On 27 and 28 April 2021, the Porto Santo Conference, an initiative of the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, officially launched the Porto Santo Charter. The hybrid event took place in Porto Santo island, on the Madeira Archipelago. For these two days, the remote island transformed into a centre for proposals on public cultural and educational policies.
The Charter is a guiding map of principles and recommendations for applying and developing a working paradigm for cultural democracy in Europe. More specifically, the aim of the Porto Santo Charter is to outline and promote the impact of the cultural sector in strengthening democracy and democratic culture, in accordance with the Action Plan for European Democracy (European Commission, 2020).
The Charter is divided into five chapters that navigate the topics of the health of democracy and the role of culture, the democratisation of culture and cultural democracy, cultural citizenship in relation with digital technologies and education. The Charter draws more than 40 recommendations addressed to European policy makers at all levels, to cultural and educational organisations, and to European citizens calling to take responsibility for the common cultural landscape.
As recalled during the conference, the Portuguese Presidency vowed to promote recovery, cohesion and European values, to value and strengthen the European social model and to promote a Europe open to the world. The cultural sector has been considered as a determining part in the process of fulfilment of these goals. “Cultural institutions, their processes and modes of organisation, what they value and propose, impact for the democratic health of a society”,- reads the Charter.
High level panels with the participation of Portuguese ministers of Culture (Graça Fonseca) and Education (Tiago Brandão Rodrigues), the vice-president of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas, UNESCO assistant Director-General for Culture Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, were complimented with learning sessions with artists and group discussions.
The conference dived into topics of cultural democracy, cultural citizenship, institutional and ex-titutional change, digital challenges, new ways of participation, community and education. Specific workgroups on each theme also showcased initiatives on how to put cultural democracy in practice from different European countries. Culture Action Europe’s Secretary General Tere Badia co-chaired the workgroup discussion on cultural democracy, cultural citizenship and change. Other CAE members – Mapa das Ideias (the main co-organiser of the event), ECCOM, Interarts, Trans Europe Halles, Michael Culture, European Network of Cultural Centres (ENCC), just to name a few, took an active role in the conference program. The last work session looked into the next steps of the Chapter, further nuancing conditions, resources and practices necessary to achieve internal and external change in cultural and educational institutions.
The Porto Santo Charter is indebted to many authors and previous strategic documents on cultural rights and the social impact of culture. It is the result of a process of consultation, discussion and collaboration with the participation of representatives of the EU Member States, and of European Institutions, associations and networks in the cultural and educational sectors.
Culture Action Europe, together with a number of our members participated in the drafting process of the charter. The charter, as well as recordings from the Porto Santo Charter Conference, together with relevant resources related to cultural democracy will be shortly available on the Porto Santo Charter website.