+ Culture + Action + Europe

Two days in Brussels, working with Culture Action Europe, the most important European network for culture and the arts.

This network launched the campaign We are more which advocates to the European institutions (Commission, Council, Parliament) to broaden the role of culture in the European project. Hint, not only in the funding, which is of course crucial (the new Creative Europe 2014-2020 programme should have a better budget than the current Culture 2007-2013 programme), but also in transversal (the structural funds 2014-2020 should have cultural windows; on this last subject, see this post).

Well, with this conference Culture Action Europe wants to go beyond. It wants to push its members towards a more continuous strategic presence of culture:

  • in the political debates on the European process

  • in the political debates on what today means development and well-being

My speech tried to bring ideas about the relationship between sustainable development and culture. I have defended that:

  • The cultural actors have to be fully aware of the current paradigm of development

  • This paradigm is a triangle: economic growth, social inclusion and the environment

  • This triangle instrumentalises culture (in the best scenario) or ignores culture (the most frequent case)

  • This triangle is not useful to read (and then understand) how the world is today

  • Anyone has the legitimacy to ask for a change of paradigm when it ceases to be useful to read the world

  • Without the intrinsic values of culture (memory, diversity, creativity, beauty, critical knowledge) there is not development.

  • A new paradigm emerges with the new century, not only from cultural actors (Jon Hawkes, Tützing, Vaka Moana, Unesco, Agenda 21 for culture) but also from the leading philosophers on “development” and “freedom” (Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, Arjun Appadurai, Edgar Morin…), which associate freedoms with cultural elements.

  • The new paradigm includes culture as fourth pillar or dimension of development.

  • “Fourth” does not mean “last” nor implies hierarchy; “fourth” means that culture seats at the tables on development with its own chair, on equal footing with the other three dimensions.

  • The cultural sector has to rethink its legitimacy, and the way it is perceived by the citizens.

  • The cultural sector, does it serve the cultural rights of citizens, or it rather serves excellence and elitism?

  • We need a cultural sector (“the professionals”) to obtain its legitimacy from the cultural rights of citizens, the people.

  • We need the cultural sector to evolve towards a serious, strategic presence in the debates on the long-term development of Europe, a nation or a city. How? Adopting the motto “culture is the fourth pillar of sustainable development” (read the report that I wrote in 2009 for a lengthy explanation).

  • We need the evaluation of the cultural impact to become a rule (in the same way that the economic feasibility, the social equity or the environmental balance are rules), and this evaluation has to be based on the intrinsic values of culture.

  • We need Culture Action Europe (and in general the European cultural networks) to intensify more explicitly the relations among development, European project and cities.

There we go!