Government leaders of ACP countries give culture priority

August 2004 -

Not only are bananas and cashew nuts good for the economy; art can also promote prosperity. During the 4th ACP meeting in Mozambique at the end of June 2004, government leaders discussed culture and development.

'Culture is a multi-faceted asset,' underscored Laisenia Qarase, premier of the Fiji islands, during the meeting in Maputo. 'Culture can bring us closer to one another and can be an important instrument in economic development.'

The poorest 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean (ACP) have been placing culture high on their political agenda for a year. In June 2003, the ministers of culture of the ACP countries convened for the first time in Senegal and drew up the Declaration of Dakar, which mandates that the countries formulate a culture policy and include this sector in their development strategies from now on.

By joining forces in co-productions and distribution, the ACP countries hope to promote the distribution of their artistic creations on the world market. The idea is to collaborate per region on specific projects, such as art exhibitions. Cultural production and services will also be given more attention during multilateral trade discussions with the European Union (EU), for example. The ACP wants to negotiate better access to the European market for their artists and cultural products. Up to now, the meetings have primarily dealt with agricultural products. An ACP Cultural Foundation has been set up that will coordinate all these plans.

The EU is the most important donor to the ACP countries; this relation is also the only EU mandate in the area of culture and development. In addition to financing cultural projects, the partnership agreements include the ACP Cinema Support Programme. Moreover, the EU will support cultural industries in the ACP countries starting in 2005. The ACP is searching for other financing sources for the Cultural Foundation.