The contribution of culture in combating poverty and social
17th, 18th and 19th October 2010
Cultural Centre « Le Botanique », Brussels
The seminar entitled “The contribution of culture in combating poverty and social exclusion” is
organised as part of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The seminar is
due to take place on 17, 18 and 19 October 2010 at Cultural Centre “Le Botanique” in Brussels.
This event is organised by the General Service for Youth and Continuing Education at the General
Administration of the Ministry of Culture for the French-speaking Community in Belgium with the
support of the European Commission.
The seminar will host participants from the 27 Member States: professionals from European
institutions, representatives from international bodies working in this sector, national
administrations, experts, associations and cultural professionals are expected to attend.
The seminar which is organised within the context of the “European Year for combating poverty
and social exclusion” aims at demonstrating that combating poverty and social exclusion directly
involves cultural policies.
This purpose is intrinsically linked to the strategic and specific objectives outlined both in the
European Cultural Agenda and in the 2008-2010 Work Plan for culture. The subjects debated
throughout the seminar will indeed treated with this same dynamic: the work will be in keeping
with a process which emphasises the transversal role of culture and favours cultural diversity.
The EU 2020 Strategy, of which the objective is to implement smart, sustainable and inclusive
growth in Europe, additionally aims at extending the European Year. Indeed, the Flagship Initiative
“A European Platform against Poverty” sets as its objective the recognition of the fundamental
rights of people who live in poverty and social exclusion: it is a question of providing these people
with the means of living in dignity and to actively participate in society. In this context, the seminar
will define culture not as a replacement or a remedy for social and economic inequalities, but as an
important resource for personal development and social cohesion.
Finally, this seminar will be extended by the adoption, during the Council of European Ministers for
Culture on 18 November 2010, of Conclusions which promote the transversal role that Culture has
to play in this area, notably by underlining the need to integrate the cultural dimension in national
and European policies for combating poverty and social exclusion
Two primary subject areas have been outlined, each of which will be developed during two
workshop sessions: access to culture and cultural participation.
Through contributions which will deal with theoretical and political programmes, coupled with
exchanges relating to practices in this subject area, the objectives of the seminar aim to:
- promote the cultural effects of processes of social exclusion and situations of poverty;
- open pathways to improve access to cultural life for people experiencing poverty or social
- clarify the means of fostering participation and cultural expression of people who are living in
poverty and social exclusion, who are often faced with a lack of recognition;
- understand how to value the cultural creativity inherent in people and groups of people in
vulnerable situations, and to recognise their contribution towards the cultural dynamism of our
societies by encouraging attention to cultural diversity;
- reflect on methods likely to favour the participation of citizens and the exercise of social,
economic and cultural rights of people experiencing poverty and social exclusion;
- reflect on the conditions underlying a better development of cultural policies with policies to
combat poverty by avoiding stigmatising effects;
- outline cultural policy guidelines linked to combating poverty and social exclusion and the
construction of social ties and insist on the transversal nature of culture;
- strengthen synergies between the cultural, education, youth and social sectors.
Lastly, cultural activities will be organised during the seminar in order to punctuate the debates
and the evenings with artistic events testifying to the commitment of many Belgian artists and
associations to a reflection and an action in favour of social inclusion.
Monday 18th October
10:00 Registration of participants
10:45 – 11:30 Opening Ceremony
11:30 – 12:00 Plenary Session 1
Workshop Session 1 – Access to Culture
1.a. How can access to culture be planned today? Aside
12:00 – 13:30 practical barriers (financial, physical) what other obstacles
exist for the most underprivileged people in accessing culture?
1.b. Information and mastery of information technologies
1.c. Combating stereotypes
13:30 – 15:00 Lunch
Workshop Session 2 – Cultural Participation
15:00 – 16:30 2a. Urban cultural interaction
2b. Education in culture and citizenship
2c. Artistic creativity
Tuesday 19th october
09:00 – 11:00 Plenary Session 2
11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break
11:30 – 12:30 Plenary Session 3
12:30 – 13:00 Closing Ceremony
DESCRIPTION DES ATELIERS
1) Access to culture
Different types of people may be considered as particularly exposed to the risk of cultural
exclusion: in particular people in economic difficulty, the unemployed, refugees and immigrants,
people with disabilities, people who are stigmatised or weakened in their self-dignity. These people
are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and self-confidence, which can be considered as the
minimum conditions for social and cultural involvement.
Confronted with this observation, the issue of accessing culture cannot be restricted to accessing
cultural services. It should be extended to the issue of restoring the conditions for self-dignity. The
workshops will focus particularly on practices which demonstrate how access to cultural services
and institutions can contribute to restoring dignity which, relying on local cultural work, succeed in
developing a “desire” for culture. Reflection will be led on the issue of accessing culture in terms of
the relation to oneself as developed by people and groups in difficult situations. The aim of these
three workshops will therefore be to highlight the practices and projects which contribute towards
lifting obstacles, and therefore allowing everyone to gain concrete access to cultural activities, an
essential dimension in promoting an all-inclusive society.
Workshop 1a. How can access to culture be planned today? Aside practical barriers (financial,
physical) what other obstacles exist for the most underprivileged people in accessing culture?
This workshop will use as a basis the hypothesis according to which the issue of accessing culture
today revolves around different dimensions. Access to culture is generally thought out in terms of
the right to access cultural goods and services. This focus primarily refers to the economic
dimension to accessing cultural goods and the mechanisms established to facilitate the access to
culture for people experiencing poverty or social exclusion. Beyond the financial aspect, this
perspective additionally refers to the geographic dimension of accessing culture, which underlines
the policies of mobility, the geographical distribution of cultural facilities and activities, and the
issues of specific access to culture for disabled people. However, in line with this focus, it is
necessary to reflect not only on the right of access but also in terms of the desire to access culture.
This reflection refers to the initiative of empowerment which aims at creating desire, for instance
through cultural work based upon creativity and relying on the fact that it is through a
transformation of the relationship between oneself and culture that an increased openness to
cultural goods and that a desire for culture will be created. Self-esteem may in such an instance be
found, a self-esteem which social and economic exclusion would have contributed to destroying.
The role played by cultural institutions in this area will also be examined.
Workshop 1b. Information and mastery of information technologies
In order to participate in cultural life, it is naturally necessary to be informed, to have access codes
and to be able to participate. Existing information means are not always adapted in terms of their
intelligibility, legibility, and availability. In terms of information, this workshop will place particular
focus on the role of new technologies in examining the conditions which favour access to these
technologies for everyone. This will be the opportunity to focus on “digital Europe”, and the role of
However, in supposing a guaranteed access to information technologies, it is known that these
contribute to an increased segmentation of the public, and towards the creation of what could be
called information communities, just as they may be, more positively, intense areas for cultural
creativity, the emergence of new codes, new innovative practices, and where appropriate
distanced from major standards of commercial culture. It is within this context that this workshop
will focus on the conditions of a true cultural policy in terms of information and communication
technology, centred around facilitating access to information but also encouraging the
development of cultural creativity of excluded populations.
Workshop 1c. Combating stereotypes
Much work into cultural practices draws attention both to the existence and preservation of
cultural hierarchies, strong opposition between legitimate and illegitimate cultures, as well as the
existence of large social barriers of which one of the consequences lies in the fact that some
cultural goods appear as foreign and unobtainable to economically underprivileged social groups.
In short, cultural goods, their various genres (opera, classical music, techno music, rap, literature,
theatre, etc.) are the subject of what could be termed social “markings”, or even stereotypes which
contribute to fuelling and preserving obstacles to the distribution and social interaction of cultural
practices. Conversly, it can be presumed that the environment of cultural practices, the venues in
which they take place and the decorum which surround them contribute – in addition to economic
inequality – towards reinforcing these obstacles. This workshop will focus particularly on the
practices of combating cultural stereotypes, the initiatives of “demystification” of cultural genres
which are heavily marked socially, and also initiatives which aim at combating stereotypes of which
people experiencing social exclusion and poverty are the direct victims. These stereotypes
contribute in a certain manner towards anticipating their relationship to culture and in this respect
operate as vectors of exclusion.
Education, in the widest sense, has a major role to play in the development of representations and
behaviour, both in school and in the community. Particular focus will be granted through this
workshop to the role of school in the early and initial fight against stereotypes, and to the place of
art and culture in a school which is also planned as an area for the coexistence of differences.
The positive role which media and new technologies may play in this area shall additionally be
2) Cultural participation
Cultural participation will be presented here as a real tool for combating all forms of social
exclusion. Projects and activities involving the participation and expression of people who are
excluded allow them to be aware, to express themselves and to be heard, to be creative and
actively involved in their own lives, to regain self-confidence, and to take a place within society.
Cultural participation constitutes an essential lever for integration and prevention, through
consideration of people’s qualities and potential, rather than constituting shortcomings and
failures. It is furthermore necessary to be attentive to the quality and sustainability of cultural
participation. A society which encourages strong artistic and cultural life strengthens in turn active
Workshop 2a. Urban cultural interaction
Urban revitalisation through culture is an essential asset for planning the towns and cities of today
as well as their future development. Urban policies are, notably through their scales, privileged
areas in which participative practices can develop. When these policies target underprivileged
areas, they provide the opportunity of creating the conditions for greater attention and
participation of citizens. Urban regeneration is one of the markers of the attention placed on the
various populations inhabiting towns and cities. Urban policies constitute an essential stake in the
redistribution of resources, in issues of accessibility, as well as in issues relating to living conditions.
Through its very dynamism, and often through its cosmopolitan nature, the urban landscape is a
fertile land for culture to which local authorities should pay attention. Encouraging the
construction of new cultural facilities enables sustainable preservation of a section of the urban
area by making this accessible to the residents within a community, thereby fostering meetings and
social exchanges. Urban cultures are the result of a multidisciplinary mix of artistic forms and
content both traditional and new. This workshop will develop the fact that urban cultural policies
are both a source of development and a creator of identities. By targeting social interaction, the
distribution of and access to facilities, the renovation of underprivileged areas and by encouraging
the participation of citizens and urban regeneration, urban policies carry cultural ambitions and can
significantly contribute towards combating cultural exclusion.
Workshop 2b. Education in culture and citizenship
Education and raising awareness of the general public are essential elements in constructing a
Europe which is based on the respect of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue. Within public
initiatives, educational policies and cultural policies develop often in an ill- or under-coordinated
manner. Yet, many observations have shown that the difficulties in democratisation policies for
culture and the continuing gaps in cultural practices in line with the social background of
individuals, are evidence of the deficit of education in culture.
As, moreover, the increasing importance of culture and “lifelong” education only contribute
towards the worsening of social inequalities when it is poorly considered by public authorities or
when the latter do not develop voluntarist policies, targeting the weakened and underprivileged
population. It is in light of these observations that these workshops will seek to debate the need
and conditions for a better coordination of educational policies with cultural policies.
The purpose is to explore the benefits of synergy between education and culture and to
demonstrate that better cooperation between the cultural and educational domains bolsters
mutual comprehension and social cohesion on a local, national and European level. Education and
raising public awareness are key elements in constructing a Europe based on the respect of cultural
diversity and intercultural dialogue. On the one hand, formal and informal education both aim at
developing participation in and the comprehension of culture and art. On the other hand, learning
through cultural experiences enables the development of creative, personal and interpersonal
competences, which can be of value both on the employment market and in social and citizen’s
life. Finally, the community sector, primarily that of informal education, plays an essential role
notably in reflecting on how to plan and implement a policy and practices for education in culture
with economically underprivileged populations, but also in reflecting on how the very involvement
in community structures constitutes, as such, an important lever in cultural learning.
Workshop 2c. Artistic creativity
Artistic and cultural innovation, creativity and creation have an intrinsic value. Culture may be a
motor for behavioural change and more widely societal change when creativity, which is
intrinsically linked to this, is encouraged in an individual from an early age.
It is a question of showing that culture, as a catalyst for creativity, contributes towards the
implementation of a new way of living focussed around the capacity of an individual to break with
established conventions, to make a break from typical lines of thought in order to enable the
development of a new vision, idea or innovative thought. This workshop will place particular focus
on the conditions in which cultural and artistic creativity are likely to encourage, within socially
excluded and economically underprivileged individuals, the development of these qualities of self-
esteem and self-confidence, which are absolutely essential in constructing an active, responsible
and participative citizen. The workshop will additionally deal with the requirement of quality and
the perspectives for validating this type of cultural production in the field of culture as such..
Translation – Interpretation
Plenary sessions :
Interventions will be translated into four languages :
Interventions will be translated into two languages :