In the Netherlands, provinces as well as municipalities are responsible for the implementation of their own cultural policies. The central government is responsible for the financial and the legislative framework, while the provinces take responsibility for regional distribution and the maintenance of institutions beyond municipal borders. They are also responsible for the accessibility of arts education facilities in the provincial regions. Because they oversee the cultural interactions between their level and the municipalities, they view themselves as the ‘broker’ in between (as summarised by the Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (IPO) in their 2005 pamphlet Choices in Cultural Policy).
According to the IPO, their provincial tier is the most flexible when it comes to allocating funds and appointing instruments, as opposed to the central government and the municipalities which mostly anchor their investments in national funds, cultural institutions and local facilities. When it comes to providing subsidies, Dutch provinces supply means to cultural initiatives that move beyond regional interest, as they actively support the promotion of regional cultural identities at an (inter)national level. Provinces also monitor the connection of culture to other policy fields, such as spatial planning, the cultural and creative industry and social policies. For regional broadcasting policy, see chapter 2.5.3.
The framework for policy coordination between the three government tiers is laid down in the General Framework for Intergovernmental Relations with Respect to Culture (2012). The framework includes joint principles concerning cultural heritage and cultural education and is based upon consultation between the umbrella organisation for the provinces, the Association of Provinces of the Netherlands (Interprovinciaal Overleg, IPO), the umbrella organisation for the municipalities (the Association of Netherlands Municipalities, or Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten, VNG) and the central government.
The framework includes policy priorities and the distribution of finances over the cultural sectors, funds and programmes. It forms the basis for the development of the cultural covenants between the partners involved and elaborates on the division of tasks between the three governmental tiers. All matters that deal with linking central government policy to the policies of the provinces and municipalities are discussed on an annual basis.
In recent years, the Dutch government has been focused on decentralising its tasks by funding cultural amenities spread across the western, northern, eastern, southern and central regions, as well as those in the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. In the near future, the focus will be on intensifying the cultural policy cooperation between central government and other levels of government, in particular the nine main cultural centres (the G9; Amsterdam, Arnhem, Eindhoven, Enschede, Groningen, Maastricht, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht).
National and regional synchronisation
Late 2017, the Council for Culture advised Minister Van Engelshoven to add a third cultural policy component to the national basic infrastructure and the cultural funds: the RIS (regional cultural infrastructure). In reaction to this, Minister Van Engelshoven published the letter Culture in an open society in 2018, in which she asked the Dutch provinces, municipalities and regional institutions to collaborate on the creation of regional cultural profiles consisting of an overview of the ‘basis, chain and top’ cultural suppliers that enhance the region’s identity. With these profiles, the basic cultural infrastructure can better take into account the composition and the needs of the population, regional identity and the local climate for the makers and artists in the various disciplines: Cultuurbeleid 2021-2024 Stedelijke en regionale profielen (Cultural policy 2021-2014 Urban and regional profiles).These profiles were to include a SWOT-analysis of the regional cultural ecosystem as well as suggestions for programmes and funding. The regional profiles were submitted to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science late 2018 and will be assessed for the country’s cultural policy priorities in the 2021-2024 period. In the guidelines for the cultural policy in 2021-2024 (2019), Minister Van Engelshoven does not opt for constructing a RIS, but does stress the importance of a stronger cooperation and synchronisation between national and regional policy. To this purpose, she wants to expand the basic cultural infrastructure (see chapter 1.1).