Janadriyah Festival: A Strategic Instrument for Advancing Saudi Vision 2030’s Diplomatic Objectives

Recognizing the challenges at hand, under the leadership of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, efforts have been made to liberate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from its dependence on the oil sector.

From 1989 until 2016, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia consistently held the top position as the world’s largest oil exporter. Its abundant oil resources made the country heavily reliant on the oil sector as its primary source of revenue. However, since the mid-2014 oil price drop, this has become a major issue for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The instability of oil prices in the market could backfire on the country’s economy. Moreover, observers indicate that there are indications that oil prices will continue to decline and remain unstable in the near future.

Recognizing the challenges at hand, under the leadership of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, efforts have been made to liberate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from its dependence on the oil sector. This desire has led to modernization initiatives across all aspects of governance,  particularly  the  economy,  manifested  through  the  Saudi  Vision 2030. Saudi Vision  2030  is  expected  to serve as a solution to the threats facing the economy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through economic diversification.

Since its launch in April 2016, Saudi Vision 2030 has been supported by three main pillars. These pillars consist of a dynamic society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation. Through these pillars, Mohammad bin Salman aims to establish the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a center of civilization in the Middle East and the Islamic world, opening opportunities for investment  with  other countries, and positioning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a link between three continents (Asia, Europe, and Africa). Vision 2030 will serve as a reference point for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s policies going forward until 2030.

Muhammad bin Salman has implemented various significant changes in sectors with growth potential, particularly the tourism sector, which is the primary focus of his major projects. Through  this  sector,  he  seeks  to  transform  the  image  of  the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, especially internationally, from a conservative country to a moderate one that is open to all nations and religions. This is also implemented through their national festival, the Janadriyah Festival, which annually invites other countries to participate.

Guest of honor

Every year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia invites a different country as the guest of honor at the Janadriyah Festival. The selected country is privileged to participate in showcasing its arts and culture throughout the festival. Some countries that have been honored guests since the launch of Saudi Vision 2030 include Germany at the 30th festival, Egypt at the 31st festival, India at the 32nd festival, and Indonesia at the 33rd festival.

In its execution, the countries designated as guests of honor are provided with a pavilion or large stage to exhibit their arts and culture, such as theater, dance, or singing. These countries typically also send delegations or representatives to carry out their cultural mission.

Strengthening the Relationship Between the Two Nations

By inviting foreign countries as honored guests, serves to maintain and strengthen bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the invited countries. The involvement of foreign countries in this festival also aligns with the values promoted in Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to build a positive image of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the international stage. In this regard, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia employs soft power methods to fulfill its national interests. Various efforts have been made by the Saudi government to realize Saudi Vision 2030, including utilizing the Janadriyah Festival as a form of soft diplomacy.

On  the  other  hand,  countries  granted  the  privilege  of  being honored guests also benefit significantly from this opportunity. The cultural diplomacy that takes place can serve as an opening  for  potential cooperation in the future. Especially with the wealth of natural oil resources, many countries see this as an opportunity to initiate cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Several countries invited as honored guests often initiate cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly in the fields of education and culture, one of which is Indonesia.

Indonesia’s success as an honored guest at the 33rd Janadriyah Festival became a catalyst for the  Indonesian  government  to  open  up  further  cooperation in the cultural field with the Kingdom  of  Saudi  Arabia.  Since  becoming  an  honored  guest,  various  seminars  and exhibitions have been conducted by both countries to enhance cultural diplomacy. Given the close relationship between Indonesia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia regarding religion, many   of   these   exhibitions   and  seminars  address  themes  related  to  Islamic  history. Additionally,  many  Indonesian-language  Islamic  history  books  have  been  translated into Arabic based on requests from the Cultural and Education Attaché at the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh. Indonesia’s participation in the Janadriyah Festival has broadened the views of Saudi Arabian society regarding Indonesia’s cultural diversity and history.

Furthermore, the  Janadriyah  Festival  attracts  a  large  number  of  visitors  each  year, with attendance typically ranging from 4 to 6 million people. This figure sets a record for the highest number of visitors to an Arab world festival. This presents a significant opportunity for the invited country to carry out its cultural mission, namely to introduce its values and cultures to Arab society.

Fathya N. Muliawan
Fathya N. Muliawan
Fathya Nurhakimah Muliawan is an undergraduate Arabic Literature student at the University of Indonesia. Her academic pursuits extend beyond her primary field of study, encompassing a fervent interest in literature, foreign policy, and Middle Eastern studies.