Culture letter: cross fertilization of Dutch culture policy in other countries

October 2008 -

Culture and development represent a growing policy field to which the regular art world is devoting an increasing amount of attention. It is for this reason that the time has come for the next step: interaction with international culture policy. That is the message in the letter from the Netherlands' Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education, Culture & Science, Grenzeloze Kunst (Art without borders), in which the priorities for the next five years are presented.

The Netherlands is a donor country that was the first to put culture on the agenda for development cooperation in the early 1990s. The Millennium Development Objectives and enhancing cultural diversity in a globalising world were what inspired this move. International culture policy, however, focuses more on the established art hubs, promoting Dutch art and culture throughout the world, and protecting our cultural heritage. Combating poverty and human rights are not explicitly mentioned.

Despite their different objectives, however, the two policy areas go well together, according to the Ministries. Dutch artists who utilise networks in developing countries for their own work with support from embassies and organisations like Hivos and the Prince Claus Fund, for example, can advise local colleagues about how to gain access to the Western art world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already gained experience in this kind of link between the two policy areas in Egypt, Suriname and South Africa.

In terms of content, the culture letter states that the culture and development policy will primarily be continued; the allocated sum of 25 millions a year also remains unchanged. Particularly noteworthy are the investments to be made in networks. In South Africa, for example, emphasis is placed on South-South cooperation and exchanges as means for strengthening the cultural sector in a select group of countries. In the Middle East, the culture and development programmes are to contribute more to building bridges between the Western and Arab worlds.