Culture in Development Network meeting
On 19 October 2011, on the initiative of the British Council, a Culture in Development Network meeting was held in the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels. UNESCO Brussels hosted the meeting to showcase the importance it gives to Culture and Development, and to enhance communication between the members of the Network and UNESCO.
This meeting was an opportunity for representatives from 20 different cultural organizations, including the European Commission, AECID, and French, Belgian, and Portuguese Government representatives and the ACP Secretariat for the EC, to share their experience on culture and development and to discuss how to bring forward the Culture and Development Agenda with a particular focus on the European Commission, and how to disseminate knowledge on this topic.
It is important to notice that this meeting was held in a particular context. On 13 October 2011, the Commissioner for Development and Cooperation (DEVCO), Andris Piebalgs, presented the Agenda for Change Communication, in which the Cultural pillar is not included anymore among the targeted priorities. From now, the new European Commission’s orientations will focus on human rights, democracy, freedom of expression and employment, which provoke some concerns among the cultural actors.
Martin Hope, Director Benelux and EU office of the British Council and Chairman of the meeting, started the event with an introductory round table, where the participants presented their activities and the challenges they are facing. This round table outlined that the main difficulty for the stakeholders is to show the economic and social impact of their cultural projects.
José Manuel Argilés Marín, Representative of the Spanish Development Agency (AECID), stressed also two main challenges: having more coordination and sharing information, best practices and experiences among the different partners.
Philippe Peyredieu du Charlat, Representative of DG DEVCO also attended the meeting to present the European Commission’s approach to culture in development. His attendance gave the opportunity to exchange views on how to include, at present, cultural initiatives in DG DEVCO’s agenda. Philippe Peyredieu du Charlat emphasized the difficulty to measure the effectiveness and impact in the area of culture and that it could be a long term process.
In response to these comments, the representative from the French Permanent Representation to the EU, underlined the good opportunity for cultural stakeholders to develop together a message to show how cultural activities can contribute to strengthen civil society, how cultural actors can also be considered as opinion multipliers.
Regarding the lack of means for measuring cultural contribution to development, Nada Al Hassan, UNESCO programme specialist, stressed the elaboration of an indicator suite to showcase the value of culture, in partnership with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
The purpose of this meeting was also to discuss funding opportunities in order to diversify financial donors, and thereby generate more funding from private sector.
The next step is to keep active this networking and to develop tools in order to make our message more visible. Marie Paule Roudil, Head of the UNESCO Liaison Office in Brussels, highlighted the importance of elaborating a common advocacy for culture, first of all at the European level, as a key element of the European project.