Culture Resource’s Initiative to Survey and Develop Cultural Policies in the Arab Region

In March 2009, Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy), in collaboration with the European Cultural Foundation, Doen Foundation and the British Council, launched a regional initiative to survey the main features of cultural policies in the Arab region, with the aim of building a knowledge base to support planning and cultural cooperation in the region, as well as proposing mechanisms that would vitalize cultural action in the Arab region. The initiative included 8 countries in its first phase, with a plan to extend its scope to other Arab countries in the future. This initiative represents an important stepping stone in Al Mawred’s efforts to support cultural action in the Arab region. It is an extension of the cultural management program that was launched by Al Mawred in 2005, which providsd training programs in Arabic to a large number of professionals in the cultural management field, as well as the publication and translation of four key references books in cultural management: “The Guide to Cultural Management”, “Arts Management in Turbulent Times”, “Strategic Planning in the Arts” and “Arts Management Entrepreneurial Style”. Project Steps: • The first phase of the project was to conduct a preliminary survey of policies, legislation and practices that guide cultural work in eight Arab countries: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The survey process was accomplished in the period between May 2009 and January 2010 by a group of Arab researchers from the eight countries. Culture Resource invited researchers through an open call and they were selected according to their expertise and their knowledge of the reality of the cultural action in their countries. The researchers started the work by a training workshop, given by European experts in order to be familiar with the cultural policies monitoring model (compendium) developed by the European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts) and the Council of Europe, and to adapt this model according to the circumstances in each of the eight countries. Additional advice was given by the British Council, in the context of its International Cultural Leadership Programme. In early January 2010, the researchers accomplished the preliminary profile of the cultural policies which influence cultural action in their countries, based on the model developed by the European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts) and the European Council compendium. The results of the research were reviewed by Arab and European experts and activists. These results are currently being proofed and translated in order to be published electronically. In April 2010, a book edited by Hanan Al Haj Ali, will present profiles of the reality of cultural policies in the 8 countries, based on the research that was undertaken by the

survey researchers. The research will be published in its entirety on the websites of the project partners. In July 2010, Boekman Stiftung in the Netherlands, which specializes in cultural policy and cultural management research and publishing, will publish a book in English that is also based on this research. During the 2nd half of 2010, Al Mawred Al Thaqafy will hold meetings and discussions with a number of national, regional and international organizations that are involved in cultural work in the region, with the aim of putting together a plan for developing cultural policies in the Arab region.

Preliminary Results: The researchers who undertook the survey often face difficulties such as the unavailability of accurate and accessible information on cultural policies. Some researchers also indicated the need for more time to finalize the research. However, the preliminary results of the researches gave an overview and a comprehensive profile of the cultural systems in the eight countries, including: • • • • • • • • • • Overview on the historical, social and cultural context for each country, Administrative and organizational structure of cultural entities, Centers of management and decision making, Goals and general principles of cultural policies, Topics raised actually related to the development of cultural policies, Culture and new technologies, Policies related to heritage, The principal legal texts organizing the cultural action, Methods of financing of culture, Methods of partnership between cultural institutions and methods of supporting participation and creativity.

The research was not limited to the governmental sector, but rather included the three sectors that participate in cultural action: the governmental sector, the private sector and the independent civil sector. It also took into consideration the variations in the degree of participation by each of these sectors in cultural action in the different countries, as well as well as the impact of each sector on cultural life and the frequency of partnerships with the other sectors. The research linked general policies in each country, the legislations which organize cultural action and the cultural practices in each country. They also shed light on the transformation of the concept of Culture in each country throughout its history until now. The researchers took into consideration the particularities of the cultural work in each country and worked on highlighting the strengths and weakness in policies and mechanisms which organize cultural action.

Consequently, the research shows different models of the frameworks used for cultural action in the eight countries, forming an overview on the situation of cultural policies in the Arab region as a whole, and highlighting the common strengths and weaknesses which can be summarized to the following points: • The absence of cultural policies that are announced by Arab governments and the urgent need for a publicly announced policy for each Arab country. This would lead to depicting a specific framework for the performance of the governmental in this important and vital sector, as well as a distribution of roles among the three sectors. The richness and diversity of Arab culture on the one hand, and the under-utilization of this wealth on the other. This is caused by specific political challenges or by the limitations imposed by inadequate laws regulating culture action. The diversity of cultural systems in the Arab countries in general and the similarity, at the same time, of the constraints imposed by the political and the legislative conditions. The legislation and laws governing the culture work in the majority of Arab countries do not create the appropriate climate for the development of cultural action, but in some cases, constitute an important obstacle. In several countries, working in culture is no longer limited to the governmental sector; the roles of the private sector and civil society organizations began to grow and occupy an important position in the society. However, the degree of collaboration across the three sectors varies from one country to another.

The 1st Conference on Cultural Policies in the Arab Region This conference, which will be held in Beirut on 7 and 8 June 2010, is an important part of the project to survey and develop cultural policies in the Arab region. The conference will provide an opportunity for presenting and discussing some of the preliminary results of the research, exchanging views on the challenges facing cultural action in the region, and sharing learning from the experiences of other countries in developing dynamic and supportive cultural policies. The conference will be attended by ministers, representatives of ministries of culture, independent cultural leaders and activists, academics, cultural policy specialists and media professionals from a large number of Arab and European countries, in addition to Turkey, USA and Russia. It is hope that the conference will conclude with clear recommendations that would guide the process of developing cultural policies in the eight countries.

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