Co-funding: culture suffers hard blows in the Netherlands

October 2006 -

Dozens of organizations in the Netherlands participate in development cooperation. Their work varies from health care to home construction, and a number are involved in cultural activities. They are primarily financed by the government. Subsidies are issued under the responsibility of Minister Van Ardenne of Development Cooperation.


This year, all of the subsidy schemes were placed under the rule of the MSF: the co-funding system. The MSF applies for four years, resulting in consultation between the relevant organisations, the officials and external advisors. In order to qualify for subsidy, organisations must be innovative and provide quality. They must also act in accordance with the Millennium Objectives and earn 25% of their income. Critics such as the dean of the Institute for Social Studies Louk de la Rive Box believe that the larger chari-market mechanism is primarily good for advertising agencies and that the treasured diversity is threatened.

The subsidies to be awarded were announced on 22 September 2006. The large traditional organisations like NOVIB, ICCO, Hivos and Cordaid had little to fear: they will be receiving about € 1.6 billion of the € 2 billion available in subsidies. A number of old soldiers are left empty-handed: agricultural organisation Agromisa, research institute Transnational Institute, and the Medical Committee Netherlands – Vietnam will receive no subsidy. A surprising big loser is the Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa, NiZA.

The subsidies awarded for culture are varied, but unfavourable on balance. Apparently, the minister has a disliking for imagery: both the Hubert Bals Fund and the Jan Vrijman Fund – to help the makers of films and documentaries in developing countries – were refused their requests. The same applies to the World Press Photo. Theatre and music received varying responses: the international theatre projects proposed by Theatre Embassy were granted, but those by Waterhuis were not. The Music Mayday Foundation that promotes music in the Netherlands and in three Africa countries will receive no subsidy; thanks to intervention by the Minister the Stichting Mundial will. Of course, culture will continue to enjoy protection from Hivos.