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Culturelink review, no.22/August 1997 - contents - imprint - archive

The Future of Culture in Europe

Technological Innovation and Social Exclusion
Report from Vienna

The conference on the Future of Culture in Europe, organized by the Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria, Department for the Arts, in cooperation with the Kultur-Kontakt and Mediacult (both from Vienna), and the Council of Europe and UNESCO, was held in Vienna, 7-8 April 1997. It was devoted to the presentation and discussion of two major reports outlining the problems and issues related to cultural development in the world and in Europe: Our Creative Diversity (Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development, UNESCO 1995) (See Culturelink no. 18/April 1996, pp. 35-37.) and In from the Margins (a report prepared for the Council of Europe by the European Task Force on Culture and Development, Strasbourg, 1997) The conference in Vienna was the first to discuss both reports from a comparative perspective. It was also a preparatory event for two major conferences to follow: The intergovernmental conference of the Council of Europe, to be held in Strasbourg in 1997 and include culture, information and education in its agenda, and the UNESCO conference on Cultural and Media Policies for Development, to be held in Stockholm in 1998. The discussion and comparison of these reports may be of relevance for other important international meetings, such as the UNESCO Conference on the Status of the Artist (June 1997), etc.

The meeting in Vienna had two workshops: the Austrian and the European, preceded by the introduction of both reports.

Our Creative Diversity was introduced by Ms. Lourdes Arizpe of UNESCO, who emphasized that in the present-day world people are interacting more than ever in their history. Development, which has always been embedded in cultures, represents a process of enlarging people's choices through interaction. A major contribution of this report is the opening up of a new perspective on culture and development by introducing the global ethical dimension, which stands for the respect of human and cultural rights of all individuals and groups.

In from the Margins was introduced by Rod Fisher, member of the European Task Force. Cultures and cultural diversities are crucial for social cohesion on the European level. However, the differentiated approaches and specialized policies, including cultural, are not properly assessed on the basis of their implementation. It therefore happens that old policies are simply re-packaged and presented in a new shape, which does not ensure an effective response to new challenges. In this perspective, elements of social exclusion, technological innovation, media role in culture, etc. are very relevant for the future cultural development in Europe, which should include an effort to attain social cohesion.

The Austrian workshop was designed so as to present the key issues of present-day cultural development in Austria. Artists, politicians, managers of cultural institutions, researchers, etc. took the floor to present, analyze or criticize the Austrian cultural developments. Possible implications of the reports for the Austrian culture were occasionally mentioned. In very general terms it could be said that a kind of solidarity with the leading ideas expressed in the reports was discernible, and that the main issues addressed (global developments, cultural creativity, new technologies, social/cultural exclusion/inclusion, etc.) were acknowledged as important for the Austrian culture. Both reports need to be brought to the public attention more actively. However, it was felt that there was a lack of structural thinking about culture, creativity and arts, no convergence between culture and arts, and considerable conceptual inconsistencies regarding social development and cultural cohesion.

The European workshop was devoted to the effort to organize a kind of European response to the present global and development challenges. Both reports follow the long tradition of reporting on the global challenges (e.g., the Brandt Report: North-South relations, the Brutland Report: ecology, The Report of the Club of Rome: Limits to Growth, etc.). Such reports introduce new insights and new understanding of the most complex problems. Unfortunately, the World Report on Culture and Development did not stir much public reaction, but both reports may still serve as a basis for new cultural policies. The main challenges in this perspective appear to be globalization, transnational character of art and culture in national states, multicultural societies, and new technologies. All of them stimulate and influence the development of new values, new standards and new demands for freedom and democracy. In this respect, the definition and observance of cultural rights needs to be relaunched in the public debate.

It was pointed out that the issue of new technologies and their implications for cultural development was marginalized in both reports, although new technologies and new types of communication may and should stand for the change of paradigm in cultural development. Europe no longer lives in information society, but has stepped into the communication society, and although the less developed countries (including the Third World ones) may easily become excellent manipulators of machines, creativity and invention are ever more restricted to the highly developed societies. Creativity influences the type of cultural identity, and therefore the ability to use new technologies cannot ensure the original development of cultures and societies that should be diversified and preserve diversity. At the moment, individualism is the only way of ensuring respect for the diversity and liberty of communities. However, human beings customize their individuality; the European cultural identity may have a chance if it remains varied and relative. Cultural cooperation stemming from such a cultural context should concentrate on joint creative enterprises and processes and growing networks. It should give up cultural diplomacy in favour of more long-term and dynamic cultural relations.

The conceptual crises in the arts and culture and the public indifference to culture may best be tackled through processes of cultural participation that should include, and be based on, communication, artistic creation and open flexible approaches to different cultures.

Issues of identity and multiculturalism are not sufficiently present in the European public debate, which sometimes excludes cultural dimensions from social development issues. Culture should therefore be more closely integrated in the political domain, and its place in the centre of social processes should be fully acknowledged.

The Vienna meeting was a valuable initial contribution to a serious debate on the role of cultures and cultural development in the process of achieving a certain European social cohesion and promoting human and cultural rights as the basis of multiculturalism.

For more information, please contact: Mr. Norbert Riedl, Bundesministerium für Unterricht und Kunst, Minoritenplatz 5, A-1014 Vienna, Austria.

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Culture in the Neighbourhood

An Afro-European Interaction

Culture in the Neighbourhood: An Afro-European Interaction is a proposal for a UNESCO project to last two bienniums, from 1998 to 2001, planned as a follow up to the Swiss project (project 117 of the UNO/UNESCO World Decade for Cultural Development). Since UNESCO expressed an interest in the continued implementation of the project Culture in the Neighbourhood and its extension to other regions, in March 1997 it decided to support the preparatory work for the project, while the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) entered into a partnership with UNESCO to participate in the project on international and local levels. Culture in the Neighbourhood: An Afro-European Interaction is to be a UNESCO/IULA project of interregional cooperation for a common cultural action of urban development. It will be implemented within four years through neighbourhood projects in bilateral cooperation between four European and four African countries. On the national level, Austria wishes to collaborate with Mozambique (Environmental Activities in the Neighbourhood), Finland with Namibia (Creativity in the Neighbourhood), France with Cameroon (The Role of Artists in the Neighbourhood), and Switzerland with Burkina Faso (People's Participation in and Access to Cultural Life in the Neighbourhood).

The main idea of the project is the promotion of cultural activities performed by the inhabitants of a neighbourhood for the inhabitants of this same neighbourhood on themes directly related to their lives in order to draw them closer, thus reinforcing their belonging to the place they live in and its social entity. One of the main concerns of our planet is uncontrolled urban growth, which was treated comprehensively at Habitat II in Istanbul. The more the metropolises grow, the more important becomes the neighbourhood, the district where people live and work. Cultural activities on the neighbourhood level can support programmes aiming to build up urban infrastructure, urban management and even urban democracy. Heritage and creativity are key elements in this process of helping people to live vitally in modern societies.

The project has the following aims:

  • to improve the quality of life of the people in their everyday neighbourhood by means of organized cultural projects, and
  • to increase mutual understanding between people with different cultural and racial backgrounds through international interactions.

The project is to be implemented on two levels - the grassroots level (to include bilateral exchanges under the guidance of professionals) and the expert level (including an International Project Group and a Final General Meeting). The preliminary schedule envisages 1997 as the year of preparation and adoption of the project, while the two phases of implementation are to cover the periods of 1998-1999 and 2000-2001.

For more information, please contact: Nationale Schweizerische UNESCO-Kommission, Eidgenössisches Department für auswärtige Angelegenheiten, Schwarztorstrasse 59, 3003 Bern, Switzerland, tel: 031 324 10 67; fax: 031 327 10 70

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Arts in Hospital

As part of the ongoing Arts in Hospital project (See UNESCO Project on Arts in Hospital, Culturelink no. 18/April 1996, p. 84.), a final report has been published from the 7th International Conference and Expert Meeting held in Vienna/Geras on 25-28 September 1996. The conference heard a variety of contributions, ranging from painting over architecture and dance therapy down to the culinary arts. The topics discussed included arts in hospital, a new philosophy in the management of patients, the physician as artist, and potentialities and limits of arts therapy. They also included the results of a study on the effects of pictures and background music on patients in a medical practice.

National reports from Austria, Norway, Russia and Sweden are included, as is also the report of the WHO International Network of Health Promoting Hospitals and the final report of the Expert Meeting. The Arts in Hospital project will be concluded with the next year's 8th Conference, to be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in May. Concerning the future of the AiH project, the experts decided to submit to UNESCO and the WHO a further programme entitled Culture and Health: 1. Relations between traditional and modern medicine; 2. Arts in Hospital. The project will feature interregional seminars, informational networks, training workshops, and joint projects.

For more information, please contact: Austrian Commission for UNESCO, Mentergasse 11, 1060 Vienna, Austria

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Basic Texts in Communication 1989-1995

UNESCO, CII-96/WS/2

Some fifteen years after the introduction of the concept of the 'new information and communication order' and its final collapse in the mid-eighties, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization embarked on a new strategy for communication and media, which was unanimously adopted at the 25th session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 1989. It is perhaps not a coincidence that this strategy, worked out in 1988 by the Executive Board of UNESCO, was adopted by the international community exactly in the year when the symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, was finally pulled down from both sides of the divide.

Since 1989, UNESCO's communication strategy, based on the concept of the 'free flow of ideas by word and image', provided the basis for activities aimed at encouraging 'the free flow of information at the international as well as the national level, and its wider and better balanced dissemination, without any obstacle to freedom of expression'. The fundamental principle of the freedom of expression, together with the freedom of the press and the development of independent and pluralistic media, became the focus of the new strategy. UNESCO has since then been strong in activities in the areas of media development and democracy, public service broadcasting, promotion of media independence and pluralism, as well as in the areas of communication for conflict prevention and post-conflict peace building, violence in the media, issues of women's access to the media, and questions of new communication technologies.

A recent UNESCO publication brings together all the resolutions, declarations and other official texts which were produced, or served as the basis for this work, in the 1989-1995 period. An important contribution to this effort was a series of regional seminars on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Media, which produced the declarations of Windhoek, Alma Ata, Santiago, and Sana'a, in which specific regional needs in the realm of freedom of expression and the media were highlighted. The strategy of improving access to decision-making and participation of women in the media is found in the Toronto Platform for Action. The present book also includes the Resolutions of the UNESCO General Conferences in the 1989-1995 period: Communication in the service of humanity (1989), Promotion of press freedom in the world (1991), Women and the media (1993), Roles and functions of public service broadcasting (1993), Support to cultural and educational activities undertaken by public service broadcasting, media professionals and journalists to reduce violence in the media (1995), Promotion of independent and pluralist media (1995), Toronto and Beijing Platforms for action on women and the media (1995), New information and communication technologies (1995), Promoting the free flow of information and the development of communication (1995), Contributing to conflict prevention and post-conflict peace-building (1995).

An excellent resource for a better understanding of UNESCO's contribution to the international struggle for freedom of expression and the media.

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Directory of Social Science Institutions in the Arab Region

Reports and Papers in the Social Sciences, No. 62, UNESCO, 1996, 86 pp.

The Directory of Social Science Institutions in the Arab Region is a selected printout from the UNESCO DARE Data Bank. It contains 119 entries from 17 Arab countries and a section in which international organizations are described. It was preceded by a Provisional Directory of Social Science Institutions in Central and Eastern Europe, 1995, and the Directory of Social Science Institutions in Africa South of the Sahara, 1995.

The Directory holds data on national, regional and international social science research and advanced training institutions, professional societies and groups, as well as social science periodicals published in the Arab Region. It is accompanied by several indexes, such as the index of names and acronyms, index of directors, and subject index.

The main purpose of the Directory is to make the social science research and training capacities of the region better known and to contribute to the promotion of national development and regional and international cooperation in this area.

The Directory comes with its diskette version.

For more information please contact: Social and Human Sciences Documentation Centre, UNESCO, 1 rue Miollis, 75732 Paris Cedex 15, France; fax: (+33 1) 45 68 38 53; e-mail: c.bauer@unesco.org