Mar. 11, 2020


Laura Foraster i Lloret

Spain

Laura Foraster i Lloret

Secretary General, Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat)

“In 2019 we invited 10 journalists, mainly from the cultural pages, to experience the day live in Barcelona.”

BIO

Laura Foraster i Lloret (Barcelona, 1976) holds a degree in Economics and Business Administration at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), a degree in Humanities at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and an MA in European Studies at the KU Leuven. She also has specific public diplomacy training. She has been Chief of Cabinet of the Minister for Innovation, Universities and Enterprise and of the Minister for Trade and Tourism of the Government of Catalonia, where she was responsible for EU and international issues, among others. She was Parliamentary Assistant to Catalan MEPs and in Brussels she also worked for the European Commission, the Committee of the Regions and the Catalan Government Delegation in the EU.


Can you give an introduction into how Diplocat started and its evolution?

Diplocat is a public-private consortium that was started in 1982 under the name Patronat Català Pro Europa to bring Catalan citizens closer to Europe before Spain entered the EU. In 2012, it became Diplocat, the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia. After the intervention of the Spanish government in Catalonia in 2017, we were forced to stop the activities for a year, though the consortium never disappeared. That is why it was not so difficult to start again with our 38 members. There are many institutions of Catalonia that belong to Diplocat and give it a diverse and cross-cutting structure: the main public institutions; 12 public and private universities of Catalonia; 13 chambers of commerce; entrepreneurial organizations such as AMEC, FemCat, PIMEC and Foment; the two main trade unions; social and sports organizations such as Football Club Barcelona, and others.

Can you tell us about how you promote abroad?

We practice public diplomacy but we are not “classic” diplomats nor a delegation of the government of Catalonia. We are a team of 12 people working in Barcelona, and from Barcelona we connect to the world. The three pillars on which we base our activities are connect, project, and empower. Firstly, we connect Catalonia with the international arena through classic tools of public diplomacy such as inviting international visitors, being in touch with the media, organizing seminars and exchanging best practices. Secondly, we project the image of Catalonia while promoting the transit of people, projects, and ideas. We are working in the field of digital diplomacy and we organize debates and seminars. In October, for example, we had a debate on sustainable food systems where we covered some of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda. The third pillar is empowering. We have a master's program in foreign action and diplomacy for civil servants and we organize specific courses in terms of digital diplomacy and science and technology diplomacy. We also have a scholarship program that awarded eleven scholarships to conduct international studies abroad in its 36 edition.

Are there any areas or specific regions that you would like to have more response or activity from?

We aim to reach the global world, but our main area of influence and natural environment is Europe and the Mediterranean area. An activity we carried out recently was an international documentary market of the Mediterranean called Medimed. It was the 20th anniversary of Medimed and the first year that we co-organized it. Such activities are a form of cultural diplomacy, which is a great field to exchange projects and ideas. It also helps people to do business. Everyone was pleased with Diplocat and the chance to come together.

How are you working to raise greater awareness of the benefits of Barcelona for foreign investment?

Getting Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia known to the world, with its many values and assets, is our way to help attracting not only more foreign investment, but also more Erasmus students, tourists or top researchers. Of course we are not alone in this mission. We work closely with ACCIÓ in the business field, with Institute Ramon Llull when we do cultural diplomacy and with The Catalan Tourism Board in matters of tourism. That's what we also do when we organize any kind of activity: we look for partners so we can provide them with the tools of public diplomacy and our expertise in terms of international contacts and they provide us the expertise of their specific field. And of course our partners are very often the members of Diplocat.

How did you go about doing the promotion of the Catalan Day of Books and Roses, Sant Jordi?

The day of Sant Jordi, on April 23rd, is a great opportunity to show Catalonia's best side to the world. The Day of Books and Roses is a tradition that we are extremely proud of and therefore we like to show it to the world. We have a few activities around the day of Sant Jordi. The first one is an international visitors program. In 2019 we invited 10 journalists, mainly from the cultural pages, to experience the day live in Barcelona. We also manage the website booksandroses.com to gather all the activities organized in cities around the world celebrating Sant Jordi. A citizen of Hong Kong, for example, who wants to celebrate the Day of Books and Roses can exchange culture and love by checking where this is possible via the website.

What are the top assets and values of Catalonia that Diplocat looks to represent?

In terms of activities, for example, we highlight the Sant Jordi festivity and the castellers, or human towers. We also promoted a documentary about Johan Cruyff as a player and member of FC Barcelona. Although he was Dutch, his idea that if you work hard you will achieve your goals connects very well with the Catalan society. We organized a few seminars on immigration and refugees to show to the world that we are an open city and open country.

What do you do to promote tourism in Catalonia?

Tourists flood to Barcelona and Catalonia, so little promotion needs to be done and the Catalan Tourism Board does a wonderful job in this sense. But we do try to go beyond Barcelona when we organize our programs. That is why in the last few months we brought activities and people to Sitges, Manresa and Arenys de Mar, to name three cities. On other occasions, we went to Girona. We want to show the country as a whole, and this is important because more than 30% of our board comprises Catalan municipalities. For instance, the Barcelona City Council is a member of Diplocat but so are Girona, Tarragona, Lleida and Vielha.

What is the biggest challenge that you are facing today?

For Diplocat, the challenge will always be to build the best bridges between Catalonia and the rest of the world. We are not diplomats; we do public diplomacy and everyone can do it. Sub-state entities are very active in the international arena, but so are enterprises, NGOs or big football clubs. Barcelona is very well known worldwide and the political situation has brought Catalonia to the media front pages, Diplocat's task is to create relationships of trust between the citizens of Catalonia and the rest of the world.

What are your main objectives for 2020?

We will carry on connecting, projecting and empowering. At the end of the day, we are just a small part of all the actors involved in a global change, so we want to contribute to it and make the world a more peaceful and sustainable place to live. All the activities that we organize have this global purpose.

ADVERTISEMENT