Algeria/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

Algeria functions as a "republican" regime, in which legislative power is given to a bicameral parliament of elected representatives (Council of the Nation and National Popular Assembly). The president of the republic is the sole holder of executive power, including the nomination of the prime minister and ministers of the Constitutional Council. The primary mission of the Minister of Culture is to protect and enhance the value of national cultural heritage. The minister ensures efficient administration of various services and structures, and exercises his authority by setting objectives, means and organization [Decree n°05-79 on 26th February 2005 specifying the tasks of the Minister of Culture].

All six other major ministries (see organizational chart 1) are active in the cultural sector, however the Ministry of Culture (MOC) retains exclusive government authority to charter national cultural policies. The MOC consists of several directorates and sectoral departments, on which the minister relies to organize cultural activities at the national level (see organizational chart 2). Under his/her direct command, cultural institutions, centers and other structures apply the MOC strategy on the national or regional levels according to regional powers. However, the state shows its presence on the regional level mainly through the Directorates of Culture situated in each of the 48 Wilayas.

Directorates of Culture are public entities created in 1994 to replace the Directorates of Culture and Communications that had been installed two years earlier, which had replaced the original Directorates of Information and Culture. On the structural level, these entities are organized into Wilaya-level offices. Each office oversees four services, including arts, literature and heritage. Each Director of Culture is nominated by a presidential decree, upon proposal by the Minister of Culture. He/she represents the State to the Wilayas. Directorates of culture are directly financed by the MOC. These directorates hold more signficant import in regional Algeria than in the capital, where they face competition from several national cultural bodies working under the supervision of the Minister of Culture as well as non-MOC organizations directed by the Cultural Affairs Commission of the Wilaya and the Cultural Affairs Commissions of Communal Popular Assemblies (town halls).

Each Wilaya (governorate) is a public community with moral distinction and fiscal autonomy. The Wilaya consists of two organs: an elected council and a governor (wali), named by the president of the republic. Article 22 of Law n° 90-08 of 7 April, 1990 requests the popular assembly of the Wilaya to form a permanent commission, charged with the task of studying records related to cultural affairs. This commission elects its president, who must be a member of the Wilaya's popular assembly. The elected council is constituted by deliberation of the popular assembly upon proposal by the assembly’s president or one third of its members. The council’s composition must proportionally reflect the political components of the popular assembly (see Diagram 1).

The Communal Popular Assembly (APC) is an executive body charged with governing “communes”, basic communities with moral distinction and fiscal autonomy. A cultural agency, created by the APC, runs the cultural activities of this commune. The cultural policies of an APC focus almost exclusively on their own territory. They encourage local artists and build cultural infrastructures.

Article 24 of Law n° 90-08 dated 7 April, 1990 concerning the “commune” indicates that “popular assemblies” can form permanent or ad hoc committees to study cultural issues that interest the community. In Algiers, all such committees are formed as cultural bodies which run, directly or indirectly, local cultural infrastructures.

Interconnections between MOC and local "cultural" authorities are complex and vary from one Wilaya to another (see Diagram 2). Indeed, these interconnections are subjective and depend largely on the affinities between officials on both regional and national levels and their willingness to work together. Thus, in some governorates the Director of Culture and the Cultural Affairs Committee work closely and in others no contact exists between them, as is the case in Algiers [A. Kessab, 2008].

Foreign cultural centers are mainly located in Algiers, the capital. There are eight centers (the French Cultural Center of Algiers, French Cultural Center of Oran, French Cultural Center of Constantine, French Cultural Center of Tlemcen, French Cultural Center of Annaba, Italian Cultural Center in Algiers, Institute Cervantes in Algiers, and the Goethe Institute in Algiers), as well as cultural services of foreign embassies, that participate in the Algerian cultural life. But the role of embassies’ cultural services are minimal, due to the fact that their strategy is purely diplomatic and thus relies primarily on presenting cultural activities from their own countries. The one-month European Cultural Festival is without doubt the major event of the foreign cultural organizations in Algeria; all foreign cultural centers of the European Union gather to provide a very rich cultural program.

Through its affiliated bodies, the MOC usually provides foreign centers and departments with free access to performances halls, in which they can organize cultural events. This is the only visible form of collaboration between the MOC and foreign cultural organizations.
Cultural and artistic associations are also present in the cultural sector. In 2001, Algeria had 96 literary associations, 573 artistic associations, 343 scientific associations and 667 associations active in the field of history and heritage. The total number of associations registered in the Department of Cultural Associations reached 3,463 in 2001 [MOC statistics, 2001]. These associations nevertheless maintain a very minimal role in Algeria’s cultural life relative to the dominant role played by the MOC. However, associations sometimes play a more important role in villages and remote areas, where MOC-sponsored cultural are rare or nonexistent.

Some foundations are also involved in the cultural field, such as Casbah Foundation (heritage), Emir Abdel Kader Foundation (history), Mohammed Dib Foundation (literature), Abdelkrim Dali Foundation (music), and Fennecs d'Or Foundation (cinema). The intergovernmental organization (IGO) Desert du Monde, based in southern Algerian city of Ghardaia, organizes several cultural and artistic activities in Algeria and abroad, including the International Festival of the Cultures of Desert People.

These foundations are headed by influential political or cultural figures, which affords them great freedom of action.

The German foundation "Friedrich Ebert" was the only foreign foundation that was very active in the cultural sector. Unfortunately, due to political pressure it suspended its activities in 2008.

No Algerian non-profit organization (NGO) exists.

Private sector participation is very weak in Algerian cultural maintenance. Most private initiatives are in the publishing sector, Publishing houses, such as Berzakh, Marsa, Chihab and others are active in this sector. Film distribution enterprises are also present, but in a lower level. Five big enterprises share the cinema distribution market: MD Ciné, Cirta Film, Tassili Film, Sora Production and Kino Max.

In recording, Cadic-Soli dominates the market of discs and cassettes. Belda diffusion, editor and producer, invests original traditional and modern music's market.

The weakness of the private sector does not allow the emergence of a true creative industry, capable of generating wealth for the country, including the creation of jobs. The private initiatives need more support, as is the case of the book field and a statistical system must be established in order to monitor the situation of cultural industries.

Criteria and process for evaluating cultural policy

The evaluation of Algeria's cultural policy is not based on any criteria or standards set by the officials in charge of the cultural sector. In fact, there is no program in place to evaluate the cultural sector, whether in terms of quantity or quality. Reliable statistics that may be used to analyze and evaluate the country's cultural policy have yet to be collected. Only one edition of an annual statistical abstract on the cultural sector between 2001 and 2002 has been issued by the MOC. However, the President of the Republic meets with the cabinet ministers every year to conduct a general evaluation of Algeria's cultural policy. In addition, an evaluative report is issued regularly by the Council of Ministers; unfortunately very little information is available concerning this report. In the absence of this evaluation, cultural production in Algeria is left for journalistic criticism which produces policy evaluations often devoid of scientific or rational criteria.

A number of qualitative evaluation reports were compiled by various international organizations, such as the Tassili Ahaggar Report on the National Park Authority in Ahaggar and Tassili issued by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in 2006 and the report issued by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) affiliated to NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) in which some aspects of Algerian cultural policy are evaluated.

The role of Algeria’s parliament in evaluating the activities conducted by the MOC is limited to one occasion in 2009 when an MP asked the Minister of Culture to submit an official report concerning the funding of the Second Pan-African Festival of Algiers. The example also applies to the fact that it is impossible to know the exact budget of these events, for example, the 50th anniversary of Algerian independence that took place in 2012.

On the regional level, the “Establishment of Arts and Culture”  in Algiers Governorate launched the first initiative of its kind by publishing all statistics related to its work. However, this initiative may not be considered an evaluation attempt since the statistics were never analyzed and no clear objectives were set.

[1] The Committee of Cultural Affairs in Algiers created a public organization of "an industrial and commercial nature" that manages the cultural structures of the Wilaya of Algiers. Having the name “Establishment of Arts and Culture” this organization is playing an important role in the cultural landscape of the capital.

Chapter published: 11-06-2013