in a territory of very interesting diversity, and we want to show this to the world – as a component of Guinea Bissau culture. 

Q3.. How do you think we have changed from using hard power to soft power over the centuries and what are the benefits of this.

I think, through culture again, our current situation shows that hard power cannot help us to make a pacific coexistence. A world in which all of us, in this field, do the best for the life of all is needed. All of us must defend our countries but respect each other. We have to respect the different opinions and when we do so, we will find a world of peace and conviviality.

Q4. What role could cultural diplomacy play in overcoming stagnation in political dialogue towards decisions of international importance?

I think we need more culture in the international forum. We need more cultured people in the world. It’s necessary because division is what we will face otherwise.

Q4: With Germany aiding the UN’s project in contributing funds to a mine clearance program and to fight drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau, what do you consider are the next important steps to take to support the social and economic development of Guinea Bissau?

Guinea Bissau is a small country with a small territory; it’s easy to administrate the country but we need support to valorize the natural wealth that we have. We are a country with real potential. Guinea Bissau doesn’t lack water, we have water throughout the entire year and we have an archipelago made up of 88 islands, the majority of which are deserted. We have beautiful things, the most beautiful beaches of the world.

We need compassion and stability. Germans travel a lot, and we want Germans to come to Guinea Bissau, it’s close at just four hours from Berlin. Agriculture – we have fertile earth without chemicals, everything is ecologically friendly. Fishing – Guinea Bissau is one of the three most important fishing places on the Earth. There are areas where you don’t need to buy fish, when lunchtime comes you can simply take a boat to the river and get fresh fish for yourself. When we go to the islands we do this. We need to be able to return to our full capacity, and to be able to galvanize on our natural resources, on our exports. We are one of the largest exporters of cashew nuts, but people come and buy in bulk, for 50-60 dollars and sell this on for 5000 dollars. We need to be able to improve our gross national product. We want and need to enter the international market. We have water in all of Guinea but we import bottled water for absurd prices from Portugal. We have the opportunity to give bottled water to everyone in the country if we could access the means to do so.

Q5: Given your experience and widespread recognition as a Principal Advisor to the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs, what examples of cultural diplomacy have you seen that have worked most effectively in overcoming the obstacles of the creation of bilateral links?

I see culture helping to create links of confidence between countries. Guinea Bissau sees culture serving to elucidate differences and bonds between us, between politicians. Culture can bring people together who have little to do with one another, to form collaboration. This is what culture allows. 

Q6. How is Berlin and more broadly Germany working together effectively with Guinea Bissau to improve on current relations? What is the future for the development of bilateral relations?

Berlin is fundamentally the place we have to be. It is the capital of Germany and a country, which commands Europe. Germany is an economic powerhouse, which exports and imports a great deal, it’s a very important country not only in Europe but the world. We have seen the funds that Germany gives to aid the cooperation and the strengthening of bilateral relations with other countries. We, Guinea Bissau, want to be present at the time that these relations can be strengthened even more. We say with experience that we want cooperation, we want technical collaboration and we want Germany to show Guinea Bissau how to progress.  

Q7. The African Union Summit has taken place recently in Addis Ababa. How can cultural diplomacy play a role in strengthening regional integration?

I haven’t been to the African Union Summit in years because I have been working here but the African Union Summit receives very important support from the European Union. The importance of Africa in the world is demonstrated by the presence of leaders of countries from outside of Africa at the Summit. Both the president of the European Union as well as a German delegate were in attendance for example. The African Union Summit supports the development of all of Africa. 

Berlin Global

News from Berlin.