The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg (France), now covers virtually the entire European continent, with its 47 member countries. Founded on 5 May 1949 by 10 countries, the Council of Europe seeks to develop throughout Europe, the common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals. The Holy See, the United States of America, Canada, Japan and Mexico have observer status. Belarus has applied for membership.
In 1955, the European Cultural Convention came into force as the prime instrument through which the European states, expressed their commitment to cultural co-operation. It continues to provide a legal framework for the Council's action in fields such as education, culture and heritage. In 2005, the Council of Europe and its member states celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention with two Ministerial Conferences (in Faro and Wroclaw) and a series of brainstorming workshops with cultural policy experts and intellectuals (Strasbourg). The 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe was also held in 2005 (Warsaw).
The Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) was set up in 1961 as a committee of governmental representatives responsible for setting the agenda for action in the fields of education, culture, media, sport and youth. In 2001, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to transform the Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC) and its specialised Committees into four Steering Committees; including the the Steering Committee for Culture (CDCULT) which had a "hands-on" mandate for developing cultural co-operation programmes. The CDCULT'sTerms of Reference indicated that the Committee "shall be responsible for activities related to cultural policy and action and follow-up on their implementation, monitoring and evaluation" and that its work "shall focus on cultural policy development and help with its implementation, standard setting and follow-up" including the:
As of 2012, a new supervisory body, the Steering Committee for Culture, Heritage and Landscape superceded the previous specialised Committees in the field of culture, heritage and landscape and now oversees all the activities implemented by the Council of Europe in these sectors.
The Council of Europe's activities in the field of culture have been built upon four main principles including: the promotion of identity, support to creativity, respect for cultural diversity and participation in cultural life. Through its inter-governmental committees and in-house Directorate of Democratic Governance, Culture and Diversity, the Council has made contributions in the field of cultural policy, with pioneering work that includes:
While the Council of Europe does not have the resources nor the mandate to provide direct support to artists, it does back programmes involving creative artists such as "Apollonia" (facilitating artistic exchange with central and east European countries) or "Pont de l'Europe" (essays from 40 European writers inscribed at the Pont de l'Europe connecting Kehl to Strasbourg). Since 1954 the Council of Europe has organised over 29 transnational art exhibitions such as "Art and Power: Europe under Dictators 1930-45". The programme was extended to include the new Council of Europe Cultural Events and Arts Exhibitions in 2008 and a new award scheme "Cultural Labels" was created to distinguish innovative artistic projects that send a strong message related to the Council's work and critical European issues.
Other milestone projects of the Council of Europe in the field of culture are the Cultural Routes and the EURIMAGE activities supporting cinematographic co-production. Previous milestones include Culture and Neighbourhoods; Arts, Creativity and the Young; the Electronic Publishing, Books and Archives Project; Information Society and Cultural Policy; European Approaches to Cultural Diversity; Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention; Creating Cultural Capital.
In May 2005, the 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (Warsaw, Poland) adopted a political declaration and an action plan proclaiming intercultural dialogue and the democratic management of diversity as a central priority for the Organisation in general, and for the cultural sector in particular. In this regard, the DG IV responsible for education, culture and heritage, youth and sport coordinated a transversal Council of Europe exercise, the White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue, published in May 2008. It argues that our common future depends on our ability to safeguard and develop human rights, democracy and the rule of law and to promote mutual understanding. It offers an intercultural approach as a forward-looking model for managing cultural diversity.
In 2006, the Council of Europe - together with the European Commission and the European Youth Forum - launched the "All Different-All Equal Campaign for Diversity, Human Rights and Participation", followed by the recent "Speak out Against Discrimination" Campaign. It also launched the project "European Heritage Days" and engaged, as of 2008, in the Intercultural Cities project, both run as a joint venture with the European Commission.
Cities participating in the Intercultural cities programme undergo expert and peer reviews of their policies, governance and practice. This review takes the form of narrative reports and city profiles. The Intercultural Cities Index is a complementary tool, capable of illustrating visually the level of achievement of each city, progress over time, and enabling comparison with other cities. The Intercultural Cities Index - with a focus on the intercultural integration of migrants and minorities - attempts to assess and compare the current status and performance of 30 cities. The ICC Index aims to begin needed debates by highlighting a few facts and processes which suggest the level of interculturality of a city.
In 2008, as a follow up to the guidelines of the Council of Europe's White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue and the Declaration of the Baku Conference of Ministers of Culture, the "Artists for Dialogue" initiative was conceived as a scheme for encouraging collaboration and co-operation between artists and cultural actors/ mediators from Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central Asia, in a long-term perspective.
In 2011, a report prepared by a Group of Eminent Persons entitled “Living together - Combining diversity and freedom in 21st century Europeè holds firmly that identities are a voluntary matter for the individual concerned, and that no one should be forced to choose or accept one primary identity to the exclusion of another. It argues that European societies need to embrace diversity. But this can work only if all long-term residents are accepted as citizens and if all, whatever their faith, culture or ethnicity, are treated equally by the law, the authorities and their fellow citizens. Like all other citizens in a democracy they should have a say in making the law, but neither religion nor culture can be accepted as an excuse for breaking it.
For additional information see http://www.coe.int/culture/