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Studies & Reports
About the scene of Cultural Policy in the Arab region and the European Cultural Foundation
Aug 2015

“Cultural policy is not set in a vacuum. It is dependent on prevalent social attitudes, political and geopolitical contexts, ideological and theological frameworks and economic conditions. … What is different in the Arab world, and perhaps unique to it, is that its recent history has been both unusually turbulent and exceptionally important to outsiders.” These are the opening sentences which blogger Issandr El Amrani formulated for his introduction to the book Cultural Policies in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia. An Introduction. When it was published in 2010, the analytical country profiles in this volume represented a timely first milestone for the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and its collaboration with new cultural policy initiatives in the Arab countries. Only a few months after, the uprisings in the region opened room for exploring the practical aspects of this knowledge. The book became a baseline for the cultural policy changes to come. Years later, our local key partners Al Mawred Al Thaquafy and Ettijahat have significantly grown the number of analysts and action groups on the ground. Cultural policy has emerged from its originally rather exotic stance to an increasingly accepted public field that supports civil society processes in the region. The Arab CP platform is a telling example that promotes further acknowledgement of cultural policy development as an important vector of strengthening citizen engagement in Arab societies. 

All over the region unprecedented turbulences, violence and human tragedy have meanwhile caused repercussions which became (again) of extraordinary importance to ‘outsiders’ – in particular for Europeans. In the current context, ideas for public policy reforms which are initiated in a truly bottom-up manner probably can only be sustained, if the civic groups who initiate them acknowledge a rather long-term perspective for being successful. However, in this situation a civic platform like Arab CP can be essential for disseminating independently gathered knowledge and facilitating a regional exchange of cultural ideas for the future. 

Important new features of Arab CP are its analytical reports and knowledge services in English. They feed into the World CP international database and thereby raise awareness for regional cultural policy matters even on global scale. Non-Arab readers gain a unique analytical insight to the situation of arts and culture in the region. Beyond all ongoing hazards Arab CP remains an essential monitor and reflector of a public field that bears unique civic potential for the development of more equal, just and participatory governing structures in the region. 

All over the world local cultural work and bottom-up arts initiatives are increasingly recognized as important drivers of community stabilization, social integration and citizen emancipation – especially in distressed societies and after violent turbulence. This makes participative cultural policy reform an important topic of collaborating with emerging civil society players in the Arab countries and strengthening their resilience against new authoritarian tendencies and chaos. 

From ECF’s point of view European decision-makers need to reach out much more vigorously to new civic stakeholders in the region (and beyond their established contacts inside the administrations). Arab CP provides an ideal knowledge platform for exchange and dialogue with civil society players in culture. 

ECF is proud to be among the founding supporters of Arab CP and looks forward to promoting the outcomes of its essential work on European levels also in the future.

Tsveta Andreeva & Philipp Dietachmair, European Cultural Foundation – July 2015


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