Whether it is political systems, cultural values, primary languages or predominate religions, the Indo-Pacific region is a global neighbourhood where common ground can be tantalisingly elusive.

Promoting understanding in the face of difference and diversity is therefore critical if regional cooperation and collaboration are to flourish. Public diplomacy, which engages ordinary people in the dialogue of nations, including through culture, science, education and sport is growing in importance. Nations across the region including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea are expanding their public diplomacy to promote mutual understanding and build better relations including at the people-to-people level. In doing so, they are contributing to their own soft power, and that of the region.

Each of these and other nations will be represented at a Strategic Regional Dialogue in Brisbane this week, organised by Griffith Asia Institute with the Korea Foundation and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The two-day event, involving business leaders, senior diplomats and government representatives from across the region, will examine emerging Indo-Pacific models of soft power and trends in public diplomacy practice.

“Australia’s approach to public diplomacy practice continues to develop, not just in relation to culture and the arts, but also through increasing exchanges and collaborations in science, education and sport” Professor Russell Trood, Director of Griffith Asia Institute, said.

“Australia’s success in advancing its regional interests will depend at least in part on its ability to integrate soft power into its foreign policy.”

Soft power coined by Harvard Professor Joseph Nye is described as the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion; but through attraction. It is about the influence and attractiveness nations can acquire and leverage when others are drawn to its culture, values and ideas.

This week’s roundtable will seek to identify constructive models of soft power relevant to the Indo-Pacific, while also oriented towards the development of policy and practice that enhances Australia’s regional public diplomacy engagement.

“We believe this roundtable event represents a good example of building inter-regional networks around the Indo-Pacific,” Ambassador Kim Gwang Keun, Executive Vice President, The Korea Foundation, said.

Vice Chancellor, Griffith University, Professor Ian O’Connor, will formally open the Dialogue at the Stamford Plaza Hotel on Thursday morning.

“Griffith’s commitment to a deep and effective engagement with Asia is reflected by the objectives of an event like this,” he said.

“Through our research and collaborations across the region we are excellently positioned to co-host this roundtable discussion where the prospects for stronger and economically rewarding international relations will be progressed.”

The two-day Strategic Regional Dialogue runs from Thursday to Friday (May 19-20) at the Stamford Plaza Hotel, starting at 8.45am.

This article was originally posted in Griffith News.