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Poland/ 8.4 Amateur arts, cultural associations and civil initiatives  

8.4.3 Associations of citizens, advocacy groups, NGOs and advisory panels

Citizens of Culture

Citizens of Culture is an informal and open movement aimed at increasing funds for culture, at least to 1% of the state budget, and changing the rules of management and financing of culture.

The "1% for culture" was first formed as a social postulate in 2009 at the Culture Congress in Cracow. Attention was paid then to the critical condition of readership in Poland and the need to work on including culture and art in the general education programmes, as well as the requirement to change the public media and their financing. Obywatelski Komitet Mediów Publicznych (Citizens Committee for Public Media) was established in order to prepare a social draft of an Act on Public Media. Also Obywatelskie Forum Sztuk Wizualnych (Citizens Forum of Visual Art) and Obywatelskie Forum Dostępu do Książki (Citizens Forum of Access to Book) were established.

The main postulates of the Citizens of Culture movement have been formed and included in the Pact for Culture, announced on 11 December 2010. Up to the end of March 2011, the Pact was a subject of social consultations. It was supported by a few hundred Polish artists, culture managers and animators as well as nearly 100 thousand citizens. On 14 May, at noon, in the National Museum, the agreement was signed by the government, represented by the Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, and the Citizens of Culture represented among others by: Agnieszka Holland (film director), Katarzyna Kozyra (artist), Krzysztof Warlikowski (theatre director), Krzysztof Krauze (film director), Piotr Frączak (the Polish National Federation of NGOs) and Jerzy Hausner (economist).

The signing of the Pact was widely commented on by cultural circles and media. It was emphasised that the Pact was the first social agreement between the public authorities and citizens since the August Agreements of 1980. The Prime Minister stated that "The Pact is the triumph of culture over the authorities." According to the Pact the state is obliged to ensure equal access to culture, particularly in towns and villages to prevent cultural exclusion. This requires improvement of cultural competences of the citizens as well as defending the freedom of speech and art. The government obliged itself to make works of art owned by the state accessible to a wide audience and to finance the annual purchase of copyright for especially important works in order to popularise them in the public domain.

On 5 July 2011, the Team of the Pact for Culture was established as an auxiliary body of the Prime Minister. It aims at elaboration of the implementation of the Pact for Culture. The team is conducted by Minister Michał Boni and Beata Chmiel – leader of the Citizens of Culture movement and president of National Museum in Warsaw. The team includes 6 thematic groups: on legislation and procedures, on cultural education and readership, on public media and the public sphere, on equal access to public funds, on reform of cultural institutions and on EU and EEA funds. On 16 October 2012, members of the Team of the Pact for Culture met again. During that meeting programmes and activities already started under the Pact for Culture, and those currently created, were discussed. Citizens of Culture showed that as a result of social actions on behalf of "1% for Culture" and the commitments stated in the Pact for Culture the spending on culture in the state budget increased from 2.47 billion in 2011 to 2.89 billion in 2012. Yet the state budget project for 2013 involves an increase in funding by only 42.5 million. It was agreed, among others, to extend the work of the Standing Committee and Local Government for issues related to culture and cultural education and to establish a Subcommittee on culture. Citizens of Culture also pointed out the need for changing the law concerning the management and financing of culture in Poland. The issue of the law on public media was also raised.

The most controversial statement of the Pact concerned increasing public expenditure on culture to at least 1% of the state budget. Finally the government declared that this level will be achieved in 2015, yet it is unclear how it will be counted (especially in the case of national input to projects realised with the support of EU funds). The only demand that was withdrawn before signing was to constitute the possibility of a 1% tax exemption for legal entities (CIT) for the purpose of supporting cultural activity (a similar mechanism for private persons works already for several years). Instead the government will elaborate a system for encouraging private companies to support culture.

The recent initiative of Citizens of Culture movement is called "Monitor kultury polskich miast" (Monitoring of Culture in Polish Cities). The idea is connected with the ECoC 2016 contest. According to the open letter published on 22 June 2011, the Citizens of Culture established a team to work on monitoring local authorities and supporting residents of cities nominated for the title. It will concern implementation of the projects contained in the bids.

The Pact for Culture became a basis and model for agreements between citizens and local authorities. So far agreements have been signed in Bydgoszcz, Warsaw, Cracow, Lodz, Olsztyn and Poznan also declared they will introduce similar solutions.

For more information see the official website:

The Council of Non-governmental Culture Organisations

In March 2007, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage established the Council of Non-governmental Culture Organisations. The Council is a consultative and advisory body for the Minister. The Main aims of the Council are to submit proposals and opinions on directions and collaboration forms between the Ministry and the NGOs as well as judgement of legal acts important for NGOs operating in the cultural sector. The Council is also to prepare the proposals for the use of European Funds in the culture sector. However, many NGO workers are disappointed as this body is composed of representatives of big associations representing the interests of particular creative disciplines and artistic unions. Research organisations and innovative non-governmental projects were neglected within the process of the council's establishment. The council's activity can hardly be noticed and no comprehensive information on its actions is presented by the ministerial sources.

Many non-governmental organisations and institutions act for the benefit of local societies. They aim at increasing the level of participation in culture and activation of citizens through raising awareness and knowledge as well as supporting creativity. The examples below are to show the diversity of the actions.

The Association of the Creative Initiatives "ę"

The association operates since 2002. It has implemented social projects focused on education and development of youth through art. It is active both in Warsaw and in smaller cities and villages. The association cooperates with citizens, carries out research on cultural institutions (e.g. publication "ZOOM on cultural houses") and initiates debates and discussions. It activates not only young creative people but also seniors and engages in inter-generational dialogue (e.g. project "Seniors in action").

Artnet – integration of cultural organisations

Between 1 September 2008 and 31 December 2009 the Veno's Studio, an enterprise acting in the field of cultural industries, implemented a project of the network of NGOs operating both in urban and rural areas in Śląskie Province. The project was co-founded in the framework of the European Social Fund (Human Capital Programme). It aims at increasing effectiveness of cultural organisations, especially in rural areas, in the field of equal participation in creating local and provincial cultural policy through integration, networking and professionalisation. The local trade coalition was created and connections and exchange of information between organisations were strengthened. NGO employees could benefit from training and counselling in the field of professional management.

Advocacy Groups

There are multiple advocacy groups functioning in Poland, e.g.: Polish Filmmakers' Association; Polish Music Council; Polish Composers' Union; Polish Performing Artists' Union; Polish Visual Artists' Union; Polish Folk Artists' Association; Polish Writers' Union and The Authors' Society. Their main purpose is to associate artists, authors and creators of different professions, to take care of their interests, promote their branches and manage copyright issues etc.

Social Dialogue Commission for Culture in Warsaw

The Social Dialogue Commissions are created by the non-governmental organisations and the City Authorities according to the "Cooperation Programme". The role of the Commission is to act as an initiative and advisory body for City Authorities as well as opinion making for major legal acts considering the functioning of NGOs, setting up action programme priorities of collaboration between the NGOs and the City and nomination of councils' experts responsible for decisions of grants giving bodies. Participation in the Commission's meetings is open to all NGO representatives.

Department of Proposals – Brainstorming for Warsaw

In the framework of the "Warsaw under Construction" Festival, organised by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, a Department of Proposals has been established – an open session for the inhabitants of Warsaw, where participants can freely present their proposals for the city. Professionals and amateurs, activists and theoreticians, dreamers and engineers, representatives of organisations and unaffiliated enthusiasts are welcome to introduce their ideas. All proposals are considered by the participants of the Festival – including those who have real power to influence the decisions made in the city: journalists and city public servants. Meetings are held every Thursday in the Museum's auditorium.

Chapter published: 20-08-2015

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