Interview with Jordi Pascual

Coordinator of the Culture Working Group of CGLU- United Cities and Local Governments*
Jordi Pascual

* (The Culture Working Group of CGLU is the meeting point of cities, local government and networks which place culture in the centre of their developmental processes. The Council of Barcelona is president of this Group and Buenos Aires and Stockholm are the vice-presidents. At the moment the Group is constituted by 50 cities, local governments and organizations from around the world. The main aim of the 2005-2007 Programme is the following: “To promote the role of culture as a central dimension of local policies through dissemination and implementation of the Agenda 21 of Culture”

P:Cultural challenges are becoming increasingly important in our society and so is the role culture plays in urban policy. Likewise, they become challenges for local governments as they are environments of great proximity to citizens. Which are the answers the municipalities must give to these challenges? Are local governments ready to face these challenges?

R: Cultural issues have become very important in municipalities. Within local development the following three basic pillars are recognized: economic, social inclusion (social welfare) and sustainability. However, there are questions which do not fit into this triangle and culture could be the answer and become the fourth pillar of local development. Creativity, diversity, rituality, even education are the challenges of our societies that could find needed answers in this fourth pillar. If we analyse local development from a wide perspective, the first two aspects –economy and social inclusion- have been prominent questions throughout the XIX and XX centuries. Sustainability, the third pillar, appears mainly in the second half of the XX century. The fourth pillar, culture, is XXI century's challenge.

As well as the role played by public authorities in the cultural field, it has to be stressed that civil society’s participation in the construction of the fourth pillar is vital (just as it was in the construction of the other pillars). Implementing cultural policies at the municipal level and carrying out long-term cultural development strategies is very difficult without this participation.

Challenges in society become apparent mostly at a local scale. That is why municipalities are the essential public agents to respond to these challenges, and that is the reason why I consider that they can give coherence to local development putting a strong emphasis on cultural policies which draw from the intrinsic values of culture (creativity, memory, diversity, rituality) The value of culture is a very current issue nowadays. The articles dealing with this topic published in the United Kingdom by John Holden are very interesting in this sense.

Municipalities need to be lead by culture departments- the intrinsic values of culture have to be dealt with on a one to one basis within the local economic developmental strategies. Other municipal agendas –economic, environmental issues, etc .- must not take priority over the values of culture. In this sense, Agenda 21 of culture is an opportunity for the municipalities.

P: Which are the strong and weak points you would highlight in municipal cultural policies?

R: Municipalities have the strong point of facing up to the challenges presented to them and they have to make the most of it: currently everyone is looking at culture, some of the challenges of society are in culture.

Perhaps one of the weaknesses of the sector is its excess “singularity” Looking for singularity is essential in artistic creation and production processes, of course, but I am not referring to that, in fact I mean the isolation of culture in relation to other sectors, other territories and citizenry. Strategies from other sectors must be taken advantage of and even copied: for example, the advances in continuous training or the support for projects obtained in economy, the personalized attention sought after in social services, the evaluation of environmental impact, amongst others. Work can be done multilaterally, with agreements established in the long-term, within terms 7 to 10 years, between municipalities, associations, and networks, to allow the consolidation of culture as a fourth pillar. Building bridges with other fields. And the governance can be the union between the fourth pillars.

P: Do you consider the current training in cultural management is adequate to face the challenges?

R: There has been a strong growth in the field of training in cultural management, and I am not sure if it deals with culture in its broadest sense, I think that there exists sectoral training above all, but I do not feel that it includes sufficient knowledge and capacities regarding citizenry, the media or sponsorship not in a occasional manner  but rather in a global manner within the strategy of a cultural project.

P:Specific mechanisms and information system are being generated and consolidating in response to the increasing importance of culture, for example, Observatories, as mechanisms for knowledge of the present situation and the tendencies of the cultural sector. What do these observatories have to offer to the municipalities? And what does the local field have offer to the Observatory?

R: To start with I do not know to what extent an Observatory can guide or advice municipalities in relation to the collection of qualitative and quantitative information.  In any case, it can be considered which information is required from which type of municipality. The capacity of response of municipalities can be low, especially if we take into account the atomization of the municipal map. However, it is interesting that the information generated by the observatories “returns” to the municipalities. It is evident that having some indicators about the different cultural issues (libraries, cultural habits…) is of great value. The work with municipalities has to be done on a long-term basis, and not only identifying quantitative data, but also combining them with qualitative information, detecting and disseminating good practices and developing training and qualification,  etc.

It is important to note, in any case, that municipalities know and apply (if they consider it adequate, perhaps as an experience of “self-evaluation”) the cultural indicators elaborated within the framework of the Agenda 21 of culture (the document being referred to was approved 24th of October 2006 in Barcelona, in the first edition of the Culture Working Group of CGLU, named “Cultural Indicators and Agenda 21 of Culture”).

P:Many interventions have been carried out within the framework of the Agenda 21 of culture, approved in 2004 in order to establish the basis of engagement by cities and local governments in the field of local development. In October 2006 the first meeting of the Culture Working Group of CGLU was held. Could you highlight some of the activities of the meeting?

R: Many activities have been developed since its approval in 2004. These first three years of the Agenda 21 of culture have become an example for the whole world, using a vast number of cities in order to reformulate and implement the local cultural policies and also to reinforce the role of the municipal departments in charge of culture.         At an international level, the Agenda 21 of culture was approved at the same time as the world organization of cities (CGLU) was created and CGLU has become a meeting point of many cities like Montreal, Bogotá, Porto Alegre, Buenos Aires, London, Rome, Barcelona, Bilbao, Córdoba or Stockholm), and also of various continental networks (Interlocal, Eurocities, Mercociudades, Creative Cities Network of Canada, Cultural Development Network, les Arts et la Ville, les Rencontres...) within the field of local development. Moreover, since 2006 Agenda 21 of culture has a corporate logo and image, as well as a multilingual web site to facilitate dissemination. The document has been translated into German, Galician, Italian and Turkish, and a study commissioned by UNESCO on "local policies for cultural diversity" has been finished.

Amongst the activities planned for 2007 it is worth mentioning an intense lobby campaign to place culture as one of the priorities of the CGLU, especially from the II CGLU World Congress onwards which will be held in October 2007. Also, one of the aims is to increment the participation of the Working Group of cities and associations in the regions with less representation.

Therefore, 2007 will be centred mainly on raising awareness at a political level, but also in deepening the issue of research and development, a fundamental topic for the Agenda 21 of culture.

Webs of Interest


Presidency of the Working Group in Culture of CGLU
Institut de Cultura, la Rambla 99, E-08002 Barcelona
Tel. (+34) 933 161 262
Fax (+34) 933 161 060

Fecha de la última modificación: 06/03/2007