Italy/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends

In Italy, the early 2000s have seen a growing consciousness of the political and socio economic relevance of international cultural cooperation, along with a better understanding that the enhancement of the international image of Italy's rich and multi-layered culture would represent a valuable means of foreign policy and diplomacy.Such enhanced consciousness has been finally more strictly formalised with the signature, in July 2008, of a Memorandum of Agreement between the two ministries traditionally entrusted with the responsibility for international cultural cooperation: the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MAE) – now the Ministry for Cultural Activities and International Cooperation (MAECI) - and the Ministry for the Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism (MiBACT). According to this Memorandum, the two ministries meet periodically at joint geographic and / or thematic working tables (art exhibitions, performing arts, libraries, book publishing, etc…are some of the themes) in order to establish common strategies for better promotion abroad of Italian culture, also by means of the MAE's network of Italian Consulates and Cultural Institutes.

That agreement aside, it should be noted that the strong boost in cultural activities abroad actually took place in an increasingly scattered institutional framework, due to the progressive fragmentation of responsibilities for international cultural cooperation within MAE itself over the past decades, when responsibilities for international cultural activities – until the 1980s strongly in the hands of the Director General for Cultural Promotion and Cooperation, although in agreement with MiBACT – have been partially redistributed among several DGs. As a matter of fact, because of two subsequent main reforms of MAE's organisation (see chapter 3.4.2), the institutional framework is constantly evolving.

Because of the plurality of institutional actors involved, no one, within the Italian state administration, has actually an organic and comprehensive view of the complex picture of the country's action as far as international cultural diplomacy is concerned. In fact, unlike in other countries (France, Sweden,…), no exhaustive monitoring or research report on all the various and multifaceted aspects of Italian cultural cooperation abroad has ever been carried out (although some sectorial reports dealing with aid to the developing countries for heritage protection, the promotion of the Italian language, etc., have seen the light).

The plurality of public actors described in the following chapter also explains why reliable information about the comprehensive government financing of international cultural cooperation is by no means available.

Chapter published: 07-07-2016