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CULTURE, DEVELOPMENT, DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND AFRICA BY Mike van Graan Introduction Recently, there has been much talk, many conferences, many papers and projects about culture and development. In April 2009, the EU hosted a conference “culture as a vector of development” in Brussels with arts professionals and ministers of culture. The UNESCO Convention on the Promotion and Protection of Cultural Diversity talks about integrating culture in development polices. The African Union’s ministers of culture adopted a plan of action on the cultural industries in Algiers in 2008, also emphasising the importance of culture in development. But what does this mean? And what is the relationship between development, culture, human rights and democracy on the African continent? In this presentation, I will try to link some of the dots. Slide Two: African development context  51% of Africans live in poverty, on less than $1,25 per day (R330 per month)  50% of children who are not in school, are in Africa  1 in 7 African children die by age of 5  African maternal mortality: 1 in 30 women, compared to 1 in 5600 women in “developed” countries  2/3 of the world’s 33m HIV-positive people live in Africa  A child dies of malaria every 45 seconds: 90% of them in Africa  Average life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa is less than 55  69% of sub-Saharan Africans lack basic sanitation These statistics are taken from the MDG website outlining global development challenges. Slide Three: Millennium Development Goals In 2000, leaders of 170 countries met at the United Nations in New York and agreed on a set of development goals to be pursued in the new Millennium. These 8 goals – to be achieved by 2015 – are: Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger i.e. to halve the number of people who live on less than $1 a day and to halve the number of people who go hungry. Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women Goal 4: Reduce child mortality by two-thirds Goal 5: Improve maternal health, and reduce maternal mortality by 75% Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases i.e. halted the spread of HIV/AIDS, and reverse the incidence of malaria Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability, including halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development, including the development of an open, rule-based, non-discriminatory trading and financial system (includes a commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction – both nationally and internationally) What is “Development”?

We speak of the Millennium Development Goals and of the development challenges of the continent, but what do we really mean by “development”? Development is a word that appears to have two implicit assumptions: a. that it is ‘a good thing’ and b. that there is general agreement on its meaning In 1998, UNESCO published a document: Our Creative Diversity: Report of the World Commission on Culture and Development under the leadership of Javier Perez de Cuellar. This report was the culmination of six years’ work by a group of ‘independent economists, social scientists, artists and thinkers…who were asked to explore the interactions between culture and development and put forward proposals to help the international community deal with them better’. Slide Four: Definitions of Development The Report concentrates on two views of development: a. development as a process of economic growth, ‘a rapid and sustained expansion of production, productivity and income per head’ – this is the most traditional understanding of development i.e. economic development, the belief being that it is economic growth that drives other forms of development – social, human, etc b. development as ‘a process that enhances the effective freedom of the people involved to pursue whatever they have reason to value’. Slide Five: UNDP definition The second definition is based on the United Nations Development Programme’s understanding of development. Human development is a development paradigm that is much more than the rise and fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests. People are the real wealth of nations. Development is thus about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value. And it is thus about much more than economic growth which is only a means – if a very important one – of enlarging people’s choices. The introduction to the 2009 Human Development Report goes on to say …human development shares a common vision with human rights. The goal is human freedom….People must be free to exercise their choices and to participate in decision-making that affects their lives. Human development and human rights are mutually reinforcing… The relationship between development, human development and human rights is important. The end development is human development, and with it, the realisation and practice of human rights. Perhaps, this is a good point at which to remind ourselves of some of the key clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948: Slide 6: UDHR Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.


Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. Article 7: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. Article 9: No-one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Article 13: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Slide 7: UDHR Article 20: Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Article 21 (1): Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives Article 22: Everyone…has the right to social security and is entitled to realisation…of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality. Article 23 (1): Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. Article 25 (1): Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Article 26 (1): Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory…. Article 26 (2): Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Article 27 (1): Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Article 27 (2): Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author Article 28: Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realised. The Human Development Index The UNDP’s measure of well-being – the Human Development Index - looks particularly at living a long and healthy life (life expectancy), being educated and having a decent standard of living. In 2010, of the 169 countries measured on the Index, 35 of the bottom 41 countries were African countries. In this Low Human Development category, starting at the bottom, are Zimbabwe, DRC, Niger, etc 14


African countries before one gets to Afghanistan that has been in the grips of a war for at least the last ten years. Slides 8, 9, 10, 11

The next slide shows middle development and the final one, High Human Development. Most interesting of course, is the position of Libya, Tunisia and Algeria at the top of the African HDI list, all of them in the throes of revolution, particularly Libya and Tunisia. What the recent overthrows of those dictatorships show is that human development is not sufficient i.e. long life, being educated and having a relatively decent standard of living do not compensate for other human rights and freedoms. While the HDI founders state that “human development shares a common vision with human rights. The goal is human freedom. Human development and human rights are mutually reinforcing”, the recent uprisings reveal the limitations of the HDI in that in fact it does not measure well-being in terms of the human rights and freedoms that people enjoy as part of human development. Economic growth as a measure of development Traditional historical and contemporary wisdom is that countries need to grow their economies in order to have the means to engage in social and human development. While we have seen the validity of this in Asian countries, the same is not necessarily true in African countries. Slide 12 According to the African Development Bank, the countries with the largest economies in terms of Gross Domestic Product, are South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Angola, Sudan, Tunisia and Ethiopia. In the case of North African countries like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, these countries feature relatively high – in African terms – on the Human Development Index, but not in terms of respect for human rights and democratic freedoms. To a large extent, the global north has historically turned a blind eye to such abuse of human rights and freedoms in favour of economic growth and political stability to serve their geo-political economic and security interests. In South Africa’s case, while there has been significant economic growth over the last 17 years, we have also seen a huge rise in unemployment, the gap between rich and poor has increased to one of the largest in the world, education has deteriorated, and worst of all, life expectancy has declined from 62 at the end of apartheid, to just over 50 now. Slide 13 According to the World Bank, the countries with the highest per capita income are Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Seychelles, Gabon, Mauritius, Botswana, South Africa, Algeria, Namibia and Tunisia. While there is some correlation between per capita income and the Human Development Index for North African countries and Mauritius, countries like Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, like South Africa are much lower on the HDI, and reflects greater disparity in the distribution of income. One may conclude


that while economic growth may occur, in some cases significant economic growth, it feeds an elite and does not translate into broader social and human development. Development and the interests it serves The obvious question then must be: whose interests does “development” serve? The 2015 MDGs notwithstanding, development is not driven primarily by the needs and interests of the supposed beneficiaries of development; it takes place in the context of a world order with huge and structural wealth divides. The MDGs were adopted in 2000, the year before 9/11, 2001. Since then, an estimated $3,2 trillion have been spent on the so-called war on terror, while less than a third of that has been spent on the war on poverty. In 2005, Louis Michel the European Commissioner responsible for EU Development Policy, outlined the EU’s new development policy, stating “we are witnessing the growing power of China, Japan, Russia and the USA in gaining access to African markets. Despite our leading position (in terms of development aid to Africa), we fail to get the most out of European development policy and to achieve the influence or the impact it should” “Development”, he said, “must also be conceived in geostrategic and political terms….By tackling the deep causes of poverty and inequality in the world, European development policy makes a major contribution to other objectives of the EU’s external action – upholding EU’s values, safeguarding its fundamental interests and security, peace-keeping, conflict prevention, reinforcing international security….“It is clear” – he said – “that many development programmes by tackling social exclusion, by promoting good governance, by supporting economic development, by creating operational infrastructure – contribute decisively to preventing the rise of terrorist networks which otherwise exploit the precariousness of people living in poverty.” Development then, is not a neutral activity. It is an act of culture. Whatever interests it serves and however it is defined, development is based on values, worldviews, ideas and ideological assumptions implying that a community, a country or a region is need of ‘development’. Through the development process, the values, beliefs and ideas of the intended beneficiaries of development, are acted upon and change, and/or these values, beliefs and ideas obstruct the development action, so that development and culture co-exist in a dynamic and creative tension, with each informing and sometimes giving rise to new aspects of the other, not just in a linear fashion, but simultaneously. However, the links between culture and development are almost always considered in terms of the culture of the supposed beneficiaries of development, and the extent to which their values, ideas, beliefs, customs, traditions, etc may facilitate or hinder development. It is perhaps equally important to turn the looking glass the other way to consider the extent to which the values, ideology, beliefs, customs, ideas and morals i.e. the culture of the west or global north and their economic and security interests, pose obstacles to real development and/or dictate, define or place pressure for certain kinds of development to take place. China is now Africa’s largest trading partner, and as expressed by the former EU Commissioner for Development, there is growing concern about this, not least for the global and regional political influence that this might bring about. But there are also concerns about China’s development strategies that come with few of the human rights and democracy strings attached to the development aid of the EU or the USA in the past. What will be the impact on the growth of human rights and democracy in Africa, some ask, if China facilitates development on its terms, without requiring


governments to respect democracy and human rights? Of course, there is much hypocrisy since; as pointed out earlier, many in the global north turned a blind eye to the dictatorships in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt to secure their economic and geopolitical interests, and even today, the oil-rich dictatorships of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea escape the attentions of democracies supposedly keen on human rights. Democracy loses its allure in the global south when in fact it is China that has best managed to raise millions of people out of poverty, with the World Bank showing 600 million Chinese being raised above the $1,25 threshold of poverty since 1981, while in Africa over that thirty year period, the number of people living below the poverty line has remained at a constant 51%, despite the economic growth from the 1990s. Democracy also loses its allure when it seems to deliver politicians intent only on their own gain, and when, even in countries like America, ordinary people are considered voting fodder, while it is the corporates who fund election campaigns that determine real policy after the elections. Yesterday, there was an image of an “Occupy Wall Street” protestor with an outstretched hand and a placard saying: “Please spare some change, I’m trying to buy a Congressman”. In South Africa, we have held four free and fair elections, yet the poor are getting poorer. Slide 14: National income distribution According the Government’s own National Planning Commission Report issued in June this year, in 1995, the poorest 20% in our country earned an average of R1010 (100 EUR) per year while the richest 20% earned R44 336 (4400 EUR). In 2008, the poorest 20% earned R1468 on average (140EUR) while the richest 20% earned 64 565 (6450 EUR). Over that period, poorest 20% earned 2.2% of national income while richest 20% earned 70% of national income. The point, then, is that just as economic growth does not necessarily lead to development in the interests of the majority, so democracy does not necessarily lead to development, respect for human rights and changes in the lives of the majority of people. Slide 15: Arterial Network definition of culture For all of these reasons, Arterial Network has arrived at a definition of development which is “the ongoing generation and application of resources (financial, human, infrastructural, etc) to create the optimal conditions (political, cultural, social, economic, etc) in which human beings may enjoy the full range of human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Culture and Development What does all this have to do with culture? UNESCO declared 1988-1997 the World Decade for Cultural Development explaining the rationale thus: Despite the progress achieved, the results of the first two International Development Decades revealed the limitations of a development concept based primarily on quantitative and material growth. From 1970 onwards, critical reflection gave rise to the Intergovernmental Conferences on Cultural Policies…in all parts of the world, and finally led to the Mexico City Conference of 1982 to put forward with great conviction the idea that ‘culture constitutes a fundamental part of the life of each individual and of each


community…and development…whose ultimate aims should be focused on man (sic)…must therefore have a cultural dimension. The two principal objectives of the World Decade for Cultural Development- greater emphasis on the cultural dimension in the developmental process and the stimulation of creative skills and cultural life in general – reflect an awareness of the need to respond to the major challenges which shape the horizon of the twenty-first century. But why did this recognition of the ‘cultural dimension of development’ even occur? What was the practice of development prior to that time? In his book, Tradition, culture and development in Africa, Dr Ambe J. Njoh writes that On the eve of independence for most African countries in the 1950s, development economists and international development agencies were beginning to seriously contemplate the necessary strategies for facilitating development in the emerging nations….As the 60s drew to a close, some dissenting voices could be heard in the development economic community. These voices…began to question the sagacity of defining the concept of development in strictly economic terms. The shift from emphasising the material and economic aspects of development to the cultural dimension of development was an interesting one given Njoh’s criticism of leading development economists in the late 1950s and 1960s ‘who considered the cultural transformation of Africa and other developing regions as a prerequisite for economic development. For these economists…the customs and traditional practices of non-western societies constitute a hurdle to so-called modern development aspirations.’ Njoh refers to the work of a leading developmental theorist, Sorenson who summarised the ‘popular theory that underdevelopment in third world societies such as Africa is due to internal as opposed to external factors’ thus: Basically, the theory holds that so-called traditional societies…are underdeveloped because of a lack of important propellants of development, including a work ethic, morals, innovative and entrepreneurial capacity, free market mechanisms, a propensity for taking risks and organisational acumen. The absence of these factors, according to the theory, is itself a function of flaws in the culture, customs and social mores of traditional societies. Particularly noteworthy in this latter respect is the fact that the theory considers the leading cause of underdevelopment in so-called traditional societies as the fact that such societies tend to place a lot of emphasis on kinship and family rather than on individual success and little or no emphasis on sophisticated technology and the acquisition of material wealth. Those subscribing to this theory – says Njoh – ‘suggested that it was impossible for Africa to develop without abandoning its traditional practices and assuming Eurocentric cultural values, beliefs and ideology.’ Yet, rather than urge the wholesale abandonment of traditional cultural values and the embracing of cultural values and beliefs of the global north in order for development to be effective, proponents of the ‘cultural dimension of development’ appear to propose instead that development strategies need to be understood, planned, designed and executed in the context of the cultures of the supposed beneficiaries of those development strategies.


Understanding culture in a broad, anthropological sense that includes the abstract – the ideas, moral values, beliefs, world views and aesthetic tastes of a community – existing in a dialectical relationship with the concrete, material reality that gives expression to and in turn shapes the abstract ideas, beliefs, etc, - makes it easy to understand the ‘cultural dimension of development’ as development – however it is defined or pursued – will impact on – and will be impacted upon by the culture of the intended beneficiaries of that action. But there is very little taking cognisance of culture in contemporary development strategies; development tends to be imposed to meet particular ends. More recently, the cultural dimension has largely referred to the potential importance of the creative industries as economic drivers of development. Given the rapid growth and economic contribution of creative industries in the global north, these are now being promoted – mostly by the global north – as drivers of development in Africa and other global south regions. The irony is that the lessons of post-colonial development have not been learned i.e. that economic models and strategies that might have worked in the global north, may not work in the global south because of cultural and other factors. Africa’s share of the global creative economy stands at less than 1% so proponents of the creative industries point to their potential growth and thus their potential importance in realising the MDGs. I have tried to show though that growing the economy does not necessarily translate into development so that South Africa – probably with the largest economy, the largest creative industries and the largest arts market on the continent – has not benefited the majority of people in changing their life conditions. Furthermore, while developed economies have infrastructure, distribution outlets, access to capital to create and most importantly, markets with disposable income, the same is not true for Africa where most people live on less than $1,25 per day so that they do not have the disposal income to sustain creative industries on the scale required on the continent. The emphasis on the creative industries as the best contribution that the creative sector can make to ‘development’ in the hope of convincing sceptical politicians of the value of the arts, ironically runs the risk of undermining the arts as these are reduced to their economic value and to ‘what the market wants’ and their broader value to society is compromised as investments and subsidies are made primarily to those disciplines and cultural activities that show the best economic return. There are three broad categories of artistic practice that have relevance to the ‘cultural dimension of development’. a. the arts practised for their own sake and as the creative means through which a society or community reflects on itself, and is challenged to move on or is affirmed in where they are: embedded within art – films, television, music, literature, visual art, etc are values, ideas, worldviews, ideological assumptions, so that art is an important reflection and determinant of human/personal development and identity b. the arts utilised for overt developmental purposes such as the use of theatre to spread health messages, or the appropriation of photographs or visual art to counter negative images of women: art for social development and c. the creative industries where the primary drivers are the generation of profit and other economic benefits through the arts: art for economic development Article 27 affirms the right of everyone freely to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts – not because of their economic or instrumental


value, but because they have value in their own right and for the psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being of the members of the community. Advocates of culture and development tend to emphasise the creative industries and their economic benefits in an attempt to persuade politicians to support the arts, which then raises the dangers alluded to earlier. Ironically, what they are advocating for in Africa now, is being contradicted in Europe and elsewhere in the global north where the arts are facing huge subsidy cuts from politicians who are not convinced of the economic benefits of supporting the arts. Conclusion The African creative sector, by virtue of the lack of support from their own governments and private sector, tend to take on board cultural themes and discourses emanating from the global north largely because of the resources attached to these. So, yesterday it was culture and development, today it’s cultural diversity, tomorrow, creative industries, the next day, intercultural dialogue, and the day after, climate change and the arts. And we panel beat our programmes and projects to fit in with the next development aid agenda, shaped by and for the global north. However, what we need to do is to rigorously interrogate such discourses, to do our homework and research and to engage critically with the macro political, economic and social issues that directly impact on our work as artists at an individual, micro level. It is not only in the practice of our art that exercise freedom of expression and push back the barriers and limitations on such expression; it is also in organising ourselves as artists and creative practitioners, that we give expression to democracy, find our voice, have an organisational form to advocate for our interests, and assert and defend our fundamental human rights to freedom of creative expression. In so doing, we give effect to a progressive understanding of development that integrates human rights and freedoms, social and economic growth, human development, rather than a utilitarian notion of development that invariably serves the interests of elites at a local and global level.

Mike van Graan


Culture and development lecture oct 2011  
Culture and development lecture oct 2011