Social cohesion has traditionally been a strategic goal of Hungarian cultural policy. Strategies to involve culture in the struggle for increased social cohesion are traditionally centred on “közművelődés“: socio-cultural activities and institutions – see chapter 6.4.
In the absence of a significant number of immigrants, social cohesion is conceived in terms of poverty, unemployment, a low level of education, as well as territorial inequalities. This latter is manifested in burning issues like uneven regional development, the accumulation of employment opportunities in the capital, and income distribution inequality. Statistically, theatre, cinema and classical music attendance figures show a particular divide between the capital and the countryside. Exceptions are when habitants in the countryside benefit just as much or even more from cultural advantages, libraries and cultural community houses. Data from the Central Statistical Bureau about household expenditure clearly indicate that inhabitants of Budapest spend more on recreation and culture than inhabitants in other regions. These facts were uppermost in the decision of the government to choose a provincial city, Pécs, to be the first European Capital of Culture in Hungary for the year 2010.
The National Social Inclusion Strategy – Extreme Poverty, Child Poverty, the Roma – (2011-2020) identifies the following key elements for improvement in the life of Roma: education, employment, health, and housing. “Culture, development of cultural and sport services” makes a smaller part of the strategy. “In conjunction with education, cultural institutions, museums and libraries operate a number of programmes relevant to social inclusion which serve to reduce cultural disadvantages and school drop-out rates.” The Strategy focuses more on internet and digital access than actual interpersonal cultural events and gatherings organised for Roma and non-Roma. “They (i.e. disadvantaged children and young people) should acquire and develop their digital literacy in a sophisticated IT environment in libraries and should acquaint themselves with the use of electronic databases in an informal learning environment.” Furthermore, “On a micro-regional level, the objective is to create community centres, social workshops and training centres which help the Roma enter the realm of learning and work.” (http://ec.europa.eu/justice/discrimination/files/roma_hungary_strategy_en.pdf)
Civil organisations apply for regular funding from the National Cooperation Fund (NEA). Several large organisations, mainly connected to human rights and freedom and connected internationally, receive their basic funding from EEA Norwegian NGO Fund (https://norvegcivilalap.hu/en) for Hungary. From spring 2014 the government exerted pressure on this scheme, starting with a spectacular police raid on one of the offices. Activities of a few civil organisations operating in the socio-cultural sector have been unstable since. Some of them fight for social cohesion via cultural projects.
In 2014 the new Cultural State Secretary initiated the Round Table of “Cultural Basic Provision” (Kulturális Ellátás Kerekasztala) so that quality culture reaches the broadest possible audiences all around the country with special attention for small villages in the countryside. The Round Table entails representatives of twenty expert organisations.
The 2014-2020 EU-Hungary Partnership Agreement foresees the involvement of civil cultural organisations in rural development projects in the most underprivileged areas. The Strategy aims to improve access to good quality public services, including cultural services that help combat social inclusion.