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The Effects of the Financial Crisis: Grim but not hopeless?

A New Compendium Monitoring Tool


Monitoring_Cultural_Budgets(AJW) Societal and budgetary challenges triggered by the current economic crisis are bound to affect not only arts and heritage infrastructures or initiatives, but also political efforts to widen access to culture and to increase the participation of all citizens in a multifaceted cultural life. The important role arts, media and heritage activities can play for the social, educational and economic development of our societies may already be at risk, according to some observers. However, previous assessments did not show uniform trends: Until now it has been difficult to determine, at least in more exact – and comparable! – figures, whether and to what extent public cultural financing in Europe has really suffered from the crisis.

In order to better reflect and monitor these (potential) effects, the new comparative table E.2 on public funding of culture has been developed in the ERICarts Institute. The table will be constantly updated, based on more recent figures in national profiles.

Extracted mainly from the latest official statistics provided in many of the Compendium country profiles, data on public cultural expenditure per capita for 2000, 2005 and 2009-2011 as well as the latest ratios for culture budgets in total public expenditure and in GDP could be compiled.

In this context, per capita figures serve mainly as a "horizontal" indicator for national trends in times of crisis, while the overall budget and GDP-shares can provide "vertical" - and relatively neutral - yardsticks for comparative assessments of the strength of public involvement in culture.

Similar to the previous assessment, the results of this exercise show a differentiated picture: Clearly, we can see, in many countries, budget cuts as a result of the crisis. On the other hand, quite a number of state and city governments seem to be acting "countercyclical", possibly because they know that a diverse and productive cultural environment can raise the spirit of many citizens and will, at the same time, result in important tangible contributions towards overcoming the present difficulties faced by governments, civil society and economic players.

En route to a Practice of European and National "Culture-Related Impact Assessment" (CRIA)?

Legal and administrative proposals by Jörg Michael Schindler


The Council of Europe, due to its 1954 European Cultural Convention and related activities, can reflect upon a long history of assessing impacts of political, legal and socio-economic developments in the sphere of the arts, heritage and media.

Special projects or task forces and, more recently, its "National Cultural Policy Review Programme" (initiated in 1986 along the lines of the OECD Education System Reviews) and the monitoring tool "Compendium of Cultural Policies & Trends in Europe" (since 1998) usually team independent experts with representatives of governments in order to check current policies and practices or develop alternative solutions.

Within the framework of the European Union, such ideas took, and still take, much longer to gain ground: In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty first incorporated into the founding treaties of the EU a so-called "Cultural Awareness Clause" (now anchored again in Art. 167.4 TFEU). This could have been the moment to replace the historically-determined cultural blindness of the EU's institutions by an obligation to take into account cultural facts and problems in its policies and action.

The clause has a protective function and an active dimension. In recent years, the protective function has receded into the background of debates, although it promises more comprehensive, resource-friendly and enduring political and cultural effects. The reason for this is that the practical implementation of the protective function has so far remained an unsolved problem. As such, and in the face of an astonishingly perplexed corpus of administrative and legal theory, the practice of the EU institutions continues to lag far behind both the long-standing and current expectations of European citizens, particularly of those engaged in the cultural sector.

The now widespread practice of "Regulatory Impact Analyses" (OECD) and “Integrated Impact Assessmentsè (EU), which have been developed and refined during the last decades mainly for environmental, economic and social concerns, could turn out to be a remedy to the current ineffectiveness of Art. 167.4 TFEU's protective function. However, since systematic culture-related assessments are still more an exception than a rule on the European, national or local levels, the author has elaborated, in a new study[1], the model of a è˜Culture-Related Impact Assessment' process (CRIA). CRIA is easily justifiable in legal terms and can be described with considerable precision on the basis of existing administrative instruments.

In order to make this model accessible, via the Compendium, to a wider European and international public, the author has summarised its background and main components in an essay, which focuses on European perspectives.

Download here

[1] Jörg Michael Schindler: “Kulturpolitik und Recht 3.0 - Von der Kulturverträglichkeitsprüfung zur kulturbezogenen Folgenabschätzungè (Cultural Policy and Law 3.0 - from 'Cultural Compatibility' en route to Culture-Related Impact Assessment), Köln/Cologne 2011, ISBN 978-3-930395-87-3

New Challenges to the Landscape of Cultural Policies in Europe

A few thoughts by Robert Palmer (Council of Europe)


The Council of Europe, among its many functions, collects information and monitors developments in 50 European countries. All of our work in culture and heritage is related in some way to the theme of the right to culture framed as a human right. "Cultural rights" include, but are not limited to: rights to access to culture, participation in culture, and the right to freedom of expression. Particular attention is paid to the rights of minorities, and to approaches linked to the management of increasingly diverse communities in European societies.

Using the 'Compendium' and a great many other means of gathering information, we are trying to examine è˜macro-trends' that affect culture in Europe. To this effect, we have formed a special platform called è˜CultureWatch Europe' (see more under

From my perspective, the landscape for cultural policy in Europe is now very challenging. The focus seems to be on re-invention, re-engineering, reform - almost everywhere. These are positive words in abstract - but my concern reflects as well a few worrying signs and their implications in terms of implementation.

Let me mention a few of these:


I am aware of a growing resurgence of nationalism in cultural policies in Europe. Much debate is focusing on national identities, but also on the ways in which the cultures of minorities - migrants in particular - should be managed.

In many countries, priority appears to be given to revitalizing the national dimension of cultural policy - preoccupied in some cases with the protection of national heritage, often at the expense of contemporary creation. There is a clear prominence given to the export of national cultural products and an increased emphasis on cultural tourism and 'creative industries' as a means of promoting a nationally centered profile of a country.

There are clear and worrying threats posed by nationalistic tendencies in many states, especially when cultural policy is used as a basis for identity policy. We must watch particularly carefully the impact of these tendencies on the fragile cultures of our minority and migrant communities and, at the same time, continue with our efforts to promote the processes of a true intercultural dialogue.


We have been monitoring carefully the impact of a re-structuring of economies in Europe and the effects of the debt crisis and cuts to public expenditure.   It is still too early to determine the full impact of a potential re-shaping of public financing of culture, even if alarm bells are ringing everywhere.

It seems impossible to see the real picture only from the figures we are gathering. In fact, we cannot get many governments to provide those facts and figures we really need to evaluate and analyze the current position accurately and forecast likely future impacts. Therefore, much of the evidence gathered remains anecdotal.   It may be useful to focus on and begin to measure the impacts of change directly and indirectly caused by the changes of approaches to state financing of culture in further observations and research.


Going beyond facts and finance, the re-shaping of cultural policies as we know them are being significantly influenced by shifts in values and new processes of cultural production and dissemination: influences that are behavioural, environmental and digital.

Boundaries and barriers between forms and types of culture are eroding. The latest video games create new cultural experiences which may prove to be more powerful than the traditional means of involvement in culture.

Conventional ideas about distinctions between the work and value of cultural “professionalsè and “amateursè are becoming increasingly meaningless.

The economics of music and other artistic disciplines have been transformed. The notions of è˜cultural meaning' are being re-examined.


There seems to be an increasing emphasis on the 'mainstreaming of culture' - a term used regularly now by the European Union. Culture is linked to well-being and health; culture is used to address social cohesion and inclusion; culture has become a means of provoking the urban revitalization of cities and regions, and culture is now profoundly linked to processes of development.

Since this trend is connected to our societies as a whole, it would be illusionary to delegate their implementation mainly to artists and intellectuals - and even less to cultural policymakers. However, this mainstreaming is a powerful influence, which now makes conventional arguments about the “instrumentalisationè of culture redundant and reductive.


A final trend I want to mention is one that is associated with fundamental changes that are taking place as regards the models of governance in culture. This calls for a profound re-examination of the role of civil society in the management of culture. There is a break-down of state authority in many sectors and dimensions; this may, and should indeed, lead to a growing involvement of non-state actors. Which includes of course commercial interests in cultural industries. Such changes are leading to a turning point in how culture is controlled and managed, and which is provoking a profound debate about the reduced role of the state in developing and implementing cultural policy, and the impact of regulatory mechanisms of the state that influence the management of cultural goods and services and the protection of standards and rights.


Robert Palmer is the Director for Democratic Governance, Culture and Diversity of the Council of Europe. The text is largely based on his opening address to the International Congress on 'Active Cultural Participation in Europe', held 8th-10th June 2011 in Ghent on the occasion of the annual assemblies of the experts of the Council of Europe/ERICarts 'Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe' and the AMATEO network for active participation in cultural activities.

Terror and cultural policy. After the massacre in Norway


Immediately after the act of terrorism committed by a right wing extremist in Oslo and at Utà¸ya on 22.07.2011, Norway was shocked, terrified and almost paralysed. The initial shock was followed by deep feelings of grief and sorrow across political, ethnic and cultural divides, but also by a strong willingness to counter the terrorists' intent by a peaceful, united and tolerant response.
At first, people both in Norway and abroad believed that the terror had probably been executed by a Muslim extremist. Some non-ethnic Norwegians were consequently harassed immediately after the event. But very soon we learned that the perpetrator was "one of us", i.e. an ethnic Norwegian - more specifically a hefty and blond young man from the upper-class area of Oslo. This caused both relief and self-examination among us: A jihadist type of terror would probably have stigmatised ethnic minorities and aggravated cultural conflicts. When we learned that the aggressor was a lonely Norwegian Knight Templar, such conflicts could hardly arise. But we also had to realise that something is rotten in the state of Norway. It appeared that we had nourished a viper in our bosom.

How could this happen?

Even remote and peaceful Norway, this rich country - which stubbornly refuses to enter the European Union - had already experienced distinct ethnic conflicts and right-wing political expansion related to immigration during the last decades. Immigration to Norway has been quite modest. Most immigrants come from Sweden or other Western countries. They are all close and welcome neighbours. Even immigration from remote countries like Pakistan and Iraq has been quite smooth. Despite some significant exceptions, the integration of immigrants has been more successful in Norway than in many other Western countries.

During the last decades, however, criticism of Islam as well as Islamophobia grew stronger in Norway. Such ideas have had resonance in many circles. But it is particularly the right-wing/populist Progress Party (around 20 % of the electorate) that has fronted such opinions in the general public. It must be kept in mind, however, that the Norwegian Progress Party is a quite moderate and "decent" political party, compared to more extreme right-wing European parties, like the French National Front (le Pen), the Dutch Party for Freedom (Wilders) and the Austrian Freedom Party (ex: Heider). Nevertheless, political discussions around immigration have hardened lately, even in Norway. The most extremist discussions have expanded within the blogosphere, where among other things a conspiratorial Eurobia theory of an aggressive Islam that conquers the world has flourished. It is in these circles that the terrorist - Anders B. Breivik - has operated.

Can we already foresee some distinct cultural and cultural policy consequences of the event? It may be premature: It is easier to predict the effects upon general public debate both in Norway and Europe than specific cultural policy effects. But it is worth trying to sketch some possible scenarios for further discussion and reflection, including on regional and European platforms such as those provided by the Nordic Council and the Council of Europe:

  • Right-wing extremism and Islamophobia de-legitimised. To begin with, right-wing extremism and Islamophobia is certainly de-legitimised. It is of course more difficult than before to say or write in public in Norway that "Islam is secretly taking over the world" or that "Muslim invaders should be deported".
  • Liberty of expression limited? But it is also quite plausible that the urge for national unity and peace will threaten the liberty of expression: More moderate Islam critics and right-wing opinion leaders tend to deny any responsibility whatsoever for the event. They try to whitewash their previous statements and present themselves as "victims". They deplore that they are no longer allowed to criticise Norwegian immigration policy and the "Islamisation of the country" openly. Thus democratic freedom of expression is at stake, according to them. On the other side leftist and liberal critics are also criticised when they point at a possible relationship between Islamophobia and the act of terrorism. They should better restrict themselves from such extreme accusations. All in all the scope for public discussion may have become more limited after 22.07.2011.
  • The end of anonymity in the blogosphere? In public debate after 22.07.2011, there has been a particular focus on discussions in the blogosphere. The terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, was a frequent visitor and contributor to right-wing blogs. He also appears to have been inspired by several anonymous extremist contributors to such blogs (especially "Fjordman"). After the event many have asked whether anonymity should be banned in the blogosphere. Several people also have spoken in favour of more active editorial intervention and responsibility. Others have feared that such interventions would approach censorship and that it might limit the democratic liberty of expression of the common man.
  • Culture as an instrument to recover from 22.07.2011. In the cultural field there is a strong consensus about the beneficial effects of culture in general: Many cultural politicians and entrepreneurs contend that "more culture" may contribute to improve peoples' health, create economic growth and/or improve educational achievement. Could culture also become instrumental in addressing the effects of terrorism? Many advocates of cultural interests now claim that this is the case: People need music to recover from grief and sorrow; people need sport to re-establish a sense of national unity and optimism; people need museums to re-establish a sense of national identity. And it is true: It would not hurt.
  • Artistic works about the evil in our culture. Norwegian artists and intellectuals will probably also enter a process of cultural and national introspection and self-scrutiny: This terrorist was one of us. What is it in our proper culture that may engender such disastrous consequences? In the years to come we will probably encounter a lot of artistic works that address such issues.

The long term cultural and political consequences of this tragic event still remain to be seen. But it is certain that we will never forget.

Per Mangset (Telemark University College)
Bà¥rd Kleppe (Telemark Research Institute)

Editorial note: In their statement, Per Mangset and Bà¥rd Kleppe (Compendium national experts from Norway) provide a firsthand account of the reactions following the recent terrorist attack in their country. Related issues and debates are also dealt with in several new resources available in the "Themes!" section of the Compendium. For example:

  • According to the press review EUROTOPICS, major European newspapers are divided in their first assessments of the causes for the attack: "The conservative media reject right-wing populism or Christian fundamentalism as motives for the attacks, which the liberal media regard as a hypocritical and dangerous stance."
  • The same topic is also discussed in blogs and investigations outside of Europe. See here an example from the United States.
  • Shortly after the Breivik attack, Compendium editor Andreas Wiesand sent a letter of condolence to Thorbjà¸rn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, calling for increased efforts to strengthen cohesive diversity and intercultural dialogue in European societies.
  • The "Intercultural Cities Index", based on a joint programme of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, aims to inform essential debates by highlighting facts and processes which suggest the level of interculturality of now 24 cities. Oslo figures 2nd place in the overall ranking.
  • In his CulturewatchEurope (CWE) "Think Piece", Peter Duelund, Director of the Nordic Cultural Institute in Copenhagen, deals with "The Impact of the New Nationalism and Identity Politics on Cultural Policy-making in Europe and Beyond". Referring to examples in a number of European countries, he comes to the conclusion that especially the revival of "primordial" and "ethno-symbolic" paradigms in the perception of the relationship between identity and nation challenge diversity-related or intercultural concepts that emerged during the past decades. According to Duelund, these tendencies "directly contradict the vision of a people's Europe in which the individual is at the centre of a multicultural society which respects not only fundamental rights and freedoms, but also the cultural and social identity of individuals".

Especially the two last contributions with their focus on individual orientations may provide, in the light of the Norwegian experience, food for thought in further debates.

The Financial Crisis and its Effects on Public Arts Funding

Observations by Andreas Joh. Wiesand (updated in July, 2011)


Is it pure coincidence that, 5 years after the General Assembly of UNESCO adopted its Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, one of the cornerstones of this document is already put into question by many of the signatory states? I'm referring to their "sovereign right to formulate and implement cultural policies" that include, in particular, "measures aimed at providing public financial assistance" and "establishing and supporting public institutions" (Art. 5 and 6). To defend this principle - or "exception culturelle" - against the World Trade Organization (WTO) and others who insist on a pure free-market system without financial action or interference on the part of public authorities, may indeed become redundant if it is not invigorated by corresponding practice. Recent severe cuts affecting cultural budgets in a number of European countries seem to point in that direction. On the other hand, we cannot really speak of a uniform trend here: many countries and cities actually report increases, despite (or even because!) of the global financial crisis...

In 2009, the CultureWatchEurope platform of the Council of Europe conducted a survey among Member States on funding trends for culture, asking also about possible strategies to safeguard cultural budgets in times of crisis. Results of the survey, covering 21 countries, were summarized as follows:

"13 of 21 countries envisage an overall reduction of budgets for culture and heritage as a possible short or medium term consequence of the financial crisis, and one country partial reductions. 52 % (11 countries) envisage cuts in budgets of major cultural institutions, and nine mention reductions to subsidies of independent art and cultural organisations. Twelve countries envisage cuts to cultural infrastructure projects. On the other side, eight countries could imagine additional finance for infrastructure projects to stimulate employment, whilst only 17% (5 countries) could see an increase in the investment in creative industries to help generate employment.

The saving policy in cultural institutions may be implemented at the expense of reducing the number of activities and events, and diminishing quality, impacting on the consumption of culture and decreasing possibilities for Europeans to participate in cultural life."

However, the trend does not seem to work in the same manner across Europe. The CultureWatchEurope survey demonstrated already that some countries, e.g. Finland, France or Slovakia, actually planned to financially stabilise the cultural sector. As described in the Report, "in Luxembourg some new projects will be launched earlier than initially envisaged, in order to strengthen the cultural sector during the crisis."

At the 2010 CultureWatchEurope Conference in Brussels, Péter Inkei (The Budapest Observatory) sketched a broader picture [] of the effects that the economic crisis might have on the European cultural landscape, including on the different branches of the arts and cultural industries. For him, "the real issue is to find out whether the effects will lead to fundamental, lasting changes in Europe's cultural environment." He concludes:

"We can hope less and less for the simple re-establishment of the status quo. Is then the crisis evidence of a crucial, decisive period in the life of western civilisation, an end of an era, the phasing out of some of the basic features of capitalism, especially its liberal, postmodern variant? If this is the case, then the question is not just how culture will survive the transition period, but rather whether culture is an actor in these historic transformations."

Back to the state of public budgets: The monitoring data that are available from the Council of Europe/ERICarts Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe [Chapter 6.1 and 6.3 in the Country Profiles] are based - for methodological reasons and in order to sustain comparability - on official statistics, both from the national and regional/local levels. The inevitable consequence is that these are, in most cases, two or three years old. More recent data are, nevertheless, provided by some of the authors as indicators of latest trends: They show, for example in the Czech Republic and in Portugal (state level), that in some countries cuts came already into effect before the global crisis really started to influence national public budgets. Legally established arts funding bodies did not escape the current austerity measures as demonstrated in the country profile from Ireland, where the Arts Council faces a 12% reduction of its budget.

Another, more descriptive overview of the situation in different European countries was published, in October 2010, by SICA, the Dutch Centre for International Cultural Activities. It arrived at a pessimistic outlook:

"None of the countries is currently in a position to provide a full picture of the impact of the economic crisis on cultural budgets. Cultural platforms, networks and observatories, including Lab for Culture and IFACCA, are monitoring developments, but much of the information available dates from the first half of 2009. Even then, prospects were far from positive, but the general expectation was that the subsidised sector in particular would see only limited effects. One year on, the situation appears to have worsened although hard evidence is still thin on the ground. What is certain is that cuts have been announced across the board, but these have not all been implemented so far. The sword of Damocles is threatening the whole of European culture and in some countries it is hanging from a particularly thin thread in view of the (impending) elections.

Cost-cutting can be direct or indirect. Almost everywhere, ministries are cutting their subsidy schemes for cultural institutions. At the same time, cultural budgets are threatened by cuts in the government funds used primarily by lower government authorities to finance their cultural policy, as is the case in the Netherlands with the Municipalities Fund (Gemeentefonds). Local government authorities face difficult decisions: should libraries stay open? If so, the swimming pool must be closed. For politicians, culture is just one of many areas where savings can be made. Those in favour of government support for the arts are few and far between and tend to keep their heads down when every vote counts."

Experienced observers [Christopher Gordon and Peter Stark in a supplementary report to the House of Commons inquiry into "The Funding of the Arts and Heritage", November 2010] describe similar negative tendencies from the UK, where the share of public resources attributed to culture - which has increased over the last 15 years, but now experiences dramatic 25-30% cuts following the last elections - focuses increasingly on major institutions and activities based in London, at the expense of the rest of the country. This case as well as the budget policies for the arts and/or media announced after recent elections in the Netherlands and in Hungary even suggest that some of the cuts are less a result of the financial crisis and more one of political or ideological preferences (as pointed out in the title of a report on the Dutch situation, published July 8, 2011, by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "High culture? That's just a leftist hobby").

While cuts in public budgets for culture are, obviously, on many agendas, there are other countries which currently even report an increase, despite the financial crisis. A new report - Results of a 2011 Survey with Governments on Culture Budgets and the Financial Crisis and Culture - presented by Péter Inkei in April 2011 at the Council of Europe Steering Committee for Culture indicates that the impact of the crisis on public budgets for culture is indeed less uniform than expected. 9 out of 21 countries with comparable results stated, between the years of 2009 and 2011, losses in their regular budget plans ranging from -4% (Austria) to -26% (Greece). On the other hand, 9 countries actually reported increases in their financial appropriations for the arts and heritage, ranging from +5% (Belgium, French Community) to +38% (Ukraine). In three countries, the regular budgets remained approximately at their previous level.

For example, increased revenues from lotteries in Finland enabled an augmentation of the current budget of the Ministry. Less surprising is that the government of oil-rich Norway tries to maintain its self-proclaimed goal of spending 1% of its budget for culture - one of the highest per capita in Europe. One could add the German example where, at least on the national level, the Federal budget for culture has constantly increased during the past decade and again in 2011, since the State Minister for the Arts and Media at the Chancellor's Office succeeded to secure a 27m Euro or 2.4% raise. Clearly, things look different in some German cities and on the regional level (Länder), which account for a much larger share of the overall cultural budget. Here and in other countries, cuts tend to hit non-established activities harder than those that are budgeted regularly. On the other hand, as could recently be seen in Hamburg, prestige infrastructures such as the new Elb-Philharmonie - planned during the "fat" years mainly for the purpose of "city branding" - can have cruel effects also for the city's traditional arts institutions such as theatres and museums.

Let's stay, for a moment, at the local level: At its Turku Forum in March 2011, the Eurocities network discussed a survey that was conducted earlier this year. 16 cities answered the survey, including Bergen, Bologna, Copenhagen, Dortmund, Dresden, Ghent, Gijon, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Krakow, Leipzig, Nantes, Newcastle, Novi Sad, Rotterdam and Torino. The main result has been that in a majority of these cities, the cultural budget did not significantly change or even rose from 2008 to 2011; only 4 cities reported a decrease. While the future of public funding is seen a bit less optimistic, the general experience during the past difficult years has been that the cultural budgets did not experience disproportional cuts, on the contrary: in many cities the share for culture in the overall city budgets - ranging between 3% (Rotterdam) and 14% (Nantes) - actually rose. This should indeed be the yardstick to use in future discussions about budget developments, whether on local, national or European levels.

Needless to say, budget figures such as those just mentioned do not exclude sudden emergency cuts of public expenses. For example, recent amendments prepared by the Slovenian Government foresaw cuts in the budget for culture amounting to € 38 million (or 18%). While in this case, protests and intense lobbying will probably result in less dramatic reductions in September 2011, a general problem mainly in parts of Central and Eastern Europe seems difficult to solve, especially in the performing arts: How could public institutions - which are often artistically "static" and still state-controlled - come to better terms with a growing and more vivid, but financially weak, independent arts scene, as is increasingly the case in some Western countries (which have of course other problems to solve, including but not limited to the current economic functionalisation of the arts or the massive growth of fund-seeking initiatives during the last three decades)?

On the one hand, this would involve solving legal, administrative and fiscal issues, including granting more artistic and financial autonomy also to public institutions as well as reducing the number of "state servants" with lifetime contracts. On the other hand, the whole concept of public service in the arts and media may have to be revisited, however without endangering important infrastructures and its main mission: the provision of professional quality output that contributes to both identity and innovation in a society, independently of political or market constraints. Clearly defining cultural financing as a positive task of national governments, which is to be shared with local / regional authorities and complemented by project funding from private or European sources as well as entrepreneurial activities in their own right (e.g. in the book, music or art market or in film production), may help to clarify things further, particularly if this will be backed up by professionalisation strategies.

Assessing the overall trends and proposed remedies, we cannot escape two conclusions:

  • First, the ongoing financial crisis cannot be taken as an excuse for above-average cuts in the arts and heritage (under the motto: "All do it, so let's do it too"). We clearly see quite a number of state and city governments acting "countercyclical", because they know that a diverse and productive cultural environment can provide the spirit and important tangible contributions towards overcoming the present difficulties faced by governments, civil society and economic players.
  • Secondly (and probably more important): The future of cultural budgets clearly depends on the backing "culture" is able to get from larger parts of the population and, consequently, in political circles. Where cultural policy is not firmly rooted in the multiple demands of the public - or where the arts are still being conceived as "elitist" - and where the important role of arts, media and heritage activities for the social, educational and economic development of a society is not fully recognized, a change for the worse cannot be excluded, even after the current financial storm calms down.

As Péter Inkei reminded us, a change for the better may only be achieved if artists and other cultural professionals, together with an informed 'culture public', accept to play a more active role on the diverse political stages.

Andreas Joh. Wiesand - Executive Director, European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts)

Defining cultural rights

by Patrice Meyer-Bisch


Issues at stake: concrete universality

Cultural rights still fall through the gap in the Human Rights' protection system. Identity related questions are at the most intimate level of respect for human dignity, the right of each individual to participate in "a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 28). They are at the root of violence and peace issues, of poverty and welfare. Fear of "relativism", although justified, long prevented us from considering each individual as a subject of his or her rights within a concrete environment.

Universality therefore remained an abstract idea, since it can only become concrete through the right of each individual to live his or her humanity. Universality was thought to be above culture, but it is cultures that need to invent it, to develop it through demanding dialog. "Cultures" do not dialog, because such homogenous entities don't exist. It is women and men who do, as holders and seekers of this universality that can only be gathered and collected through critical sharing of heritages and cultural experiences.

1.     A change in political paradigm

The adoption of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in September 2001 - that made official the large definition of culture adopted in Mexico in 1982 - and of the Convention on protection and promotion of diversity of cultural expression in 2005 symbolizes an important political turn. Where cultural diversity used to be considered as a hindrance to development, an obstacle to modernity and therefore to progress, science and democracy, it is now more and more understood as a resource for each of these fields and for peace. Where "culture" used to come last, it is now a basic component of political and economical developments, both as resource and as freedom to choose the values one wants to develop.

The starting point of the actual change in paradigm lies in the definition given to culture. The large definition developed by the UNESCO since 1982 is hard to challenge, yet it has the inconvenient of not being operational in a Human Rights context. The Fribourg Declaration on Cultural Rights remedies this flaw by putting the person at the center:

The term "culture" covers those values, beliefs, convictions, languages, knowledge and the arts, traditions, institutions and ways of life through which a person or a group expresses their humanity and the meaning they give to their existence and to their development; (art. 2, a). [1]

According to this perspective, a cultural activity relates both to the intimacy of each person and of social relations.

2.     The need for a clarification in universal logic

"A clarification of the definition of cultural rights within the human rights system, as well as and elucidation of the nature and consequences of their violation constitute the best methods for preventing:

  • The use of cultural rights in favor of cultural relativism, that is contrary to the universality of all human rights;
  • The use of cultural rights as a pretext for setting communities or even entire populations, against one another.

Cultural rights have often being in opposition to or as lying outside of human rights when they actually, according to the principle of indivisibility, form an integral part of these rights[2]. At the universal level, cultural rights are at present essentially recognized in the right to participate in cultural life[3]and in the right to education[4]. The cultural dimensions of more "classic" freedoms have also been acknowledged[5], as well as that of all other human rights. [...] The coherence of cultural rights, existing as they do on the boundary between civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of minorities, is insufficient and their definition remains incomplete. This situation constitutes a dangerous gap in the protection of all human rights, especially at a time where respect for cultural diversity takes the front stage as an essential issue in globalization and as a challenge for the universality of human rights"[6].

Universality is not the smallest common denominator, it is the common challenge we need to take on. It consists of cultivating a human condition through permanently working out our contradictions. It is not against diversity, it is the place where it is collected and made intelligible. 

3.     Definition

Cultural Rights are the rights for everyone, whether alone or in community, to choose and express one's identity, to access cultural references, as necessary resources in one's identification process [7].

Like all other human rights, cultural rights guarantee the access of each individual to free and dignified social relations. Their specificity lies in defining more precisely the value of these connections in terms of knowledge. Cultural rights establish capacities to connect individual subjects to other through the knowledge each one carries within itself and places in works (objects and institutions) in the environment one grows into.

The expression "cultural identity" is understood as the sum of all cultural references through which a person, alone or in community with others, defines or constitutes oneself, communicates and wishes to be recognized in one's dignity (Fribourg Declaration, art. 2, b).

4.     Strengthening indivisibility and interdependence

The subject is unconditionally an individual person, but in order to fulfill its rights, it may claim membership in one or many communities, groups or organized collectivities.

A community may be a precious space, even a necessary one, to exercise rights, freedoms and responsibilities, and it therefore deserves protection: it allows one to experience transmission, sharing, reciprocity and the confrontation of knowledge. But a community only has conditional legitimacy, to the extent in which it promotes human rights.


Patrice Meyer-Bisch

Observatoire de la diversité et des droits culturels Institut Interdisciplinaire d'Éthique et des Droits de l'Homme (IIEDH) et Chaire UNESCO pour les droits de l'homme et la démocratie 

[1]See the text of the Declaration, available in many languages, as well as other synthesis documents on the website of the Observatory : This Declaration is a civil society text that can be individually supported by any person or group who wishes to apply it in its own context and contribute to its development. 

[2]As reaffirmed by the Human Rights Council, for example in the resolution A/HRC/6/L.3/Rev.1, §1 :« Reaffirms that cultural rights are an integral part of human rights, which are universal, indivisible,interrelated and interdependent »

[3]Art.27 of the Universal Declaration (UDHR) and Art.15 of the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

[4]Art.26 of the UDHR and Art. 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

[5]Freedom of thought, conscience and religion (art.18 of the UDHR, art. 18 of the International covenant on economic, social and cultural rights), freedoms of opinion and speech (Art.19 of the UDHR, art. 19 of the International covenant on civil and political rights). The instruments and dispositions concerning the rights of persons belonging to minorities recall and make more precise the universal character of these rights, in particular in art. 27 of the international covenant on civil and political rights, Convention 169 of the ILO on indigenous people, the UN convention on the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples

 [6]DS 2, this argument has been developed by the Ngo Platform for the protection and promotion of diversity and cultural rights in its position paper on the creation of a mandate of independent expert in this field. See on the website of the Observatory synthesis document 2 (DS2): Situation of cultural rights: proposed political arguments. (20.12.2009).

[7]Definition to be published in the comments, article by article, of the Declaration of Fribourg on cultural rights.

Related poll:


Ethics and Rights Issues in Cultural Policy in Europe

February 2010, by John A. Foote (Université du Québec à  Trois-Rivières)


Recognition of the fundamental role of ethics and rights regarding culture and cultural policy is perennially a hot topic. Ethics provide the perspective, motivation and values to help ensure democratic and equitable participation in cultural development, diversity and dialogue. Rights serve as the fundamental underpinning and inspiration of cultural creativity and participation and provide the jurisprudence regarding violations of binding conventions and of other no less important instruments. Rights adhered to by European states also serve to facilitate the political mandate of political action and support in respect to culture and are inextricably linked to the democratic system and ethos and to the rule of law. Not accidently, these three interdependent elements comprise precisely the Council of Europe's mandate and overall mission.

For more than 60 years, human rights have been at the top of Europe's legal agenda and accomplishments. The codification and ratification of human rights are a fully legitimate response to the tragic consequences of World War II which deprived millions of fundamental rights and freedoms and life, itself.  The most important and influential document beginning the codification of human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted and proclaimed in 1948 by all Member States of the newly formed United Nations.  Shortly thereafter, in 1949, the Member States of the also newly born Council of Europe agreed unanimously to adopt and ratify the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), a binding legal instrument of the highest order which would help secure and expand European unity over the course of the next 60 years and hopefully, for many years to come. In 1966, European and many other states around the world in the UN adopted two International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, respectively. The Covenants entered into force ten years later, in 1976. These grand achievements in regard to rights were inspired by values, principles and ethics which were carefully crafted to ensure congruity between the rights prescribed and the reasons or factors underlying their application.

Enhancement of freedom of expression and creativity, identity and diversity, and access and participation: Patrice Meyer-Bisch (2002) has written, "Cultural governance is assessed on the basis of the realization of cultural rights...It is necessary that this governance takes into account other sectors of social life since cultural rights are only realizable in the context of the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights." Human and cultural rights issues and existing legal instruments remain a constant frame of reference for their application to the rationale, development and implementation of cultural policies and programmes that complement and help to implement universal and targeted rights and ethics.  The protection of human and cultural rights in Europe has followed a steady trajectory starting with the codification of fundamental freedoms in the late 1940s and 1950s including basic principles with a close everyday life relationship with culture such as freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 9 of the Convention), expression (Article 10), assembly and association (Article 11) and the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14).  Additional rights have been incorporated in the ECHR including, for example, the right to education {Protocol 1 (2)} and the right to movement {Protocol 4 (2)}.

In regard to the recognition and protection of cultural rights which are identified with Article 15 of the ESC Covenant, the universal right to take part in cultural life (cultural participation) and to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from the author's scientific, literary or artistic production (copyright) are among the most important. One of the more interesting works on the right to participate in cultural life was published in 1994 as Human Rights and Cultural Policies in a Changing Europe, a Report of the European Round Table held in Helsinki the previous year and organised by the Cultural Information and Research Centres Liaison in Europe (CIRCLE) and the International Movement of RIGHTS AND HUMANITY in co-operation with the Council of Europe. Incidentally, of the four co-editors of this Report, two are familiar as Authors in the Compendium today, Ritva Mitchell and Rod Fisher.

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National Cultural Canons as a Cultural Policy Response to Globalisation?

By Peter Duelund


Discussions on identity, the nation-state and cultural policy as well as questions addressing globalisation and nationalism are often presented as closely interrelated. Everywhere in the world people are protesting the de-territorialising effects of globalisation and call for a revitalisation of nationalism as a defence against a possible loss of identity. Strengthening national or social cohesion as an answer to migration and multicultural challenges is argued as vitally important in the current national debates on social and cultural issues.

The national dimension of cultural policy has been strengthened in recent years. In Great Britain, the New Labour and political movements on the left proposed 'progressive nationalism' as a response to the cultural policies of Anglo-Saxon conservatives and their nationalist investments in social and cultural discussions. France gave birth to a new Ministry for Immigration and National Identity. Poland witnessed the creation of a new national self-awareness built on its Catholic faith. In Serbia, radical neo-nationalist movements have been nourished by myths and propelled by demands to legitimise the return of lost territories.

At the same time, the increasing importance of the link between identity and nation within defined borders has generated protests both in majority populations and in ethnic minority groups. In Turkey several hundred thousand people participated in protests because they fear a resuscitation of Islamic nationalism. 2006 saw one of the most severe crises in post-war Danish foreign policy when a newspaper published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed causing violent reactions among the faithful. Fire was set to the Danish embassy in Damascus, the Danish flag was burned in public, there was a boycott of Danish commodities throughout the Arab world and official protests from Arab foreign offices were sent to Copenhagen. The Danish premier minister appeared on Arab TV in an attempt to make it clear that the publication of the drawings did not constitute a violation of religious rights but was an expression of the right to free speech in a secular democracy.

Against this background, national cultural canons are being introduced as a cultural policy response to globalisation, immigration, multiculturalism, cultural relativism and as a means to revitalise national identity and social cohesion.

For example, in April 2005, the Danish Minister of Culture, Brian Mikkelsen, appointed 7 canon committees corresponding to the 7 main art forms within the Ministry's remit: literature, music, performing arts, film, architecture, visual arts, design and crafts. These committees were responsible for selecting works to be included in the Danish Cultural Canon (

The Danish Cultural Canon was published and circulated by the Ministry in 2006- 2007. It was created as "a collection and presentation of the greatest, most important works of Denmark's cultural heritage". It's purpose was to:

  • serve as a compass showing the directions and milestones in Denmark's long and complex cultural history; 
  • serve as a platform for discussion and debate;
  • give us reference points and awareness of what is special about Danes and Denmark in an ever more globalised world; and
  • strengthen the sense of community by showing key parts of our common historical possessions.

The Danish Cultural Canon was first published as a book with a DVD and CD ROM and was distributed free of charge to all primary & lower secondary schools (Folkeskole), upper secondary schools (Gymnasium), and business colleges (Handelsskoler) in Denmark. It was also distributed to adult learning centres (VUC), high schools (Højskoler) and some higher education institutions. At the same time, the book is for sale (DKK 99). In total, 175,000 copies have been printed, 150,000 of which will be distributed free to libraries, etc.

In order to ensure that the Canon project reached all interested citizens, especially young people, the Danish Ministry for Culture launched an online publication of the entire work on: In 2008, the Danish Cultural Canon consisted of 108 works spread over nine different art forms. Each committee compiled a canon comprising 12 Danish works of art. An exception was made for the music field which includes a list of 24 works: 12 popular music and 12 scores. A Danish Canon for Children's Culture consisting of 12 works, aimed specifically at children, was also published.

In other countries, such as the Netherlands, the Dutch Cultural Canon ( was launched in 2006, shedding many years of a predominantly multiculturalists perspective. The Canon project was initiated as a response to a charge that all segments of the population suffered from a lack of knowledge of the nation's history and culture. The Minister of Education, Culture and Science established the Van Oostrom Commission to provide advice on the shape and content of the Canon.

In the same year, the Dutch Service for International Cultural Activities (SICA) and the European Network of National Cultural Institutes (EUNIC) organised a discussion around the idea of creating a European Cultural Canon. The aim was to initiate a discussion on the cultural policy potential and implications of such a project, to address questions of whether it is desirable from a political and artistic point of view and to determine its consequences for Europe.

More recently, the Latvian Ministry of Culture launched a Cultural Canon project in 2008 to foster the establishment of common cultural values.

The rise of national cultural canons leads to a number of general as well as specific scientific and political issues relating to identity, nationalism and cultural policies in Europe that will require new theoretical and empirical frameworks of inquiry. Many questions arise as to the inclusiveness of these canons as well as the background of those who are building them. What will be the effects of such canons in the future? Are they a threat to diversity or a tool to promote cohesion?

Additional information on this topic can be found in the new book from the Boekman Foundation:

Ineke van Hamersveld and Athur Sonnen (eds.): Identifying with Europe - Reflections on a Historical and Cultural Canon for Europe. Amsterdam: Boekmanstudies, EUNIC Netherlands and SICA, 2009.

A New Deal for Cultural Employment

by Carla Bodo


Is the decline in public expenditure for culture having a negative impact on the dynamics of the cultural labour market and on the level of supply and demand for cultural goods and services?

Carla Bodo argues that it is. Her solution: European governments should introduce a "New Deal for Cultural Employment" inspired by Roosevelts experimental "Federal Arts Project" (1935-39), by the 1970s institutional reforms in Italy, by Jack Langs policies that led to a 40% increase in cultural employment between 1982 and 1995 in France.

A stimulus package for the culture sector requires more than just increased levels of funding. It also needs a clear mix of regulations, financial incentives and innovative policies in support of: artistic creativity and technical skills in the visual and performing arts, in the cultural and creative industries; new skills and competences in the conservation and enhancement of the historic and artistic heritage; and, last but not least, new intercultural competences aimed at fostering mutual understanding and social cohesion in our increasingly multicultural societies.

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