10th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture

Moscow, 15-16 April 2013

“Governance of Culture – Promoting Access to Culture”

Session 2: Best Practices and Policy Innovation

Introduction by Herwig van Staa, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe



Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to chair this second session, and I would like to thank our hosts, the authorities of the Russian Federation, for giving me this honour. I also would like to support Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, in expressing our gratitude for the warm welcome we receive here, within the walls of the Bolshoi Theatre, a grand symbol of this country’s cultural achievement, so appropriately chosen as the venue for this Conference.

We have an interesting discussion ahead of us. Whereas the first session examined the role of governments and new opportunities in the governance of culture, our objective is to look at ways to encourage cultural innovation, to broaden citizens’ access to culture and to enhance their participation in cultural democracy.

Indeed, if cultural democracy is a reflection of the participatory democratic model, it must necessarily include this model’s main features: participation of all citizens in their cultural diversity, based on broad access to governance and power-sharing, as well as a multi-stakeholder and multi-level governance approach, involving a wide spectrum of society.

The governance of culture is not the prerogative of national governments alone. We need to look first and foremost at innovative action at local level, of which we have a wide range of examples, and which highlights the need for decentralisation of cultural governance, the need to give local and regional authorities broader competences in supporting and promoting cultural action and citizen participation in culture. Cultural initiatives are increasingly coming from the grassroots, and the best of them should be chosen for replication, support and promotion at national level.

The importance of municipalities and regions in the public financing of culture is growing indeed. Between two thirds and three quarters of public cultural spending today is carried out at local levels.

Cultural activities in my home region of Tyrol have recently been expanded under the new law on culture promotion, to involve rural areas, target young people and minority groups, and include new forms of artistic expression such as the electronic media and avant-garde cultural work. In Austria overall, enhancing cultural participation has been an explicit aim of the government programme for 2008-2013, involving, among other things, the digital upgrading of cultural education in schools.

There are many other inspiring examples of action targeting specifically local and regional communities. I could mention the Night of Museums and the Music Day, which are organised at the municipal level.  Local authorities and regions are also playing an important role in the preservation of cultural heritage. I should mention in this regard the activities of Mr Mukhametshin, Chair of the Congress’ Current Affairs Committee, in his Republic of Tatarstan, or of Mrs Orlova, head of the Russian delegation and Vice-President of the Congress.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Another objective of our session is to look at the new opportunities presented by the digital-era tools and platforms. New technologies can certainly enhance participation in culture and creation of cultural content, and can inspire new methods of financing for cultural initiatives. On the other hand, they present challenges in terms of copyright, content damaging to public interest and fair cost distribution. I am sure that these issues will be explored in greater detail by our speakers.

Finally, we need to look at the education of citizens in the new media and the use of new technologies to improve their “transliteracy”. The participatory democratic model requires active citizens and education for democratic citizenship to ensure the quality of their participation and make it more meaningful. Cultural democracy, too, especially in the digital era, calls for its own kind of education – which, I am sure, will also be reflected in our discussions today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to sum up my brief introduction by stressing that what we need today is a change in the paradigm of ownership of culture and cultural content. Cultural creation and innovation are broadening, boosted by new technological tools and involving a multitude of players. We need to establish a proper framework for encouraging and disseminating cultural content serving the public interest, which should receive financial support through public programmes and action by public authorities.

With this, I would like to open the session and to introduce our keynote speaker, Mrs Olga SVIBLOVA, Director of the Russian House of Photography. With support from the Moscow city government, Mrs SVIBLOVA established the Moscow House of Photography in 1996 and the Multimedia Art Museum in 2001. She is the founder and artistic director for the Moscow International Biennale’s “Fashion and Style in Photography” festival and the “Silver Camera” competition. Since 1996, she has been involved with more than 2,500 projects in Russia and abroad in the fields of photography and contemporary art.

Mrs SVIBLOVA, it is my great pleasure to give you the floor.