Colin Mercer, one of the leading strategic research and development experts for the creative sector worldwide, passed away in July, 2013. Honouring his broad experience gained during over 30 years work as a professor, researcher and advisor in fields such as cultural mapping and planning, indicator development and creative industries policies, the Compendium editors selected him in 2012 as a Special Advisor to the Expert Group on Cultural Participation Issues.
In June 2012, at the Compendium/CultureWatchEurope event in Helsinki, Colin gave one of his last public presentations.
Since this contribution could indeed be interpreted as his legacy for researchers and other cultural policy experts, we feature it again.
Pier Luigi Sacco, Professor at the IULM University in Milano, surprised participants with his keynote lecture at the recent Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture, held in Moscow with the overall theme: “Governance of Culture – Promoting Access to Culture” (see the final statement of the Conference here - it coincides nicely with Compendium plans to set European standards for user / non-user surveys).
We provide a link to Sacco's presentation, which is based on an earlier analysis of the road leading from "Culture 1.0" towards "Culture 3.0" and the most likely consequences for future cultural policy making in Europe. To a large degree, this on-going process is shaped by the success of new technologies (in particular, the digital revolution) as well as by social change in most of the European societies.
A New Compendium Monitoring Tool
(AJW) Societal and budgetary challenges triggered by the current economic crisis are bound to affect not only arts and heritage infrastructures or initiatives, but also political efforts to widen access to culture and to increase the participation of all citizens in a multifaceted cultural life. The important role arts, media and heritage activities can play for the social, educational and economic development of our societies may already be at risk, according to some observers. However, previous assessments did not show uniform trends: Until now it has been difficult to determine, at least in more exact – and comparable! – figures, whether and to what extent public cultural financing in Europe has really suffered from the crisis.
Legal and administrative proposals by Jörg Michael Schindler
The Council of Europe, due to its 1954 European Cultural Convention and related activities, can reflect upon a long history of assessing impacts of political, legal and socio-economic developments in the sphere of the arts, heritage and media.
Special projects or task forces and, more recently, its "National Cultural Policy Review Programme" (initiated in 1986 along the lines of the OECD Education System Reviews) and the monitoring tool "Compendium of Cultural Policies & Trends in Europe" (since 1998) usually team independent experts with representatives of governments in order to check current policies and practices or develop alternative solutions.
Within the framework of the European Union, such ideas took, and still take, much longer to gain ground: In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty first incorporated into the founding treaties of the EU a so-called "Cultural Awareness Clause" (now anchored again in Art. 167.4 TFEU). This could have been the moment to replace the historically-determined cultural blindness of the EU's institutions by an obligation to take into account cultural facts and problems in its policies and action.
A few thoughts by Robert Palmer (Council of Europe)
The Council of Europe, among its many functions, collects information and monitors developments in 50 European countries. All of our work in culture and heritage is related in some way to the theme of the right to culture framed as a human right. "Cultural rights" include, but are not limited to: rights to access to culture, participation in culture, and the right to freedom of expression. Particular attention is paid to the rights of minorities, and to approaches linked to the management of increasingly diverse communities in European societies.
Using the 'Compendium' and a great many other means of gathering information, we are trying to examine è˜macro-trends' that affect culture in Europe. To this effect, we have formed a special platform called è˜CultureWatch Europe' (see more under www.coe.int/culture).
From my perspective, the landscape for cultural policy in Europe is now very challenging. The focus seems to be on re-invention, re-engineering, reform - almost everywhere. These are positive words in abstract - but my concern reflects as well a few worrying signs and their implications in terms of implementation.
Immediately after the act of terrorism committed by a right wing extremist in Oslo and at Utà¸ya on 22.07.2011, Norway was shocked, terrified and almost paralysed. The initial shock was followed by deep feelings of grief and sorrow across political, ethnic and cultural divides, but also by a strong willingness to counter the terrorists' intent by a peaceful, united and tolerant response.
At first, people both in Norway and abroad believed that the terror had probably been executed by a Muslim extremist. Some non-ethnic Norwegians were consequently harassed immediately after the event. But very soon we learned that the perpetrator was "one of us", i.e. an ethnic Norwegian - more specifically a hefty and blond young man from the upper-class area of Oslo. This caused both relief and self-examination among us: A jihadist type of terror would probably have stigmatised ethnic minorities and aggravated cultural conflicts. When we learned that the aggressor was a lonely Norwegian Knight Templar, such conflicts could hardly arise. But we also had to realise that something is rotten in the state of Norway. It appeared that we had nourished a viper in our bosom.
Observations by Andreas Joh. Wiesand (updated in July, 2011)
Is it pure coincidence that, 5 years after the General Assembly of UNESCO adopted its Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, one of the cornerstones of this document is already put into question by many of the signatory states? I'm referring to their "sovereign right to formulate and implement cultural policies" that include, in particular, "measures aimed at providing public financial assistance" and "establishing and supporting public institutions" (Art. 5 and 6). To defend this principle - or "exception culturelle" - against the World Trade Organization (WTO) and others who insist on a pure free-market system without financial action or interference on the part of public authorities, may indeed become redundant if it is not invigorated by corresponding practice. Recent severe cuts affecting cultural budgets in a number of European countries seem to point in that direction. On the other hand, we cannot really speak of a uniform trend here: many countries and cities actually report increases, despite (or even because!) of the global financial crisis...
by Patrice Meyer-Bisch
Issues at stake: concrete universality
Cultural rights still fall through the gap in the Human Rights' protection system. Identity related questions are at the most intimate level of respect for human dignity, the right of each individual to participate in "a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 28). They are at the root of violence and peace issues, of poverty and welfare. Fear of "relativism", although justified, long prevented us from considering each individual as a subject of his or her rights within a concrete environment.
February 2010, by John A. Foote (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières)
Recognition of the fundamental role of ethics and rights regarding culture and cultural policy is perennially a hot topic. Ethics provide the perspective, motivation and values to help ensure democratic and equitable participation in cultural development, diversity and dialogue. Rights serve as the fundamental underpinning and inspiration of cultural creativity and participation and provide the jurisprudence regarding violations of binding conventions and of other no less important instruments. Rights adhered to by European states also serve to facilitate the political mandate of political action and support in respect to culture and are inextricably linked to the democratic system and ethos and to the rule of law. Not accidently, these three interdependent elements comprise precisely the Council of Europe's mandate and overall mission.
By Peter Duelund
Discussions on identity, the nation-state and cultural policy as well as questions addressing globalisation and nationalism are often presented as closely interrelated. Everywhere in the world people are protesting the de-territorialising effects of globalisation and call for a revitalisation of nationalism as a defence against a possible loss of identity. Strengthening national or social cohesion as an answer to migration and multicultural challenges is argued as vitally important in the current national debates on social and cultural issues.