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A new Convention for a Dialogue on National Culture plans for closer cooperation between the various levels of the state.

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Switzerland/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

The two main elements of the Swiss (cultural) policy model are: federalism and subsidiarity.

For Swiss cultural policy, federalism means that measures are decided upon and implemented at a local and regional level, which are considered to be closer to the artists' and the publics' voices and their needs. Subsidiarity presupposes that the lowest, smallest or least centralised authority takes responsibility if possible. The respective higher levels, for instance, the cities, cantons, or the federal government, lend subsidiary support, which is primarily financial. This means that public resources for culture are provided first by the cities, and then subsidiarity by the cantons and the federal government. Furthermore, private sponsorship is almost conditional or a requirement in order to receive public grants. The private sector acts as a kind of guarantor, in that public funds will only be provided if matched by private funding.. Switzerland's cultural tapestry is a patchwork of twenty-six cantonal approaches rather than a single, national design.

Because of the flexibility of the Swiss model, there are some inherent difficulties such as the duplication or overlap of efforts. Concentrating cultural policy measures on a common goal is rather difficult and the elaboration of mid and long-term perspectives is quite a complex task (see  chapter 3.3). Particularly on the national level, discussions can take years and at times result in expensive compromises.

For this reason, the new Culture Promotion Act places great emphasis on precisely delimiting federal powers in comparison with those of the cantons, communes, and cities, which are primarily responsible for the promotion of culture. Under the new Act, the financial steering of the federal government's promotion of culture is effected by means of a four-year payment framework (Dispatch on Culture), and reads as a declaration of the cultural policy guidelines of the federal government.

On 25 October 2011, the federal government, cantons, cities, and communes signed a Convention for a National Dialogue on Culture. The Convention marks a first step toward the implementation of the Dispatch on Cultural, and is aimed at establishing closer cooperation between the various levels of the state in the future. It remains to be seen whether the enactment of the new Culture Promotion Act (which came into effect on 1 January 2012) and the associated strategic four-year periods will reduce the friction occurring to date.


Chapter published: 12-11-2014

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              Council of Europe/ERICarts, "Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe, 15th edition", 2014 | ISSN 2222-7334