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Culturelink International Conference

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Cultural Diversity, Civil Society and International Cultural Cooperation in South-East Europe

Zagreb, Croatia, 3-4 June 2013

Organizers: Culturelink / Institute for Development and International Relations and Centre for Democracy and Law Miko Tripalo, in cooperation with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (Venice) and the Croatian Commission for UNESCO

Framework: UNESCO / Culture: A Bridge to Development Initiative

Participating Countries from SEE: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Romania, Turkey

Others: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada

Experts/Participants: 2005 Convention national focal points, Ministry and National Commission representatives, civil society, NGOs, cultural entrepreneurs, European experts, Culturelink Network members from the region and beyond


Cultural diversity has possibly never been so much in the forefront as in the first and early second decade of the 21st century. Owing to the rapid growth of multicultural societies and countries, ever stronger international migration flows, and the accelerated development of digital technologies, cultural diversity is becoming the principal challenge of our times. Thus, in its latest report on the protection and the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, the European Commission emphasizes: "The diversity of cultural expressions lies at the heart of the European project" (SWD/2012/129 final). The issues that arise from cultural diversity cannot be solved by political voluntarism; they require knowledge and an intense international cooperation and exchange of experiences.

Today, cultural diversity is understood not only as the common heritage of mankind, which needs to be protected and promoted, but also as a resource, which needs to be managed in the interest of building lasting peace and sustainable forms of development. The management of cultural diversity may be realized through dialogue on all levels of cultural action, within and beyond the borders of communities marked by the affiliation with a certain culture, faith, nation, view of the world and geopolitical alliance. It is also possible to realize such a dialogue through the cooperation between (individual) states, but still more readily, and more diversely, through the framework of civil society and networking. In practice, it was precisely networking which fostered new dynamics of cultural diversity on the global level.

The integration of cultural diversity into a wide framework of public policies, not only cultural ones, gives a new impetus to the international community in its approach towards its fundamental goals – peace building and development, conflict prevention, democracy and human rights. Thus, the question is raised, in which degree cultural diversity is present in the implementation of development policies in general, how important it is, for example, to include international cooperation and intercultural dialogue in long-term international investment projects, aiming not only to secure profit but also to strengthen the trust among economic actors from different countries.

UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2005, touches (also) upon economic issues. It advocates changes in international cooperation, which will contribute to the bridging of the development gap and the reduction of dependency in the world, through the establishment of development partnerships. The very fact alone, that the Convention especially emphasizes international cultural cooperation, and its relation to sustainable development and the eradication of poverty, shows the good will of the Parties to create more favourable conditions for the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, a more balanced exchange and cooperation, and sustainable development.

Conference of the Parties to the 2005 Convention to be held in June 2013 will, for the first time, discuss and analyse the quadrennial periodic reports sent to UNESCO by 48 signatories to the Convention including the European Commission and, from the SEE region, Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Montenegro, Slovenia (www.unesco.org/culture/cultural-diversity/2005convention/en/programme/periodicreport/)

What does the world community expect from the Convention? The Convention aims to strengthen the link between culture and development, to foster cultural interaction and dialogue, and to establish innovative approaches towards international cooperation and solidarity. The Convention encourages the opening towards other cultures, recognizes and defends the distinctive nature of cultural activities, goods and services as vehicles of identity, values and meaning. The Convention also encourages signatories from the developed world to offer preferential treatment to artists and cultural workers from developing countries in order to assist the development of their cultural industries. It emphasizes the role and the legitimacy of public/cultural policies in the promotion of cultural diversity and defines their relations with other international instruments. The Convention is not subordinated to other conventions or treaties, but is their equal, in a relation of mutual supportiveness, complementarity and non-subordination

Today, after the first round of periodic reports have been received and analysed by UNESCO, the question of its effective implementation is still pertinent. The purpose of the Culturelink Conference is to gather experts, researchers as well as policy makers and points of contact for the 2005 Convention from the region of South-East Europe and beyond to discuss above-mentioned questions by analysing the answers submitted to UNESCO through the reports.


The conference will take place in four thematic round-tables, each focusing on 4 different levels of intervention: policy-advice and planning, information sharing, operational, partnerships and civil society.

1. A New Vision: Integrating Cultural Diversity in Sustainable Development Policies, Legal Frameworks, Strategies and Action Plans.

Cultural diversity is a dynamic process which promotes the exchange and interaction among communities, organizations and institutions, whose fundamental values and objectives are insufficiently recognized in their environment with the aim of strengthening mutual respect and a better understanding. Today, it is evident that cultural diversity and the economy are far from being incompatible, since cultural diversity is a source of innovation and creativity for development. However, it is with difficulty that cultural diversity is asserting its position in policies of international cooperation. With the crisis of public finances/debts, which is affecting many countries, compelling them to cut their cultural budgets, it is precisely cultural creativity and diversity which are in urgent need of support. How can this be achieved? What is an integrated approach to cultural policy-making? What new systems of governance for culture, involving both governmental and non-governmental actors can be put in place?

Speakers and participants will discuss and look at strategies for the integration of culture in development plans, innovative examples of integrated governance of culture in SEE, and new ways of designing creative forms of bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

2. Promoting Cultural Policies: Exchange, Analysis, Dissemination of Information and Awareness Raising

In the past few decades we have seen an increase in the number of comparative research programmes in the field of cultural policies. After UNESCO's initiative from the seventies, the Council of Europe and ERICarts developed the Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe as a very useful tool for monitoring cultural policies in Europe. National reports gathered according to the article 19 of the 2005 Convention (sharing of information and expertise concerning data collection and statistics, as well as best practices) and article 9 ("Parties shall provide appropriate information in their reports to UNESCO every four years on measures taken to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions within their territory and at the international level.") are important sources of information for exchange among member states when assessing specific cultural policy measures and instruments introduced in order to promote the main principles and goals of the Convention. In 2012, Parties that had ratified the Convention between 2005 and 2008 submitted for the first time quadrennial periodic reports. All the reports are available for online consultation, with Annexes on Sources and Statistics, examples of innovative policies and measures, and with analytical content summary of the reports. What kind of information can be gathered from this first cycle of reports? Do they offer a solid overview of the main trends in cultural policies? Which lessons can be learned? How to develop States' capacities, through a transparent and inclusive process, for the preparation and drafting of such reports?

Speakers and participants in this round-table will analyse information received and discuss specific challenges in compiling the national reports, as well as in sharing information and lessons learnt about them.

3. Strengthening the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: How to Nurture Creativity?

Cultural industries, which include publishing, music, cinema, crafts and design, continue to grow steadily apace and have a determinant role to play in the future of culture. Their international dimension gives them a determining role for the future in terms of freedom of expression, cultural diversity and economic development. In fact, creative and cultural industries are one of Europe's most dynamic sectors, contributing around 2.6 % to the EU GDP, with a high growth potential, and providing quality jobs to around 5 million people across EU-27.

Beyond these now well recognized facts and figures, it is more than ever relevant to describe empirically the economic performance of creative industries, as well as the policies and measures most frequently reported as helping to “nurture creativity”. Who is contributing to the reshaping of the cultural and artistic contemporary landscape in South-East Europe? Why? How are these changes helping to modify the image and perception of the region, in terms of creativity, innovation and modernity?

Against this background, participants of this round-table will be invited to look at the current state of affairs, also with regards to international cooperation such as framed in articles 12-18, look at the relevant information gathered in the national reports, and present cases of innovative cases of implementation of the Convention at country and regional level. Non-governmental organizations from South-East Europe - recipients of the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (ICPD) in 2011/2013, will also present major achievements and challenges in the implementation of their projects and activities in the field of cultural policy and cultural industries.

4. Promoting Mobility and Engaging Civil Society

With the new forms of mobility and migration which have arisen with the rapid processes of globalization, new ways of interconnection, exchange and cooperation, and new ways of intercultural communication have emerged. Which new possibilities of intercultural dialogue, partnerships and networking have been created by the dynamic forms of transnational and transcultural mobility? As a complex process, intercultural communication primarily requires the recognition of common values to overcome old differences and animosities, such as solidarity, tolerance and shared responsibility, for the accomplishment of which the role of civil society is vital. The 2005 UNESCO Convention is the first international legally binding instrument envisaging such a prominent role of the civil society. How can this ambitious goal of sharing responsibility for the successful implementation of the Convention between the governments and civil society be fulfilled? Has civil society been adequately consulted in the process of writing the reports? Why is this important? What can UNESCO do to enhance the collaboration with the civil society? Today, many countries have coalitions for cultural diversity (i.e. Germany, Switzerland or France in Europe, which participate, with number of other European countries, in the network of European Coalitions - ECCD, the Canadian Coalition, the South African Coalition, etc.), that form a worldwide network of coalitions – the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (IFCCD), representing professional cultural and artistic civil society organizations. The coalitions operate through institutions, advocating the importance of culture and the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions, as formulated in UNESCO's Convention, but also having an eye on broader developmental issues. Does civil society in Southeast European countries have an interest in the creation of coalitions for cultural diversity in the countries of Southeast Europe? Can we envisage other forms of civil society participation including informal networking and consultations?


Following the Conference, the Culturelink Editorial Team will invite participants to write an article as a contribution to be published in the March 2014 issue of the Culturelink Joint Publication Series. The Culturelink research team will undertake a desk research based on the received national reports with the aim to assess the compatibility of the reports with the principles and goals of the Convention, analyse the methodology of the report as well as the results and information received. The aim of this research will be to contribute to the evaluation of the methodology and scope of national reports.

For more information, please contact: Culturelink/IMO, Lj.F. Vukotinovića 2, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia; tel.: +385-1-48 77 460; fax: +385-1-48 28 361; e-mail: clinkconf@irmo.hr; www.culturelink.org/conf/culdev/