The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part twenty in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
The Pinochet dictatorship oppressed the right to free speech and every type of collective action for a long period of time. Today culture plays a major part in re-establishing unity and solidarity among the Chilean population. Creative Diversity is a key concept in this respect.
"The country’s development goes hand in hand with a culture policy that excludes no one and that is open for criticism," according to former President Ricardo Lagos in 2000. His moderate left-wing coalition government (the Concertación), which has held power since the political upheaval of 1990, increased the culture budget and implemented far-reaching institutional changes. A new law was implemented, for example, that safeguards artists’ intellectual and social rights. Earlier, the Chilean government established a national art award and prepared legislation for the conservation of the cultural heritage.
The National Art Council, Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes, was established in 2003 and is directed by the Ministry of Education. The council manages various funds, including Fondart (Fundo Nacional de Desarrollo Cultural y de las Artes), which finances art projects and awards travel bursaries to artists. To enhance the transparency and guarantee equal access to government funds, competition rounds are held on both the regional and national levels. The art council is de-centralised, with offices in every region. The conservation of the cultural heritage is the responsibility of the National Monuments Council (Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales).
Although the Chilean government recognises its duty to protect and promote indigenous cultures, as yet a reformation process that would anchor the rights of indigenous peoples in the country’s constitution has not materialised. In the southern part of Chile, the Mapuch people are fighting for their rights to land that once belonged to their predecessors.