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Reports from Conferences

Culturelink review, no.41/November 2003 - contents - imprint - archive

Second International Danube Conference on Art and Culture

Report from Belgrade

After the First International Danube Conference on Art and Culture, which took place in Regensburg (Germany) in 2001, the Second International Danube Conference on Art and Culture took place in Belgrade, 17-20 September 2003. Some 80 participants from 10 Danube countries, as well as representatives of the EU attended the conference. The host country was Serbia and Montenegro and the guest country was Austria, which will host the next conference in 2005.

The principal idea behind this biannual conference is to establish a culture and arts network, so that people can understand, respect and get to know each other, including their differences, and thus make permanent peace, respecting human rights and freedoms. This idea is to be realized through different kinds of gatherings. Direct contacts and exchanges at many levels, debates and co-ordinated decision-making on relevant cultural/political issues, as well as project-driven co-operation in the Danube region could contribute to easier adoption of European standards all over the continent.

The main topics of the Second International Danube Conference on Art and Culture were focused on the potential for cultural policy and cooperation in the Danube region and on the Danube region as unique civilisational space in the past and in the 21st century integration processes. Within these main topics, discussions were focused on the social and historical aspects of the Danube region, fiction and non-fiction visions of it, and numerous presentations of existing cultural projects.

It was emphasised that culture should have an important role in the reconciliation processes and it should therefore be an important element in the stabilisation of South-East Europe and its closer linking with the EU countries. The concept of identity and the existence of a common identity of the Danube countries were also discussed, together with the possibilities for cultural and artistic cooperation in the region.

In the concluding remarks it was emphasised that cultural policy is crucial for regional cultural cooperation projects. Support by local and national governments, as well as the EU, was especially stressed. Equally, cities could be important promoters of regional cultural cooperation. The situation in the region shows that most of the Danube countries that are not members of the EU focus their attention towards cooperation with the EU and not with their neighbours.

From the presentations of the existing projects in the region it can be concluded that cultural tourism is recognised as a means by which local development in the region can be further enhanced and cross-border cooperation projects established. In addition, the importance of establishing the infrastructure for cultural information (referral centres, web, journals) was stressed as vital for the dissemination of relevant information. Archives and their cooperation were seen as an especially important segment of cooperation in the region. Possibilities for cooperation were recognised also in the fields of museums, literature, theatre and new media.

In addition to the academic programme of the conference, artistic discourse was also present. Several exhibitions were organised in an attempt to bring the theme of the conference and the concrete artistic projects from the region closer to the wider audience.

For more information, please visit: http://www.danubeconference.net

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First Conference of Ministers of Culture of the ACP Countries

Report from Dakar

The First Conference of Ministers of Culture of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States was held in Dakar, Senegal, 20 June 2003. The ministers adopted a Declaration and a Plan of Action aimed at implementing a development strategy based on culture and cultural industries, as desired by the Summit of the ACP Heads of State and Government. They also initiated the process of establishing the ACP Cultural Foundation and chose Haiti as the venue for the First ACP Cultural Festival scheduled for the summer of 2004.

Cultural Policy. Considering culture as the guardian of their sustainable development and maintenance of peace and security, the countries of the region decided to make industries and creativity an essential element of their economic development and international cooperation policy, and their objectives in multilateral trade negotiations. Within the framework of the relations between the ACP Group and the EU, the ACP countries asked the EU to facilitate the movement of ACP artists and their works throughout the EU markets. It was also recommended that culture and cultural industries should be included in their National and Regional Indicative Programmes for EDF funding.

They further recommended that cultural industries be assessed at national and regional levels, with a view to determining their contribution to the countries' economies and potential. Other recommendations provided for the elaboration of an international instrument on cultural diversity aimed at guaranteeing cultural pluralism and regulating trade in cultural goods and services, and for defining common cultural strategies in order to take full account of the opportunities offered by globalization.

Cultural heritage. The ACP states were called upon to assess their tangible as well as intangible cultural heritage, and to support the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In that context, the Ministers expressed their satisfaction at the adoption, by the governments of the Pacific, of a regional framework for the protection of skills and expression of traditional culture. They also launched a vibrant appeal for the restoration of illegally acquired ACP cultural property, and the reinforcement of the struggle against illicit trade in cultural goods.

Status of the Artist. The ACP Ministers encouraged the authorities in their respective countries, who have not yet done so, to guarantee a legal status to their artists and to combat their precarious position, generally in the developing countries. As far as the development of cultural industries is concerned, the Ministers meeting in Dakar undertook to get their countries to adopt a whole set of measures bearing on public and private funding for cultural operators, taxation, legislation, infrastructures and partnership between the public sector, the private sector and international donors, and other important international organizations. The Dakar Ministerial conference also undertook to facilitate the ACP cultural operators' access to the information and communication technologies and to defend, at the international level, the concept of numerical solidarity, especially during the World Summit on Information Society (Geneva 2003 and Tunis 2005).

Festival and Foundation. The Ministers adopted measures for the implementation of the decision of the Third Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government to establish the ACP Cultural Foundation and the ACP Cultural Festival. They also unanimously approved the choice of Haiti as the country to host the second meeting of the ACP ministers of culture as a prelude to the first staging of the festival.

The second meeting will take place in 2004, the year in which Haiti also celebrates the bi-centenary anniversary of its independence.

The documents adopted can be accessed on-line on the web site of the General Secretariat of the ACP countries: http://www.acpsec.org/gb/press/dakareng.htm