March 1, 2018

Danish polder model or French decentralisation?

DutchCulture studied the cultural policy of neighbouring countries in terms of internationalisation and regionalisation.

Clockwise: Everyday Life – Signs of Awareness, exhibition within the scope of Danish-Japanese friendship year; Irish musicians at the Annual Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City; Artists-in-residence during East Africa Soul Train (British Council); Facing the Climate, exhibition for cartoonists (Swedish Institute); French dance company in Germany.

The new Dutch policy framework for international cultural cooperation 2017-2020 has been in effect for almost a year. A good time to stop and take a look at the question: How does the Netherlands’ international cultural policy compare to the policies of its neighbours?

At the same time, a politically-driven discussion is going in on the Netherlands about the need to invest more in culture at the local and regional level – a discussion that for instance was also carried out intensely in the United Kingdom and had consequences there for the distribution of cultural funding for the 2018-2020 period. Is this discussion going on in other countries as well?

Regional versus international?
Galvanised by the above two ongoing cases, DutchCulture examined five neighbouring countries for a comparable international perspective. Our investigation was based on a number of questions. Do each of these countries actually have an international cultural policy? Who is responsible for that policy, what priorities are given to the strategies and how are they implemented? Does regionalisation undermine the international ambitions of artists and cultural organisations or does it work the other way around? Do other countries set up regulations in order to achieve a better balance in national cultural expenditures? We looked at Denmark, France, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Sweden, seeing as those countries’ administrative systems have many similarities to that of the Netherlands.

Nation branding
Remarkably, by comparison to the rest, the Netherlands has a considerably detailed cultural policy, with clear objectives and a clearly defined framework. The Danish international cultural policy is the most similar to ours in terms of focus and implementation. Moreover, the Dutch international cultural policy focuses more on professionalisation of the cultural sector than do the policies of most other countries, where nation branding predominates.

Cultural diplomacy
Finally, specific regulations and infrastructure for regionalisation can be seen in the cultural policies of a number of countries other than the United Kingdom. For instance, French cultural policy has been so decentralised that every region has its own strategy for cultural diplomacy, and in Sweden a substantial part of the cultural budget has been shifted from the state to the provinces. In Ireland, regional cultural strategies must be in line with the international chapter of Irish cultural policy.

The entire report can be read here.

If you wish to know more about internationalisation and regionalisation in the cultural policies of the Netherlands and other countries, please contact Robert Kieft.