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Cultural Policy Database

Introduction by Biserka Cvjetičanin, Culturelink Coordinator


Fifteen years have passed since the World Conference on Cultural Policies in Mexico, 26 July to 8 August 1982. In these past fifteen years, important political, economic and cultural changes have taken place on the global level. In the cultural area, these changes have expressed themselves in the new relationship between culture and development -- i.e., in an understanding of the importance of the cultural dimension of development, new intercultural communication ("the civilization of networks"), and the strengthening of regional development with the parallel affirmation of new cultural identities. These changes are also being perceived in the creation of a new approach to cultural policy.

The Aims and Scope of the Cultural Policy Project

The research project Guide to the Current State and Trends in Cultural Policy and Life in the UNESCO Member States was carried out in the course of 1991 and 1992. One-hundred-sixty (160) UNESCO member states were included, of which only the documents updated in 1996/97 are currently being prepared for publication on the World Wide Web. The aim was to analyze the cultural policies of the UNESCO member states at the end of this century, to observe the changes taking place, and to point out the tendencies of cultural life and cultural development. The research project was focused on the general direction of cultural policy, agents and instruments of cultural policy (administration, financing, legislation), sectorial cultural policies, cultural industries, cultural development, and international cultural cooperation.

During the last fifteen years, only some elements of cultural policies have remained in the standard framework, while the most evident changes have occurred in the intensive development of cultural industries (Latin America is a good example); in the greater decentralization of decision-making and coordination of cultural activities (especially the establishment of new bodies connecting the old administrative structures and the new local bodies, particularly in European countries); in the strengthening of private initiative (organization, financing by sponsors and other diversified sources, e.g., in Asian countries); and in the efforts intensifying regional cooperation (in Africa, for instance, within the framework of SADC).

Project Methodology

The project research team consisted of fifteen specialists in the cultures of the respective regions.

The research was partly based on answers to the questionnaires prepared by UNESCO (1989) and IRMO (1990), Culturelink's organizational home. About 30% of the countries responded to the questionnaires. Almost 40 countries (e.g., Pakistan, Nicaragua, Turkey, Colombia, as well as the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), etc.) which did not complete the questionnaire sent instead their most recent documents about their cultural policies.

Numerous documents, studies, and reports from various documentation sources such as UNESCO, UN Economic and Social Council, ALESCO, ACCU, and other international organizations have been collected for this research. Materials have also been collected from some networks for cultural development (CIRCLE, SPAFA, ALCAGEC, Network North-South, MEDIACULT, etc.); from institutions engaged in cultural research (institutes, centers, theaters, and other institutions); and from mission reports, periodicals, and different other sources of information. For statistical and other data, direct use was made of the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook, Europa Year Book, World of Learning, Country Profile, Handbook of Cultural Affairs in Europe, etc.

The documentation resources of IRMO have been of great help in carrying out this project. The Culturelink Network has been used to the full extent. In parallel with the collection of studies, documents, reports, books and periodicals received from the members of the Culturelink Network, the collected materials were processed and the data were fed into the data base. In this way, the Cultural Policy Database was established. Such a standardized methodology did not prevent the researchers from treating each cultural policy as a special case, and the experience of real cultural life was considered as much as possible.

The Cultural Policy Database: Structure and Future Plans

The Cultural Policy Database is mainly a textual data base, fully corresponding in structure to the overall outline of a particular national cultural policy. One of the key points in the Database conception is the flexible and open structure of a particular national cultural policy record. Only the main scheme is prepared in advance, while all the specific characteristics of a cultural policy are entered according to a structure prepared ad hoc.

There is a certain amount of imbalance or unevenness in the treatment of different thematic segments. This is due not to the author's or editor's oversight or bias, but to the availability of the material and/or sources of information. We hope that the cultural research institutions and administrative agencies of the UNESCO member countries will help us with their suggestions and additional documentation. Since the Cultural Policy Database is continually receiving new documents, the revised and updated cultural policies are being published on the Web.