Egypt/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.1 Main cultural policy issues and priorities

President Mubarak's election program at the 2005 presidential elections included the following visions that would bring about a constitutional reform in order to:

  • Free citizens in a democratic country
  • Achieve more balance between the various authorities.
  • Boost citizen rights and public freedoms.
  • Support party life.
  • Women's empowerment.
  • Develop local authorities.

President Mubarak's 6th term in office is coming to an end and the items of this program are yet to be achieved, particularly boosting citizen rights and public freedoms which represent a real dilemma that include the publishing and creativity freedom.

The laws restricting private freedoms are yet to be repealed, particularly the provisions of Penal Code that impose prison terms for publishing-related crimes, and the Emergency Law has not been repealed either (see chapter 5). The election program also did not make any reference to the country's current cultural and educational situation.

On the other hand, the Minister of Culture, who has been in office in 1988, set up a framework for the country's cultural policy based on three main pillars:

  • Comprehensive vision of the substance of culture and its role in society.
  • Policies that stem from this vision which transform the philosophical framework into detailed plans.
  • Actual projects that practically translate theory policy.

Each of these pillars contains multiple elements as follows:

  • Vision
  • Cultural richness, which is a unique characteristic of Egypt.
  • The role played by Egypt in the course of history given its significant geographic location between the continents of the old world, the country's civilizing accomplishments and the people who constitute an element of strength and a positive asset if well exploited and formed culturally and epistemologically.
  • The democratic nature of culture since it is an end and a mean at the same time,
  • Link between the strategies of cultural work and the developmental objectives of society since any cultural policy will not bear fruit unless all players (intellectuals and cultural institutions) joined forces to assert belongingness to country and push the development process forward, given that the foundation of any socioeconomic development plan will be fragile unless propped by a radical cultural development action.
  • Depend on the youth since they are the true soldiers in the cultural battlefield, given that they own the present and are the only ones who can make the future, and at the same time introduce the cultural product to them.
  • Place children's culture in a paramount position in the vision that dictates the strategy of cultural work and secure a better future for children since they are the future of the country.

Out of the previous vision, a set of policies have been determined based on:

  • Renewal and innovation in cultural work: the beauty of art lies in its constant defiance on rules. Hence giving the opportunity to new ideas and adopting creative cultural works is a keystone of Egypt's cultural policy.
  • Decentralization: concentration of cultural work in the capital and leaving only crumbs to other cities and villages has always been a problem in Egypt. Hence the new cultural policy focused on extending the cultural activities to all cities and villages through the cultural palaces and houses and through expanding the cultural infrastructure outside the capital (libraries and museums).
  • Innovative funding sources: funding constitutes the main obstacle to cultural work, thus innovative funding methods should be sought by cooperating with the business community and national institutions.
  • Develop the country's cultural strongholds of and establish new ones to light the country with the vividness of creativity and be first defense line against any cultural threat that threatens Egypt's youth and future.
  • Interact with the world's cultures through exchanging cultural activities, actively taking part in international events and cultural openness to the world in order to put Egypt in the position compatible with its cultural and civilizing potentials.

The strategy of cultural work has put comprehensive development its prime target given that cultural development constitutes an element of comprehensive human development; a concept being adopted by the Ministry of Culture (MOC) for over 20 year now.

As for the so-called new administrative system and decentralization promoted by MOC they are merely political propaganda sine all cultural institutions without exception suffer from bureaucratic flaccidity, established hierarchy and centralization in terms of decision making and implementation. 

Chapter published: 01-04-2016