Lebanon/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.3 European / international actors and programmes

The cultural policies of all foreign agencies in Lebanon agree on the importance of supporting culture, development, projects, sponsoring all types of conferences and festivals, foster young talents in the fields of cinema, theatre and writing and introduce their countries to the public through various activities, particularly language teaching.

The key activities of foreign cultural agencies in Lebanon are as follows:

French Institute

This center is assigned to conduct linguistic, cultural and artistic activities, promote the main contemporary French creative trends and act as France's voice in international intellectual dialogue. This Beirut French Cultural Center is equipped with a theatre and exhibition hall and it offers a number in services, such as language teaching and a library and is a vital tool for partnership and cooperation. The French cultural network in Lebanon has four main centers in Tripoli, Sidon, Deir Al Qamar and Zahle and four subcenters Nabatieh, Jounieh and Baalbaak. The French Institute receives a grant from the French Institute in Paris in the December of each year. This grant is decreasing each year as shown in the following: the grant amount was €260,000 in 2011, €210,000 in 2013, and will be between €200,000 and  €190,000 in 2014.

The insufficiency of the grant caused the Institute to submit requests to the French Institute in Paris for a special grant particularly designed for projects that need greater funding. There are also the sponsorships that the Institute seeks to acquire from private companies and institutions in order to establish exhibitions, for example, and also for grand festivals and activities like the Francophone Festival and music concerts.

The French Institute deals with different government institutions in Lebanon in many occasions, for example, a friendship agreement was signed between various Lebanese and French cities. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the friendship agreement between the Municipality of Beirut and different French cities, the Institute – with cooperation of the Municipality of Beirut – held a music concert. The Institute receives additional funding called "The Initial Funding Support" used to promote the Francophone in Lebanon with Lebanese partners from public sector such as schools, Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, among many others. This funding comes directly from the French Foreign Ministry whereby a certain amount of money – approximately €50,000-€60,000 is dedicated for culture. The cultural department in the French Institute provides financial support for some Lebanese independent art institutions, and making artistic partnerships between Lebanon and France for example: the exchange agreement formerly signed between the conservatory in Beirut and its counterpart in Lyonnais, etc...

American Cultural Center

Ppened in 2004, the programs of this center are now part of the National Public Library in Baaqline in the Shouf District, Public Library in Zahle Municipality, Municipal Building in Rashaya (Beqaa) and Kamel Yusef Cultural Center in Nabatieh (southern Lebanon) and that is in cooperation with Information and Cultural Affairs Section at the US Embassy in Beirut. Response remains subject to the popularity of these libraries and the number of visitors, since they are open for the general public without conditions (students, school and university teachers, experts and local people). These libraries are characterized by being spacious areas rich in information about all aspects of America's social, cultural, educational, economic and political daily life. The communication method is very simple, scientific, easygoing and democratic whereas personal initiative is the main element to enrich the "American corners" experiment. In this sense, lectures were delivered in a number of these libraries about the subject of study in the US and university scholarships. The desire to know more about this new world was expressed by many students who wish to explore the secrets of studying in American universities, inquire about methods of application and probe for the "road map" toward scientific knowledge from its broadest gate. The response was prompt from the people in charge of American Corners Program.

Russian Cultural Center

This center in Beirut seeks to deliver the Russian language and boost the cultural relations between Russia and Lebanon. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, this center awarded many scholarships to Lebanese students but after the creation of the Russian Federation the number of scholarships fell to only 35 last year. The center also offers free counseling for students who wish to study in Russian private universities.

YWCA Beirut

The center was opened in 2008 at the Saint Joseph University for Jesuit Fathers following the exchange of a number visits between president of the center Professor Khalil Karam and Kio University professor I. Okada. The university began teaching the Japanese language in 2005 at its language and translation institute and the center is currently offers teaching language in four level, and also offers classical karate courses. The center seeks to help students wishing to complete their higher education in Japan and its language teaching section welcomes all people who wish to learn Japanese out of their affection with the culture of this country.

Confucius Institute

In 10 October 2006 the document that entitles Saint Joseph University to lay down the foundation of the first Confucius Institute in the Middle East was signed. According to this agreement, the Shenyang University will dispatch the best professors in the field of language teaching and culture and will open the door for cultural exchange in many fields. The goal is to develop the economic and cultural ties between China and Lebanon and this institute is not only meant to be the link between Saint Joseph University and Shenyang University for the purpose of cultural cooperation and the exchange of expertise but also to boost the relations between the two countries.

Other cultural centers active in Lebanon


Instituto Cervantes: The friendship between the two countries goes back a long time ago as Lebanon was the first Arab country to sign a partnership agreement with Spain in 1942. The Institute aims to spread Spanish language and culture through exhibitions, music concerts, performance arts, literature, history and science, with a special emphasis – in Lebanon – on music concerts and performance arts. It`s noteworthy that the "Instituto Cervantes" is directly linked to the Spanish Embassy and funded by the Spanish Foreign Ministry. The proceeds of language lessons from all Spanish cultural centers around the world go to the central Spanish culture center in Madrid to be re-distributed to those centers. "Instituto Cervantes" in Beirut is not a priority due to its budget compared to those in Moscow, Tokyo and Morocco. The budget allocated to Lebanon continues to drop as the following: €70,000 in 2011, €22,000 in 2012, €14,000 in 2013, and definitely less in 2014. For this particular reason, "Instituto Cervantes" relies on cooperation with Lebanese partners in order to establish events, like cooperating with Dar al Mussawir (Photographer`s House), Metropolis Cinema and Reading Days Festival. "Cervantes"` most important contribution is carried out through Beirut International Platform of Dance. For such large-scale, dance-centered events, "Instituto Cervantes" receives a grant from the General Directorate for Promoting Dance Arts, and has two other branches in al Kaslik and Tripoli. On the other hand, the agreements made between Lebanese and Spanish universities are of paramount importance in fortifying mutual relations between the two countries. On its part, the Embassy also provides some financial support for cultural activities like the €10,000 financial assistance provided in 2013. Such contributions are still modest.  


British Council

The British Council is a non-profit organization whose role focuses on specific points like promoting English Language through English Language Learning Centers, education through joint work programs at the level of schools and universities, community development in regard of social development and the different forms of art through seeking the development of young talents in the field of cultural policies. The British Council managed to secure its full budget through three programs. 1) the grant provided by the British Government which covers one third of the total budget. 2) substantial contracts for projects carried out by the Council on behalf of various European institutions and others around the world, knowing that the profits of the contracts are 10% of the cost of project implemented. 3) gained by the English Language Learning Center. It should be noted here that after the economic crisis in Britain, the Cultural Council resorted to – as a practical procedure – to establish partnerships in order to implement its mega projects. Culture is no longer a priority for the current British Government as the Council`s budget has been reduced. The estimated annual rate of the regional grant is £1,200,000 for arts, in addition to £600,000 as revenues of implemented projects, and so £1,800,000 in total, of which £100,000 only are allocated to Lebanon for art-designed program. Various programs to support cultural policies only with independent entities have been specified within the agenda of the British Council. Unless requested for assistance directly by governments, the Council provides support through implementing programs for development of policies or counseling. The Council also organizes an annual program for young cultural leaders worldwide in order to support them develop their skills and expertise and be best directed for the success of their cultural projects. Five Lebanese cultural leaders had the opportunity to join this year program supported by Ford Foundation.

Italian Cultural Center

Cultural Counsel of Iran

A Lebanese branch for the network of national European institutes was established in 2011: this network includes the French Institute, Goethe Institute, British Council, Cervantes Institute, Italian cultural center and the Romanian cultural institute. The Network aims to encourage partnerships between European cultural centers and stimulate cultural pluralism.

Cultural centers enriches the cultural life in Lebanon, it offers an opportunity to identify in a concrete way the multiple cultures of each country through its center. At the same time it provide a benefit for artists in different fields through the opportunities provided by these centers, whether for young artists to display their products, whether via fixed or financial support through the provision of rooms for example, or for those who wish to acquire knowledge or languages, provided in an efficient way in these centers. Theses language courses can open new perspectives, including educational trips. Some of these cultural centers have did not stop their activities during the worst days of the civil war in Lebanon, and all returned to prosper in the stabilization phase.

Chapter published: 07-04-2016