Agenda for Change: The use of culture as a resource for regional development aid

Monitoring and delivery of Aid Delivery Method Thematic Training for EU Delegation officials

Published on 22 April 2012



The 3-day seminar "Agenda for Change: The use of culture as a resource for regional development aid" was held in Cairo, Marriott Hotel, from Monday 13 to Wednesday 15 February 2012. The main target group for the seminar were officials working in the ENPI South countries, and special attention was given to examples taken from this region. Out of the 9 ENPI South countries, 6 subscribed to the seminar plus Eritrea which highlights the fact that culture is an important entry point for partner countries in the region. The participants were EU officials at the Delegations of Algeria, Palestine (East Jerusalem), Lebanon, Egypt and Eritrea. Jordan and Israel couldn’t come at the last minute for visa and administrative reasons.


The objectives of the seminar were:

  • To promote understanding of the socio-economic dimension of culture and its potential for employment, wealth creation and the fight against poverty
  • Have a better understanding of the potential of culture as an element of support for development programs in human rights, democracy, reconciliation and conflict resolution
  • Have a better understanding of the differences between the use of culture in development and cultural diplomacy


The content of the seminar included:

  • a theoretical framework and definitions, developed by consultants Raymond Weber and Francisco D’Almeida, from the firm "Culture and Development",
  • introduction to agenda for change, analysis of best practices and successful projects linking culture to human rights, democracy and poverty reduction, presentation of brochure “Culture and development, actions and impact", edited by DEVCO D4 in 2011
  • presentations and Q&A with guest speakers: Karim El Hakim, director of the documentary "1/2 Revolution" and Eleonora Insalaco and Ehaymaa Ramzy from the Ana Lindh Foundation,
  • onsite visits to projects managed by the EU Delegation in Egypt: "Rising Stars", and "Nubre – Enhancing contemporary design in Upper Egypt"
  • and the opening of the exhibition "Art at Work: Visionary Africa".

The course was delivered in French. A simultaneous translation in English was provided. Each attendant was given the course notes in French and English and a USB key with all presentations given during the seminar, additional documents on ongoing projects and reference policy documents. (list of participants and full programme attached)

On Day 1 the Agenda for Change orientations were presented. The introductory part showed how in this context culture is seen not only as a vector of employment and growth but also of democratic change where non state actors have an important role to play. It invited for more collaboration and synergies within the framework of available instruments in 2014-2020 where national laws on family, minorities and freedom of expression are deeply influential.

The other chapters provided an overview of the conceptual basis and the international framework for understanding the relationship between culture and development, followed by an analysis of the potential for culture to promote human rights, democratic values and social cohesion. Guest from the Ana Lindh Foundation (financed by the EC with 7M) presented the goals and strategies of the organisation to achieve social cohesion in the Mediterranean region, as well as the challenges and new orientation of their programming after the Arab spring.

Karim El Hakim, filmmaker and director of the documentary "1/2 Revolution", (screened at Sundance Film Festival 2012), showed fragments of the film depicting Cairo during Egypt's revolution in January-February 2011.

The Q&A that followed provided a productive opportunity for the exchange of ideas with the participants, pointing issues like the difficulties of traditional grant cycles to provide effective and timing support in the case of cultural projects in conflict situations. The issue of the absence of small seed money to trigger artistic/cultural creations in the context of fast pace events and technology was raised.

This session was followed by an overview and onsite visit of the project "Rising Stars", providing capacity building for emerging filmmakers in the area of documentary. A talk with some of the final beneficiaries helped to have a better understanding of the impact of the project.

Day 2 focused on the potential of the creative industries and cultural heritage to further job creation and poverty reduction. The site visit to the project " Nubre – Enhancing contemporary design in Upper Egypt" provided the opportunity to meet directly with designer Azza Fahmy and the final beneficiaries of the project (young designers). The rest of the session combined an analysis of the theoretical framework of the cultural industries and cultural heritage with examples of best practices in this area (project in India under IIP) and a presentation by EU Delegation in Algeria of the biggest project in the culture sector financed by the EU relatively to the size of the country (21M bilateral "Programme d'Appui à la Protection et valorisation du patrimoine culturel en Algérie").

The question of providing capacity building, professionalization, training with a small charge fee, or supporting activities through micro credit was raised in relation to ownership, entrepreneurship and sustainability with final aim tof beneficiary autonomy.

On Day 3 the participants reviewed the necessary conditions for developing the economy of culture (legal environment, training, competitiveness, development of new markets, etc…), the difference between development and cultural diplomacy, and how to assess the economic contribution of culture. The seminar concluded with the comments from James Moran the new Head of the EU Delegation in Egypt, and the opening of the itinerant exhibition “Art at Work” in the Park Al Azhar (see below).


Introducing examples of best practices during the workshop, onsite visits and guest speakers deeply involved in the local cultural field (e.g. director of the documentary "1/2 Revolution") was effective to provide participants with a practical understanding of how cultural projects operate, their challenges, and their final impact. In future workshops it is advisable to reserve 30% to 50% of total time to this type of participation.

During the workshop participants were encouraged to share their experience managing cultural projects through short formal presentations or informal conversations. This exchange of information was well received by participants to gain practical knowledge of the actual implementation of projects in different EU delegations.

Discussions and ongoing action fiches showed that the Agenda for Change impact on cultural projects needs to be explained at a larger scale. It is recommended to reinforce the knowledge and experience sharing between delegations in the region over the role of culture as a vector of change (including Morocco and Tunisia) and to look into extending this type of seminar to other regions.

DEU in their relationship with local MS cultural actors (EUNIC, Alliance française, UNESCO, BC, Goethe…) will need to communicate on the new orientations given by the Agenda for Change and how it affects future programmes.

DEU culture focal points need as well to increase their liaison with their counterparts in Human Rights, Democracy and Non State Actors sectors to look into the design of future support programmes using cultural expressions and cultural industries as facilitators.

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