Vienna Group is networking for culture in development

January 2009 -

All of the participants agreed: the diversity of artistic expression should be promoted in development cooperation. Cultural diversity is now a motto. We must map the road for the politicians so that cultural diversity can be turned into reality. That was the decision reached by the 'Vienna Group' in January 2009, after two days of discussions and experience sharing. Making it time for a to-do list.

The two-day network meeting of European organisations for culture and development was organised by the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC), as sequel to the previous conference held in January 2007. The immediate reason for the conference was the disbandment of Creative Exchange, a worldwide network for culture and development, in August 2008, giving rise to the question of whether a new network was needed.

Attendance was meagre. The participants from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia and the Netherlands, however, utilised the opportunity to compare the situations in these countries. There were many similarities. In general, development organisations focus on combating poverty and fail to see the role that culture can play. Artists and cultural organisations, however, are not involved in development cooperation and fear for the autonomy of art. The practical problems encountered also proved to be universal. The mobility of artists from Africa, Asia and Latin America, for example. Visas are not always readily issued to musical or theatrical companies for performances in European countries.

Diego Gradis of the Swiss organisation Traditions for Tomorrow warmly recommended involvement in the implementation of the Unesco convention on the diversity of cultural expression. "This convention recognises the importance of culture for the global economy. It is binding. It is the most important instrument we have."

Sharing experience, collective projects, involvement with Unesco and the European Commission: more than enough work for a new network. One important to-do point was therefore expanding the network and making sure efforts are continued long after the conference ended. The next meeting is scheduled to be held in 2010.

Minutes Vienna Group Network meeting on Culture & Development (pdf)