Culture and development

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Culture and
Strategy and guidelines

Culture and development
Strategy and guidelines

Introduction: No development without culture
1. Value basis: Human rights, cultural diversity and a global ethic
Culture must be understood broadly
Culture and development must build on the fundamental human rights with
the objective of strengthening cultural diversity and achieving a global ethic
Goals for Denmark’s work with culture and development
Stronger focus on culture in the international debate
Poverty orientation, national strategies and globalisation are increasing
the focus on culture
2. Guidelines: Principles and criteria
Culture as a precondition for development cooperation
The incorporation of specific forms of cultural and artistic expression in
Culture and development in multilateral contexts
Annex: Development and cultural exchange
Culture and development must build on the fundamental human rights with
the objective of strengthening cultural diversity and achieving a global ethic.

No development without culture

“The Greek hero Peleus married the sea goddess Thetis. All the gods were present at
their wedding except for Eris, the goddess of discord, who had not been invited. Angered
by this omission she inscribed on a golden apple the words: To the most fair and rolled
it in among the goddesses. Hera, Athene and Aphrodite all claimed the prize and decid-
ed to ask the Trojan prince Paris to judge among them. Each of them sought to influ-
ence his judgment by bribery, but when Aphrodite promised him the most beautiful
woman in the world, he awarded her the apple.” (Homer, The Iliad)

All cultures have common myths and narratives that help to create a shared store of
ideas concerning change and development. The Greek myth of the apple of discord and
the prince who allowed himself to be seduced by the promise of the most beautiful
woman in the world has given Europe a story that everyone knows and has become
part of a shared European culture. We are familiar with Athene’s wisdom, Aphrodite’s
beauty – not to mention Nordic mythology with its tales of the power struggles and
raw strength of Thor and Odin. These tales are elements in the complex mosaic of
Danish culture. The cultures of the countries we cooperate with are based on other
myths and tales – new as well as old.
The objective of Denmark’s development policy is poverty reduction. The basic premise
of the present Strategy is the close correlation that exists between culture and develop-
ment. Development processes are not solely related to economic and social factors.
They are fundamentally a question of human development and thereby equally of his-
tory and values, of self-understanding and the processes of social interaction. For this
reason culture is a key element in all development cooperation.
The present document aims to strengthen understanding of the links between culture
and development and on this basis to provide guidance for the practical work of the
cultural dimension in Danish development policy. The strategic objectives are based on
the experiences gained working with the cultural dimension in Denmark’s development
cooperation and on the recent Danish and international recognition of the importance
of the cultural dimension. Chapter 1 describes the value basis of the Strategy, while
Chapter 2 presents principles, criteria and guidelines for this work in the future.

To fulfil its purpose, the Strategy must have a broad impact throughout Denmark’s
development cooperation, among external advisers and NGOs. This poses special
demands both of its formulation and its implementation. It therefore seeks to strike a
balance between general analysis and concrete guidelines that at the same time leave
room for the very diverse cultures and contexts in which Denmark’s development
cooperation takes place.
The success of the Strategy can only be judged on its use. The sections containing
guidance have been made as practical as possible in the hope that they will help to
inspire and further develop the work involving the cultural aspect at embassies, the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as among the external resource base and NGOs. It
will be a special task for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to follow up on this work and
further develop the guidelines and criteria contained in these sections. The implementa-
tion of the Strategy will require ongoing monitoring, and efforts must be made to
increase our knowledge base and to extend experience sharing within the cultural
The present Strategy is based on Denmark’s development policy “Partnership 2000”,
which defines the overriding objectives of Denmark’s development cooperation as
poverty reduction through the promotion of sustainable development processes and
support for broadly based, pro-poor economic growth with equal participation by
women and men. Human development is to be promoted through support for the
social sectors and promotion of democratisation and popular participation.

1. Value basis:
Human rights, cultural diversity and
a global ethic

Culture must be understood broadly
The present Strategy operates with a broad definition of culture. This means that
culture is not viewed as being in opposition to development, but as something that is
continually changing and being created in step with changing social processes while at
the same time constituting a common point of reference in the global development.
Culture may be defined as the total complex of spiritual, material, intellectual and emo-
tional features that characterise a society or social group. Culture is mental structures,
the general patterns of understanding prevalent in a given social group: conceptions of
the world, religion, gender role patterns and the management of natural resources. But
culture also comprises more specific forms of expression through works of artistic or
cultural value. Operationally, this twofold definition means that work with the cultural
dimension involves (i) culture as the sum of social practices in the form of, for example,
religion, language, education and social and family practices, and (ii) culture as artistic
expression in the form of, for example, literature, dance, music and films.
Culture and development must build on the fundamental human rights
with the objective of strengthening cultural diversity and achieving a
global ethic

The work with the cultural dimension in development cooperation must build on a
value basis that expresses what is regarded as positive cultural and social values and
change. The knowledge and acceptance of this value basis is a precondition for coopera-
tion on culture in the practical work. This applies both to Denmark’s partners in the
developing countries and for Danish participants in development cooperation.
As laid down in the Act on International Development Cooperation, Section 1,
Denmark’s development cooperation is based on the fundamental principles of the UN.
International norms for how people can permit themselves to treat one another and their
surroundings have changed since the founding of the UN. During the past 50 years
Denmark has contributed actively to the bearing principles and values of the UN, and

this is reflected in the development of the international human rights conventions and
declarations on gender equality and the environment. Social welfare, human rights,
equal opportunities and concern for the environment are thus today central values both
in international cooperation in the UN and also in Denmark’s development cooperation.
In recent years local and national values have acquired renewed importance around the
world. In the years to come it will therefore be a challenge for Denmark to influence
the development of fundamental principles and values worldwide. On the one hand, it
will be necessary to work towards making local and national values the foundation of
the global reality. Efforts must be made to strengthen the cultural diversity of the
world. Globalisation can only be secured as a stable and positive process by ensuring
that it has a solid cultural base. On the other hand, this work must be firmly rooted by
international law in the fundamental human rights. The goal is to achieve a world
society founded on a global ethic. Culture – whether it be local, national or interna-
tional – can never be used to legitimise chauvinism, misuse of power, ethnic persecu-
tion and cleansing, terrorism, genocide, or other forms of abuse and humiliation of
human beings. The work for sustainable and reciprocal globalisation requires cultural
self-awareness, based on human rights and mutual respect.
Goals for Denmark’s work with culture and development
The goals for a conscious and systematic incorporation of culture in Denmark’s devel-
opment cooperation can be summarised as follows:
Promotion of the cultural dimension as an important component of poverty reduction
An awareness of the cultural context is necessary in the planning and implementation
of all development cooperation. The overriding objective of Denmark’s development
cooperation is to contribute to poverty reduction through the promotion of broad-
based, pro-poor economic growth with equal participation by women and men. To
achieve this result culture must be incorporated as a resource to be drawn upon rather
than be allowed to function as an obstacle to the process. It is at the same time impor-
tant that local culture and knowledge are taken into account as an integral component
of development programmes in sectors such as education, health, agriculture and water
– both for the benefit of local communities and as a contribution to continued global
cultural diversity.
Promotion of culture as an active instrument in strengthening the very poor
Cultural projects can in general be used as an active instrument in promoting under-
standing for such values as social justice, equality of opportunity and sustainability and
to promote the identity and dignity of poor people and of hard-pressed population
groups. These groups stand in need of higher status and respect in society in order to

improve their opportunities of influencing and benefiting from developments in society.
As part of this process special attention must be devoted to the situation of women and
indigenous peoples.
Promotion of cultural diversity on the basis of human rights and tolerance
The keener focus on the cultural dimension in Denmark’s development cooperation
must contribute to the preservation and development of cultural diversity, and an active
effort must be made to strengthen mutual cultural respect. Tolerance and respect for
human rights and for different cultures must be promoted as an important element in
securing the cultural identity of the developing countries.
Stronger focus on culture in the international debate
Culture was firmly placed on the international agenda when UNESCO and the UN
established a World Commission for Culture and Development in 1992 with the UN’s
former secretary-general Pérez de Cuéllar as chairman. In 1995 the Commission pub-
lished the report “Our Creative Diversity”, the main premise of which is to regard cul-
ture as the basis for all development. The report was later followed up by a series of
conferences and reports, most recently World Culture Report 2000 under the heading
“Cultural Diversity, Conflict and Pluralism”. The report focuses on cultural diversity
and on culture as the source of social creativity, but also of violence and exclusion. It
also emphasises that all cultures whose values are tolerant towards those of other cul-
tures must be respected on the basis of a binding global ethic founded on universal val-
ues, human rights and mutual respect across cultural boundaries.
With its strategy paper from 1999, “Culture and Sustainable Development – A
Framework for Action”, the World Bank has also begun to take the cultural dimension
into account in its loan policies. The World Bank wishes to promote a development
process rooted in the local culture and in the knowledge and needs of the local popula-
tion. Thus, the World Bank is continuing its work on evolving participant-oriented
development instruments and has recently, with Danish support, engaged in a project
to incorporate and develop the concept of ‘social capital’ in its development work.
In a number of countries – not least the Nordic countries – the cultural dimension plays
a prominent role in development cooperation. There is a general tendency towards incor-
porating the cultural dimension as an integral component of development cooperation.
Much attention is devoted to drawing upon the cultural dimension as a key to a deeper
understanding of local conditions and conflicts that may affect development work. This
shift in emphasis should be seen in the light of the trends currently influencing the devel-
opment debate. The following section outlines three of the most significant trends that,
each in their own way, have served to focus attention on the cultural dimension.

Poverty orientation, national strategies and globalisation are increasing
the focus on culture

Three central trends in the general international development are focusing attention on
the cultural dimension in the development process, namely poverty orientation, nation-
al strategies and globalisation:
Understanding of the nature of poverty and strategies for poverty reduction
Recent years have seen the emergence of a new international consensus that poverty
should not solely be regarded as a lack of economic and social resources, but also as a
lack of rights, influence, status and dignity. In step with this growing recognition, work
has been done on developing new strategies for poverty reduction, a key element of
which is the principle that all development work must take its point of departure in the
local context and in national poverty strategies.
Recent analyses undertaken by the World Bank of how the poor regard their own situa-
tion pinpoint vulnerability, insecurity and lack of status as significant factors in their
perception of poverty. In its guidelines for poverty reduction, the OECD’s Development
Assistance Committee (DAC) operates with a socio-cultural dimension in its descrip-
tion of poverty, which also contains aspects such as status and dignity.
In Denmark’s development cooperation it has long been recognised that the question of
the status of the poor in society and their possibilities of organising and thus obtaining
political influence on the basis of their own visions and ideas are decisive in determin-
ing whether social development will in fact benefit the poor. The question of democra-
tisation and respect for human rights and the possibilities of the poor to exert influence
on the development of society on the basis of their own values occupy a central posi-
tion in Denmark’s strategy for poverty reduction. Against this background, the recogni-
tion of the role to be played by the cultural dimension becomes an important compo-
nent in a general strategy for poverty reduction.
Efforts to strengthen and preserve cultural diversity and at the same time to promote
respect for other cultures can counteract the marginalisation of social groups such as
ethnic or religious minorities. Respect for cultural diversity can nuance and lessen
tensions between different cultural groups – tensions that may in the worst-case lead to
armed conflict. The promotion of cultural diversity is therefore an element of a general
strategy for poverty reduction and for supporting the participation of poor or margin-
alised groups in social development.

Partnership and national strategies
Denmark’s development cooperation with the developing countries must be founded on
reciprocal partnerships that take their point of departure in the developing countries’
own strategies and priorities. The developing countries must themselves assume respon-
sibility for and ownership of the development process. The planning of development
cooperation must take place through dialogue in which – as in all forms of dialogue –
there must be room for differences. This means that also in connection with the cultur-
al dimension Denmark must retain an awareness of and stand by its fundamental values
such as respect for human rights and the maintenance of cultural diversity.
In order for the developing countries to be able to assume genuine ownership of assis-
tance activities, it is necessary to attach considerable importance to the building of
institutional capacity in recipient countries and to supporting their ability to formulate
and implement their policies for the various sectors. This also applies to the cultural
dimension, where Denmark’s cooperation must take particular account of national
priorities and the need to secure local ownership.
The cultural dimension offers especially good opportunities for genuine partnerships, in
that it holds out greater prospects for cooperation on an equal footing than does the
economic dimension. The link between development and the cultural dimension will
often initiate a process in which all involved parties exert an ongoing influence on one
The globalisation process and its cultural consequences
Globalisation – as a process that comprises an ever-greater economic, political, social
and environmental interdependency among the countries of the world – is one of the
major challenges of our time. Closer contact between peoples and the exchange of
human resources and ideas across national borders can lead to greater cultural diversity
and enhance cross-cultural understanding. However, globalisation also places pressure
on local cultures and patterns of life, which will in some cases be in danger of disap-
pearing altogether. The positive consequences of cultural globalisation must be strength-
ened so that the process leads towards mutual respect and tolerance, pride without
chauvinism and to a constructive “Clash of Cultures”.
The new information and communications technologies are opening up for access to
knowledge and global communication on a wholly unprecedented scale. It is crucial
that the developing countries should become active participants in this process – not
just for economic reasons, but also to ensure cultural exchange and dialogue across
cultural boundaries.