Culture as a strong message against arc of instability

In addition to political, military and humanitarian cooperation, the Netherlands is also using culture as a way to tackle the arc of instability around Europe. Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders and Minister of Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker announced this in their letter on international cultural policy for 2017-2020, which they sent to the House of Representatives today.

‘The Netherlands has a strong, innovative culture, clearly reflecting our identity and our values and standards. Culture also forms a much-needed bridge to the rest of the world. International cultural policy is therefore essential, precisely in times like these,’ said Mr Koenders.  

Strong culture sector

International exchanges are crucial for a strong culture sector that is recognised and appreciated in other countries. International cooperation and knowledge sharing – co produced films or translations of books by foreign authors – are prerequisites of a broad array of cultural events, facilities and projects. International cultural policy calls for a multi-faceted approach, in which a high-quality culture sector, a comprehensive focus on culture’s binding role and effective use of culture in modern diplomacy can play a leading role.

Sustainable partnerships

Sustainable partnerships are one of the priorities of the new policy. For the first time, Mr Koenders and Ms Bussemaker will together invest in cultural projects in seven of the countries in Europe’s neighbouring region. They are Egypt, Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Russia and Turkey. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will earmark €7 million a year from a total annual international cultural policy budget of €18 million for sustainable cooperation. ‘Cultural cooperation can make an essential contribution to a safe, just and future-proof world,’ said Mr Koenders.


Recently, Dutch artists took part in Mideast Creatives in Lebanon, where they worked with local artists to refurbish a bomb shelter. Interaction between designers, game designers, musicians and writers is leading to closer ties between Lebanon and the Netherlands.


Another example is What Design Can Do, a major international conference which will be held in Amsterdam at the end of June. Designers from the whole world will discuss ways of improving refugees’ circumstances. ‘This challenge is too great for government and civil society organisations alone. We need all the ideas we can get. Designers can think about the best way to design reception centres, and come up with smart solutions for recycling materials or creative ways of dealing with cultural integration. Their creativity and expertise could make a crucial difference,’ said Ms Bussemaker.