The ECP Monitor: Profiling External Cultural Policy

The External Cultural Policy (ECP) Monitor provides information on key data such as the economy and geopolitical position of selected countries and presents relevant information on their external cultural policy (ECP) measures. Concise country profiles and reports structure quantitative data and contextual information, e.g. on culture and art, language, education, science and research or media. Links to relevant documents, sources and websites complement the reports. Comparisons of individual measures between countries complete the ECP Monitor, whenever data quality and coverage permit. 

Who Produces the ECP Monitor?

The ECP Monitor is produced by a team at the Hertie School in close cooperation with ifa's Library and ifa's Research Programme.

What is External Cultural Policy?

The term External Cultural Policy summarises the ways and means by which states invest in culture and the arts, language, education, research, and media to exercise influence abroad to build networks for enhancing cooperation and to create mutual understanding. Understood in this sense, ECP can complement and substitute other economic, diplomatic, and military means of leverage, and can creatively cope with the complex and intertwined social and political realities of societies. It links to many other policy areas relevant to foreign affairs, including security, trade, technology and development cooperation, and domestic cultural and educational policy. ECP has become increasingly important, as more countries realise the benefits of a strong international cultural positioning. Indeed, the number of countries with explicit strategic ECP objectives has increased significantly.

Why is the ECP Monitor Needed?

The growing importance of external cultural policy, increasing number of countries with explicit ECP strategies, and more competitive geopolitical climate brings with it a greater need for more comprehensive, systematic and up-to-date information. Specifically, data and information are needed to cover a country´s ECP objectives, strategies, instruments and resources.

Unfortunately, current information and data systems have not kept up with these needs. There are major gaps in coverage across fields and countries, and serious issues of comparability remain. As a result, policymakers, analysts and practitioners alike face an incomplete evidence base, which limits the understanding of current ECP approaches and hinders effective policymaking.

The purpose of the ECP Monitor is to fill these glaring data gaps. The ECP Monitor, once fully developed, will enable policymakers in the conception, planning, implementation and evaluation of ECP strategies, and to do so with comparative and long-term perspectives in mind. It will also serve the data needs of researchers interested in the comparative analysis of ECP, and its relationship with other aspects of foreign policy and international affairs more broadly. 

Taking a Closer Look

A prototype of the ECP Monitor was developed during a pilot phase for a first set of countries. Based on these initial studies and feedback received from users and experts, the Monitor will be revised and further refined in the future. Once fully developed, the ECP Monitor will cover all EU, OECD and G20 countries, and be updated regularly.

Launch of the ECP-Monitor

Panel discussion on international cultural relations in times of digitalization, jointly hosted by ifa and Hertie School on the occasion of the launch of the External Cultural Policy Monitor.

Comparative Reports 

The ECP Monitor offers a comparative look at five different policy fields: Arts and Cultural Institutes · Digital External Cultural Policy · Primary and Secondary Education · Higher Education · Language · Media · Science Diplomacy

A needle eye with several coloured threads
Arts and Culture Institutes, photo: Myriams Fotos on Pixabay

Arts and Culture Institutes

International cultural institutes (ICI) are often the most visible manifestation of a country's efforts to share its culture with an international audience. There is a shift of some country's external cultural policy toward a more commercialised stance, which has increased the cultural trade. Will this this trend shift back to a more power-based rule of ICIs?

Comparative Report on Arts and Culture Institutes (PDF)

A red headset
Digital External Cultural Policy, photo: Yarenci Hdz on Unsplash

Digital External Cultural Policy

Digital tools represent a huge opportunity for external cultural policy (ECP), allowing culture to be spread around the world and for new actors to join the global conversation. However, digital ECP practitioners face the questions of how to deal with fragmented public spheres in social media while promoting local projects.

Comparative Report on Digital External Cultural Policy (PDF)

Crayons lined up in a row
Primary and Secondary Education, photo: Joshua Eckstein on Unsplash

Primary and Secondary Education

Only a select group of countries has fully realised the strategic potential of overseas primary and secondary education. With non-Western countries, like Turkey and Russia, making the most rapid strides in seeing its power, countries interested in projecting global cultural influence would do well to mind its importance.

Comparative Report on Primary and Secondary Education (PDF)

Doctor's hat on a board
Higher Education, photo: Matthew Everard on Pixabay

Higher Education

International higher education (IHE) has grown rapidly in recent years and became the central component of countries' external cultural policy strategies. Despite growth in the Global South, IHE is dominated by Western and former colonial powers. With the proliferation of internationalisation strategies, rise in branch campuses, and expansion of educational hubs, countries need to have a strategic approach.

Comparative Report on Higher Education (PDF)

Old mechanic typewriter on a wooden table
Language, photo: Patrick Fore on Unsplash


The promotion of a national language is seen as a core part of promoting a country's image abroad. Therefore, there is a complex relation with the rest of external cultural policy. This leads to different strategies and many of the world's great powers are likely to fuse language with foreign policy in the coming years.

Comparative Report on Language (PDF)

Movie camera
Media, photo: Christian Wiedinger on Unsplash


Competition in global media has increased substantially in the last two decades. Foreign media not only want to reach countries as well as politically and economically important target groups, but also see themselves as competitors in a quest for international sovereignty. As countries experiment with different foreign media strategies, an increase in the range of approaches is to be expected in the coming years. 

Comparative Report on Media (PDF)

Objectives and stage of a light microscope
Science Diplomay, photo: Michael Longmire on Unsplash

Science Diplomacy

Science diplomacy has made great strides in recent decades as the risks and interconnectedness that accompany globalisation have made joint scientific progress more vital. However, science diplomacy often follows unequal global power dynamics and inter-state scientific competition is making a comeback.

Comparative Report on Science Diplomacy (PDF)

Country Coverage

Wall painting in Vienna. A face with blue eyes, coulored hair and cheeks
Wall painting in Vienna, photo: Max Jacob Beer on Unsplash


In its external cultural policy (ECP), Austria relies heavily on its strong cultural infrastructure and unique historical heritage. The most important strategic shift in Austrian ECP has been the re-evaluation of historical and cultural ties with the neighbouring countries like the Western Balkans. However, Austria will need to be wary of local dynamics and tread carefully if (imperial) history is its only guide.


Belgium's strong federal structure allows its subnational regions, Wallonia-Brussels and Flanders, to have independent approaches to foreign policy. With different models and partnerships in culture, education, research and media, the two regions and their domestic, as well as external policy approaches and ideologies, are drifting apart. 

Graffiti on a rusty wall in Namur 'si tu ne crois pas en la resurrection des morts reviens ici au moment de la fermeture'
Graffiti in Namur, photo: Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash


Export of cultural goods, artist mobility, internationalisation of universities: After years of reducing cultural diplomacy Canada promotes creative industries and higher education. A coherent strategy is still missing, however.

Wall Painting in Calgary. A UFO with green and coloured dots on a black wall.
Wall Painting in Calgary, photo: Toni Reed on Unsplash
Wall Painting in Shantou, traffic jam in black and white
Wall Painting in Shantou, photo: Kirill Sharkovskion on Unsplash


China is focusing on a new global policy strategy: to reduce the Western / US hegemony and to generate an appreciation and understanding of Chinese culture. China's narrative has the potential to gain purchase in developing countries.


Estonia's innovation in the digital domain is its strongest soft power: it has been very successful in its nation branding as E-Estonia, a welcoming and innovative e-state. With numerous ethnic minorities as well as a sizeable diaspora, Estonia's external cultural policy faces the challenge to target both national and international audiences. 

A blue roebuck gazes at a huge hand in which a plant is germinating. Wall Wall painting in Tallinn
Wall painting in Tallinn, photo: Jonne Huotari on Unsplash
Wall Painting in Paris. Back view of a girl with a boot folded from paper in her hand.
Wall Painting in Paris, photo: Aleyna Rentz on Unsplash


France has the largest network of external cultural policy (ECP) institutions enhanced by their close link to diplomatic representations worldwide. With a focus on promoting Francophonie and the French higher education system, the French ECP is setting ambitious goals whilst facing domestic challenges.


The range and resources for German foreign cultural and educational policy (ECP) expanded in recent years: The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is the world's largest funding organisation for international academic exchange. However, the German ECP is facing challenges regarding the integration of academics as well as maintaining their goal of supporting civil societies in conflict regions. 

Wall Painting in Berlin. Person in front of a wall with a large black dot and a corona.
Wall Painting in Berlin, photo: Viktor Nikolaienko on Unsplash
Wall painting in Visakhapatnam. A hand catching the stylised earth with animals and plants.
Wall painting in Visakhapatnam, photo: Patrick Hendry on Unsplash


India has created a steadily growing presence abroad, mostly carried by the deployment of  'Indian Chairs' for Indian studies to higher education institutions. The country has struggled with gaining a profile as an international study destination as well as facing domestic and bilateral unrest, though. This may threaten India's attempts to build a stronger international profile.


Indonesia seeks to enhance the international visibility of the country as well as bilateral international relations. The picture of a linguistically, ethnically, and religiously diverse state, though, has been challenged by recurrent domestic frictions.

Wall painting in Bali. Part of a face with nose and eyes.
Wall painting in Bali, photo: Steve Long on Unsplash
Wall painting in Florence. Head with diving goggles in a blue wall niche.
Wall painting in Florence, photo: Jonathan Singer on Unsplash


The 'Italian way of life': Italy's external cultural policy (ECP) is promoting its key role in terms of artistic and cultural heritage, creativity, innovation and lifestyle. However, with approximately 6.000 Italian researchers leaving the country each year, Italy must also leverage its soft power potential to attract academics to its domestic economy.


The Netherlands has important strengths in international business, education and culture. Yet, rather than imprint its culture around the globe, Dutch external cultural policy has been more successful at making the Netherlands a global entrepôt. 

Wall painting in Amsterdam. Woman's face on a brick wall
Wall painting in Amsterdam, photo: Jonathan Singer on Unsplash
Wall painting in Oslo. A man with medieval clothing and a graffito over his face.
Wall painting in Oslo, photo: Henrik Dønnestad on Unsplash


Norway has built an international reputation when it comes to promoting world peace. However, it has long ignored the potential of external cultural diplomacy and still lacks a clear-cut and holistic strategy on the recruitment of international students.


The strength of the Polish external cultural policy (ECP) lies in its developed diplomatic network and in one of the largest and most widely dispersed diasporas in the world. Nevertheless, due to a limited budget and fragmentation of activities, the 'Polska Brand' still struggles to gain more visibility. 

Wall painting in Katowice. A robot-like human lies on the floor, another figure rides on his belly.
Wall painting in Katowice, photo: Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash


The Russian external cultural policy approach is characterized by pragmatism and awareness of its geographic limitations: outside the post-Soviet bubble, knowledge of Russian language and culture is often superficial and very limited. However, with more than ten billion RT (formerly Russia Today) views, Russia is working to consolidate its digital media presence and become a 'virtual power'.

Wall painting in Russia. A red heart with black border on grey and blue.
Wall painting in Russia, photo: Tengyart on Unsplash
Wall painting with clay buildings and a house with a golden dome
Wall painting, photo: Yousef Raffa on iStock

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's 'Vision 2030' reinterprets the country's role in external cultural policy: with a stronger investment in arts and culture as well as education, including several schools abroad and large scholarship programmes. However, Saudi Arabia has also encountered distrust abroad, particularly because of the country’s human rights record as well as their Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who remains an internationally controversial figure.


Serbia is named the cross-road of Europe: with a rich tradition spanning many centuries and cultures and Belgrade's rich Yugoslav cultural infrastructure. However, Serbian external cultural policy faces many challenges, including a lack of funding as well as communicating a new identity that would promote the national interest while also embracing ethnic and cultural differences.

Graffito in Belgrade. Girl sprayed with red paint and slogan "fight like a girl"
Graffito in Belgrade, photo: Marija Zaric on Unsplash
Wall painting in Cape Town. Cubic pattern in red, orange, blue, yellow, green, white and black
Wall painting in Cape Town, photo: Quaid Lagan on Unsplash

South Africa

South Africa has focused on strengthening a multidisciplinary cultural diplomacy through its Cultural Seasons abroad. Despite the programmes offered and the presence of an 'International Relations' division in many departments, there is no coherent strategy for external cultural policy or central coordination of activities. 


Spain's cultural projection is more than well-developed: being the third most spoken language worldwide and having an increased student mobility rate as well as the nation-branding strategy 'España Global'. Yet, Spain should ensure equal visibility and representation of all autonomous communities as well as increase the number of English-taught programmes. 

Street Art in Barcelona. Green cans with white writing: Power to the People
Street Art in Barcelona, photo: Federico Scarionati on Unsplash
Wall painting in Stockholm. Man with a ladder in front of a wall. One eye in several black and white circles surrounded by a pink pattern.
Wall painting in Stockholm, photo: Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash


Gender equality, sustainability, climate change: Sweden is recognised worldwide for leading the way in good governance and solutions to burning issues. A major hurdle for Sweden is its lack of physical institutions abroad and therefore no international visible cultural presence.


Switzerland's science diplomacy is arguably its strongest asset: more than five years in a row, it has been named the world's most innovative country. To get around its cantonal and linguistic fragmentation, though, the Swiss external cultural policy will need to develop a holistic approach with targeted and coherent policies.

Wall painting in Zürich. Two bicycles leaning against a wall with a woman's face and graphic patterns in green, red and orange.
Wall painting in Zürich, photo: Timon Klauser on Unsplash
Wall painting in Istanbul. Make Art Not War
Wall painting in Istanbul, photo: Randy Tarampi on Unsplash


Turkish external cultural policy represents its geopolitical position as the Europe-Asia bridge. It is subordinated to the domestic agenda to establish a pro-Islamic and centralised state with focus on heritage and identity. There has also been pushback from countries alarmed by Turkey's autocratic turn.

United Kingdom

'Global Britain': the new strategy for external cultural policy of the United Kingdom is focusing on a renewed sense of the UK's global positioning. However, with a stagnating number of international students as well as the challenges of Brexit and economic recession, the United Kingdom will have to reposition itself to still be recognised as a leading soft power.

Wall painting in Bristol. Eye area with glasses. The face consists of triangles in rainbow colours.
Wall painting in Bristol, photo: Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Wall painting in New York. Menschen in schwarz-weiß schauen vor einer bunt gestreiften Wand nach oben.
Wall painting in New York, photo: Leonardo Burgos on Unsplash

United States of America

American cultural diplomacy is slowly recovering from 'America First': with the highest number of international students worldwide as well as a global presence of American cultural production. Yet, this dominant role might not be welcomed by all audiences.


Helmut K. Anheier

Senior Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School and member of the Luskin School of Public Affairs, UCLA

Friedrichstraße 180
D-10117 Berlin

Telephone: +49.30.259219.102

Sarah Widmaier

Scientific Coordinator of ifa’s Research Programme 'Culture and Foreign Policy'

Charlottenplatz 17
D-70173 Stuttgart

Telephone: +49.711.2225.214