Lebanon/ 2. General objectives and principles of cultural policy  

2.1 Main features of the current cultural policy model

Each one of Lebanon communities has its own history and struggle to share in Lebanon’s history. They often attribute the formation of Lebanon to themselves (Ahmad Beidoun: Struggle on Lebanon History, p.167). Hence, claiming that there is one single culture in this country contradicts the demographic, religious, sectarian, ideological, economic and political reality. However, these communities became free from old-fashioned traditions and feudal customs when every sect came to free choices and when individual rights and opinion were secured. This took place about a century ago, and the Christian culture, with its Maronite position and the basic dynamisms of Lebanese contemporary culture, is still the most comprehensive among all other cultures. Among other things, this culture created the class dynamism, missionaries democracy and intensive and multi-lingual learning (Ibid).

This means that when we speak about Cultural Policy in Lebanon we must refer to this sectarian, yet open-minded cultural context. After all, each of Lebanon’s seventeen sects has its own roots in a special foreign culture. (Armenian, Syrian, Byzantine, Arabic, French and English).

This is what the ministry should correct because the definition says: “the creation of the Ministry of Culture aims for establishing a single competent authority capable of nurturing the cultural life in the scientific, research and creative sides and gathering different administrations concerned in culture after they were dispersed between official bodies without any connection or link”. On the ground, some components and activities of the cultural policy in Lebanon are linked to the Ministry of Culture while others are linked to other authorities we will discuss later while it is supposed to be entirely linked with MoC. This can be caused by the fact that the ministry is still setting up its cultural structure. 

Cultural Policy in Lebanon doesn’t have clear plans and strategies for many reasons. First, the MoC strategy is not obvious. Second, the low budget allotted for cultural activities. Third, allowing the civil society organizations to initiate cultural activities not related to the Ministry of Culture or the municipalities, except those recently contributing to activating cultural activities in Lebanon.

The MoC budget is hardly two million dollars, and a major part of it is devoted to the payroll. In this context, Roger Assaf, Director of Dawwar El Shams Center says: "we know very well that the state budget is already low, and this is the case in many foreign organizations as well. However, the real defect lies in spending it in non-productive activities. I'm not asking the ministry for money, but instead of allocating it on allotment and sectarian basis, it's possible to use it for cultural activities such as buying seats, financing the plays which represent Lebanon abroad and some other activities") Assafir, Mayseh Awad)

The MoC has organized distinct cultural activities but they seem to be occasional. In the time of Minister Ghassan Salameh, the Francophone summit was held in Lebanon in 2001 with the participation of one third of the world countries. In 2009, Beirut was nominated as "Capital of World Book" for the whole year. $ 8 million was allocated for this event and the Lebanese government, publishers and civil society bodies along with twenty foreign countries contributed to implement more than 160 projects (Beirut Capital of World Book, Asharq Alawsat )

The international theatre and music festivals continued in Baalbek, Beit Eddin and other Lebanese cities, beside independent cinema festivals financed by the European Union, especially the Cinema Festival.

In a similar context, Tripoli was selected Capital of Islamic Culture. However, the ceremonial festivity has been postponed with the consent of "ISESCO" due to a request submitted by the special committee responsible for preparations, owing to the difficult prevailing conditions in the country in general, and Tripoli in particular, in addition to some logistic and funding challenges regarding the ceremonial festivity.

In this context, we'll try to examine the following points enrolled under the title:


Main elements of the current cultural policy model

Cultural policies have generally developed along with the development of the culture concept, and this made them include the following elements:

Beside arts and literature, there are life styles, inheritance and beliefs. The MoC has allocated two departments in this regard: Department of Culture which includes the Cinema, Theatre and Exhibitions Sections, and the Department of Antiquities which includes the Museum, Excavations and Antique Buildings Sections.

This structure is unclear which raises the following questions: can we find such policies in the constitution? Is the Education sector responsible? What body is responsible of minorities’ culture; the state or the civil sector? What categories are targeted by MoC policies? What cultural plans does MoC have for rural areas, popular and marginalized categories and camps?

No answers available as the issued objectives are general and unspecific so the cultural policy in Lebanon can’t be understood thoroughly. This is confirmed by the fact that people responsible of decision making, financial policy instruments and finance distribution mechanisms didn’t know or identify whether it is connected with the ministry as the following items stipulate? 

MoC policy to support cultural sectors

Since its formation, MoC has assigned several items in its annual budget to support cultural activities. In 2001, a special item was added to support cinema in Lebanon and the budget has now five items aimed to support creativity and cultural development activities, as follows:

  • term about encouraging authorship and publication.
  • term about encouraging plastic arts.
  • term about supporting theatrical work.
  • term about supporting cinema production.
  • term about supporting culture bodies.

 

In Lebanon, unfortunately, no measures were taken to review or evaluate the cultural activities planned and implemented by MoC and other institutions. In spite of creating an advisory committee, including MoC employees and independent experts but no beneficiaries, for every MoC field of support, and though such committees report to the Minister of Culture, they do not issue any news about activities or anything, and do not assume any accountability procedures. They only discuss the MoC files in line with specific rules and standards in every field, and submit recommendation to the Minister who makes a decision after consulting the General Manager of Culture. Beneficiaries of financial support undertake to carry out the general and special conditions set by MoC.

This committee, headed by the minister who practices a custodian authority, didn’t issue any decisions related to activities or anything else. Moreover, no procedures were taken to punish violators or delinquents knowing that there are general provisions concerning public organizations linked to MoC in article 7 which stipulate the following:

The Minister of Culture shall practice a custodian authority over public organizations included in this law.

The principles of practicing the custodian authority over each organization shall be identified pursuant to a decree issued by the Cabinet based on the minister suggestion.

The commissioner shall represent the minister at every organization and his jurisdiction shall be identified pursuant to a decree issued by the Cabinet based on the minister suggestion.

However, we find that there was no review of the cultural policy in Lebanon despite of the presence of factors like globalization, migration and technology added to that the National Council for Scientific Research offers a new vision for the role of science, technology and innovation in 2005, but was not put in effect.


Chapter published: 07-04-2016


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