Culture facilitates social inclusion, freedom of expression, identity-building and civil empowerment, while strengthening economic growth and helping to foster political participation and ownership. The European Union provides support to cultural diversity in developing countries. It promotes culture as making an essential contribution to human rights, key elements of good governance and inclusive and sustainable growth.

Culture is an important sector of social and human development. It contributes to identity-building and self-esteem, fosters economic growth and social cohesion, and helps to promote political participation and ownership. It is shaped by specific values, traditions and behavioural patterns that need to be considered in all sectors of development when working with partner countries.

Culture has an important place in the EU’s development cooperation. The EU seeks to:

  • take local and regional cultural specificities into account when designing and implementing development cooperation programmes and projects (with particular attention given to targeting cultural aspects under specific sector programmes to accompany partners for a smooth evolution wherever certain traditions and behaviours are damaging and jeopardise attempts to reduce inequalities and poverty);
  • encourage its partners to include culture in their own poverty reduction strategies and national development plans;
  • promote the conservation, dissemination and promotion of cultural diversity at local and national level;
  • stimulate the access of local people to their own culture and to income-generating activities based on the dissemination of culture and traditional heritage;
  • promote intercultural dialogue at all levels as well as between developing countries;
  • support the establishment of networks for exchanges of expertise and good practice, as well as training and professionalisation of the sector.

The Cultural Diversity Convention adopted by UNESCO, the European Consensus on Development and the European Commission’s Communication on a European agenda for culture in a globalising world all bear witness to the growing recognition that culture is vitally important for human wellbeing.

In the context of its development cooperation, the EU focuses on supporting and promoting the culture of beneficiary countries rather than its own. It notably encourages a wide variety of activities in the EU’s southern and eastern neighbourhood as well as in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Further assistance is provided through the Africa-EU Partnership. In addition to these main strands of activity, the EU backs a number of bilateral projects and other initiatives.

EU development aid supports a wide range of activities promoting culture and traditional heritage. The EU’s objectives in this area are to encourage cultural diversity, stimulate intercultural dialogue, facilitate people's access to culture and widen the scope to place cultural artefacts on markets abroad.

For the period 2007-13, the EU’s development action in this field is mainly financed through two types of instruments:

  • Geographical instruments – i.e. instruments that back activities in specific parts of the world – fund projects in countries and regions that have prioritised and requested such assistance as part of their cooperation strategies (Country Strategy Papers and Regional Strategy Papers). These instruments include the European Development Fund (in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries), the Development Cooperation Instrument (in Asia, Latin America and South Africa) and the European Neighbourhood & Partnership Instrument (in the neighbouring regions of the EU).
  • A thematic programme – i.e. a funding mechanism dedicated to a specific topic rather than a particular region – complements the activities undertaken through the geographical instruments. This programme, named ‘Investing in people’, funds initiatives in various areas of development cooperation. It notably supports activities focusing on the development of policies that allow better access to and preservation of local culture. Other priorities include offering opportunities for cultural exchange and strengthening contacts between cultural actors. Such interaction is supported as a way of allowing multicultural and multiethnic dialogue aimed at the improvement of mutual understanding and respect, and at the preservation of local and indigenous culture and values.

A number of programmes specifically support culture in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. Over a third of the EU's financial support to culture in ACP countries comes from two intra-ACP programmes. Both are implemented by the ACP Secretariat with the technical assistance of two management units. Namely, they are:

  • the EU-ACP support programme for the cinema and audiovisual sectors, which co-finances the production and dissemination of audiovisual works from ACP countries and the training of audiovisual professionals;
  • the EU-ACP support programme for cultural industries, which involves the creation of an ACP cultural observatory, a pilot project implemented by UN agencies in five ACP countries and a grant scheme open to all ACP countries.

Other sources of support include:

  • an EU-ACP cultural fund that will be set up to facilitate the distribution of cultural works throughout the ACP region and access to the EU market;
  • in some ACP countries, support for micro-projects run by associations, communities or private individuals;
  • funding for various national and regional projects dedicated to preserving, displaying and marketing cultural heritage, producing and disseminating works of art, or promoting artistic events and providing training;
  • other aid modalities, which notably include budget support.



Selected results achieved with EU support through projects and programmes completed between mid-2014 and mid-2015



  • 4 countries - Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Niger and Vietnam - have developed and implemented policies on the cultural sector and creative and cultural industries with the aim of improved culture governance.
  • The 2005 Convention on protection and promotion of cultural expressions has been implemented with the aim of improving culture governance promotion.

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