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Culturelink review, Special Issue 2000 - imprint - archive

contents - preface - introduction: outlining the debate

Outlining the Debate


In May 1999 Culturelink, Creative Exchange (UK) and Stichting CompArt (Netherlands) agreed to collaborate on a Culturelink Special Issue 2000 on the theme of Culture and Development. The aim of the issue was to promote better awareness and understanding of contemporary issues in Culture and Development, to identify and outline key trends, and to present a broad range of views from key institutions, organizations and individuals world-wide.

Culture and Development is an increasingly popular and broad-ranging subject. Its language, interpretation and boundaries are still evolving, and this evolution looks likely to continue as a consequence of the growing awareness and involvement of other intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental agencies.

Organizations were invited to contribute papers on a subject within the framework outlined in the Preface to this Special Issue.

However, the process reflected - in microcosm - the very challenges of blurred concepts and fuzzy terminology which, in proposing this publication, we had all intended to clarify. While some of the papers illustrated very clearly the practical impacts of cultural projects in development programmes, others dwelt on the theme of the development of culture and cultural policy (cultural development), which was not the original focus of the publication, but is an area which does have a profound impact on the long-term development of humanity.

The result is that we have changed the focus of this publication to exploring and illustrating the differences between the two sets of terminology - Culture and Development and Cultural Development - and to explaining historically how these emerged and how they are evidenced by policies, projects and activities around the world.

We are grateful to all those who have submitted contributions to this Special Issue, and particularly to Y. Raj Isar, former Director of UNESCO's Cultural Policies for Development Unit, who has presented an important overview of the development of this discourse. None of the papers represents a definitive analysis of either Culture and Development or Cultural Development, but collectively they represent a contemporary range of views from around the geographical and philosophical compass which help to map out the territory.

Advancing some definitions

In recent years, the terms Culture and Development and Cultural Development have become interchangeable. In fact they are not, but represent two frameworks not wholly isolated from one another, and at many points contiguous and interdependent, but nevertheless with fundamentally different aims and outcomes. This confusion of terms is not new, but is to some degree a product of their evolution since the 1950s. There does not appear to have been a systematic attempt in recent years to clarify what they mean. The confusion has been compounded by international exploration of these themes over the past fifteen years which have at various points referred to culture and development, cultural development and cultural policies for development, apparently without distinction between them.

Culture and Development

In general terms, Culture and Development is about the role of culture and cultural processes in achieving development, as in issues of poverty, human rights, gender equality, health, environmental concerns, and associated fields. The objective of Culture and Development is development: it is about the relationship between culture and very pragmatic and practical issues of survival and the improvement of the human condition, and ways in which culture can contribute to, or influence, the success of interventions in these areas.

In his excellent paper, originally developed for the Stockholm UNESCO intergovernmental conference on Cultural Policies for Development in 1998 (and reprinted here), Mervyn Claxton noted: 'The concept of culture and development concerns the interactions between the two [culture and development], and not just the development of culture itself... the response to the problem of describing and measuring the interactions between culture and development has been ... to quietly sweep the development component under the carpet... and to concentrate on the promotion of cultural policies.' (Claxton, Mervyn. Culture and Development Revisited, paper delivered at the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies for Development, 1998)

There are several dimensions to Culture and Development: it is about the relationship between cultural factors - beliefs, traditions, ways of living - and development, and the extent to which they influence one another. This dimension of the debate (sometimes referred to as the cultural dimension of development) has been stimulated by a growing awareness that development programmes which fail to consider the cultural environment and cultural factors influencing their sustainability are likely to end in failure. The papers contributed by Mervyn Claxton, James Sengendo and Guillermo Gutiérrez represent some fascinating viewpoints on this aspect of Culture and Development. An added dimension to this is cultural rights, and a recognition that people's cultural identity, beliefs and values can be a powerful ally for - as well as a barrier to - development. This is alluded to in Kees Epskamp's paper on the ICAT project in Costa Rica.

Culture and Development is also about the role of popular and traditional media in promoting participation, communication and empowerment in developing communities. Many creative forms contribute to development in this way: theatre, dance, music, puppetry, storytelling, radio, television, video. This has also been referred to as arts for development, traditional and popular (folk) media for development, popular communications and culture in development.

Cultural projects like the examples in boxes 1 and 2 are increasingly seen as a useful route to sustainable development: they build social capital, can raise awareness about key issues such as health and human rights, are a valuable tool for community dialogue and governance processes, and play a role in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction. Development agencies and intergovernmental agencies are increasingly looking towards policies to manage this cultural aspect of development work.

Box 1: Culture & Development in India

Katha is an organisation working with women and children in the poorest districts of Delhi, India, which is using cultural approaches (literature, storytelling, performance, craftwork, etc.) to change the lives of families in their local slum cluster. It has had a huge impact over a decade and has affected thousands of people. It has not only given them new skills and literacy, but empowered them to take action on broader social issues, such as education and sanitation.

Box 2: Culture & Development in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, a radio soap opera called New Home, New Life, has played a critical role in informing and mobilizing the public on all sorts of issues: health and immunization, mine clearance, humanitarian relief - it has even prompted a cease-fire between the warring factions to allow immunization to take place.

Unless cultural projects, policies and activities have a practical impact on wider sustainable development and unless they are based on well-established needs articulated by local people and founded upon their own development priorities, they are not Culture and Development initiatives.

This dimension of Culture and Development is exemplified by the papers from the Centre for the Arts in Development Communication, Arts Access Aotearoa and Art for Social Change, and by François Matarasso's paper documenting evaluation processes for cultural projects addressing social issues.

Cultural Development

Cultural Development focuses on the development of cultures and cultural capacities. This terminology encompasses a vast range of issues appertaining to cultural policy, cultural industry and socio-cultural development. The objective of Cultural Development is culture - as a sociological dynamic in which society grows and changes; as a powerful sector of the economy; as a professional environment inhabited by skilled creators, artists and craftspeople; as a transmitter of aesthetic expression, ideas and values.

Resolutions from the 1976 UNESCO General Conference appear to endorse this definition, since cultural development personnel were seen as 'serving as a connecting link between the public, the work of art, and the artist, and between the public and cultural institutions.' Furthermore, when the World Decade for Cultural Development was conceived in 1982, its primary objectives were promoting cultural development, cultural identity, participation in cultural life and international cultural cooperation.

Cultural initiatives which harness the indigenous skills and cultures of communities, like those outlined in boxes 3 and 4, can be powerful drivers for social or economic growth, the promotion of global cultural diversity, and engender a sense of cultural self-confidence - all of which can have positive impacts on the broader development of a community, country or region. Over the long-term, such projects may have an indirect influence on issues related to the survival and well-being of the community, but in the short-term the benefits are largely cultural rather than developmental.

Box 3: Craft development in north Africa

The World Bank and NGOs have financed the development of an Internet marketplace for craft makers from north Africa to sell their products to international markets. Artisans have doubled their incomes, and the project has strengthened the development of cultural infrastructures in three countries by promoting training, skills development and networking between craft makers.

Box 4: Restoration of cultural sites in Nepal

The German Development Ministry has supported the restoration of monuments and historic sites in Bhaktapur, Nepal. The town is historically significant as a trading centre, but has degenerated following the loss of independence, a major earthquake in the 1930s and the collapse of cross border trade. German funding has helped restore 130 buildings, which has promoted the growth of tourism and strengthened the awareness of local history.

The theme of cultural development is particularly well illustrated by Kazimierz Krzysztofek and Raina Cherneva in exploring the transitional societies of Eastern Europe. A slightly different but fascinating dimension of the debate is represented by Tiao Rocha's paper on the social indicators of cultural change.

This comparative matrix analyzes some of the differences between the aims, objects and systems of support and delivery for Culture and Development and Cultural Development.

Figure 1. Comparative analysis of Culture and Development and Cultural Development


Culture and Development

Cultural Development

Primary aim

Social change/growth

Cultural change/growth

Relationship to development

Concerned with the influence of cultures on development processes

Concerned with promoting cultural growth as an aspect of development


Concerned with the use of cultural forms and traditional/popular media as mechanisms for development

Concerned with preserving and supporting the development of cultural forms, traditions, heritage and cultural infrastructures

Relationship to culture

Concerned with personal and community growth, awareness, education and empowerment and the fulfilment of practical needs

Concerned with the fulfilment of aesthetic and cultural needs


Concerned with creative and cultural activities as mechanisms for non-formal education, popular communication and participation in development processes

Concerned with creative and cultural activities as a means of individual or community expression

Target audiences

Communities, youth/children, women, minorities, socially disadvantaged groups

Arts audiences, visitors, consumers, buyers

Institutional partnerships

Public and civil society agencies concerned with development, community change, social services, governance, health, economic development

Public and civil society agencies and private sector concerned with culture, economic development, employment, trade, tourism and leisure

Support structures

Development policies, social service systems, human rights instruments, governance and democracy system

Cultural policies, economic policies, intellectual property rights, cultural markets, private sector


Development workers, community activists, specialist cultural workers

Artists and creators, professional cultural managers and administrators

Development of expertise

Specialist training in development fields, peer exchange, comparative analysis of methods and practices, evaluation of impact on target groups

Specialist professional training at cultural institutions, peer exchange/tuition and comparative analysis of art forms and audiences


With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see how the confusion in terminology has arisen. Culture and Development and Cultural Development have followed parallel growth trajectories since the 1950s.

Cultural Development

A series of UNESCO intergovernmental conferences on Cultural Development in the 1970s explored the development of cultural policies and infrastructures on a regional and continental basis. The catalyst for these conferences was the growing acknowledgement of the role of 'cultural animators' during the 1950s and 1960s. Cultural animators were viewed as a bridge between artists and 'high' culture and the ordinary citizen. Their role was to democratize culture and make it more accessible at community level, to build 'shared experience and participation in a creative process.' (Moulinier, Pierre. UNESCO Cultural Development Documentary Dossier 18-19, Cultural Animateurs, UNESCO, Paris, 1977)

While a small element of cultural animation was socio-cultural, with the content focusing on 'civic and social life...economic, education...sexuality, hygiene, birth control,' the overwhelming aim was to promote and stimulate mass involvement in cultural life, which, as a 'cultivating' influence, would improve their 'adaptability, powers of communication, personality and independence.' (Ibid.)

These explorations of cultural animation gave way to the discourse on cultural development which was, according to the report of the Bogota conference - Americacult in 1978 - the first effort to organize and mobilize 'different fields of the preservation, creation, dissemination, administration and organization of culture' into a more comprehensive notion of cultural policy. (Ibid.)

Culture and Development

At the same time as the discourse on cultural development was evolving, field workers and community activists were experimenting with the use of popular theatre and other folk media to promote a community participation in problem solving for development. This so-called 'socio-cultural animation' was related to cultural democracy, and closely allied to community development, the growth of popular education and mass communication programmes. In developing countries, it was the foundation for holistic human development, which was based on the premise that economic growth was not sufficient to promote human progress.

In 1972 UNESCO funded an expert meeting followed by a series of publications exploring the use of folk and traditional media in development communications. In 1985, the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO organized an international symposium to discuss the need for sensitization of development planners to cultural aspects of the development process and analyse the impact of cultural projects which contribute to development processes (Uhlenbeck, G.C. (Editor),The Cultural Dimension of Development. Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO, The Hague, The Netherlands, 1985). A whole raft of texts published in the 1970s and 1980s explored the use and impact of different media and popular cultural forms in development programmes. One outstanding review is Penina Mlama's 1991 publication, Culture and Development (Mlama, Penina Muhando.The Popular Theatre Approach in Africa. Scandinavian Institute of African Studies (Nordiska Africainstitutet), Uppsala, 1991), which explored the role of popular theatre in development programmes in Africa.

The term Culture and Development has subsequently been used to describe a broad range of cultural issues and challenges in developing countries. In the 1990s the World Bank started exploring these themes, using Culture and Development to refer more narrowly to the relationship between development and the protection and preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Twin tracks: different destinations

In the 1970s, it was clear that Culture and Development and Cultural Development were moving on closely allied but separate tracks. While socio-cultural animators existed to develop 'community life and cure social ills' (Moulinier, Pierre. UNESCO Cultural Development Documentary Dossier 18-19, Cultural Animateurs, UNESCO, Paris, 1977), cultural animators existed to bring art to the people. Their objectives appeared to be contradictory: the former was viewed as 'a militant of social change' who was concerned with encouraging people to challenge the economic, social and cultural order, whereas the latter was concerned with popularising the arts among an increasingly large audience, thus reinforcing the influence of the existing cultural order.

In his 1977 study of training needs, Pierre Moulinier noted that distinct socio-cultural networks had emerged which were independent of existing networks of professional cultural workers who ran museums, libraries, theatres, art galleries, cultural ministries and other institutions. He also noted different training needs for each of these sectors.

In his bibliography and review of popular performing arts and social change in developing countries (Kidd, Ross. The popular performing arts, non formal education and social change in the Third World: A bibliography and review essay. CESO, The Hague, Netherlands, 1982.), Ross Kidd noted that there existed a wide range of arts activity related to education and organizing among popular groups, but not all involved deliberate and conscious use of the arts to bring about 'social change, changes in self-concept, attitude, awareness, skill or behaviour.' Thus he drew a defining line between arts activity which was conceived as entertainment, performance or traditional ritual, and defined the focus as 'attempts to prepare people a) to understand and change their existing situation, or b) to understand and deal with changes in their lives produced by external influences.'

From confusion, towards coexistence

Some people may feel that the confusion and blurring of the Culture and Development and Cultural Development agendas is inconsequential.

However, where it has begun to cause particular problems, is in the execution of projects and programmes in the Culture and Development sphere, where projects with a genuine development impact are having to compete for funds with projects which, while exploring some fascinating cultural issues, contribute little to the urgent challenges of development. If the expectation is that these projects will deliver a tangible result in development terms, and none is evident, the confidence of stakeholders outside the cultural sector, particularly in the development field, may be eroded.

Correspondingly, if all issues of cultural development are to be related to the broader concept of development, there is a danger that the spiritual and aesthetic worth of culture may be devalued unless it can demonstrate a social impact. Though their work may be a unique and insightful reflection on social issues and human concerns, not all creators and cultural organizations are able to contribute to social change in a practical way. Forcing all artists to become social agents benefits no-one: not the beneficiaries, and not the artists. If Michaelangelo was forced to justify his creations in the context of Culture and Development, his Sistine masterpiece may not exist today.

For the benefit of both, we should therefore acknowledge and retain the boundaries between Culture and Development and Cultural Development.

From time to time these agendas cross, and it is entirely possible that in the future growth trajectory of both these fields the aims of development and culture may become more closely entwined. The fact that this dialogue is occurring, and has been evolving over fifty years, is certainly an acknowledgement that both sides are progressively broadening their agendas.

Development currently prioritizes poverty, health, gender as urgent issues. Culture and development is therefore tied to the same critical agendas. In the long term, however, development is not simply about ensuring that people can survive, but that they have quality of life.

In 1984, the author, poet and dramatist Ariel Dorfman visited six Latin American countries for the Inter-American Foundation, to explore the link between culture and survival. He returned with the conviction that the benefits of culture in development did not come down to mere statistics: 'The real advantage consists in having made some people feel more human. How do you measure the amount of dignity that people accumulate? How do you quantify the disappearance of apathy? With what machines do you evaluate someone's rediscovered identity, the power that they now feel to set their own goals and not merely take what others are willing to hand down?' (Dorfman, Ariel. Grassroots development, vol. 8, no. 2, Inter-American Foundation, Rosslyn, Virginia, USA, 1984)

In practical terms, it will take many years of sustained improvement in quality of life, the reduction of poverty and improvement of universal human rights before the development sector can broaden its horizons to fully embrace culture and cultural development, simply because in a world of such extreme poverty and injustice, they are not a priority. Where culture is actively addressing and contributing to development, however, a valid case can be made.

Correspondingly, cultural policy is no longer just about the arts, cultural products and audiences; it is not just about artists and their vision for humanity, but the wider creative vision of the whole of humanity. It is not just about nurturing the cultural community, but nurturing the community through culture - it is about carving out a practical and useful presence for culture in achieving human development goals.

This shift in the cultural policy agenda was envisioned as a next step by the World Commission on Culture and Development (Our Cultural Diversity. Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development. Paris, UNESCO, 1995). However, again in practical terms, the cultural policy sphere is still too entrenched in elitism, aesthetics and consumerism, and it will take many more years yet of evolution before the cultural sector can become unselfish enough to consider its value to others before its own self-interest.

Distinct though the aims of Culture and Development and Cultural Development are, they are nevertheless of the same body. As the Romanian Cultural Minister, Ion Carimitrou, remarked at a recent World Bank conference on Culture and Development: 'Maybe this body will have more hands than a human being.' (Culture Counts - Financing, Resources and the Economics of Culture in Sustainable Development. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, Washington D.C., USA, 2000.) The starting point for the next stage in the evolution of this discussion, we would argue, is better understanding and recognition of the relative strengths and weaknesses of these two particular hands of culture, and ultimately better partnership between them.

Kees Epskamp, Stichting CompArt
Helen Gould, Creative Exchange

Biographical Information


Special Issue Coordinator: Daniela Angelina Jelinčić, Research fellow

Culturelink, the Network of Networks for Research and Cooperation in Cultural Development, gathers about 1,000 networks and institutions from around 100 countries in all parts of the world which deal with, and are interested in, cultural development, cultural policies and cooperation.

The aim of the Network is to strengthen communication among its members, to collect, process and disseminate information on world-wide cultural development, cultural life and policies, and to encourage regional, interregional and international joint research projects and cultural cooperation. Besides research, activities of the Culturelink network include development of the Cultural Development Data Bank and publication of the review Culturelink, Culturelink Directory Series and Culturelink Joint Publication Series. Daniela Angelina Jelinčić, a research fellow in the Culturelink team, has for years worked on the development of cultural policy profiles. Her research subject is cultural tourism - the impact of culture on tourist activities and vice versa. She holds a Master's degree in Cultural Heritage and Tourism.

Creative Exchange

Special Issue Contact: Helen Gould, Coordinator

Creative Exchange is a network and alliance of more than 100 organizations and individuals who are using culture and creativity in development and empowerment internationally. Its partners range from UN agencies and international development agencies to small grassroots community organizations, academics and cultural workers. It is a registered charity in the UK, with a mission to promote education in the arts and culture for the relief of need. It provides information development, advice and training in Culture and Development worldwide. It supplies electronic information to around 500 contacts worldwide, arranges networking opportunities and skill-sharing for professional development, offers advice, contacts and support to those planning or implementing arts/creative media projects in development, and is spearheading standards development for creative activities in several key areas, including conflict and emergencies and child rights/child protection.

The Creative Exchange Coordinator, Helen Gould, worked for almost a decade as a journalist and editor in the cultural policy sector before becoming a researcher, consultant and author in Culture and Development. She co-founded Creative Exchange in 1997. She sits on the Culture Committee of the UK ­UNESCO National Commission as a Culture and Development specialist and has worked as Culture and Development Consultant to the British Council.

Stichting CompArt

Special Issue Contact: Kees Epskamp

Stichting CompArt(CompArt Foundation) is a Dutch non-governmental organization aiming to promote, monitor, implement and/or make accessible (the results of) research in (performing) arts in Western and non-Western cultures and to produce and stimulate publications and/or media productions in relation to this subject. CompArt coordinator, Kees Epskamp, worked for many years with the Centre for the Study of Education in Developing Countries (CESO). He is currently employed by the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO in The Hague, where he is responsible for public relations and the coordination of World Heritage. He co-founded Stichting CompArt (CompArt Foundation) in 1997. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Faculty of Theatre of the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU) and the PassePartout Foundation.