In the present era of fast development of information and communication technology, people seem to have a growing need for direct contacts, eye-to-eye meetings, debates and dialogue. Admittedly, it is good to have access to a huge store of data and information, to surf the Net, send e-mail messages and receive prompt replies. Still, the number of conferences, courses, workshops, etc. throughout the world remains undiminished. Such events are an expression of a desire for direct cultural communication and acquisition of new knowledge through direct exchange. The present issue of Culturelink testifies to that desire.
The opening pages carry a fairly detailed description of a course on Redefining Cultural Identities: Southeastern Europe, organized by the Culturelink Network and held in Dubrovnik in May this year. The course programme was designed so as to link the issues of cultural identity redefinition with some practical aspects of regional links and cooperation. The participants agreed that issues like international regional cultural cooperation, reflections of new identity formation visible in language use and language policies, narratives representing new cultural identities, cultural imports as conceptual imports, influences of education and mass media on identity formation may give a clue to the understanding of the present situation in the region.
Leaving Southeastern Europe and moving to South Africa, a meeting was held in Pretoria in January and another one in Cape Town in May 2001 to examine the objectives, expected results and operating principles and mechanisms that would allow the African Observatory of Cultural Policies to take off. The Cultural Observatory should have a credible, independent voice on the continent, help articulate the needs of the cultural sector in the development process, and support cultural communication and partnerships. The establishment of the Observatory marks an important step towards the formulation of African cultural policies and development strategies.
Another important conference took place in Bellagio in May 2001: Community, Culture and Globalization. It brought together practitioners in community cultural development to share ideas, observations, hopes and experiences in this field. They expressed the desire for the establishment of a community network in order to examine the dynamic processes of the evolution of community cultural development practice in the changing social, political and economic circumstances.
Finally, our Dossier presents materials from a conference dedicated to the role of the arts in processes of social change.
As usual, this issue of the Culturelink Review carries information on a number of conferences on culture-related themes to be held in the second half of 2001 and in 2002 (on cultural democracy, de-globalizing/re-globalizing processes, multilingualism, informatics for culture, European culture in a changing world, etc.).
In this wide range of meetings, mention ought to be made of one held in New York last June, organized by the Ford Foundation with the aim to discuss the idea of a World Culture Forum as a potential international mechanism for cultural action. Last year, the Ford Foundation convened an informal working group to explore ways of establishing a mechanism that would enhance worldwide dialogue among policy makers, cultural and business leaders and donors. The discussion focussed on the need for a World Culture Forum, and this year strategies for moving it forward were determined. The World Culture Forum is conceived as a process to stimulate creativity, a programme of action for the development of cultural enterprises, and an event to address critical issues in the field of culture and development worldwide. With due respect for all such objectives, it should be stressed that the Forum's greatest value will consist in providing a platform for dynamic and intensive intercultural communication for the benefit of all people.