Culture is increasingly prominent on the international agenda. But the discussion about whether and how culture contributes to combating poverty and sustainable development has far to go. Part three in a series about culture and development policy by donor countries.


March 2007 -

After the Swiss federal government had officially confirmed that culture could contribute significantly to every type of development, theSwiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), affiliated with the federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, integrated culture as a development factor more fully in its programmes and projects. The aim is to achieve a new synthesis between tradition and modernity in order to utilize the creative skills of people in the countries of operation and thus strengthen and promote their own capacities (empowerment). SDC regards culture as a value in itself. At the same time, culture is also an instrument for development.

Though culture and development as a theme in itself had been removed from the main agenda of the SDC recently. Changes were made to operate more effectively by focusing on a smaller scale of thematic fields keeping culture as a trespassing subject.

The most important cultural organisation in Switzerland is Pro Helvetia, the national art council with offices in sixteen countries. Pro Helvetia stimulates exchanges between Swiss artists and local artists. The organisation finances various activities, including artist-in-residence programmes and supports international festivals in Switzerland. Some offices have been assigned an extra mandate: Pro Helvetia South Africa, for example, has managed the SDC's cultural fund since 1999 by building up capacities that make a meaningful exchange with Switzerland possible. Culture and Development is a joint cultural organisation founded in 1985. Its goal is to facilitate access to the cultural treasures of those regions and countries that are usually only connected to catastrophes and poverty. Südkulturfonds, founded in 1992 and financed by SDC, has enabled Culture and Development to help organise funding events and workshops in the domain of the arts. Other Swiss NGO's are Traditions pour Demain and the Aga Khan Development Network.