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Sweden/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

Sweden is a unitary state with certain autonomy for local and regional governments guaranteed by its Instrument of Government (one of its Fundamental Laws). In total, the national government provides 45% of public expenditure on culture. Local governments, municipalities, are mainly responsible for public libraries, and for music and culture schools. The role of regional governments in cultural policy has historically been limited, but is now increasing, both by their own initiatives and by reforms in national cultural policy.

Description of the main actors in Swedish cultural policy:

The Parliament (Riksdagen) legislates and decides on the national budget, including the general policies, and provisions for government agencies (including some of the major cultural institutions). The national government's principal responsibility within cultural policy is proposing legislation and the national budget, as well as co-ordinating and long-term planning cultural policy via the appropriate ministries and related bodies. The national government is elected by parliament, which is also responsible for the national budget and for legislation. Most of the practical work of the national government is carried out by government agencies. These have their own boards, appointed by the government, and receive formal instructions decided in government decisions within a framework decided by parliament.

The Ministry of Culture is responsible for the arts, cultural heritage, media, national minorities, civil society, and human rights, and democracy, as well as for policies against discrimination and racism. It prepares government bills concerning these areas, and co-ordinate government agencies. More than 40 government agenciesreport to the Ministry of Culture. The main agencies dealing with cultural policy are described in this chapter. Government agencies responsible to the Ministry of Culture include many of the more than 30 museums financed directly by the state. Directly responsible to the Ministry of Culture is also The Royal Opera and The Royal Dramatic Theatre. Through its grants to regional governments, the state supports a large number of regional museums, theatres and other cultural institutions.

The Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for education on all levels, including cultural education and education in the arts.

The Swedish Arts Council (Statens Kulturråd) is a government agency reporting to the Ministry of Culture. Its principal task is to implement the national cultural policy. The Council is responsible for:

  • the allocation of state cultural funding to theatre, dance, music, literature, arts periodicals and public libraries, and to the fine arts, museums and exhibitions;
  • providing the Swedish government with the basic data it needs to make cultural policy decisions, by evaluating state spending in the cultural sphere, etc.;
  • providing information on culture and cultural policy; and
  • approving regional cultural polies before allocating national funding to the regional level.

The National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) is a government agency reporting to the Ministry of Culture. It serves as Sweden's central administrative agency in the area of cultural heritage and historic environments. As the national coordinating agency, the National Heritage Board has overall responsibility for promoting the objectives of Sweden's heritage policy. Among the Board's activities are various initiatives to protect the historic environment, which includes the accumulation and dissemination of information, preservation, conservation, interagency coordination and archaeological activities. The National Heritage Board is responsible for heritage matters according to the Heritage Commemoration Act, the regulations on national building monuments, the Planning and Building Act, and the Environment Code (in matters concerning cultural reserves). It allocates financial resources to regional heritage agencies and acts as a national centre of expertise in the heritage field. From 2017, the National Heritage Board will be given increased responsibility for museum issues.

The National Archives (Riksarkivet)  is a government agency reporting to the Ministry of Culture.  It supervises all public records of the agencies of the central government, as well as the records generated by regional and local authorities. In line with the 2009 Government Bill on Culture, the regional archives, which were until then independent government agencies, have been merged into The National Archives to form a single government agency. The Military Archives, SVAR (Svensk Arkivinformation) and Arkion are parts of the National Archives.

The Swedish Agency for Cultural Analysis (Myndigheten för kulturanalys) was established in 2011 to gather information on arts and culture, follow relevant research, analyse information and evaluate cultural policy. It is also responsible for statistics within the area of cultural policy. It reports annually to the government.

The Royal Library (Kungliga biblioteket) is a government agency reporting to the Ministry of Education. It is responsible for the national library of Sweden, collecting all works published in the country, as well as a number of other categories of relevant material and media. While it is mainly responsible to the Ministry of Education and Research, it is also responsible for coordinating all public libraries in Sweden, most of which are municipal libraries. On this issue, The Royal Library reports to the Ministry of Culture.

The Sámi Parliament (Sametinget) is an elected body working under the Ministry of Culture and acting as a representative body for the Sámi people in Sweden. The Sámi Parliament supports professional skills development, as well as Sámi culture and language. The role of the Swedish Sámi Parliament is regulated in Swedish law and financed through the Swedish national budget. Similar Sámi parliaments also exist in Norway and Finland.

The Swedish Institute (Svenska Institutet, SI), together with the Swedish Arts Council, is responsible for supporting and initiating activities promoting international cultural exchanges (see chapter 3.4.2).

The Swedish Film Institute (Svenska Filminstitutet, SFI) is a foundation responsible for the promotion, support and development of Swedish film, the allocation of grants for the production, distribution and exhibition of Swedish films and the promotion of Swedish cinema at international level. Many of the SFI’s activities have previously been regulated by the Film Agreement, an agreement between the Swedish state and the film and media industry. From 2017, the SFI and government grants to film will be funded solely via the national budget and regulated by national cultural policy.

The Swedish Media Council (Statens Medieråd) is a government agency founded 1 January 2011, when the National Board of Film Classification was merged with former Swedish Media Council. Its objectives include reducing the risk of harmful media influences on minors and empowering minors as conscious media users.

The TV Authority is responsible for regulations on commercial and satellite transmis­sions. It is also the licensing and registration authority for local and similar radio stations, temporary transmissions and distribution by cable and satellite companies, and collects fees from local radio and commercial TV transmissions within Sweden.

The Arts Grants Committee (Konstnärsnämnden), The Authors' Fund (Författarfonden) and The National Public Arts Council (Statens konstråd) are agencies responsible for various kinds of grants to support authors and other artists (see chapter 8).

The County Administrative Boards (länsstyrelser)are21 government agencies representing the national government on the regional level on issues for which there is no other body of the national government on that level, including the natural environment and cultural heritage.Each County Administrative Board is headed by a governor (lands­hövding) appointed by the national government.

The County Councils, or regional governments (landsting), numbering 18, plus 2 specially regulated regions, are tax-levying authorities on the regional level headed by elected assemblies. They are mainly responsible for regional health services, but also provide support for regional theatres, orchestras, museums, and libraries (mainly county and hospital libraries). Under the Cultural Cooperation Model, (see chapter 4.1) each county council or other regional authority submits a culture plan for the region to the Swedish Arts Council. After this plan has been approved, the regional authority is granted government funding for the support of arts and culture in the region, including the regional cultural institutions.

Regional governments provide 15% of the total public expenditure on culture.

The Municipalities, or local governments (kommuner), numbering 290, are tax levying, local authorities headed by elected assemblies, i.e. local councils. They are legally obligated to fund at least one public library, but they also fund other cultural activities, such as culture and music schools, theatres, art galleries, museums and popular cultural education. Funding comes mainly from locally derived municipal income, mainly taxes (additional resources may include regional and / or central- government grants).

Local governments provide 40% of the total public expenditure on culture.

Chapter published: 15-05-2017

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