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Overview of the "Open Compendium" Initiative leading to "WorldCP"

Over the last five years and carried out in a step by step approach, Compendium coverage of European cultural policies and trends has been enhanced and linked with broader global problems and achievements. New content on issues such as "Cultural Diversity", "International Cultural Cooperation", "Cultural Rights and Ethics" and "Intercultural Dialogue" were introduced and are now hosted in trans-national "Themes" sections and special databases. As well, the ability of the information system to respond to international monitoring needs of the users in governments and NGOs, e.g. as concerns the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, was greatly improved.

These and other developments resulted not only in more Compendium users from outside of Europe, it also helped to initiate and sustain many related contacts with organisations and experts from all over the world. At the same time, it inspired different research projects and raised the awareness within the Compendium community of the need to partner with institutions and Internet platforms in other world regions and on the regional level, which share similar information and monitoring needs in the cultural domain. As well, the chances such moves could mean for the improvement and further development of the European information system became apparent.

In 2008, an "OPEN Compendium" initiative [originally called "Compendium PLUS"] was launched by the authors and editors of the information system which received the backing of the Culture Committee and Secretariat of the Council of Europe and met the aim of CultureWatch Europe regarding a better visibility of European experiences and achievements in the governance of culture; it also found the support of the Conference of the Ministers responsible for Culture of the Council of Europe, held December 2 and 3 2008 in Baku (Azerbaijan), whose Baku Declaration for the Promotion of Intercultural Dialogue even foresaw a "possible access of non-member states of the Council of Europe" to the Compendium.

On the other hand, it was also made clear that the mandate and the financial resources of the Council of Europe would not enable this organisation to take responsibility for - potentially - turning the Compendium into a world-wide system. Instead, consultation and capacity building activities should be pursued mainly by the individual authors, experts and editors in collaboration with their partner organisations.

The Compendium community increasingly started to act on this suggestion (as can be seen from a number of examples here). Among the results of such exploratory and capacity building activities - which also involved the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), the European Cultural Foundation, Culture Resource (Cairo), the Asia-Europe Foundation, Boekmanstichting and some national Commissions for UNESCO - are 9 new extra-European country profiles of Arab States and Australia, with more to follow. As well, a regional profile for Catalonia was published in 2010.

In 2010 and 2011, five international expert meetings helped to develop the OPEN Compendium initiative further:

(1) An ASEM Workshop on Enhancing Visibility Through Cultural Activities took place in Ha Long City, Quang Ninh Province in Viet Nam on 28-29th of April 2010. It included a presentation of the Compendium delivered by Andreas Wiesand and enabled contacts with the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) as well as discussions with participants on possibilities for introducing a similar information system in Asia.   In the final recommendations of the Workshop, the Compendium, together with the new UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics, was mentioned as a proper format to "build up an open and transparent analysis of national cultural policies for the benefit of decision makers, the media and the cultural sector". Following up on this experience, the ASEF board agreed, in December 2010, to further support Compendium-related activities in Asia.

(2) The 1st Conference on Cultural Policies in the Arab Region was held in Beirut, June 7-9, 2010. The Conference, based on eight Arab country profiles following the Compendium model and produced by independent researchers from the Region, was attended by 75 experts (including Robert Palmer, Director of Culture and Cultural and Natural Heritage, Council of Europe, with a keynote). Main organisers were Culture Resource/Al Mawred Al Thaqafy (Cairo) and the European Cultural Foundation (Amsterdam).

From left: Ritva Mitchell (CUPORE / ERICarts); Jordi Baltà  Portolés (Interarts); Hassan Abbas (Researcher, Syria): Laila Hourani (Brit. Council, Syria); Emad Abou Ghazi (Min. of Culture, Egypt); Ammar Kessab (profile author, Algeria)

(3) A meeting of different stakeholders involved in  the preparation of a global outreach of Compendium-related activities took place in Brussels, September 5, 2010 (see the minutes of this meeting). Participants agreed to continue their collaboration and formed the "WorldCP International Working Group".

Left picture: Sarah Gardner, Executive Director of IFACCA, explains the intended "federal" structure of a new "WorldCP" information system.

Right picture: Robert Palmer (Council of Europe Director of Culture/Heritage); Natasha Eves (IFACCA); Katelijn Verstraete (Asia-Europe Foundation); Tsveeta Andreeva (European Cultural Foundation); Ineke van Hamersveld (Boekmanstichting); Anupama Sekhar (ASEF). Not in the picture: Kathrin Merkle (Co-editor of the Compendium) and her team at the CoE Secretariat; Christine Merkel (German UNESCO Commission / Chair, CoE Culture Committee); Ritva Mitchell (BoG President, ERICarts Institute); Jörg Torkler (Compendium webmaster) and Andreas Wiesand (Executive Director, ERICarts Institute).

(4) In Mid-October 2010, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO invited to a Meeting in Seoul, where the feasibility of a Compendium-type information system in the Asian Region, including first steps towards an implementation, were discussed. Compendium editor Kathrin Merkle and Sarah Gardner (IFACCA) participated.

(5) A WorldCP-Asia Expert Meeting on Cultural Policy was held   in Seoul, South Korea, on 27-28 July 2011, hosted by the WorldCP-Asia Regional Secretariat: the Asia-Europe Foundation, the Office for the Hub City of Asian Culture of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in South Korea and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, in partnership with IFACCA. The meeting was attended by project partners, including ERICarts BoG President Ritva Mitchell and current or prospective profile authors.

Based on the results of these meetings and the agreements reached in Brussels,the global network of arts councils and ministries of culture, IFACCA, started to prepare, in collaboration with the ERICarts Institute (including its Webmaster Jörg Torkler) and other partners, a global information system on cultural policies and trends: "WorldCP". Thanks to its "federal" structure, the present Compendium is to maintain its coverage of developments  in the whole of Europe and will continue to be run in the present form of governance. One of the main aims of this move, which also received the backing of UNESCO officials, is to build on the experiences and capacities gained over 13 years with the European Compendium in order to assist a regular monitoring of policies and good practices available to cultural actors around the world and thus also contribute to the aims of the 2005 UNESCO "Diversity Convention". Following the European example,

  • National profiles are to be researched and written by experts in collaboration with governments or culture agencies;
  • Regional coordination, quality control and funding assistance is to be secured by IGOs, foundations and/or networks; and
  • International exchange and capacity building as well as a comparative Internet platform are being provided by IFACCA with the participation of the ERICarts Institute.

Preceding the IFACCA World Summit on Arts and Culture in Melbourne, Sarah Gardner, Executive Director of IFACCA, finally unveiled the prototype of database of cultural policies and trends on 3 October 2011. With its country-specific monitoring approach to cultural policies and its focus on cultural diversity, WorldCP enables for the first time direct comparisons with the profiles of the Council of Europe / ERICarts Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe. At the launch, the Compendium community of practice was represented by Ritva Mitchell (ERICarts Institute / Cupore). Compendium webmaster Joerg Torkler has been one of the architects in the construction of the new site.

An issue that has not been fully resolved so far are outreach activities within Europe. While experiences from the past with a network of cities producing a Compendium-like webspace for and with their partners have been considered a positive development, things are more complicated when it comes to regional activities to be integrated into the existing system.

At the moment, the Compendium system includes integrated profiles for: Flanders, the Belgian French and German Speaking Communities, Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. As a contribution to the 2009 Madrid Authors Meeting, Spanish Compendium authorAnna Villarroya had prepared a first draft of a regional (Catalan) cultural policy profile, which was fully based on the Compendium methodology. An updated version was published and officially presented in Barcelona, 1 October 2010.

While this initiative was generally welcomed, representatives of the Council of Europe made clear that the Compendium was conceived as an information system on "national cultural policies". They also underlined that the Council, given its political mandate and resources, could not cater for all potential local and regional initiatives in Europe, other than as illustrations to be included in the profiles of the present system. Where appropriate in a new organisational context, solutions such as those mentioned above would, nevertheless, be possible and could, in a next step, lead to another platform combining regional cultural  policies which might eventually be linked with the Compendium.