DevDays 2015: cultural operators called for more culture on EU external relations during the “Culture in the spotlight: innovative approaches to sustainable development” seminar on June 4

DevDays: cultural operators called for more culture on EU external relations

In the framework of the DevDays on June 4, the European Union brought together relevant EU decision-takers, major international bodies (UNESCO, UNEP, etc.), academia, professional and civil society organisations to discuss about “Culture in the spotlight: innovative approaches to sustainable development”.

Sandro De Luca presented impact and results of the Earth-based architecture project (supported by the ACPCultures+ Programme). “What we learned is that cultural projects can be implemented in fragile societies and countries, like Niger. We gained a strong political attention and support in the countries we worked in. Local participation is key to the obtain sustainability of new policies, as it is essential to create a clear public understanding of how culture shapes development and vice versa”, he declared.

The participants unanimously called for a reorientation of the EU external policy so as to prioritise the integration of culture in all development programmes.

The concept has been intensively defended by Patrick Worms, Senior Science Policy Adviser for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre, clearly a non-cultural operator. “Our organisation is composed by scientists. What we found, as scientists, is that we developed technologies that allow the world to be feed with nutritious food. It does not mean more chemicals, more mechanisation, more capital. Our solutions are low in capital, low in labour, and they deliver. What we do need is to change the behaviour of millions of small land holders”, he commented. “To change behaviour, scientists really need culture. Not just because culture is an in intrinsic good in terms of traditional knowledge, but also because culture is the way to get new ideas in the people heads. We scientists, we do not necessarily know how to use culture. It is not our field. Culture is an extraordinary marketing tool and can expand the impact of any development programme”, he concluded.

Another example on how culture can change behaviour and contribute to policy-making  has been given by Rhonna Marita, an actress that played in Stages of Changes, a theatre performance from Solomon Islands. The performance has been used to address violence against women and increase female participation in civil society. The project was implemented by the British Council and financed by the EU. “Theatre changed my life”, declared Rhonna Marita. “The things we learn through the project made us more confident to speak about the issue of violence against woman. Gender-based violence is endemic in Melanesian society, but women tend to keep it a secret within the home, and don’t want to talk about it publicly.  It is a real taboo subject in our countries. Before, this was an issue between husbands and wives. Now the group encourages other women to speak out. We explain what’s happening to women, and follow this with a discussion after each performance”, she explained.

“Today, culture and is the parameter nobody can ignore when talking of, and searching for, a new model of balanced and sustainable development.  Likewise, the defence and management of our culture constitutes a very strong value for our society”, summarised Lotte Knudsen, Director for Human Development and Migration at the European Commission. “The EU has high ambitions in the cultural sector”, she declared. 

June 8, 2015
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