Culture is increasingly prominent on the international agenda. But the discussion about whether and how culture contributes to combating poverty and sustainable development has far to go. Part one in a series about culture and development policy by donor countries.
Sweden is a trailblazer when it comes to culture and development. The Scandinavian country that hosted the 1998 UN conference ´The Power of Culture´ was already experimenting with a cultural programme for developing countries in 1981. At that time, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), defined culture as a means of development.
Its culture and media division considers culture as an objective in itself: a synonym for development. Sida thus recognises that culture stimulates creative thinking, which gives the poor more control of their situation. Sida also believes that culture contributes to the democratisation process and that it can generate income. With its culture and development policy, Sida strives to create opportunities for cultural diversity, creative activities and sustainable development based on human rights. The state agency supports, for example, the definition of cultural policy and cultural infrastructure in developing countries. It also tries to ensure that everyone has access to the arts. Protecting cultural heritage and international exchange are also pillars of Sida policy.
In 2006, Sida published its new strategy paper for culture and media with increased emphasis on the fact that every applicant needed to prove its focus on combating poverty.
Support can be directed to one country, such as the cultural partnership programme 2006-2009 with Mozambique in which UNESCO, Sida and the Frölunda Kulturhus work hand in hand with its Mozambique partners. An example of an interregional approach is El Carromato in Central America, which focuses on theatre capacity building in cooperation with the Dramatiska Institutet.
Furthermore, Sida gives financial support to Swedish NGOs such as Jeunesse Musical International (Music Crossroads), Assitej International (building youth theatre capacity) and Afrika Grupperna. The famous Swedish author Henning Mankell supports Africa’s culture through his own efforts, i.e. the Teatro Avenida in Maputo or the project Memory Books in Uganda.