Culture's importance in social transformation

May 2006 -

What is the value of culture and the arts in international cooperation? The recent publication Culture at the Heart of Transformation delves into the experience of seven countries in which Pro Helvetia and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) established the Swiss Cultural Program South-East Europe and Ukraine (SCP). The study is a combination of a program evaluation and a best-practice publication. The entire project cycle is reviewed, from objectives to results and recommendations.

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Six years ago the SCP started as an exchange program between Switzerland and eastern Europe. A new phase commenced in 2002 when Pro Helvetia expanded the program. Seven countries - Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia & Montenegro, Romania and Ukraine - now participate in the SCP. The fifteen on-going projects involve periods of at least three years, with a budget of about € 200,000.00. In terms of content, they are in keeping with the SCP's artistic and cultural priorities as defined for each of the countries. Emphasis is placed on building up the capacity of the partner organizations.

In any event, the participating countries have one thing in common: they are experiencing the major transformation from Communism to democracy. This is a creative process according to the study, which is why the arts play such an important part.
Culture encourages debate, strengthens civilian society. The SCP supports the Confluent Margins organization, for example, which opened the Tockka cultural centre in Skopje. Another example is the Small Door project in Macedonia, in which a multi-media arts centre was established in Tetovo to build a bridge between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians. The SCP supported the organizers of the Jazz Fest Sarjevo in 2003 with the establishment of Gramofon, the first CD label in Bosnia-Herzegovina.