Goethe-Institut and GTZ study links between culture and development

December 2006 -

"Investing in culture is the most sustainable type of development cooperation," said a participant at the Culture and Development conference Putting Theory into Practice held in Berlin in November 2006. The conference was organised by the Goethe-Institut and the German organisation for development cooperation GTZ. It marked the conclusion of a project in which the overlap between culture and development was studied.

The topic of culture has not been assigned an explicit part in Germany's development policy to date, but awareness of its importance is rapidly growing. The most important objective of the project was to formulate how culture can play a practical part in development processes.

The project was exploratory, with a broad meaning for culture. Round table discussions were held in five countries in the past year in which local experts talked about the role of culture in social inequity, corruption, crime, violence and migration. The results of these meetings were discussed during the conference in Berlin. One important and yet logical conclusion was that the local culture always plays an important but insufficiently understood part. For example: traditional patron-client relationships often result in corruption in a modernising society. Insight into culturally-determined causes can contribute to finding a solution to the problem.

An entirely different perspective was expressed by the representatives of countries including Great Britain, Austria, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. Many of the practical examples presented by these participants discussed active support for cultural projects in the South. These sometimes involve the social part that art and culture play in stimulating development, often also with the explicit objective of stimulating the art sector. A lively cultural sector has proven to contribute substantially to the economic, political and social development of a community.