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Culture In Security

26 Sep 2022
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27 Sep 2022
Online via Zoom

International Cultural Relations as an Enabler of Peace through Engagement

With less than a decade to go to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the world needs to reflect urgently on how to promote peaceful relations among countries and between communities. How can the arts, heritage and cultural sectors most effectively contribute to peace in an uncertain and increasingly conflicted world (SDG 16)? How do the cultural engagements that occur between countries, communities, cultures, and peoples – International Cultural Relations – support the building of partnerships in diverse global contexts (SDG 17)? And how can this re-energise the implementation of the SDGs?

At the conference of the global ICRRA network, researchers and practitioners will address these questions through a series of keynote talks, case studies and panel discussions. These will combine perspectives from leading academic research and new insights from those with direct ‘on the ground’ experience of cultural relations and peacebuilding in practice, in multiple global contexts.

This year’s ICRRA conference will take place as a side event to UNESCO’s MONDIACULT World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development.

The conference language is English with simultaneous interpretation in Spanish. All sessions to be conducted online via Zoom, CEST time zone.

Timetable (CEST time zone)

Monday, 26. Sep 2022
10:00 - 11:30

Paul Cooke: Changing the Story: building civil society with and for young people in post-conflict settings


Keynote presentation and discussion

This session will introduce Changing the Story, a UK Research and Innovation Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) programme, running in 12 countries, that has explored how arts and heritage-focussed civil society organisations and INGOs have worked with young people to allow young people themselves to drive change. The aim of GCRF was to bring together researchers and other relevant stakeholders to create a new space of innovation in international development programming, and to support capacity building by generating projects rooted in equitable partnerships between the Global North and South.


The session will provide a flavour of the work undertaken through Changing the Story with partner organisations of different sizes in a range of countries with very different experiences of conflict and of social development post conflict. It will point to the ways in which the programme has evidenced the value of the arts and heritage in supporting inter-generational peacebuilding, and how young people can take a leadership role in this endeavour. It will address some of the structural challenges that have been faced in doing this work and where the programme’s findings would suggest future action is needed if we are to have any chance of achieving the SDGs by 2030.

Paul Cooke, Director of the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures, University of Leeds 


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Monday, 26. Sep 2022
14:00 - 15:30

Karima Bennoune: A Cultural Rights Perspective on Dialogues Among “the Children of an Infinity of Cultures”


Keynote presentation and discussion

Cultural rights are at the heart of the contemporary debates, and the human dimension of security makes it possible to bring cultural policies back in, as a territory of contestation. In this session, the speaker suggests that humanity is facing a global cross-regional political crisis, marked by increasing polarization, a turn to extremes, questioning of equality and dignity and universality and diversity by some, closing of minds and borders, and a normalization of hatred.


The keynote will question our broad notions of cultural rights and will ask if we are consistent with the values that lead to the protection of human rights, we must then find the most productive means for working with all cultures to help us find solutions, develop languages with which to speak to each other in all our diversities, construct and preserve frameworks in which we can hear each other, and find creative ways to popularize notions of mutual respect and shared humanity. 

Karima Bennoune, Lewis M. Simes Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School 

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Monday, 26. Sep 2022
17:00 - 18:30

Panel discussion 1: The role of cultural relations in building peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development


  • Dr. Hans J. Giessmann, Director Emeritus, Berghof Foundation; Associate Professor, University of Hamburg, Germany
  • Maura Ajak, Freelance Journalist, South Sudan
  • Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR Myanmar) with Mariana Cifuentes, Consultant, British Council

This panel brings together scholars and practitioners to address the central role played by culture in achieving peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (SDG 16). Exploring the significance of the cultural sector and the value of international cultural relations as an approach, the conversation will consider how culture can provide a more holistic means to peace and security.


Through discussion of research, policy, and practice, the panelists will also share their recommendations for how to progress towards realizing SDG 16, including achieving inclusive societies, access to justice and information, and strong institutions.

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Tuesday, 27. Sep 2022
14:00 - 16:00

“What Works?” – A look at case studies of ICR programmes and projects centred on peace and security


Presentation of case studies and discussion

  • Enabling University Peace Education (EUPE): supporting universities in conflict zones as key pillars of peacebuilding (Sudan and Ethiopia)
    • Hala Salih Mohammed Nur (PhD), Regional Team Leader for EUPE in Regional Conflict/Post-conflict Setting, British Council Sudan, Sudan
    • Dr. Lynne Heslop, Senior Technical Adviser on EUPE project, UK
  • Theatre - a thread binding heart to heart
    • Dr. Nirmala KC, President, Pro Public, Nepal
  • Who tells the Story? A filmmaking laboratory to understand community representation.
    • Nicolás Cuéllar, Director, Historias en Kilometros, Colombia
  • Heritage Emergency Response Initiative, Ukraine
    • Vasyl Rozhko, Co-coordinator, HERI, Ukraine
  • Citizens’ Charter
    • Ghada Rifai, Co-Founder, Mobaderoon, Syria

The purpose of this session is to provide case studies of ICR programmes and projects cantered on peace and security in practice from a range of sectors from education to theatre and cinema.


The session will examine their contributions to SDG 16 in different global contexts and answer questions relating to how ICR might be employed to engage young people in conflict-affected settings, in tackling structural societal and ethnic conflicts, in raising international awareness or in building trust and understanding in communities. 

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Tuesday, 27. Sep 2022
17:00 - 18:30

Panel discussion 2: Re-energising the Global Partnership for SDG16: The role of international cultural relations


  • Dr. Nilanjana Premaratna, Lecturer in International Politics, Newcastle University, UK
  • Erwin Maas, Co-Executive Director Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE), USA
  • Onur Eryüce, Counsellor to the Mayor of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, Turkey; Secretary-General, Association of Social Democratic Municipalities (SODEM)
  • Arundhati Ghosh, Executive Director, India Foundation for the Arts, India 

This panel brings together voices, from practice, policy, and academia, to discuss how cultural relations contributes to the development of inclusive, multi-level partnerships and cooperation to realize the SDGs, in particular SDG 16 (peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development).


It will highlight the relevance of the arts and cultural sector and international cultural relations in crafting approaches to peace and security based on partnerships and cooperation bringing different stakeholders together – governments, civil society, scientists, academia and the private sector - to achieve the SDGs and ensure no one gets left behind.


We hope this discussion will provide actionable recommendations for UNESCO on how international cultural relations can more actively contribute to SDG16 and promote a more holistic understanding of peace and security.

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Keynote Speakers

Karima Bennoune

Karima Bennoune

Lewis M. Simes Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School

Karima Bennoune is the incoming Lewis M. Simes Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School (effective January 2023) in the U.S.A, and currently a Visiting Professor at the school.  She specializes in international law and human rights.  Bennoune served as the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights from 2015 to 2021.  During her tenure as special rapporteur, she authored inter alia innovative reports on a human rights approach to cultural heritage, on climate change and cultural rights, and on cultural mixing. She also was appointed as an expert for the International Criminal Court in 2017 during the reparations phase of the groundbreaking case The Prosecutor v. Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi , concerning intentional destruction of cultural heritage sites in Mali.  A former legal advisor for Amnesty International, she has carried out human rights missions in most regions of the world. She sits on the Scholar Advisory Board of Muslims for Progressive Values. 

Her book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, received the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction. The book addresses the work of many people of Muslim heritage against extremism. The related TED talk, “When people of Muslim heritage challenge fundamentalism,” has received more than 1.5 million views. 


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Paul Cooke

Director of the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures, University of Leeds

Paul Cooke is Centenary Chair of World Cinemas at the University of Leeds and specialises in the politics of representation and voice in World Cinemas. Over the last few years, he has run a number of participatory filmmaking projects supporting young people to explore the legacy of ‘difficult’ pasts. He is currently the Principal Investigator of the AHRC/GCRF Network Plus project ‘Changing the Story’.

This project works across 12 countries, looking at the ways in which heritage and arts organisations support young people to help shape civil society in post-conflict settings. He is also working with marginalised groups in South Africa and Lebanon to use film as an advocacy tool, as well as working with public health professionals to use participatory arts to develop community-led solutions to the misuse of antibiotics in Nepal.

He is the director of the award-winning film The Born-Free Generation, Phendulani’s Story and Me (2018). Recent publications include, with Inés Soria Donlan (eds) Participatory Arts in International Development (London: Routledge, 2019), with Rob Stone, Stephanie Dennison and Alex Marlow-Man, The Routledge Companion to World Cinema (London: Routledge, 2018) and Soft Power, Film Culture and the BRICS Special Edition of New Cinemas, 14/1 (2017

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Maura Ajak

Freelance Journalist, South Sudan

Maura Ajak is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Juba, South Sudan. She received a diploma in Communication and Public Relations from the University of Juba. After joining the journalism industry in 2014 she started covering various aspects of climate change (invading of locusts, recycling, the three years plus floods and more) and multitasking in the field as a reporter, presenter, producer, translator, photographer and videographer among others.

She also works as a fixer for international news organizations, including Al Jazeera English. She is an alumna of the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Pan African Female Journalists Conference (Les Panafricaines) in Morocco. She is a fellow at the International Women Media Foundation (IWMF) and an alumna at the International Visitor's Leadership Programme (IVLP). She has received a number of awards: the Climate Action Awards East Africa in 2021, was named a Youth Earth Champion for East Africa in 2021 and won the best pitch on Peace and Governance at the African Women in Media conference in 2020.

In May 2017 she was named Human Rights Defender by the South Sudanese civil society organisation Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO) for holding the country’s presidential guards accountable for committing sexual assault against women and girls.

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Nicolas Cuéllar

Director, Historias en Kilometros, Colombia

Nicolas Cuéllar is from Bogotá, Colombia. He has produced fiction and documentary productions in Guatemala, Haiti, Kenya, Rwanda, Indonesia, Mexico, and the USA, always engaging local filmmakers to encourage the creation of community films in each country. Now he lives in Bogotá, Colombia, where he founded an audiovisual training laboratory for teaching communities across the country to tell their own stories through film, called STORIES IN KILOMETERS (HISTORIAS EN KILÓMETROS). His work in the last five years, both fiction and documentary, has included the teams that graduated from this laboratory.

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Onur Eryüce

Counsellor to the Mayor of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, Turkey; Secretary-General, Association of Social Democratic Municipalities (SODEM)

Mr. Eryüce is committed to strengthening transborder economic, social, and cultural ties between cities and civil society, the European Union, and global institutions.

In 2011, he played a pivotal role in the foundation of the Association of Social Democratic Municipalities. It is Mr. Eryüce’s responsibility to establish and develop a social, cultural, and economic dialogue between the member municipalities and their counterparts from all around the world.

In April 2019, the Mayor of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, Mr. Soyer, appointed Mr. Eryüce as the Counsellor to the Mayor, and this decision was unanimously approved by all of the Municipal Councillors. In his new function, Mr. Eryüce is engaged and focused on linking Izmir and its local communities to the global value chain and global cooperation networks. In 2021, he played a leading role in the organization of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Culture Summit hosted in Izmir. The Summit produced a significant output, namely “The Izmir Declaration: Culture Shapes the Future of Humanity”, which confirms culture as an essential dimension of sustainable development.

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Arundhati Ghosh

Executive Director, India Foundation for the Arts, India

Arundhati Ghosh is the Executive Director of the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA). Her awards include the Global Fundraiser Award from Resource Alliance, Chevening Clore Leadership Award, Chevening Gurukul Scholarship at the London School of Economics, and Salzburg Global Seminar Fellowship. She has contributed on advisory panels and boards of the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Blind with Camera and Toto funds the Arts.

Today she sits on the advisory panel for The Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), Bangalore and is a Board Member of Sangama, Bangalore an organisation working for the rights of sexual minorities, sex workers and people living with HIV. She has co-curated the International Theatre Festival of Kerala 2020 organized by Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi. She speaks on arts and philanthropy for leading Indian and international organisations including On the Move, Kelola Foundation, International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), Festival Academy Europe, UNESCO Berlin, The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), Kultura Nova Foundation, University of Leeds, Theatre Cooperative Turkey, among others. She writes for publications such as Scroll, News 9, the Hindu, the Wire, Himal, Business Standard, Bengaluru Review among others.

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Hans J. Giessmann

Director Emeritus, Berghof Foundation; Associate Professor, University of Hamburg, Germany

Dr. Hans J. Giessmann is Director Emeritus at the Berghof Foundation in Berlin and Associate Professor at the University of Hamburg. His expert focus is on supporting dialogue and negotiation processes in Ethiopia and Afghanistan. He provides technical trainings and offers process advice to relevant political and civil society stakeholders in the two countries. Previously he was Director of Berghof Conflict Research and COO of the Berghof Foundation. From 2000 until 2008 he was Deputy Director at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy in Hamburg. His list of academic and policy-related publications comprises more than 400 titles, with translations into more than ten languages. 

Dr Giessmann served as Co-Chair and Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Terrorism at the World Economic Forum between 2009 and 2014. He is member of the Advisory Board on Crisis Prevention to the German Federal Government (since 2009) and of the Board of the German Atlantic Association (since 2017). Since 2001 he holds faculty positions as professor at the Global Campus for Human Rights in Venice-Lido. 

Dr Giessmann has graduated from Humboldt University in Berlin and holds doctorates in philosophy and political science.

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Lynne Heslop

Senior Technical Adviser on the project Enabling University Peace Education, UK

Dr. Lynne Heslop is the Senior Technical Adviser on the project Enabling University Peace Education.  She has more than 30 years’ experience in education programme design, higher education policy development and research.  She has held senior education roles for the British Council, including Regional Director of Education (Central and South Asia), Senior Education Adviser (India) and Director Education (Myanmar). Her doctoral and research interests focus on the role of universities in peacebuilding and social justice in conflict-affected settings. 

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Nirmala KC

President, Pro Public, Nepal

Dr. Nirmala KC has more than two decades’ experience in the development sector, having worked with several development organizations like Pro Public, UNDP, South Asia Partnership, USAID, etc.

As a researcher and gender activist she is an active proponent of proactive and holistic development among individuals, women and children focused on physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. She was involved in research in the areas of NGO-governance, gender, bonded labour, microfinance, cooperative and alternative energy.

Through research and advocacy, she aims to contribute to strengthen NGO governance and maintaining social justice.  She has worked with UNDP, ADB, World Bank, USAID and many other multi-lateral and bi-lateral organizations in different capacities. She is a Visiting Faculty member at the Department of Public Administration, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur, Nepal. Nirmala K.C. has done doctoral work on NGO Accountability in Nepal at Tribhuvan University and has also studied in University of Bergen, Norway.  

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Erwin Maas

Co-Executive Director Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE), USA

Erwin Maas is a New York based theatermaker, curator, educator and international arts advocate from the Netherlands with extensive international experience across a variety of creative and community contexts.

He is the Co-Executive Director of the Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE) & Director of the Fellowship Program for the International Performing Arts for Youth. As former Artistic/Creative Director of the International Society for Performing Arts and Director of Performing Arts for the Cultural Department of the Royal Netherlands Embassy & Consulates in the USA, Maas offers an extensive knowledge and network in the international cultural field with a focus on international cultural relations and policy.

Most recently, he co-curated the Salzburg Global Seminar’s Currents of Change: Redefining Cultural Diplomacy for the Future We Need. He teaches as Adjunct Professor at CUNY Brooklyn College's MFA Performance & Interactive Media Arts Program. Erwin is a core-member of Theater Without Borders, a member of Georgetown University's Laboratory for Global Performance & Politics and of the Netherland-America Foundation Cultural Committee. He also serves on the Artistic Advisory Board of the ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn, the First Nation Spiderwoman Theater, and DecadesOut, an organization at the intersection of Arts, Science & Policy.

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Hala Nur

Regional Team Leader for Enabling University Peace Education in Regional Conflict/Post-conflict Setting (EUPE), British Council Sudan

Hala Nur is an associate professor at the University of Khartoum. She has more than 25 years of experience in university teaching. Hala has also a long experience in building education administrative systems and school systems. In the last 10 years she worked as an education consultant in several projects funded by the EU, UNICEF, and British Council. Currently she is Regional Team Leader for the Enabling University Peace Education project. 

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Foto of Nilanjana Premaratna

Nilanjana Premaratna

Lecturer in International Politics, Newcastle University, UK

Dr. Nilanjana Premaratna is a Lecturer in International Politics at the Newcastle University, UK. Her research takes place at the intersection of arts, culture, and peacebuilding.

Her first book Theatre for Peacebuilding: The Role of Arts in Conflict Transformation in South Asia examines the peacebuilding approaches and practices of three theatre groups from Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India. Her current research explores how different art forms – specifically film, theatre, music, and literature – contend with past violence, present conceptualisations of peace, and imagined futures in Sri Lanka. 

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Ghada Rifai

Co-Founder, Mobaderoon, Syria

Ghada Rifai is an Architect from Aleppo, Syria, holding a diploma in Project Management and Urban Planning and is now working on her master's in post-war reconstruction. She co-founded her first initiative on active citizen and Peacebuilding in 2009, which developed into a network of more than 4000 activists called Mobaderoon (Initiative Takers). Then she started her journey in establishing and supporting several organizations working on Peacebuilding for Syria and disseminating the values and principles of the active citizen. In 2014, she was awarded the Livia Foundation Award for her extensive work promoting peace in times of conflict.

She has been working in urban development since 2001. She participated in the Rehabilitation Project of the Old City of Aleppo, where she was head of the planning section. She had a vital role in activating Aleppo’s Urban Observatory while she led its Directorate within Aleppo City Council. She also established the “Aleppo a Child-Friendly City “initiative as part of the development strategy of Aleppo.

In parallel with her work in urban development, she volunteered with many local NGOs and helped establish several local NGOs since 1997. She worked in rural development, where her ability to work with various social groups and encourage them to work together and participate in community development was vital to achieving successful outcomes. She firmly believes in cooperation between NGOs and private and public sectors.

Her work was one of the first to introduce the concept of NGO-led urban development in Syria.

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Vasyl Rozhko

Co-coordinator, Heritage Emergency Response Initiative, Ukraine

Vasyl Rozhko is a co-coordinator of the Heritage Emergency Response Initiative (HERI) in Ukraine which he co-founded in 2022. Since 2016 he has also been the head of the Tustan NGO, working on heritage tourism in the museum and touristic cluster Tustan where he works among others on digital projects using 3D-fixation and modelling, AR & VR, GIS and databases, working with the Urych Boyko Village ecomuseum and on preserving heritage for sustainable development.

From 2014 to 2016 he was Head of the Department of Museums at the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, where he was responsible for crisis emergency response management for museums, inventory of museums and collections in Ukraine, networking, communication with the regions as well as starting a systemic and strategic work for the museum sphere. Before that he had been director of the Tustan State Historical and Cultural Reserve from 2005 to 2014, engaging in documentation procedures for heritage properties and their protection; technical monitoring and conservation program for cliffs; the graphical reconstruction of the medieval log cliffside fortress of Tustan; visiting and guiding services; organizing the Ukrainian Medieval Culture Festival ‘Tu Stan!’ as well as community projects.

He has a Master of Architecture with the specialty „Architecture of Buildings and Structures” from Lviv Polytechnic National University, wrote his PhD thesis on “Methods of research and graphic reconstruction of log cliffside architecture”, and is currently pursuing a Key Executive MBA from Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS).

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Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)

Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR) is working to strengthen accountability and respect for human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. AJAR has been involved in projects in Myanmar since 2016, where it is conducting research on gender-based human rights violations. AJAR also provides training to increase the capacity of its Myanmar counterparts who work on gender issues, so they can conduct research more effectively by drawing on the experiences of some of the world’s foremost experts in the field.

The program involves in-country awareness-raising workshops, and advocacy and regional events designed to bring activists and researchers together to learn from each other and from experts, increase their skill, and develop and nurture ongoing professional networks in the region.

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Logo of the unesco conference MONDIACULT 2022

This years ICRRA conference takes place as a side event of  MONDIACULT, the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development.

Re-watch the conference


ICRRA – International Cultural Relations Research Alliance

Researchers and practitioners exchange views on questions of international cultural relations through the International Cultural Relations Research Alliance (ICRRA) network. The network sees itself as a bridge builder between practical cultural work, academic reflection, policy advice and the media. It supports the transfer of research-based knowledge into politics and society and promotes evidence-based discourse. Find out more on the ifa website.


Yannick Ringot

Project Coordinator Dialogue and Research Culture and Foreign Policy

Charlottenplatz 17
D-70173 Stuttgart

Telephone: +49.711.2225.123