A new Committee on the Benefits of Culture has been invited to recommend ways to link the cultural sector and other societal sectors, including funding opportunities.
Recent years have seen changes in the approach taken to international cultural policies, including closer links with other national policy fields, broadening the scope of target countries and allowing a cultural sector specific approach.
3.2 Overall description of the system
Public governance in the Netherlands is organised in a 3 tier system: central government, provincial government and municipal government. In each, a system of dual responsibility prevails: parliament, county councils and local councils have the right to amend the financial and governmental works of the Cabinet, Provincial Deputies and of the Mayor and Aldermen. In everyday cultural policy life, initiatives are taken by the governing bodies, in most cases after consulting the official advisory bodies. Parliament and councils are required to give their consent to these initiatives (or not) after public discussion. Discussing and fixing the budget for the coming year plays an important part in decision making.
In preparing and fixing regulations, laws and cultural policy programmes, central government takes the lead, although it covers only one third of all expenses related to art and culture. The main role of central government in this field is responsibility for the subsidised arts and cultural institutes and companies.
Central government subsidises several heritage institutions, symphonic orchestras, opera and dance companies, and sector institutes. As well as the arts and cultural heritage, central government is also responsible for the national public broadcasting system.
Municipalities and provinces allocate almost two thirds of the national budget on arts and culture and are responsible for distribution and mediation between local and regional supply and demand. The majority of Dutch museums are financially dependent on municipalities. Public cultural facilities like libraries are decentralised in the Netherlands. Central government only supports libraries by funding an expertise centre.
In order to understand the Dutch cultural policy system, it is important to bear in mind four key issues:
The relationship between state and other levels of government
In the early 1970s, a debate began concerning the issue of decentralisation. In the 1980s, the division of roles and tasks between state, provinces and municipalities was reconsidered, in order to increase the efficiency of public cultural policy. A system of mixed responsibilities came to an end and the state took full responsibility for maintaining symphony orchestras, including regional orchestras, and performing arts groups with a national reach. Apart from a small number of state museums, museums in general were placed under the responsibility of municipalities and provinces. The same applied to libraries and archives.
In the decentralisation process, in the 1980s, the provinces were given the task of spreading, regulating and maintaining the supply of culture at provincial level. The municipalities bore responsibility for maintaining the various venues and facilities and for scheduling performances. In practice, however, this division of tasks was not always applicable and centralisation and decentralisation tendencies became intertwined.
Since the end of the 1990s, municipalities and provinces are partners in a number of national cultural policy programmes. Since 1997, joint financing agreements between central government, regions and cities have been made for shared activities. These are mostly implemented by institutions, but shared responsibility is also taken in specific participation policy schemes. The partners involved are the 8 covenant partners, as they are called, including the 3 largest cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague and 5 clusters of provinces and larger cities: Central Netherlands [Midden Nederland], Northern Netherlands, Eastern Netherlands, Southern Netherlands and Western Netherlands.
Now, in the 21st century, the 3 public authorities (state, provinces and municipalities), more than ever, emphasise the importance of programmatic cooperation, resulting in 4-year agreements, sealed by covenants.
The 3 public authorities bear combined responsibility for the visual arts and design system, meaning infrastructure of the sector and a relationship between supply and distribution. The instrument they use is the Visual Arts and Design Funding scheme [Geldstroom Beeldende Kunst en Vormgeving]. Through this channel, 14 selected municipalities receive targeted funding. Strengthening regional dynamics has the most chance of success in areas that can independently attract both artists and the public (audiences, buyers and commissioners). 9 cities have been selected on the grounds of this potential. This includes: bases for art education institutions, galleries, art lending centres, museums and studios, etc., which have established positions in national and international networks. Besides these cities, 5 municipalities are eligible for funds that are specifically linked to the development and growth of artists and designers. The provinces use the Visual Arts and Design Funding scheme to identify and facilitate regional developments. In consultation with local authorities, they ensure that the required means are concentrated in those cities and institutions, which contribute to the strengthening of an infrastructure for visual arts and design. The scheme will end in 2008.
The Minister of Culture and the umbrella organisations for the provinces (IPO Culture -Interprovinciaal Overleg Cultuur) and municipalities (Association of Netherlands Municipalities - Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten, VNG) have an official agreement (2006) to streamline consultation concerning the cultural policy plan, and on the outline for the proposed finances. This outline concerns policy priorities, the distribution of finances over the cultural sectors, funds and programmes. The elaboration of all this is to be found in the subsidy plan, the cultural covenants and programmes, which bear regional and local accents.
For every 4-year cultural policy plan, consultation between the Minister of Culture and umbrella organisations takes place. In the context of the subsidy plan, they also formulate agreements on the maintenance, strengthening or further development of the organisations receiving subsidies on a national level, on the financial means in that connection and on functions and activities. These agreements are recorded in covenants.
Matters that deal with linking central government policy to the policies of provinces and municipalities are discussed at least once a year.
The role of advisory committees
The original principle of the Dutch government is to remain neutral in assessing arts issues. The government is expected to focus solely on policy issues, which is the reason why the government leaves decision making about the arts mainly to various committees of independent experts.
The Council for Culture [Raad voor Cultuur] is a separate body that cooperates with the government on formulating policy. While the government is (since 1997) not obliged to consult the Council, a healthy amount of cooperation remains between government and the Council. In 2007, the Council for Culture presented the Dutch government recommendations for the cultural policy agenda in the coming years (2009-2012) under the title: Innovate, participate! [Innoveren, participeren!].
Advisory bodies also exist at municipal and provincial levels including, for example, the Amsterdam Arts Council. At the provincial level, there are several cultural councils, whose tasks are usually advisory but which are occasionally involved in consultations, supply and demand mediation, support and public information activities.
The Minister of Culture frequently appoints external committees and private consultants to advise on politically and administratively charged reorganisation issues. In the 1980s, for instance, special committees were appointed to advise on restructuring the state policy on theatre, dance and music. Recently, committees were created to advise the government on claims from private families to return paintings and other art treasures that became state property after World War II (see chapter 4.3). Another committee, installed by the Minister of Culture, was invited to advise on the shape and content of a cultural canon (see chapter 4.2.7). The Committee on the Benefits of Culture [Commissie Cultuurprofijt], installed in 2007, has been invited to give recommendations on the way in which bridges can be built between the cultural sector and other societal sectors, and what possibilities there are to enlarge the (financial) involvement in arts and culture.
Members of minority groups are presented in all kinds of advisory committees, usually on the basis of personal qualities and expertise.
Since 1997, minority organisations are represented by the National Ethnic Minorities Consultative Committee [Landelijk Overleg Minderheden, LOM]. The minorities represented in LOM are the Chinese, Turk, South European, Caribbean, Surinam and Moroccan communities, as well as political refugees. Within the committee, they represent the interests of their members, and formally discuss policy matters concerning minority groups with the Cabinet 3 times a year. Besides the Minister for Immigration and Integration, other Cabinet members also participate in LOM, if necessary.
To be eligible to enter LOM, an organisation must adhere to certain criteria: (1) the board of the organisation must include women and second generation minority representatives; (2) the organisation must have a good working relationship with other organisations that represent the same minority; (3) the organisation must prove that it has enough experience in matters related to integration policy.
Each minority group may be represented in LOM by 1 organisation only.
The role of funding bodies in the arts
There are several public and semi-public cultural Funds that have traditionally supported the arts. The responsibility of national government goes no further than furnishing money and determining the specific conditions under which the Funds must operate. The parliament has the final word when it comes to the size of the budget. Some examples are the Dutch Foundation for Literature, the Mondriaan Foundation [Mondriaan Stichting] and the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture. At present, the Council for Culture [Raad voor Cultuur] evaluates these public cultural Funds every 4 years (for a complete list of public cultural Funds, see chapter 8.1.2).
Law-based regulations for planning cultural policy
In 1993, the Cultural Policy Act was introduced (Special Purpose Funding) [Wet op het specifiek cultuurbeleid]. This Act determines aspects of cultural policy, such as the government's obligation to submit a cultural policy plan to parliament every 4 years. This 4-year plan outlines activities for the forthcoming period, as well as reviewing achievements from the previous period. Furthermore, it regulates the government's option to issue subsidies to provinces and municipalities.
In 2005, Secretary of State Medy van der Laan initiated a political discussion on the 4 year system. The secretary's policy paper titled Making a Difference [Verschil maken] proposed a redistribution of institutions in the subsidy system. In the plan, the status of middle sized institutions is not expected to change. The smaller ones - theatre companies, music ensembles - are to be taken out of the advisory channel of the Council for Culture [Raad voor Cultuur] and placed within the regime of Public Cultural Funds. The larger institutions (state funded museums, orchestras and - proposed by Parliament - larger dance companies) should be placed in an almost ever lasting relationship (30 years) with the central government, requiring a periodical audit undertaken by an international audit commission.
On 2 June 2006, the State Secretary sent a policy paper to Parliament further refining her intention to bring about structural changes to the cultural policy-making system, as set out previously in her policy document Making a Difference [Verschil maken]. Reasons for adapting the system include the expanding number of applications for government subsidy of the last few years and the continuing elaboration of procedures that weigh on the system. Under the motto "at arms length where possible, but involved where necessary", several changes are being made to the system, which became considered as too complicated and bureaucratic.
The parliamentary discussion that took place on 16th October 2006 led to the following decisions: subsidy requests from smaller cultural institutions and companies will indeed no longer make up part of the 4-year cultural policy document (planning) cycle, but are submitted to the Public Cultural Funds. These Funds will be empowered organisationally, in order to meet their extended responsibilities. More generally, a rearrangement of cultural institutions will be made, redesigning the dividing line between institutions that will belong to the basic infrastructure. The Council for Culture had to produce an analysis of the cultural sector, defining what makes up the cultural infrastructure: Innovate, participate! [Innoveren, participeren!, 2007]. To allow this operation, the Cultural Policy Act (Special Purpose Funding) [Wet op het specifiek cultuurbeleid, 1993] needed an amendment, which was passed in 2007, under the current Minister of Culture, Ronald Plasterk. The starting point of the amendment was the distinction between functions under the direct and indirect responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. As of 2009: