4.2.8 Social cohesion and cultural policies
The objectives of the new cultural policy in Germany largely reflect requirements and aims corresponding to the Council of Europe's definition of "social cohesion". In addition, they are of increasing importance with respect to equality of cultural opportunities, cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue.
In this context, the 1999 integrated Action Programme of the Federal Government and Länder, which has been given the title "Social Town" (Soziale Stadt), is also of interest. 260 cities and other local authorities are participating in 360 programme areas in order to counteract social and spatial division. Concrete areas of activity include "Urban District Culture"(Stadtteilkultur), "Social Activities and Social Infrastructure", as well as "Different Social and Ethnic Groups Living Together" (http://www.sozialestadt.de/programm). In 2006, North Rhine-Westphalia alone made 40 million EUR available for this programme.
Social Town Programme: The positive impact that culture and the arts have on the process of cultural integration and social cohesion is increasingly being acknowledged. Only a few local or Länder authorities, however, run concrete programmes and projects. Some Länder, such as North Rhine-Westfalia (NRW), have special funding programmes.
Local authorities (like Nürnberg or Stuttgart) and public or private cultural institutions (like cultural centres) continue to be the main actors in this field. On the other hand, public foundations take into account the social impact of culture and the arts. The Federal Cultural Foundation ("Shrinking Cities") and the Cultural Foundation of the Länder ("Kinder zum Olymp") may be highlighted in this aspect, both co-operating with civil society institutions. The cultural activities of the churches are also growing in significance.
Exchange of experiences and best practice between actors and institutions (also via the internet) helps to accelerate communication and adoption of new ideas and conceptions. Addressing audiences, especially those rather remote from the arts, is at the heart of projects that have a major concern with social cohesion. Experiments such as employing artists in public schools (NRW) or projects by theatres or orchestras working in social contexts, such as town districts, residential homes for elderly people, hospitals etc., are examples which are seen as both innovative and effective. There has been a certain revival of social and cultural ideas of the seventies and eighties, where cultural policy had a focus on the social impact of culture and arts as it is expressed with the term "Socialculture" ("Soziokultur").
Themes linked to a value-based cultural policy are – among others – being discussed in the so-called "guiding culture" debate ("Leitkultur"-Debatte). This has an impact on the formation of public opinion. Themes like trust, respect, appreciation etc. play a major role here. Discussion, however, is only just starting. A debate, which is already more advanced, concerns topics like voluntary work, empowerment, participation, etc. Another focus of research and debate has been on the question of whether it is necessary to promote social cohesion more so than what is prescribed in the Constitution and laws of the country; the latter stating the values of society including the tradition of Christianity and Enlightenment. The initiative for the recent debate was taken by the president of the Federal Parliament Norbert Lammert.