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THE ACP CULTURAL OBSERVATORY - ISSUES, CHALLENGES
AND PERSPECTIVES




Many debates on the problems of cultural development in ACP countries have raised important questions on the definition of concepts as integral parts of a world view which in turn influences our understanding of culture; in terms of policies designed to achieve it, the methods, techniques and practices required to actualise it, as well as the environment (in terms of values and institutions) designed to facilitate it. It is this consideration that has informed a great deal of debates in cultural development in the last few decades, but heightened since the 1982 UNESCO-organised Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies, held in Mexico City. These considerations still remain valid and require our attention as a prerequisite to the launch of this project.

There are other challenges confronting cultural development in ACP countries. If we observe the way culture is used and understood by most ACP governments and institutions, we must say that this derives to a large extent from a limited comprehension and perspective of our way of life and our active, rather than passive role in it. Perhaps because of the extensive and destructive history of colonialism and their consequent psychological impacts, certain mindsets, attitudes and mental traits have been cultivated which need to be re-examined in the light of current efforts at enhancing the quality of life of most citizens in the ACP region.

During the colonial period, although there were few attempts to preserve some aspects of the cultures of ACP countries by colonial anthropologists and interested colonial officers, these were restricted to areas of specific interests of the colonial administrations, and their legacies today include a few museums, archives, historical monuments and art societies.

Most policy and decision makers in the ACP regions came out of the colonial period, viewing culture in this form, bereft of its creative aspects which had earlier on been largely destroyed and disregarded. In effect, culture which should concern itself with the totality of people's ways of living and acting in society, is thus misrepresented, and does not mean anything other than such token exhibitions relating to the past.

Furthermore, many ACP countries after independence, failed to provide the enabling cultural environment in terms of appropriate policies, strategies, legislations, agencies, infrastructure and facilities to redress the anomaly. In few cases where such efforts were made, financial constraints and policy vacillations have tended to undermine them (ACP, 2006)

Structurally, the policies of many ACP governments in the first few decades after independence were not very much different from those of the colonial administration. There was a strong tendency toward administrative centralization as cultural policy centralism at that time was used as a means for the building of a strong nation state. Thus at the very heart of the notion of national culture lies the establishment of a permanent institutional state protection. No other arrangements, including the private sector or civil society were believed to be able to take care of public culture.

For the fact that the notion of the "expanded concept of culture", was not fully established during the colonial period and the first few decades after independence, cultural policy delivery was largely conceived as the domain of public responsibility. Consequently when a policy is designed, responsibility for its implementation is almost entirely devolved on to the "state". In this respect, once the state fails in its responsibilities, the delivery of the policy suffers.

The problem of conceptual clarity about "culture" had also led cultural policies to be cast in a very narrow perspective, primarily limited in scope to the traditional domains of culture, such as music, dance, drama, handicrafts and so on. This restrictive perspective, has limited the scope for the policies to contribute immensely to creativity and economic empowerment for artists and creators. They are designed and implemented in almost total isolation from other sectors of the economy. This situation makes it difficult to establish clear linkages between culture and other sectors of development, such as education, science and technology, and so on.

A second generation of cultural policies however, began to emerge in the 1980s which were influenced largely by the MONDIACULT (World Conference on Cultural Policies of 1982), the Stockholm Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development (1998) and the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), which has now been transformed into a legally-binding instrument (2005).

At the heart of the resolutions of these conferences and instruments, is the concept of "cultural democracy". This requires that states provide the means for ensuring the full and unhindered participation of all citizens in the cultural life of their communities. This tendency has in turn led to strong drives by governments at cultural policy decentralization. The process of decentralization has however, often turned out to be an arena of power struggles. Regionalism and autonomy become sensitive issues and pressures of decentralization become stronger especially when combined with the demand for linguistic, ethnic or religious autonomy, as is the case with Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, to name a few.

The process of decentralization has also evidenced the creation of "arm's length bodies" to manage cultural affairs on behalf of central government. The experience here also varies considerably, as a noticeable trend is that the creation of such bodies tends to be moving faster in Anglophone countries than the Francophone countries. In Anglophone Africa, it has led to the creation of "Art Councils", or "National Councils for Arts and Culture". The case in Francophone Africa has been more of entrusting cultural programmes to private entities while government continues to exercise full control on policy administration, and other policy functions such as preservation, research, training and education. This has led to a remarkable increase in the number of private cultural associations, artistic and cultural centres than could be found in Anglophone countries.

But the fact still remains that few ACP countries have reviewed and up-dated their policies to be in conformity with the expectations of the second generation of cultural policies. Yet still, there are others (such as Senegal) without national policies on culture, and feel contended with institutional policies, but these lacks the scope to address issues of a national or sector-wide character.

Augustine Girard of the Studies and Research Department of the French Ministry of Culture put forward the following definition of cultural policy in his book, "Cultural Development: Experiences and Policies" (UNESCO, 1983):

"A Cultural Policy is a system of ultimate aims, practical objectives and means, pursued by a group and applied by an authority. Cultural policies can be discerned in a trade union, a party, an educational movement, an institution, an enterprise, a town or a government. But regardless of the agent concerned, a policy implies the existence of ultimate purposes (long-term), objectives (medium-term and measurable) and means (human, finance and legislation), combined in an explicitly coherent system". (Girard: PP 171-172)

It is obvious from the above-cited definition that just as culture is all-embracing, cultural policy incorporates a broad range of measures taken to develop cultural life. These measures are varied and depending on given circumstances, could include grants to artists and institutions, public service employment, building and maintaining cultural infrastructure, encouraging and financing the restoration of cultural sites and historic monuments, safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and regulating the cultural content of mass media.

The "right to culture" has always been a fundamental aspect of cultural policy. In 1948, the United Nations adopted the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights", which was later to be transformed into two legally-binding instruments: "The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights" (ICESCR) and "The International Covenant on Political and Civic Rights" (ICPCR).

According to Article 13 of the ICESCR, "every one has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community". It is therefore, this recognition of the "duty …. to provide …. the means of (cultural) participation", which underlines the responsibilities of public authorities in order to secure public interest in cultural development.

However, there are several challenges that need to be addressed with a view to providing policy and legal frameworks for effectively responding to the needs of genuine cultural development. First, there is the problem of reliable comparative data and information on which to base policy projections and goals. In this regard, we may need to know in which domains data should be collected and analysed. What sort of research findings can help make cultural policies most effective? Such questions can be rhetorical unless a clearly-defined cultural sector analysis is undertaken as a prelude to the elaboration or review of the policy.

There is also the problem of conceptual clarity about cultural policy. Augustine Girard (1983) was already arguing for the rediscovery of the "forgotten cultural industries" at the heart of contemporary cultural policy. He stressed the importance of "industrial cultural products" in providing the largest number of people with access to the means of dissemination such as radio, television, record cassette players, Video, DVD and ICTs. Yet cultural policy seems to be primarily concerned with the points of production, institutions and creators and not the means of dissemination. In the context of today's cultural industries, this is an anomaly as the marketing and distribution of these cultural goods is as important as the creators and production centres.

Another problem has to do with the lack of adequate performance indicators for measuring the delivery of the policy. To ensure that performance targets are achieved with the desired outcomes, it is necessary to elaborate strategic plans for the implementation of policy, with clearly-defined targets, performance indicators and mechanisms for systematic review, monitoring and evaluation.

Finally, when it comes to implementation, cultural policies encounter problems of having sufficient "reach" in terms of participation, inclusion and cultural rights issues. In the light of current trends of technological convergence, economic liberalization, mergers and acquisitions, creation of regional economic blocs, international trade, and the policy implications of international instruments on culture for states parties, governments are increasingly finding themselves in difficult and tight situations of having to operate within a very limited national policy space. Thus managing this limited policy space effectively and efficiently to achieve genuine and comprehensive cultural development remains a major challenge for public authorities.

In the case of cultural industries per se, it is largely acknowledged that governments in the fast-developing countries, including those in the European Union purposefully invest in and promote policy measures that support and facilitate the development of cultural industries. However, in many ACP countries cultural industries are less representatively incorporated into national development frameworks and processes. In addition, most of these countries do not undertake systematic data collection on the socio- economic performance and impact of cultural industries on their economies. The absence of data makes it difficult to make informed decisions on how to invest to support the expansion of the cultural industries in the overall national economy.

LEGAL CONTEXT FOR THE CREATION OF AN ACP CULTURAL OBSERVATORY



The ACP Cultural Observatory Project is being implemented in response to Decision No 2/2002 of the ACP-EC Council of Ministers Meeting of 7 October 2002 in regards to the implementation of Articles 28, 29 and 30 of Annex IV of the Cotonou Agreement (2000), Articles VIII and (IX) of the Dakar Declaration and Plan of Action (2003) and supported by Article (II.4) of the Santo Domingo Resolution (2006). A programme was therefore conceived to provide "Support to ACP cultural industries" (9.ACP.RPR.62) and be funded under Financing Agreement (9567/REG).

In respect of the call for the creation of an ACP Cultural Observatory, Article (IX) of the Dakar Declaration and Plan of Action (2003) particularly recommends a feasibility study with a view to advising on the setting up of an ACP Cultural Foundation. In reaffirming its support of the Dakar Declaration, Article (II.4) of the Santo Domingo Resolution (2006) "welcomes the setting up of the ACP Cultural Observatory" but envisages it "as the first step towards the creation of an ACP Cultural Foundation". As a way of ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of the work of the Observatory, the Santo Domingo Resolution (Article V.26) also calls for "closer collaboration between the ACP Cultural Observatory and existing national and regional Observatories .....in order to facilitate its transformation into a bona fide centre for research, analysis and dissemination of information as well as the promotion of cooperation and exchanges among artists and other cultural operators"

OBJECTIVES OF THE ACP CULTURAL OBSERVATORY



General Objective:


Provide support to the cultural industries of the ACP countries, with a view to contributing to poverty reduction and sustainable development, through the promotion of an enabling environment for the creation and consolidation of an independent and viable cultural sector in ACP countries, their fundamental cultural values and their diversity.

Specific objectives:


          *      To improve knowledge and understanding of the ACP culture sector through cultural sector analysis and specialised studies;

          *      To provide technical assistance for strengthening the capacity of ACP cultural actors, through networking and the development of necessary methodological instruments and tools for policy analysis and development;

          *      To mobilise and manage a pool of experts for carrying out specific professional tasks on behalf of the Observatory, ACP Secretariat and European Commission;

          *      To assist the ACP Secretariat in organising information and professional meetings

PLANNED PROJECT ACTIVITES FOR THE ACP CULTURAL OBSERVATORY (2007 - 2010)



During the three-year pilot project period, certain activities are planned for implementation in cooperation with the under-mentioned six selected countries

BENEFICIARY COUNTRIES FOR THE PILOT PROJECT ACTIVITIES



As a pilot study, one country is selected from each of the six regions into which the ACP Group of States have been divided. The selection was based on a clearly*-defined criteria. The activities will be piloted in these countries, but the results could be transposed to become models for other ACP countries to adopt.

While international experts could be recruited from European Union countries and other ACP countries not participating in the pilot studies, but the National Research Coordinators and Research Assistants would have to come from the following six countries participating in the pilot studies.


ACP REGION



PILOT COUNTRY



1. West Africa

1. Guinea Bissau

2. Central Africa

2. Congo Democratic Republic

3. East Africa

3. Djibouti

4. Southern Africa

4. Botswana

5. Caribbean

5. Jamaica

6. Pacific

6. Papua New Guinea


PILOT ACTIVITIES



1. Development of Analytic Tools for Cultural Sector Analysis in ACP countries



Objective:


To develop and test analytic tools for carrying out systematic diagnostic studies on the situation of the culture sector in ACP countries

Expected Output:


"ACP Framework for Cultural Sector Analysis" produced to become a practical Handbook for guiding the assessment of the performance of the culture sector

Duration:


12 Months (March 2008 - February 2009)

Forms of Action:


Through this programme activity, a Research Framework for carrying out cultural sector analysis will be designed by the Principal Expert of the ACP Cultural Observatory. The Framework will be developed and validated in the six countries identified for participation in the project, through the collection and analysis of cultural data and information on the selected cultural domains and fields.

The development of the Framework will involve the collection, interpretation and analysis of country-specific data on the key "Research Issues and Questions" identified in this report.

Experience gained from the implementation of the activity in the six pilot countries will be compiled into an "ACP Framework for Cultural Analysis" as a practical Handbook, to become a generic model that other ACP countries could adopt as part of their evaluation mechanisms for systematic assessment of the performance of the culture sector.

2. Development of Practical Guidelines for the Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Cultural Policies and Strategies in ACP countries



Objective:



To develop and test practical guidelines for use by Policy makers, Planners, Cultural Managers, Entrepreneurs and Evaluators in the design, implementation and evaluation of Cultural policies and strategies

Expected Output:


"ACP Guidelines for the Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Cultural Policies and Strategies" produced, to become a practical Handbook for guiding policy development in the field of culture in ACP countries

Duration:


9 Months (March - November 2009)

Forms of Action:


Through this activity, the Conceptual Framework for the Guidelines will be designed by an independent international expert. It will however be developed, tested and validated within the specific contexts of the six participating countries. It will be subjected to consultations and discussions with the principal cultural stakeholders in each country to ensure consensus on its suitability and application. The Framework will then become the basis for designing relevant instruments in terms of policies and strategies, with the full and active participation and involvement of the cultural stakeholders in each country. The consultations will be ensured through the organisation of small-scale focused meetings with specific cultural groups and reintegrating their ideas and comments into the Framework as its development progresses.
Experiences, ideas and lessons obtained from the six countries will be compiled into a practical Handbook to become a generic model that other ACP countries could use as part of the process of policy development.

3. Development of Methodological Instruments for the Collection and Analysis of Cultural Statistics in ACP countries



Objective:
To strengthen national capacity for meeting the statistical needs of stakeholders involved in the different domains of culture and of government cultural agencies (particularly concerned with policy and planning).

Expected Output:


"ACP Framework for Cultural Statistics" produced, as a practical Handbook for guiding the systematic collection and analysis of statistics on cultural industries in the ACP countries

Duration:


9 Months (January - September 2010)

Forms of Action:


This activity will first involve the design of the conceptual framework by an independent international expert, through which the domains and fields of the culture sector to be subjected to the collection and analysis of statistical data will be defined and described in detail.

Having defined the cultural fields and boundaries, the next step would be the organisation of the culture sector using a classification system and nomenclature that could give direction to the statistical work.

The development of the classification system will be done in full consultation with the cultural stakeholders in the six countries working in the different fields identified in the Framework. This form of consultation is necessary to make sure that the categories created in the Framework adequately reflect the cultural realities in the pilot countries. The consultations will also enable us to better understand the inner workings of various cultural industries and the interactions between the different types of cultural agencies and enterprises in the production of cultural goods.

Once the Framework has been refined on the basis of the national consultations, a sample survey of a particular cultural field (such as the audio-visual industry) will be undertaken to collect and analyse cultural statistics relating to the industry.

On the basis of ideas, experiences and lessons drawn from the six participating countries, a "Framework for Cultural Statistics" will be produced as a practical Handbook, to become a generic model that other ACP countries can use as part of a systematic process for the collection and analysis of cultural statistics for use by policy makers, planning and programming officers, cultural managers, entrepreneurs and trainers.

4. Carrying out a Feasibility Study to determine the sustainability of the Observatory.



Objective:



To carry out a study with a view to determining the desirability and implications of establishing the Observatory as a permanent structure

Expected Output:


A report providing an assessment of the need for an Observatory among its intended beneficiaries, with detailed analytic data and statistics on the resource and organisational requirements of creating it as a permanent structure

Forms of Action:


The study will be carried out in accordance with EU guidelines. The European Commission and the ACP Secretariat required this study to determine the sustainability of the Observatory after the termination of the pilot project.

The study will therefore provide the ACP Secretariat and the European Commission with objective analysis of the Observatory and its operations in order to evaluate the expected results of creating it as a permanent structure. It should also enable them to accurately anticipate what will and will not work in different situations and hence be able to determine what resources are essential and an understanding of how to draw on their strengths.

Independent experts will be hired to review the activities being executed by the Observatory within the framework of the pilot project. Consultations will also be organised with the intended beneficiaries and partners of the Observatory in ACP and EU countries to gauge their opinions, visions and perceptions on the idea of creating the Observatory as a permanent structure.

5. Development of professional networks



Objective:


To enhance the spirit of networking between cultural operators in the ACP and EU countries with a view to enhancing professional and institutional cooperation, exchanges and sharing of ideas, best practices and innovative experiences

Expected Results:


A network of cultural operators from ACP and EU countries developed

Forms of Action:
Participants to the Observatory's professional and information activities will form the core membership of the network. As the activities of the Observatory increase this should lead to increased membership for the network. An electronic networking facility is programmed as part of the Website of the Observatory that could facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences among members.

6. Carrying out support services


Three such support activities are programmed as part of the activities of the Observatory:
          *      Recruitment of Category "A" Experts to carry out specialised activities for the Observatory;
          *      Rendering assistance to the ACP Secretariat in the organisation of information and professional meetings; and
          *      Providing input to the implementation of the information and communication programme of the Observatory, to be implemented by "Africultures"