Saudi Arabia: The emerging cultural powerhouse shaping global soft power dynamics

May 19, 2024
Rajah Abli Blay.
Rajah Abli Blay.

By Rajah Abli Blay*

In today's interconnected world, the concept of soft power has become increasingly crucial in shaping global relations and influence. Defined as the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, soft power is a nation's ability to wield influence through cultural, ideological, and institutional means. Among the shifting landscapes of global politics, the Middle East is emerging as a focal point for the projection of soft power, with Saudi Arabia poised to become the next big cultural powerhouse.

Through my extensive experience in reputation management, I have witnessed firsthand the significance of soft power in shaping international perceptions and relations. My previous role involved managing governments' reputations, aiming to promote their cultural and political ideals on the world stage to generate substantial economic and strategic advantages.

As a consultant for Royal families and having served the French government under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I have a unique perspective on the role of soft power in global diplomacy.

France, renowned for its cultural heritage and diplomacy, has long understood the importance of soft power in advancing its interests on the world stage. Leveraging its rich history and traditions, France has successfully branded its "Art de Vivre" as a cornerstone of its soft power strategy.

Dating back to King Louis XIV, who promoted high-end living and artistic expression, France has continued to cultivate its image as a global cultural icon. During my time at Atout France Middle East and Turkey, the official French Tourism Authority under the French Foreign Affairs Ministry, I played a pivotal role in promoting France's charm to attract visitors and support official institutions.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is undergoing a transformative journey, spearheaded by Vision 2030, aimed at diversifying its economy and projecting its soft power globally. Recognizing the immense potential of cultural diplomacy, Saudi Arabia has embarked on ambitious initiatives to showcase its rich heritage, arts, and traditions to the world. With the recent unveiling of projects, Saudi Arabia is positioning itself as a hub for innovation, culture, and tourism.

One of the key drivers of Saudi Arabia's soft power strategy is its investment in cultural initiatives and infrastructure. The Kingdom has been actively promoting cultural exchanges, hosting international events, and investing in the development of cultural institutions and landmarks.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia's modernization efforts happily advance the Kingdom's good and positively reshape perceptions both domestically and internationally.

The introduction of cinemas and entertainment festivals, and the greater empowerment of women in society and the workplace are indicative of the Kingdom's commitment to progressive reforms. By embracing cultural diversity and fostering creativity, Saudi Arabia is enhancing its soft power appeal and projecting a more inclusive image on the global stage.

As Saudi Arabia continues to invest in cultural diplomacy and soft power initiatives, it is poised to emerge as a significant player in shaping global narratives and perceptions. By leveraging its rich heritage, artistic talent, and progressive reforms, Saudi Arabia has the potential to influence and inspire audiences worldwide.

Today, being part of the team that leads on resilience, crisis communications, and reputation management for Red Sea Global, I am excited to be part of this transformative journey, shaping a more positive and authentic narrative for Saudi Arabia on the global stage.

* Rajah Abli Blay is the Lead for Resilience, Crisis, and Corporate Communications at Red Sea Global, a PIF company. Previously, she was an Associate Director at APCO Worldwide, supporting public entities and companies throughout the Middle East. She has also served as the Head of Communications and Marketing for Atout France in the Middle East, and as a consultant for various government entities and Royal families globally. Rajah is known for her expert campaign designs that utilize culture, tourism, art, and lifestyle to enhance reputations and foster positive visibility internationally.

May 19, 2024
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