Cultural Policy Research Campaigns

Founded as a project of the Council of Europe, the Compendium sees it as one of its tasks to represent and promote the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. As an information exchange and monitoring portal, the Compendium often sees the difficulty of scientific research and processes not being able to adapt immediately to our fast and ever-changing world. But at a time when one crisis follows another and human rights are being curtailed all over the world, it is crucial to raise awareness of different perspectives, values and approaches – and to be able to do so instantly.

When the COVID 19 crisis erupted, the Compendium initiated the first research campaign to identify the impact on the European cultural sector and its policies. This initiative led to more than 30 country members publishing a “COVID 19 Update Report” monitoring the crisis management of their respective countries. The aim was to quickly share and compare experiences in order to speed up adaptation processes in case of further pandemic waves.

After the WHO announced the end of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the board of the Compendium Association described freedom of artistic expression as a fundamental element of cultural policy for the preservation of a democratic, healthy and free society. Based on the current Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Compendium sees an increase in populist and anti-democratic tendencies in observed European cultural policies. Therefore, the Compendium, as well as all other art and cultural actors, should constantly point out the importance of freedom of artistic expression in order to preserve the right to raise one’s opinion freely.

Silencing Dissent? – On barriers to freedom of artistic expression

Cultural Policy Research Campaign 2023

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers,” states Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Although this right has existed for more than two decades, Karima Bennounce (2018) noted that the exercise of these rights has recently been threatened in the cultural sphere, “by those who advocate various forms of domination and discrimination, as well as by various populists, fundamentalists and extremists.” This prompted the Compendium team and the board of the Compendium Association to look at the framework conditions and current challenges in the cultural sector. Inevitably, the question arose to what extent cultural policy still values and upholds the freedom of artistic expression. This question led, among other questions, to the focus of this year’s cultural policy research campaign “Silencing Dissent? – On Barriers to Freedom of Artistic Expression“. The campaign invites the sector to take a critical look at the status quo of today’s freedom of artistic expression and to have an open exchange about the barriers that limit the creative diversity of artists.

This initiative sends a warning signal regarding our European and democratic values of free (artistic) expression, cultural diversity and freedom of development. This signal is important in times of societal pressures “that force people into certain worldviews, belief systems and cultural practices [that] pose a threat to human rights and cultural rights in particular” (Bennoune, 2018). The coordinating team asked Andreas Joh. Wiesand, co-editor of the 2016 handbook “Culture and Human Rights – The Wroclaw Commentaries,” to write an introduction to this task. It is published in the Compendium as a series of four articles highlighting the main instruments and stakeholders and exploring various barriers related to freedom of artistic expression (e.g. political climate, censorship, social and community pressures). In order to open a debate and not just inform, the Compendium will invite the general public to participate in various interactive formats (e.g. webtalks, online surveys, interview screenings) in addition to publishing the above-mentioned reports on the topic. An expert survey is planned during 2023, the results of which will also feed into the debates at the Compendium conference in Malta.