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In 2017, the current Minister of Culture in Flanders has integrated attention for intercultural participation in regular policies.

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Belgium/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

Flemish Community

Culture is officially a competence of the Flemish Community, and of the cities and municipalities. Whereas all integration- and poverty-related issues are managed on a federal or regional level. Therefore, cultural policies – and socio-cultural policies in particular - can only partially address the challenges that cultural diversity offers a society.

Interculturalisation in the cultural sector is mainly seen as policy processes on different tracks referred to as the "3 P's": Participation, Personnel & Programming. On the Flemish level, interculturality is anchored in all decrees and it is a basic principle for the Flemish government as a whole. Government subsidised organisations are invited to not only reflect on interculturality but also to declare a clear position and implement an action programme.

Different Ministers of Culture developed different strategies to stimulate the cultural sector to be more culturally diverse.

Bert Anciaux (2004-2009) once stated: “Society will be intercultural, or will not be.” In 2006 he introduced an Interculturalisation Action Plan with a top-down approach that made use of quotas and the earmarking of resources. For instance, it formulated criteria for staff, management and governance of a number of institutions and stimuli to promote the diversity of cultural production and the installation of a knowledge centre for interculturalisation in the Flemish Ministry for Culture. It implied a triple action towards more diversity for culture and for the arts:

  • working towards intercultural participation;
  • working towards a more intercultural programming;
  • diversity on the work floor and the boards of cultural institutions.

His successor, Minister Joke Schauvliege (2009-2014), changed tactics in 2009. She followed a bottom-up strategy, encouraging organisations to make a declaration of commitment to diversity. The revision of the Flemish Parliament Act on the Arts  created the chance to implement cultural diversity as one of the criteria of evaluation for arts organisations to get structural funding. Every arts organisation applying for structural funding has to answer several questions concerning their strategy and vision towards the implementation of societal and cultural diversity in their artistic programme, audience and staff.

In 2017, the current Minister of Culture Sven Gatz has integrated attention for intercultural participation in regular policies. His Policy Paper for 2014-2019 mentions the importance of cultural participation in a superdiverse society.  However, no specific policy frameworks have been developed. Rather, it is a point of attention in all policy matters. For instance, a lot of attention went to the diverse composition of the assessment committees for the Flemish Parliament Act on the Arts, giving places to young professionals with ethnic diverse backgrounds.

At the same time the field slowly continues to evolve. In the arts, the explicit evaluation criteria in the Flemish Parliament Act on the Arts proves to be a stimulus for organisations to take action, while also gradually more artists and art workers with diverse background claim their position.

French-speaking Community of Belgium

With cultural policy being organised on a Community basis by reference to cultural and linguistic affiliation, the question of cultural minorities is viewed here from the point of view of the cultural minorities formed by communities of foreign or immigrant origins.

According to 2010 statistics, foreigners make up 9.76% of Belgium’s total population. In Wallonia itself, the figure is 9.47%, which is close to the average. In Brussels, however, it is 30.02%.

In 2010, the foreign population in Wallonia breaks down as follows: 7.28% are from countries which are members of the European Union, and 2.19% from outside the EU. In Brussels, the corresponding figures are 19% and 11%. Across Belgium as a whole, the largest numbers among the non-EU population originate from Morocco (0.76% of the total population), Turkey (0.36%) and Congo (0.16%).

Cultural operators representing cultural minorities and artists living in Wallonia or Brussels, irrespective of their origin or nationality, have access to various types of support provided by decrees and regulations. However, these operators do report repeated difficulty in accessing these entitlements and these offerings, and this public does find it hard to make the switch to becoming operators.

Recognising and valuing populations’ cultural diversity requires specific mechanisms which develop gradually, mainly in the form of calls for projects. These mechanisms are designed to promote a dynamic of associations within immigrant circles; to develop and value their expressions, their cultures, their histories and their various heritages; to develop their participation in social and cultural life in Wallonia and Brussels, and to provide a showcase for their expressions and their creations. Particular attention is paid to the expression of the intercultural and intergenerational dimension of these social and cultural groups.

It is equally important to stress that the youth and continuing education sectors, and Cultural Centres, focus on the effectiveness of the exercise of fundamental rights, including cultural rights, and in particular access to culture and cultural participation by socially excluded people and social groups: a large number of associations base their issues and activities around the development and expression of minority cultures or the defence of the rights, issues and cultures of minority or marginalised populations, or those in an insecure situation.

Broadly speaking, priorities are laid down in all sectors, in order to attach value to the new forms of cultural and intercultural expression which are emerging as populations and cultural and artistic practices hybridise.

Specific credits, shared across several sectors (culture, education, youth, early years) are managed jointly to support projects by associations, schools or public players to develop projects in socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods and municipalities.

These projects relate to school support, learning French, literacy, social cohesion, educational and learning support, cultural action, the collective memory, intercultural dialogue, the expression of cultural diversity and equal opportunities and combatting discrimination.

When it comes to broadcasting, the RTBF (public service radio and TV broadcaster) and all the local TV stations (local editors of public TV services) must ensure, when drawing up their content offer, that the quality and diversity of the programmes available will engage the widest possible audiences, and serve as a factor for social cohesion while meeting the expectations of the socio-cultural minorities and allowing space to reflect the various schools of thought in society without discrimination, in particular in cultural, racial, sexual, ideological, philosophical or religious terms, and without social segregation.

German-speaking Community

Whether one speaks of minor urban or rural districts in the German-speaking Community, many places are seeing a high number of incomers from non-European states. However, the situation varies from borough to borough, so that each has developed its own measures, which are both social and e.g. cultural in nature.

For its part, the German-speaking Community supports initiatives by private-sector associations to advance integration. Above all in the area of continuing and adult education, recognised organisations have constructed a varied and comprehensive offering that includes literacy courses, language programmes, international events and more.

Chapter published: 16-01-2018

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