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France/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.2 National definition of culture

France recognises the legitimacy of the right to culture and the link between general development and cultural development, as stated in article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948: "Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits".

French government cultural policies approach the notion of culture in a far broader sense than the strict definition of the word would suggest, which, if adhered to, would be excluding, elitist and totalitarian. On the contrary, France's cultural policies are based on a far-reaching assignment and a universal vision of cultural phenomena.

This is clearly exposed in the Ministry of Culture's brief, which states: "The Ministry of Culture shall be responsible for making the major works of humankind accessible to the maximum number of people, with particular emphasis on French works." Accordingly, the Ministry administers a policy aimed at "protecting and developing all facets of cultural heritage, encouraging the creation of works of art and other creative works, and fostering the development of arts training and activities." (Decree n° 2012-776 of May 24th 2012, which is adapted from the "founding decree" of 1959).

France's current cultural policies have never claimed to "contain", "shape" or "be" culture. They do, however, have fixed aims: to foster creation; protect national heritage; develop cultural industries; broaden access to cultural activities; to promote cultural diversity; and to support creation, both in the high arts and in emerging cultural expressions.

Moreover, France is a stakeholder of the main international agreements concerning cultural policies: European Cultural Convention, adopted in 1954 within the Council of Europe, the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and the other UNESCO conventions concerning the world material and immaterial heritage.

France is actively involved in the normalisation of common concepts that allow, at international scale, a better definition of the contents and the issues of cultural policies, and a better evaluation of these policies: UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics (FCS), Cultural Governance Observatory of the Council of Europe, and ESSnet-Culture network of European Culture Statistics.

In fact, the spectrum of national cultural intervention can vary: the Ministry of Culture conducts a policy for "technical and scientific culture", even though science is not a field of competence of the Ministry. The State policy for "religious dialogue" is not included in the domain of culture and neither is sport policy.

Chapter published: 08-05-2017

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