Expanding the concept of cultural policy
When culture is understood as the basis of development the very notion of cultural policy has to be considerably broadened. Any policy for development must be profoundly sensitive to and inspired by culture itself.
As we have seen, defining and applying such a policy means finding factors of cohesion that hold multi-ethnic societies together, by making much better use of the realities and opportunities of pluralism. It implies promoting creativity in politics and governance, in technology, industry and business, in education and in social and community development -- as well as in the arts. It requires that the media be used to open up communication opportunities for all, by reducing the gap between the information "haves" and "have nots." It means adopting a gender perspective which looks at women's concerns, needs and interests and seeks a fairer redistribution of resources and power between men and women. It means giving children and young people a better place as bearers of a new world culture in the making. It implies a thoroughgoing diversification of the notion of cultural heritage in social change. With regard to the natural environment it means building better understanding of the profoundly cultural dimensions of environmental management, creating institutions that give effect to that understanding. Finally, as we shall discuss in the next chapter, it requires new research which pays attention to the hitherto neglected integration of culture, development, and forms of political organization.
While governments tackle these challenges in different ways already, their efforts are spread out among compartmentalized departments, as well as the private sector and civil society. In the view of the Commission, however, the time has now come to build a coherent new paradigm. This would be one in which society's different actors together mould paths of human development that are sensitive to all the cultural issues and fully recognize them as such. This is what cultural policy must ultimately come to mean. To adapt a well-known declaration by André Malraux, development will be cultural in the twenty-first century or it will not be at all.
In the meantime, however, and as a basic first step in the broadening process, the present concept of cultural development has to change. It has been submitted to critical scrutiny by many already. Awareness of this led the Commission to define among its lines of inquiry "the influence of cultural development on individual and collective well-being." Cultural development in the commonly accepted usage is the subject matter of cultural policy. It refers to a limited segment of social activity, i.e. promotion of the arts and cultural life, including protection of the cultural heritage, for which governments have established budgets, development plans and public institutions such as museums, cultural centres, arts academies, etc. It is in this field also that government is increasingly seeking the involvement of the private sector and of the civil society. It is this defined domain that will be referred to in this chapter as the culture sector.
The idea that all this was a normal responsibility of government crystallized in the Western European welfare states in the 1960s but had been gestating in statist societies such as France for several decades. Not surprisingly, a totalitarian extreme of governmental control characterized regimes such as Nazi Germany, which carefully defined and painstakingly applied an extremely detailed arts policy. This was also true of the stance of the Communist command economies.
The range of manifestations that governments choose to see as relevant for their cultural policies has broadened in recent years, as the production of and the demand for artistic goods for mass consumption has expanded, together with the awareness that cultural identity is shaped by many different forms of cultural expression.
Cultural identity was particularly important to peoples shoring up a newly gained, or regained, independence and was therefore a major concern of post-colonial policy formulation in the 1970s. The driving force was the perception that the preservation and promotion of indigenous ways of life was essential for establishing a sense of confidence and pride as a pre-requisite for self-realization. For example, Kenya's stated objectives stress the "promotion of self-awareness and the development of human values." In Indonesia, the adoption of the principle of Unity in Diversity inspired an "Agenda of Cultural Development" in which "the development of culture stands essentially for the nation's ideals and aspirations and for its efforts to attain its ideals through development."
Such inclusive language appeared only much later in the declarations of the high income countries. A recent example is the Australian government's cultural statement for 1994, entitled A Creative Nation. It calls for a charter of cultural rights and asserts that culture "encompasses our entire mode of life, our ethics, our institutions, our manners and our routines, not only interpreting our world but shaping it." Other governments, such as those of the United Kingdom and Canada, appear to have been pushed towards such thinking by efficiency, cost-saving criteria: merging different mandates into single ministries, linking the arts and heritage with tourism, sport, "participation" and, in the case of Canada, cultural diversity. Nevertheless, such institutional changes do pave the way for a more comprehensive approach to cultural life.
This is the paramount need. It has been stated that, as far as the culture sector is concerned, "very few African governments have a clearly formulated policy containing a general vision of the future." A prominent Ghanaian artist refused to become the Minister responsible for the culture sector because, she felt, her country's official notion of it was too limited in scope, dealing only with traditional music and dance. The same could be said of most governments on all continents. The point was made over a decade ago, at UNESCO's 1982 World Conference on Cultural Policies in Mexico City (MONDIACULT).