We will continue our cultural relations work well beyond the planned withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan next year; because we firmly believe that, along with the promotion of governance, security and development, the promotion of culture is a critical fourth foundation of Afghanistan's future.
This week I was a panellist at the launch event for the inaugural Ipsos MORI Top Cities survey - a worldwide poll that crowned London as the most popular city in Europe, but forced us to tip our bowler hats to New York as the global winner. But in amongst the data were a few fascinating phenomena...
There is still a huge challenge in delivering musical education to children in the Palestinian Territories. Limitations on financial resources mean that teachers' salaries are low, instruments are often of poor quality, and teaching resources can be basic - and it's also difficult for foreign teachers to get visas to work there.
It was enormously rewarding to be able to bring the British Council to work in partnership with the Society to bring the honoured Awardees to London to share their experiences with the UK and receive their awards. The British Council's mission is to build trust and understanding between the UK and the rest of the world through the sharing of knowledge, creativity and art.
There are a small number of universal human languages which are very widely understood. English itself is one, the arts are another, there is sport - especially football - and there is science. The language of science, underpinned by the Scientific Method, is one of humanity's purest languages - perhaps second only to maths.
An interesting social and artistic experiment has begun outside the British Council on The Mall in London. The artist Mark Wallinger has created a beautiful white horse -- a symbol of Olde Englande before it was even England (probably when it was Britannicus or just 'those pretty green isles' in Norse or French).
For anyone determined to perpetuate the myth that we don't need to learn foreign languages in the UK because 'everyone speaks English anyway', there's a clear wake-up call in this new research. Less than a quarter of managers in China and well under half in Brazil say their businesses use English on a daily basis.
Xin Nian Kuai Le, Gong Xi Fa Cai! If you didn't understand that, you've just missed out on the chance to make friends this week. And you're not alone. The Mandarin Chinese language is becoming more and more important for the UK because, quite simply, China is becoming more and more important on the world's stage.
As the global elite don snow boots for Davos, those of us tramping through the slush at home will wonder 'what's Davos got to do with me?' I say two things: 1) the UK has always been a great trading nation and, 2) the UK is a modern day cultural superpower. We're up to our boot-tops in the global economy and our language, education system and creativity are in massive demand to drive global growth and prosperity. And we all have a stake in that. Because what our politicians and business leaders are discussing on our behalf is a near universal need to tighten our belts.