Call for action at EU meeting about culture and development

April 2009 -

At the invitation of EU commissioners Louis Michel (development & humanitarian aid) and Ján Figel (education, training & culture) the international colloquium Culture and creativity. Vectors for development took place April 2 and 3, 2009. In Brussels they gathered nearly 500 artists, cultural workers and politicians from the so-called ACP countries as well as cultural practitioners and representatives of various institutions from EU member states for joint discussions and mutual exchange.

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EU commissioner Louis Michel

The Brussels Declaration is the result. It makes clear how necessary steps in the promotion of culture and creativity in developing countries and in the international cultural relations should look like. But it starts with a critical assessment: "After so many resolutions, programmes and action plans rarely put into practice, it is with a mixture of scepticism and hope that we have come to participate in this Colloquium."

Once again it is visible, that it is time for concrete action - especially in the wakes of the global economic crisis culture as an important and independent field of development approaches can no longer be in question. In addition to appropriate funds, the establishment of national cultural policies in the developing countries play central roles as well as greatly improved conditions for cultural networks.

Surely, this initiative as well as others must also be followed critically monitored and reviewed. "We really have to be careful: A main focus is touching the creative industries. But what about the human rights perspective in cultural support? What about the role of culture and creativity in terms of social cohesion and poverty reduction?", commented Mike van Graan, member of the ARTerial Network.

Let us hope that the deeds, that have to follow through this important initiative will be handled with the same energy as the colloquium itself, even if Louis Michel after the 2009 European elections, should not continue to hold the position as Development Commissioner.

For safeguarding a general mainstreaming the European Commission should use the moment of time to call the EU member states to a common approach. Currently, only a very small number of members work with a clear national strategy. But the Brussels Declaration also makes clear that the responsibilities must be stored decentralised, in order to be successful: governments of the developing countries itself have to take action, too. Time for further debate will be provided at the Euro-African campus for cultural cooperation taking place June 2009 in Mozambique.