From principles to practice
The key challenge is to move from principles to practice. Policy-makers throughout the world have been reworking their policies in response to forces that affect all the areas of public policy: tighter budgets, demands for greater individual and local participation in cultural life as part of the democratization process, demands for increased geographical or jurisdictional autonomy and the impact of technology and the market. In the cultural field this has led to the incremental reform of existing models rather than to new approaches, although throughout the developing world there are many who are calling for deeper change. As Patrick Manley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, has underlined, "We still look to culture as a means of integration, failing to perceive that cultural integration has long been in place, except that we have not been able to convert it into conscious development energy. What is missing is its recognition and its emancipation into the world of action."
The situation in Central and Eastern Europe presents a special paradox in that cultural expression was previously a language of resistance, a surrogate for political dissent, using parables and metaphors that were widely understood for what they were. The advent of political pluralism has made this function superfluous, reducing social demand for cultural production at a time when these nations face severe economic crisis. Support for the culture sector has collapsed as a result.
The efforts of the state to encourage cultural activities need first of all to be more open. They need to move away from monolithic notions of a "national culture" and move towards accepting diversity, ethnic diversity and diversity in individual choices and group practices. A multi-ethnic policy, a multi-language policy, a policy representing different religious points of view, should replace monolithic presentations. The implications for public broadcasting policy are obvious. Cultural tourism is also a growth industry with major implications, as we have seen, for the safeguard as well as sharing of the cultural heritage upon which it is based.
Such an approach would have to involve consensus-building with the new local-level and private sector actors. It will call for political commitment; constituencies, coalitions and alliances need to be organized so as to overcome a number of entrenched inhibitions and obstacles. These are not always well understood by those whose responsibility it is to introduce new measures; for this reason they would provide a subject for research into the political economy of cultural life.
The economics of the culture sector. The economic importance of the cultural sector is now well recognized. Economic impact studies have been used for some years now by advocates of spending in the arts; because they have provided economic and financial justifications and income and employment opportunities, they have proved particularly helpful in arguing against spending cuts. Such studies, especially in developed countries, demonstrate that the culture sector's contribution to GNP is considerably larger than is generally imagined. For example, in the United States of the America, the entertainment industry has been identified as the most important export sector after aerospace. The Economist reported that long-term growth, due in part to liberalization of broadcasting and the commercialization of the institutions of the "worldwide" cultural sector, would remain at about 10% per year, ahead of many other industrial and commercial segments.
If this line of argument is overstated, however, cultural goals are in danger of being overwhelmed by purely commercial objectives. All forms of cultural expression cannot and should not be reduced to commercial value. "The commodification of culture and the creative arts decontextualizes and destroys the meaning of cultural practices. Equating the arts as income generating products eliminates the spirituality, history and value of cultural practices, the central ingredient that maintains values and celebrates the traditions of disadvantaged communities." For example, "dot" painting has grown considerably over the last two decades amongst Aboriginal artists and communities in northern Australia. These indigenous artists are selling their work nationally as well as internationally, generating substantial income, and at the same time are finding new ways of exploring the "dreamings" of their own past.
A related challenge is provided by the free trade moves to incorporate aspects of cultural production and distribution into regional and multilateral trade policies. Both the Uruguay Round and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) required substantial negotiations before limited forms of exemptions or exclusions of cultural industries were adopted. This was reinforced when the G-7 Information Conference in 1995, again with some difficulty, agreed that a global information economy "should serve the cultural enrichment of all citizens through diversity of content reflecting the cultural and linguistic diversity of our people." These various accords are tenuous achievements and will no doubt continue to be challenged as the cultural industries and new media technologies operate increasingly in an open world economy.
The cultural industries, which include the new media, are becoming one of the most important constituents of this economy, although most countries are likely to remain net importers of cultural products and services. Governments are faced with an unavoidable tension between commercial interests and the desire for programming that is responsive to the claims different groups make for media representation of their ways of life. While the problem is age-old, rapid advances in digital reproduction, manipulation and transmission have focused our attention upon copyright and intellectual property reform. This is stated mostly in terms of export market expansion although the fundamental objective, the support of cultural diversity, requires policies that support local entrepreneurs and artists and foster competitive distribution.
A clear tension can be observed between commercial and public interests in the field of book publishing. Reading plays a vital role in individual and social development, for it is a basic tool for the democratization of knowledge. Promoting reading is a key ingredient in the book policy of any country that wishes to ensure equal access to knowledge to all its citizens. As part of book development policy, a variety of public incentives can be worked out. These include preferential rates for book advertising, adequate incentives to private initiatives, and national campaigns promoting reading. Such incentives should give priority to minorities and to rural and marginal urban areas where book circulation is unsatisfactory. Promoting access to the book is a long-term objective that obviously needs to be coupled with fostering national book publishing. Developing countries should acquire greater familiarity with the economic and industrial realities of the book publishing industry. Books need to find their place within the range of priority fiscal, legal industrial and cultural strategies. Countries, particularly small countries, in which many languages are spoken face difficult problems in deciding how to combine containing costs in the production of books with catering for the interests of all groups. Technical innovation in printing will help. The Commission does not claim to have found a solution to this problem.
Yet it is also true that the globalization of tastes and styles has limited the role government can play in the provision of cultural products both at home and abroad. Government intervention has to be less direct. In the marketplace its role will increasingly be to support producers and distributors, palliating market failure and co-operating in the development of international regulation. As a corollary, government support to non-market initiatives is also needed. This should concentrate on promoting co-operation between cultural institutions, groups and individuals. There is a need for governments to move away from direct intervention as a form of "cultural diplomacy" in favour of a facilitating role with regard to other actors. While the free market mechanism does appear to be meeting a whole range of needs better than any other system yet invented, "the universe of manufactured needs, mass consumption and mass entertainment, motivated by profits and driven by the aggregate preferences of billions of consumers" has become a force one scholar has dubbed McWorld, "the natural culmination of modernisation," that represents "a politics of inadvertence and unintended consequences, in which the seemingly innocuous market quest for fun, creativity and profits puts whole cultures in harm's way and undermines autonomy in individuals and nations alike."
Urban culturescapes. In response to global pressures as well as decentralization, the culture sector has become an important dimension in the strategies of local authorities. Half of humankind -- 3.2 billion people -- will live in urban centres by the year 2000, of whom seventy per cent will be in developing countries. Each continent is affected in a somewhat different way. In several Latin American countries, the degree of urbanization has reached the levels of Europe and North America. In Africa, the rates of urban growth are extremely high and difficult to accommodate. In Asia, the sheer size of the population involved is staggering. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, low-income people in poorer regions will be crowded in megacities which are and will be growing faster there until the year 2015. They will be the majority of the world's population and will bring about extremely rapid social transformations in cities throughout the world.
Through the 1980s in Western Europe and North America, urban cultural policies were designed to serve mainly economic objectives. In cities such as Baltimore, Glasgow and Barcelona regeneration efforts have successfully used cultural heritage and cultural activities as "urban capital." Canada's popular "Main Street Program" for downtown revitalization reflects an approach that relies more on grassroots initiatives. It is based on principles of community vision and commitment, incremental change, process as opposed to one-time solutions, local entrepreneurship and volunteering. Implemented in small communities of 3,000 to 50,000 inhabitants, the programme is based on hiring a full-time project manager for a short period to work for the downtown merchants. Together they make sustainable use of local heritage resources, help stimulate the economy while involving the local population.
The emphasis, however, has still been mainly on building infrastructure for the arts, providing more cultural goods and services and promoting cultural tourism. Growing experience in some industrialized countries shows that provision of reasonable infrastructure and traditional cultural activities are not sufficient to humanize cities and to overcome social tensions. An approach that is more integrated with the cultural fabric of the city is required.
The city brings together people of different origins and cultural patterns. This is both its chief strength as a centre for social and cultural innovation, and its Achilles heel. The mixing of lifestyles and forms of expression in urban areas can be a source both of creation and innovation and of conflict. Consolidating social integration with respect to ethnic and cultural diversity, and yet inciting them to blossom, is a major public policy challenge facing cities today and tomorrow.
Social integration and effective grass-roots democracy are necessary to create a sense of belonging and responsibility -- two ingredients of meaningful citizenship. "Designing and implementing systematic public policies should not only aim at improving people's quality of life, but also bring social and political stability to our cities, and thereby to our societies." Social exclusion, segregation and mounting violence, particularly among young people, are urban problems that cry out for solutions. They are cultural problems in the broadest sense. But there are also cultural responses to them in the narrower sense. For example, the discipline of living history can be used to teach young people about the methods of nonviolence. The HIP-HOP Project (Highways into the Past: History, Organizing and Power) is a sort of "Civil Rights Tour" that brings students from the Boston area to visit key sites of the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s to learn about the power of nonviolence from people who were teenagers themselves when they risked their lives and filled the jails in their quest for civil rights. Amateur arts training, free or discounted access to cultural institutions and activities, have proven effective in including previously excluded members of society. Where arts funding is linked directly to efforts to support diversity, community development flourishes.