Conference on art and culture in development cooperation

February 2007 -

An international group of policy makers and representatives of non-governmental organisations met from 25 to 27 January in Vienna for the conference European Network: Culture and Development. The Austrian organisation Kulturen in Bewegung organised the conference in cooperation with the German CulturCooperation. The conference was part of a three-year EU project called Culture and Development that focuses on the integration of artistic and cultural programmes in development cooperation.

The liveliness of the conference was particularly evident in the presentation of two examples from actual practice from Zanzibar and Uganda. Professor Abdul Sheriff, former director of the House of Wonders Museum in Zanzibar, instructed the participants on the pitfalls of projects supported by foreign funds and on the importance of retaining ownership of projects.

Stephen Rwangyezi from Kampala told the inspiring story of his Ndere Centre: an enormous network of more than two thousand affiliated traditional dance and theatre groups in Uganda. The impoverished among the population are the ones that cherish their traditional culture, and the network contributes to giving them a voice, self respect and social involvement.

One problem that many of the conference participants shared was the gap between the art world and development cooperation. Applicants for cultural projects flounder in the quagmire of the jargon of sustainability, empowerment, stakeholders and ownership and the demand for assessable results.

One of the major objectives of the conference was to stimulate exchange and contact between European organisations active in the area in which culture and development cooperation overlap. The Power of Culture website will also be able to expand the part it has played in that respect.