Building new alliances
The political dimension. Unrecognized as a central component of public policy, responsibility for the arts is often subsumed under other, higher priority areas such as social welfare, health or communications. Sometimes the culture sector is a shared jurisdictional responsibility. Though it is often argued that this offers a strategic position to help frame cultural policy within a more inclusive agenda, in practice this is often just wishful thinking. "God help the minister that meddles with the arts" is a statement attributed to Lord Melbourne, a nineteenth-century British Prime Minister. A century and a half later, governments still have to deal with the predicament described by him...
As is evident from the frequent exploitation of historic monuments and sites beyond their carrying capacity, cultural purposes can be abused for economic and employment objectives. Driven by the imperatives of the ballot-box, politicians all too easily miss the most creative ways of taking the culture sector into account when addressing social issues. Even if governments have adopted democratic-participatory and socio-cultural orientations for revised cultural policies, comprehensive approaches to enhance the positive values of the arts in community development, mutual understanding and co-operation are still limited.
Professional policy-makers develop their own technical jargon, which obscures communication with the outside world and constrains their own thinking. They also have systems for legitimizing their actions, often based on evidence which fails to stand up to scrutiny. Such attitudes are difficult to discuss, let alone change. More visible has been the short-term and election-oriented motivation of professional politicians and officials. As prestigious cultural projects loom large in the short-term, election-oriented politicians rarely elaborate long-term policies. Hence the recurrence of the flagship building projects: expensive concert halls, theatres and large sports stadia absorb funds that might otherwise have been used for less visible and cheaper -- and more numerous -- training and community-based arts projects. Controversy is inevitable, for many of the small, emerging, experimental cultural products would not appeal to everybody, and some may even be despised by large sections of the population. But the policy can be defended as an investment, with all the risks normally attached to investments, in creativity and human development.
Cultural policy represents a strong pillar of foreign policy. In a recent declaration the Canadian government depicted the projection of domestic values and culture as one of the three legs of its foreign policy. Often focused on government-to-government relations and trade development, bilateral co-operation and accords generally remain closely linked to traditional forms of cultural diplomacy, where cultural manifestations are used to support unrelated domestic objectives such as using foreign touring of prestigious performing arts companies to promote export development. But the effectiveness of these efforts is being reduced by the increasing flow of exchanges carried out by other private institutions and individuals -- artists, producers, international networks and global media and communications. In recent years, there has been an important shift from exchanging ready-made products to joint exploration, experimentation and co-production. In the cultural industries, the internationalized market is reflected in substantial transnational co-operation and activity, joint ventures amongst film producers, satellite broadcasting services, publishers and the sound recording industry.
Concern for cultural policies has nevertheless become a more significant objective in several regional bodies, the Council of Europe being the most prominent among them. Elsewhere, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the MERCOSUR in Latin America, the Arab League Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ALECSO), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and groupings such as the ACCT (Agence de coopération technique et culturelle/Agency for cultural and technical co-operation) have initiated programmes on cultural policy as part of their activities. Annual meetings of ministers of culture are now regularly organized in various regions. Multilaterally, coordination between regional groupings could open new possibilities. Another important, though still symbolic acknowledgment of a wider public policy "space" for cultural activities is Article 128 in the European Union's Maastricht Treaty. The article, by requiring that the cultural dimension be taken into consideration in economic, social and political policy-making, reflects the call for the inclusion of cultural impact assessments in major decision-making processes.
Funding. Arts funding is a perennial challenge. Purposeful policies for the arts have led to increased spending since the eighties, at least in the high income countries (e.g. France, Canada, Japan) and considerable growth in officially supported cultural activity. But in the nineties, budget reductions have lowered these funding levels. They have also introduced a new rigour in evaluating the benefits of cultural expenditures and greater emphasis on setting stricter priorities. The fact that cultural activities can contribute to export receipts and to economic growth is recognized everywhere but has not necessarily been matched by the corresponding resources. This goal is elusive partly because comprehensive policies for cultural funding are yet to be worked out. This is due in part to the earlier notion that the arts and arts spending are frills and luxuries, purely a drain on the economy. If no specific funding strategy has been defined, resources can all too easily be cut by ministries of finance. Only a few countries, such as The Netherlands, have adopted long-range plans that help ensure that this does not happen.
In the former socialist countries, where cultural infrastructure, regulatory frameworks and funding mechanisms have collapsed, the arts and cultural sectors have suffered greatly. Subsidies for even flagship cultural institutions such the Kirov and Bolsho_ Theatres in the Russian Federation, for example, dropped from near 100% to less than 20% of their budgets. With such a funding collapse, it is not surprising that many countries in transition are nostalgic for the former role played by the state, while forgetting the political basis for that role. In poor countries gross underfunding of the culture sector remains chronic.
Worldwide, there is a trend to diversify the various sources of finance, both public and private, that make up the total system of cultural support. The Commission is heartened by the fact that expenditures by independent non-governmental funders such as corporate sponsors, foundations, voluntary associations and other non-profit making entities appears to be increasing. Such increased attention from the "Third Sector" is obviously welcome, as it heralds new coalitions of support for cultural life in human development. Yet business sponsorship and, to some extent, private foundation support as well, appear to have given rise to a number of false hopes. In some countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America, where the notion of an official cultural policy has been somewhat foreign to the national tradition, a preference for letting market forces look after the culture sector has led to marked reductions in state spending. The United States Congress decided recently to reduce the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts by 40 per cent for the fiscal year 1996-1997.
Governments attempting to shift large shares of spending on the arts to the private sector, i.e. through business sponsorship, whether for ideological or practical reasons, discovered in the 1980s that business sponsors are not willing to make up for reduced public sector budgets. As in the social and educational areas, not all non-profit cultural activities are suited for corporate sponsorship nor can they be expected to survive without public support. Market processes may well fail to deliver a socially optimal level of goods and services that produce wider social and community benefits. It is often not understood that cultural support in a market system should not be seen as a form of handout in response to special pleading, but as a correction for market failure. It is entirely consistent with the pursuit of economic efficiency. Such funding is likely to come from the state for many years to come.
Governments have sought to promote a number of financing strategies and policy stances that encourage the private non-profit voluntary sector to contribute as well. If a broader approach to the culture sector is to be pursued, such efforts are essential. There is growing reliance on fiscal measures such as tax credits and tax incentives to foster non-state cultural production or heritage preservation. Other methods have included the establishment of endowments from public and private contributions, and implementation of copyright with royalties providing new resources. Recourse to lotteries is a method that casts its net wider. Yet the recently-established national lottery in the United Kingdom, for example, has merely restored overall funding to previous levels rather than increase it.
Each of these strategies has been tried in one or more countries. None of them seems to be optimal: hence the growing tendency for combinations to be sought. However, these approaches have often been arbitrarily implemented without the benefit of clear, consistent objectives. This has resulted in overlap or mis-direction of resource allocations. The imbalance in the allocation of resources of governments and non-governmental agencies between cities and provinces far away from the centres of cultural and political power is also common. Only limited evaluations of current spending priorities have occurred, with allocations continuing to go to established purposes and institutions.
In the former socialist countries, new models that incorporate multiple revenue sources are only now beginning to emerge. Here, the role of the private and non-profit sector in supporting cultural activities becomes even more important and increased efforts are required to encourage sponsorship, private donations and civic sponsorship. While much can be learnt from trends in established market economies, there is obviously no ready-made funding model which is appropriate for export to the former socialist economies. Instead, the basic orientation for this region should not be the present state of free market economies in the West, but the future information society, in which the role of cultural components is likely to be very considerable.
Throughout the world, there is increasing awareness that "certain tasks...with which governments have not coped particularly well in the past and with which they now cannot conceivably cope by applying public expenditure and the machinery of public administration" can be carried out through the private initiative of individuals and organizations. Many of these independent funders are ready to enter into partnerships with governments, intergovernmental organizations and supranational bodies in a number of areas, including many that lie within the compass of the present Report. The Commission recommends therefore a world-wide initiative to promote the role of independent funding. It will be necessary to ensure that the independent funding community be made an integral part of the process leading up to a World Summit on Culture and Development recommended in the International Agenda. This effort could be launched with the co-operation of the various associations and documentation centres set up by independent funders throughout the world. It should be planned in consultation with the agencies that have taken a leadership role and already work closely with UNESCO. These include the European Foundation Centre (EFC), the European Cultural Foundation, and the European Agency for Culture. Together, they could build links with independent sector bodies in other regions such as the Washington based Council on Foundations, the Mexican Foundation Centre, and the Asia Pacific Consortium of Foundations.
Partnerships. If the culture sector is to be more effectively supported in the open regional and global economy, there is a need for a more flexible mix within and between governments, the marketplace and civil society. A redistribution of functions between national, regional and local authorities should lead to increased responsiveness at all levels. Of the three layers of government -- national, regional and local -- the third is the closest to its constituents and is obviously the best placed to assess and foster grassroots cultural needs. Indeed, more and more municipalities and local authorities are setting out policies for the culture sector. However, governments frequently do not provide local authorities with the resources to attain these newly-defined goals. This is especially serious when local authorities cannot raise their own taxes or where there is no overall financial estimate of cultural need.
In view of the dominant role played by the market as well as of greater civic activism, the capacities of the private sector and civil society need to be better recognized and encouraged. Space must be provided for other actors and new frameworks; governments should act more as strategic brokers, supporting interaction, consultation and consensus-building with and amongst these partners. This can be enhanced by having decision-making, management and service delivery in the culture sector further decentralized as well as democratized.
The Commission recognizes the vital role played by citizens' organizations in furthering cultural development. It endorses the view of the World Summit for Social Development that local communities' own organizations have a crucial role to play, especially in mobilizing the involvement of poor and powerless people. NGOs perform an indispensable task in mobilizing public support and commitment around positions of principles and specialized tasks. These include those with a specific cultural mandate such as arts centres, youth theatres and local festivals, as well as those with a social or economic mandate which links cultural or identity issues, such as organizations for training unemployed people in the cultural industries or that campaign to protect the physical or cultural heritage. Variety and diffuseness is a characteristic of this sector, and there is no obvious channel by which the Commission could ensure the involvement of representative participants from this sector in the developmental processes it proposes. However, it would be a major gap if we failed to secure such involvement. At both the national and international level, there is a need to support the creation of new mechanisms, based on a number of examples of successful facilitative collaboration between governments and voluntary community associations.
Within government itself, cultural ministries should pursue consultation and work in harmony with agencies in other sectors. This step is critical, as success in constructing a new framework will largely depend on the capacity of cultural policy-makers to promote and encourage positive interaction between a diverse set of administrative agencies. Cultural policy and its implementation should be made an inter-ministerial and inter-sectorial matter. However, as ministries of culture are generally ranked lower than those responsible for education or social welfare attaining such a goal will not be easy. In France, the Ministry of Culture has established the Délégation au Développement et aux Formations, with the aim of furthering co-operation with other ministries and tasks such as stimulating regional cultural development. Comparisons of initiatives and experiences in different countries in this area are to be encouraged.
There is now a worldwide consensus on the importance of multilateral co-operation for the preservation and promotion of, and participation in, cultural activities. This is not an issue. UNESCO has a long tradition of promoting the study and development of national cultural policies and it should therefore convene an international forum on cultural policies. Such a forum could function as a unique consultative arena for policy-makers, administrators, researchers, artists, and representatives of civil society committed to enhancing the effectiveness of cultural policies at all government levels. The forum could promote the open debate, comparison, testing and transformation of cultural policies through a number of flexible mechanisms. It could draw upon governmental and non-governmental policy research and development efforts in the various regions.