Building Bridges: Saudi Arabia’s efforts to improve its public image


With the change in the international political environment, traditional ways of achieving foreign policy goals have also changed, previously hard power was the most common way of achieving foreign policy goals. Now the territorial integrity is respected by all the states present in the international system. So, the Public diplomacy is the most common way of achieving state goals. Public diplomacy is basically used by various Modern States to influence Public Opinions along with the ruling class to ensure their national interests. Public Diplomacy is the promotion of ideas and national interests by informing and influencing people around the entire world. Cultural activities, Exchange programs and media are the main tools of Public Diplomacy.

Saudi Arabia is now focusing more on improving its public image by opening itself to the International arena. In this regards Saudi Arabia broadly uses various tools of Public Diplomacy in its policy making to shape and influence public opinions of foreign audience in this regard. Public Diplomacy is also used by states to fulfill their Foreign Policy goals and objectives. For this purpose Saudi Arabia established “Bridges” exchange program by the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture in order to create links between Saudi Arabia and United States. And the main goal of this program is to bring Saudi Young professionals to the USA to set up talks, projects, performances and events, to project the better image of Saudi modernization to the World.

Along with this, the role of women comes at the forefront of Saudi’s Public Diplomacy efforts. Saudi Arabia approved four female athletes at Saudi Arabia’s Olympic Committee to participate in the Rio Olympics. This presence of Saudi Women at such a huge level is a very suitable occasion for reflecting on the advancement of Saudi Women’s right. This modest progress on Women’s right, Saudi Arabia has recently sought to turn the issue of women into an active soft power tool to influence Foreign Public Opinion.

In parallel, Saudi Arabia is also using mass media tools, Non-Governmental institutions and organizations such as Muslim world league (Rabita Al Alam Al Islamic) and International Islamic Relief Organization IIRO as public diplomacy tools.

Cultural Diplomacy also widely used by the state to gain influence in other states. The main aim of Saudi Arabian cultural diplomacy towards the Muslim world is to ensure and promote theSaudi position as the leader of the Muslim States, Here the example Iran can be taken, and Saudi offensive behavior towards Iran is because Iran refuses to accept Saudi Arabia as regional power.

On the other hand Saudi Arabia is also using its Cultural Diplomacy in European States to build their soft image. Recently Saudi government held and exhibition in Berkeley Square London named as Saudi Cultural Days. The main purpose of which was to intricate craft of Al Qatt Al Asiri, an old age craft practice of women in the region of Asir in the South West of Saudi Arabia. The purpose was to show the heritage and culture of Saudi Arabia by showing masterpieces elaborating highlights of Saudi Culture.

Saudi Cultural Week was recently held in Russia, when King Salman visit Moscow and this week including various cultural musical and art activities, to present Saudi culture as a minor part of a larger picture.

Since the modernization of Saudi society the public diplomacy practices of Saudi Arabia have increased to a level that should be appreciated, the openness of their society is being addressed through public diplomacy. Saudi Arabia’s journey from a traditional society to in process of becoming a modern society was appreciated by the Western and Modern states on one hand while on the other hand it was not appreciated by the Muslims countries. So, in this situation Saudi Arabia should focus more on its Public diplomacy to justify their modernization to the Muslim states.


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