Culture and Development: the Gerona seminar paves new paths.

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On 4-5 May 2010, an international seminar entitled « Culture and Development » was held in Gerona, near Barcelona, under the Spanish presidency of the European Union. One year after the European Commission’s Brussels colloquium, this event was an opportunity to continue the reflection and exchanges between the professionals and political and institutional decision-makers. It also hosted the first meeting of the Follow-up Committee instigated by the Brussels Declaration.

« Culture and Creativity, vectors of development » took place a little over a year ago in April 2009. Organized by the European Commission – or more specifically by the Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel – this founding colloquium was held in Brussels, bringing new hope to arts professionals from the ACP countries (Africa, Caribbean, and the Pacific), but also, more generally, to citizens of both the North and South. For the first time, the interstate institution invited eight hundred political and institutional decision-makers, artists and arts professionals from 65 ACP and European countries to debate cultural cooperation and the means needed to reinforce culture’s contribution to development policies.
The professional workshops, which were organized according to artistic discipline, but also transversally, were very interesting. The same can be said of the speeches made during the plenary sessions, notably Francisco D’Almeida’s speech on « The potentials and stakes of creativity and culture for development » (1) and that by Aboud Diouf, Secretary General of the International Organization of the Francophonie. After three days’ intense debate and exchange, this seminar ended with the reading of what’s been named the Brussels Declaration, produced by the artists, professionals, and culture entrepreneurs present. (2)
This aims to be a founding text. By formulating a large range of recommendations and objectives aimed at ACP countries’ local, national, and regional authorities, the European Union, and ACP and EU professionals, this Declaration hopes to « create a new dynamic ». Its reading was a solemn moment, full of restrained enthusiasm and emotion. All the actors present endorsed the European Commission’s initiative. What other international institution can boast having brought together so many professionals and political decision-makers from the cultural domain in a truly innovative spirit of democratic and participative construction?
The Brussels Declaration is extremely ambitious. It aims to contribute to remodelling current cooperation and development policies by highlighting the importance of the cultural sector. It is not possible within the scope of this article to list all its recommendations and the objectives it lays out for political, economic, social and cultural projects. However, the following extract gives an idea of the scale of the works it hopes to see undertaken:
« As culture, and notably cultural heritage, contribute to economic development, populations’ well-being, and social cohesion, and as culture exerts a considerable impact on other sectors of development, we artists, professionals and cultural entrepreneurs formulate the following three central demands:
– firstly, that culture be the object of structuring public policies on a national, regional and international level;
– that cultural dimensions be taken into account by other sector’s policies and inscribed in a transversal approach to development;
– and finally that artists and creators be fully recognized as actors of development and be given a professional and social status befitting their context. »
We can measure the ambition of the reforms that this text advocates both in ACP countries and international institutions. It might have seemed like a list of pious hopes if it wasn’t carried by the determination of not only professionals but also, and above all, by the backing of the European Commission which, at the end of the Brussels colloquium, committed to setting up a committee to monitor the implementation of the Brussels Declaration.
The Gerona seminar reaffirms the European Union’s commitment   
This Follow-up Committee’s first meeting was held during the recent Gerona seminar in Spain, last 4-5 May. Entitled « Culture and development » and organized by the Spanish presidency of the European Union, this international seminar reaffirmed the European Union’s commitment not only to cultural development in ACP countries, but more generally to a new cultural approach to development policy.
Held on the very modern campus of the University of Gerona, the seminar brought together several hundred participants: representatives of UE member states and the European Commission, political decision-makers (including several ministers) from the ACP countries, and also from Latin America, with whom Spain closely works, civilian experts and agents from some fifty countries, and heads of various international organizations (OIF, specialist UN agencies, etc.).
This seminar was organized around four roundtables on the following themes: « The role of culture in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); « Economy and Culture »; « Cultural Governance and Cultural Diversity »; and « Synergies of current programmes: the Culture-Development thematic window of the Spain-UN Fund for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other examples of bilateral and multilateral cooperation ». Like in Brussels, the various speakers’ contributions and the brief exchanges with the audience were most enlightening. It is not possible, within the scope of this article, to summarize all the contributions and the wealth of exchanges. Different documents about the panels and the seminar’s conclusions can be consulted, in three languages (English, French, and Spanish), on the seminar website:
What we would like to highlight here is the confirmation, at this event, of the European Commission’s desire to continue the reflection and the work undertaken at the Brussels colloquium last year, and the actions already undertaken in this direction.
In an article entitled « A new approach to culture and development in European development policy strategy? », Stefano Manservisi, Director General of the European Commission DG Development, recalled the different stages that have constituted this new approach from the Cotonou Agreement signed by the EU and ACP countries in 2000, to the 2007 European Agenda for Culture in the Era of Globalization, to the Brussels colloquium. (3)
Today, the Commission is working at different levels to formalize this new cultural cooperation approach. Without going into the details of all its actions, we can highlight a few. Firstly, those undertaken in the scope of the EU’s main instrument of cooperation and development aid to ACP countries: the European Development Fund (EDF). With a budget of 22.7 billion euros, the 10th EDF, entered into effect in 2008 and will end in 2013. (4) Under it, an intra-ACP cooperation programme for culture, with a budget of 30 million euros, is currently being elaborated in collaboration with the ACP Secretariat. Moreover, seven countries from the ACP group have requested the introduction of cultural programmes in their National Indicative Programmes (NIP) (5), which represent over 50 million euros. (6) And, following the Brussels colloquium, seven more (7) have formulated a similar demand, which will take effect at the mid-term revision of their NIP. (8)
As for the instruments of trade policy, the Commission is advocating the inclusion of a « cultural protocol » in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) currently in negotiation between the European Union and various ACP regions. For the moment, only the CARIFORUM region (which includes most of the Caribbean countries) has adopted such a protocol under the auspices of the EPA. (9)
As for the EU-Africa Strategy adopted at the Lisbon Summit in 2007, this envisages « priority action devoted to cultural cooperation ». Until now, this focused on « the fight against the illegal trafficking of cultural goods and the question of restitution ». But it should expand and open to other cultural fields following a meeting of experts in Addis Ababa in April 2010.
Finally, thematic programmes such as « Investing in People » and « International Media » include provisions for the backing of the cultural sector. This year, « Investing in People » is centred on « the governance of culture ». This programme destined mainly for non-state actors in developing countries, and which functions on the basis of an annual call for projects, disposes of a budget of 50 million euros for the 2008-2013 period.
All these aspects were evoked during the Gerona seminar. The Brussels Declaration Follow-up Committee took the time to more specifically debate a certain number of points concerning these actions. For there are numerous questions and difficulties relating to their implementation. How to increase their impact and their structuring effect? How to articulate them with other development programmes? How to facilitate cultural operators’ access to them? Preoccupations, among others, that come up time and time again at each debate.
The Committee was also consulted on the directions currently being defined under the 10th EDF’s new Intra-ACP Culture Programme. After that which existed under the 9th EDF (which constituted two main axes: ACP Films and ACP Cultures (10)), one can only approve this effort to consult a group of professionals beforehand.
The challenges facing the Brussels Declaration Follow-up Committee
But what exactly is a follow-up committee? What is its role and what room for manoeuvre does it have? As we already recalled, the Brussels Declaration of artists, arts professionals and entrepreneurs called on the European Commission to set up a follow-up committee to monitor its implementation. It was thus a question of prolonging the innovative dynamic instigated at the Brussels colloquium: a fruitful dialogue between the Commission and professionals in a spirit of construction and democratic participation.
This follow-up committee’s role is thus « to support the implementation of the European Commission’s working programme » by following the colloquium’s recommendations. It aims to be representative of the different categories of parties concerned. It basically has four main missions: « to be a consultative organ » for all actions following on from the Brussels Declaration; « to relay information to professionals »; « to inform the political and economic decision-makers in the countries concerned of the cultural sectors’ potential in terms of development »; « to assist the Commission in its reflection and conception of cooperation programmes concerning the relations between culture and development ».
A vast mission … and a major responsibility considering the hopes raised by the Brussels colloquium and the urgency of arts professionals’ expectations in the ACP countries.
This committee thus met for the first time at the start of the Gerona seminar. It currently comprises some twenty members: ten professionals and ten institutional representatives (11) chosen by the European Commission. In keeping with its missions and following this first meeting, this committee drew up conclusions and new recommendations which were publicly read at the end of the Gerona seminar. (12) Seven proposals have thus been made to the European Union, which can be summed up as follows:
– 1°) « To carry out voluntaristic action within the EU bodies and on the ground » notably by circulating a text that reaffirms the EU’s commitment to making culture a transversal dimension of development.
– 2°) To set up « national platforms to monitor the implementation of the Brussels Declaration and bring together concerned partners on the ground ».
– 3°) « These national platforms’ role will be to raise awareness of the importance of culture as a factor of development », to relay the Declaration, to federate professional groupings, and to constitute interlocutors for public authorities in the creation of cultural policies.
– 4°) To create « an articulation » between EU strategy and Unesco’s actions to back the ACP countries in the elaboration and implementation of cultural policies.
– 5°) « To closely associate professional groups ».
– 6°) To constitute « associations » between partners of the North and South and intra-ACP countries to « reinforce competences » and the development of structures in the South. Plus the development of cultural exchanges between these geographic zones.
– 7°) « To create a chart to monitor the fulfilment of recommendations » and dispose of the time and necessary information to « carry out a joint reflection ».
Here too, the ambitions are noble. In theory, we can only but adhere. But what about in practical terms? Are they all realistic, accessible in the short or even medium-term, given the precariousness and urgency of cultural sectors in the majority of ACP countries? Are they sufficiently grounded in existing specific dynamics?
The constitution of « national platforms to monitor the implementation of the Brussels Declaration » is, of course, an excellent thing. But how much more time will it take for these platforms to be set up? How will they be constituted and run? Will they really be operational? Cultural actors’ difficulty in grouping together, in federating in efficient organization in many ACP countries is nothing new. There are reasons for this and many professionals have already experienced it. Is it realistic to imagine this difficulty disappearing with the constitution of these national platforms? In what conditions? What will the financial cost be for these regroupings to have a real impact? Is it necessarily justified to limit these platforms to a national level? In short, a number of questions that cannot be ignored. The cultural players’ ability to mobilize, their courage and determination, are not in question. On the contrary. But it’s impossible to ignore the day-to-day struggle that most ACP professionals wage to continue their activity and the incredible energy that that requires.
And yet, right now, one of the main post-seminar stakes, reaffirmed by all the Follow-up Committee members in Gerona, lies in the construction on the part of a growing number of ACP cultural actors of a dynamic to appropriate the Brussels Declaration.
In this perspective, the European Commission has initiated several communication and awareness-raising actions. Of these, worth noting was the production and distribution of various media on the Brussels colloquium: a CD, DVD and brochure. Moreover, numerous articles and documents are freely available on the colloquium website: Regularly updated, the site is now also going to present post-colloquium activities. Finally, EuropAid has opened an exchange platform on the theme of culture and development for the operators and institutions concerned. (13)
These institutional actions are highly useful and constitute precious sources of information accessible to all. But they aren’t sufficient to create a real dynamic of appropriation amongst professionals and ACP political decision-makers. For that, as in many other domains, the contribution and creativity of the Follow-up Committee will no doubt be determinant.
Decompartmentalize the different milieus
There are many challenges facing this committee. Amongst the most urgent, the need to decompartmentalize the different milieus strikes us as essential. The Brussels and Gerona seminars testify to the open-mindedness of the European Commission Directorate General Development. A frank and constructive dialogue between the institution and professionals is progressively falling into place. But this working together is still too limited to just the cultural players. How to make culture a transversal component of development policies if the decision-makers and players of other sectors of activity are not included in the reflection from the start? Yet cultural seminars appear to have great difficulty in integrating representatives from other fields.
In both Brussels and Gerona, there were few economists, bankers, urban planners, or decision-makers from the tourism, telecommunications, health, education or environment sectors… There were no finance, labour, education, trade or transport ministers either… Is culture’s social and economic potential only apparent to players from this sector and to a few « visionaries » from the world of development? If that’s the case, it’s all the more vital to include representatives from other fields in the exchanges and reflection. And particularly as liberal globalization and new technologies are deeply modifying society in the ACP countries, engendering both opportunities and dangers at the same time. We can take just the case of the realm of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Everyone is aware of telecommunications’ stunning growth in Africa over the last ten years. The figures confirm it: the growth of the mobile phone and Internet market is two times greater in Africa than that registered worldwide. According to the International Telecom Union, between 2000 and 2008, the number of subscribers to these services on the continent has multiplied 24-fold, increasing from 10 to 246 million! (14) A study by the firm Ernst & Young has shown that since 2002, « the African market has recorded a growth of 49.3% there where the French telecommunications market has registered only a weighted annual growth rate of 7.5%, Brazil 28% and Asia 27.4% ». (15) The average mobile phone penetration rate on the continent, which currently stands at 37%, could thus reach 61% in 2018. As for the Internet, its usage is also progressing at an amazing rate. According to a report by the Institut français des relations internationals (Ifri), its level of usage has progressed 1300% throughout the whole continent between 2000 and 2009. (16)
This telecommunications growth not only represents an increasingly important place in Africa’s economies, but also, notably via the development of « mobile payment » (which gives users access to banking and financial services, such as online payments, transfers, micro-credits, etc.), is engendering a new entrepreneurial spirit. For African operators and cultural industries, this growth represents a change that they are, or should be taking into account, both in terms of their economic development and the distribution of their content. They are, or should be, interlocutors for the telecommunications operators present on the continent, whether these be African (Orascom, MTN, or Vodacom), European (Orange, Vodafone, Telefonica, Portugal Telecom, etc.), Indian or from the Persian Gulf countries.
Although the cultural and telecommunications sectors are potentially close, although the latter are in the process of imposing themselves as one of the main sources of development on the African continent, and although everyone constantly calls for public-private sector partnerships in the field of cultural development, the telecommunications operators were not officially present at the either the Brussels or Gerona seminars. Worse still, the perspectives and opportunities for economic development, production and distribution that the telecommunications boom represents were barely discussed at these two major forums.
What can be done to decompartmentalize the cultural world? It’s a complex question. Artists and arts professionals’ mistrust, in general, for the economic world is no secret. There are reasons for this, which are worth recalling: art and culture are not goods and services like any others. They have a fundamental anthropological dimension, which belies any utilitarian conception or mercantile normalization.
In economic circles, mistrust, and at times disinterest, also reign. Yet, there are intermediaries in both worlds: men and women who have a foot in each camp and incarnate their possible collaboration, their possible complementarity. We can cite personalities such as the banker Lionel Zinsou, for example, former associate of the Rothschild Bank, and founder of the Fondation Zinsou in Benin: « a private foundation focused on culture and social action, devoted to African contemporary art ». Or the astrophysicist Cheikh Modibo Diarra, now director of Microsoft Afrique, who backs cultural events on the continent and who set up the Pathfinder Foundation for education and development eleven years ago in Mali. There are many more.
These go-betweens today have a determinant role to play in the dialogue and collaboration between ACP country arts professionals and those in economics and development.
It is urgent to decompartmentalize the ACP countries’ cultural milieus. The backing of the European Commission and the Brussels Declaration Follow-up Committee can play a contributory role. The current context is favourable and it would be a shame to miss the opportunities it offers. The international institutions are progressively rediscovering the essential cultural dimension of development. On this front, the coming High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in New York in September constitutes a major stake. As these eight fundamental objectives, determined in 2000 and many of which, we already know, will not be fulfilled, are re-examined, will culture become a new priority? A lot of voices are calling for its explicit integration into the MDG. The Gerona seminar was, for that matter, inscribed in the perspective of the New York meeting.
The cultural industries’ economic potential is now manifest, even if detailed studies of the ACP country cultural sectors are still too few and far between. More and more seminars on the valorization and economic development of these sectors are taking place. The recent « Funding Culture: Managing the Risk » symposium organized by Unesco in April 2010 testifies to this growing attention.
Furthermore, the international trade of cultural goods constitutes one of the most dynamic economic sectors in world terms. International projects and cultural exchanges are constantly developing, such as those led by the Spanish cooperation. Unesco’s Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) now constitutes an international judicial and political tool that we need to learn to make use of.
Finally, more globally, while the international financial crisis has hard hit the industrialized nations’ economies, many African countries have registered growth rates of about 5% over the last few years. The African continent is raising its head and numerous experts today seem more optimistic about its future, even if the challenges and difficulties remain huge. (17)
Yes, the international context is favourable, not only for the decompartmentalization of the cultural milieu in general, but also for the creation of a new development paradigm in which cultural players have an essential role to play. The profound economic, social and environmental crises hitting the developed countries are forcing us to rethink their model of development, to analyze in the light of current affairs, and to imagine alternatives and solutions. Artists, intellectuals and arts professionals from the ACP countries can, in this context, be real forces for proposals and action.
The ACP cultural operators aren’t just needy souls, people to help, « develop », or accompany. They posses part of the solution to international problems, notably in the domain of intercultural dialogue, peace and social stability.
That is why the exchanges and reflection instigated by the Brussels colloquium in 2009 and recently continued in Gerona are of such interest. The continuation of a human dynamic, whose impacts in both the North and South are potentially considerable, depends on their quality, pertinence, pragmatism, but also on their creativity. In this respect, the Brussels Declaration Follow-up Committee clearly has a major role to play as a key driving force. We can only hope that it will live up to it.
Ayoko Mensah

1. This text and all the other workshop reports can be consulted on and downloaded from the website (Documents/International seminar).

2. This Declaration can be consulted on the seminar website

3. This article can be consulted on the seminar website

4. « The EDF is the principal instrument of EU development cooperation aid to the ACP countries (Africa, Caribbean, and the Pacific) and overseas countries and territories (OCT). The 10th EDF has a budget of 22.7 billion euros, 22 billion of which are devoted to the ACP countries, 286 million to the OCT, and 430 million to the European Commission for covering expenses related to the programming and implementation of the EDF. France’s contribution to the 10th EDF represents a sum of 4 billion euros. France is the second largest contributor to the EDF (after Germany) with a quota of 19.55%. » (Source: AFD)

5. Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal.

6. Cf. Stefano Manservisi’s article, « Is there a New Approach to Culture and Development in the Strategy of the EU Development Policy? », on

7. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Niger, Togo and Zimbabwe.

8. Cf. reference note 6.

9. « This protocol fixes the rules and conditions of access to the market for cultural goods and services on the basis of the recognition of their specific character. »

10. Cf.

11. List of participants present at the first Follow-up Committee meeting. Professionals: Kofi Ansah (fashion designer / Ghana); Balufu Bakupa-Kayinda (filmmaker / DRC-France); José da Silva (producer / Cap-Vert-France); (Isobel Dixon (publisher / South Africa – UK); Nicole La Bouverie (royalties expert / Belgium); Abdoulaye Konaté (artist and director of the CNAM / Mali); Lorraine Mangones (director of the Fondation Fokal / Haiti) ; Etienne Minoungou (actor and director of Récréatrales / Burkina Faso-Belgium); Letila Mitchell (dancer -choreographer / Fiji); Opiyo Okash (choreographer / Kenya-France); Wayne Sinclair (producer / Jamaica); Mike Van Graan (cultural operator / South Africa).
Institutions: Carlos Alberdi (presidency of the EU Council); Gabrielle von Brochowski (special advisor EC-DG DEV); Finn Andersen (EUNIC); Alain Godonou (Unesco); Aya Kasasa (ACP Secretariat); Gilles Fontaine (ex-Commission civil servant, Culture advisor). Three members of the European Commission also attended this meeting: Jean-Claude Boidin (DG DEV); Georgio Ficcarelli (DG DEV) and Christophe Pelzer (EuropAid). And finally the eight members of the European Commission Support Group: Francisco d’Almeida (Director of Culture and Development / Togo-France); Mary Ann de Vlieg (Secretary General of the IETM / Belgium); Ayoko Mensah (Afriscope editor in chief (Africultures) / France-Togo); Marion Le Boulch (IBF project manager for the European Commission / Belgium); Patricio Jeretic (IBF culture expert for the European Commission / France) ; Jesus Rogado (DG DEV coordinator / Spain) ; Dominique Thiange (IBF culture expert for the European Commission / Belgium).

12. The complete text and its conclusions are available on the Gerona seminar site:, or on

13. Cf.

14. International Telecom Union (ITU), 2009, African
Telecommunication Indicators.

15. Ernst & Young, « Africa Connected: A Telecom Growth Story », December 2009.

16. Cf. Henri Tcheng, Jean-Michel Huet, Mouna Romdhane, « Les enjeux financiers de l’explosion des télécommunications en Afrique subsaharienne », Note de l’Ifri, January 2010.

17. Cf., amongst other texts, Jean-Michel Severino, Olivier Ray, Le Temps de l’Afrique, éditions Odile Jacob, Paris, 2010.///Article N° : 9568


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