The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part nineteen in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.

Colombia

August 2006 -

Despite the relentless war, significant attention is devoted to the arts in Colombia. The government is utilising culture as a weapon against ‘fear, forgetfulness and violence’. The population is invited to embrace ‘democratic, cultural citizenship’.

In November 2001 Colombia's Ministry of Culture published its vision of the future for the next decade: the National Plan for Culture. The Ministry’s strategy is like ‘a road’, which Colombians have collectively chartered based on a consultation process that took over one year and in which more than 25,000 people participated.
The decentralised policy process is a continuous and independent objective. The Ministry has established a documentation centre, for example, to inform the population of cultural policy, and various surveys have been conducted to determine whether the strategy is satisfying expectations.

Two of the principles are striking: the recognition of a multi-cultural society, and the importance of ‘remembering’. The policy intends to ‘create space’ for self-reflection, cultural development, creativity and research. Saving cultural heritage is to contribute to ‘a culture of peace'.

The government hopes that its policy will also have social and economic impact. The continuing violence is preventing the economy from stabilising. The government’s thinking appears to be that culture can improve understanding between communities, putting an end to the need for wars. The country’s economic problems, however, are what have been depleting the budget for culture for many years. Art organisations receive no structural support; only projects can vie for a contribution from the government. The primary consideration is not art, but the public interest. This is because the primary objective of the culture policy is to make art accessible to all. Colombians are to become democratic, cultural citizens.