After the revolutions and the political changes in the Arab region, there was a big need to work on the development of the environment of the cultural work in the region, in order to empower the cultural sector to play an effective role in the process of democratization.
For this reason, Culture Resource launched an initiative that aims to improve the system of cultural work in countries undergoing democratic transformation, through providing alternative cultural policy proposals to the Arab governments, creating a channel for dialogue with the state, to empower the independent cultural sector and civil society to play an important role in the development of cultural policies in the various Arab countries and the drafting of the new policies.
In this framework, Culture Resource developed several axes of work that aim essentially to put cultural policies in the agendas of the governments of the countries undergoing democratic transition and to empower the civil society and the independent cultural sector to contribute in drafting the new policies. National cultural policy groups were created for pressure and awareness. They work on policies review, providing alternative policies, revision of current laws and legislations, as well as raising the awareness of the need of a cultural policy and to ensure the participation of all active sectors of cultural work.
This new initiative is based on the learning from Culture Resource cultural policy program launched in 2009, which aimed to build a knowledge base to support planning and cultural cooperation in the Arab region, through research and publication, advocacy, and networking. The program also aimed to providing a data base of research, reports and statistics as a reference for researchers and policy makers working in the Arab region, and to spark debate and discussion about cultural policy among different culture activists, artists and organizations in the region who are drawn from different sectors (governmental, private and independent) through regional conferences, country-specific working groups, and multiple platforms for sharing research, publications, and experiences.
The national cultural policy groups are currently operating in a number of Arab countries that are undergoing political changes. Positive steps have begun towards the formation of national groups in other Arab countries. The national groups have made significant strides in drafting proposals for new national cultural policies in preparation for presenting them to official government bodies. In Egypt, the first public awareness raising campaign, “Cultural Policy for All Egyptians,” was launched in 2012 in print and digital media to educate the general public on the role and importance of culture and cultural policy for society.
The cultural policy program works essentially to provide sound cultural policy alternatives during this difficult period of political transitions that emphasize freedom of expression and a just distribution of resources. To achieve this, it is important to involve Abbara’s organizations in monitoring cultural practices in these countries. There is also a necessity to put the difficulties these organizations are facing into consideration as they represent the majority of independent cultural organizations in this region.
A Brief on National Cultural Policy Groups:
The group was founded in 2011, by a group of researchers, academics, artists and cultural managers. They created a page on a social network, called: “Dialogue on the Algerian Culture”. The national group in Algeria is very active. They have fully completed an Arterial template of cultural policy.
The group was founded in 2010. However, it was reformed after January 25 revolution. Now it consists of 25 members: artists, independent activists and academics. They worked on a proposed shortened outline of cultural policy in Egypt. In June 2012, the draft was submitted to the Culture, Media and Tourism Committee, a Parliament committee. The committee officially had adopted the group’s outline, but the parliament was dissolved this very same day by a court decision. Now they are developing the outline and working on media campaigns advocating the right to culture.
Forming the national group is still in progress. The group has commissioned a research on the laws and legislations related to cultural work in Jordan. A draft is available in Arabic and the final version would be completed soon.
The group was founded in 2012 but still is a small one and in the process of building a structure. The group has commissioned a research on the laws and legislations related to cultural work in Lebanon. A draft is available in Arabic and the final version would be completed soon.
The national cultural group in Libya is still in the process of formation. Two or three active cultural operators are working on gathering momentum to found the group.
The group was founded in May 2011. It works voluntarily without financial support, but it was granted some funding from Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy to establish and launch a website. The national group in Morocco is the only one that is officially registered as specialized association: “The Moroccan Association for Cultural Policy.” They organized a conference on cultural policy in Rabat last January 2014, to open the door for newcomers.
The national cultural policy group in Mauritania was founded in late 2013. The group is still working on building a structure. They have determined their priorities in 2014, held a couple of meetings and put their annual plan.
The group was founded in Palestine under the name “Association of Cultural Policy” and is supposed to establish a constituent committee comprising of different culture and art sectors and representing Palestinians in Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territories 1948, and exile and overseas. It is still working on its structure and priorities identifications.
A meeting was held in Tunis in December 24, 2013, for founding a national cultural policy group in Tunisia. More than 28 artist, journalist and cultural operators attended the meeting. There was also a representative of the minister of culture. They selected Cyrine Gannoun to be their first coordinator. They are still working on their annual plan.
The national cultural group in Sudan is still in the process of formation. Two or three active cultural operators are working on gathering momentum to found the group.
Due to the radical changes currently taking place in Syria, national group has been launched during the first half of 2013, within a totally different structure and mechanism normally applied in other countries. A communicating database was established consisting of almost 50 people (currently) of cultural actors, well-informed about the developments made in order to provide advices and consultations. Simultaneously, a comparative research is being conducted investigating the different usages of art and culture in making peace \ consolidating national peace and settlement of disputes in countries that have undergone similar conditions.
The group was founded in January, 2013. In May of the same year, the Ministry of Culture decided to organize a conference on policies and culture development. A special committee has been mandated to redesign the conference outcomes and the group succeeded in imposing crucial items within the recommendations and outcomes of the conference. The ministry adopted the recommendations of the conference as an outline of cultural policy of Yemen. The group is working now on the next step plan.