Tunisia/ 3. Competence, decision-making and administration  

3.2 Overall description of the system

The cultural policy implementation framework is characterized by a centralized network controlled vertically by powerful State institutions. Central tools and methods prevailed until the 1990’s as to promote the cultural development of the “Nation”. They strongly shaped existing regulatory structures and led to excessive centralization.

Although several structural changes took place during the last 10 years and the gradual openness by the State to involve non-governmental cultural actors in making cultural policy, cultural policy framework and implementation mechanisms remained very central.  The transition period government considered the decentralization and the promotion of regions in developing cultural policies through new mechanisms, like the newly created Advisory Committee to the regional delegations of Culture, as priorities for the Ministry of Culture. Though, from the perspective of local cultural governance practice, it can be observed that decisions of the regional delegations for Culture still needed prior validation from the center and that the composition of the Advisory Board of Culture is still determined by the decision of the Minister of Culture, and this advisory body is attached to the administrative structure of the regional delegation for culture.  The creation of regional Advisory Committee raised the need to review the status of the current regional cultural committees and the national cultural Committee with a tendency to dissolve them[1].

The Parliament had a political responsibility for cultural policy within its legislative powers, and was replaced in 2011, at the beginning of the democratic transition, by the National Constituent Assembly. The Government is the highest authority responsible for the general intentions of cultural policy, and the Ministry of Culture is responsible, within the framework of the general policy of the State, for the application of national choices in the field of culture and heritage preservation (Decree 1707-2005 of 6th June 2005 on the attributions of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage Preservation).

The Ministry of Culture is responsible for the development, planning and implementation of cultural policy, for decisions at the central level, in relation with all matters concerning culture sector. The current scope of intervention includes: Audiovisual arts, Visual arts, Literature, Music, Cultural Activity, Heritage, Dance, and Theater. In addition, the Ministry is responsible for literary and artistic rights (copyright and related rights) and the promotion of cultural industries, and contributes to projects for regional development plan (e.g. urban development).

The current institutional framework inherited a vertical, heavy and complex structure, composed of cultural institutions, councils, committees and reference institutions. In favor of the objective democratizing culture, previous governments have extensively increased the number of institutions and committees at national, regional and local levels in all parts of the country, resulting in duplication of training structures and confusion in the administrative process. In this perspective, the Ministry of Culture was restructured several times (Decree 1875, issued on 07/10/1996, Decree 1819, issued on 25/08/2003 and Decree 1707 issued on 06/06/2005). Despite the official support for decentralization, the system remained highly vertical. For example, decisions on the allocation of public expenditure, organizing festivals and fairs, and of licensing for professional artists, etc…stayed at the central level and within a network of specialized committees. In addition, previous governments have used a set of laws and rules to require a permit to be acquired from the Ministry of Culture in order to establish private companies in different domains of culture; these were later replaced by conditions documents.

General intentions and implementation mechanisms of cultural policy are adopted at the central level, through the Cabinet of the Minister of Culture, which consists of 13 administrative structures. The process takes place mainly through the Office of studies, planning and programming, in consultation with the Chargé(s) de mission, Heads of different directorates and offices in various areas of intervention. The Office of studies, planning and programming is also responsible for the preparation and conduct of the research, and for coordination and follow-up of programs implementation in regions and at local levels. Until 2010, the Minister of Culture determined the intentions of the cultural policy with the support of an advisory body (Supreme Council of Culture) (Decree 4103 of 11thDecember 2007). This advisory body has been suspended since 2011 and during subsequent years the Ministry of Culture entered into consultation with the various actors in the cultural sector to discuss the development of the Supreme Council of Culture within a framework for more independency and to strengthening the representation of civil society and different age categories[2] among its composition.

Various administrative organizations contribute to the preparation of Ministry’s cultural policy (see: 3.1 Organizational Structure) and proposals are submitted to the Minister-who can be assisted, upon request, by an advisory body composed of representatives from several ministries, professional actors, and representatives of artists associations - to assess and complete the program entirely , and to submit it for approval by the Ministry High Committee, headed by the Minister of Culture; the Forum of Directors may also contribute to this mechanism in terms of assessment and evaluation.

There are seven (7) Directorates (specialized departments) for implementing culture sector plans in specific cultural fields. They ensure national, regional and local implementation of regular cultural policy programs and activities with occasional direct follow-up of other specific cultural programs. Moreover, the Ministry oversees specialized institutions in various areas of culture, with the role to assist the ministry in its sector assignment. The areas of institutional intervention include literature, theater, music, arts, cinema, heritage and cultural development. The Directors of culture sector institutions are generally nominated by the Minister of culture.

Based on the principle of "Culture for all-Free culture and culture for free"[3], as inherited from the 1960s, the Ministry of Culture implements its policy through a wide network of regional delegations of culture that are responsible for transforming central plans into concrete programs and activities. In addition, there is a network of public libraries and houses of culture, at governorates and localities. The houses of culture are public places for performing cultural activities in different fields such as visual arts, cinema, music, literature, etc... There are up to 216 Houses of culture, with expectations to reach 222 Houses of culture[4]by the end of 2013. The public libraries make reading spaces and are present in all regions and localities providing reading and lending books services to all age categories (children, youth and adults). In 2012, the number of public libraries reached 385[5].

[1]"Mehdi Mabrouk opening symposium delegates of regional culture: Dissolve national cultural Committee and regional committees" Ash-shoruk Tunisian newspaper e-newsletter (10/05/2013) (www.alchourouk.com/2336/674/1/Al-Mahdi-Congrats-on-open-forum-delegates-regional culture:-solve-Committee-national-cultural-and-commissions-regionalisation.html

[2]"Meeting at the Ministry of culture about the reactivation of the Higher Council for culture" (the Tunisian electronic journal: (1/03/2013): http://www.attounissia.com.tn/details_article.php?t=64&a=83321

[3]"Cultural policy of Tunisia" RafikSaiid – UNESCO – 1970 (the link:http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0000/000011/001172fo.pdf)

[4]Statistics of the Directorate General for cultural action(the link:http://www.culture.tn/index.php/ar/2013-05-20-16-23-22)

Chapter published: 05-05-2015