4 students sit talking outside a University in Pakistan
Protecting sites of cultural heritage is one aspect of the cultural relations plan outlined in this report ©

British Council

September 2021

A new report looks at the role of international cultural relations in advancing peace and security in so-called ‘fragile’ countries and regions. 

The report examines the linkages between culture and conflict and peace in these areas.

Commissioned by the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC), the British Council and the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa), the report has been written to increase the awareness about the connections between culture, conflict and peace drawing attention to resources such as the UK’s Integrated Review inclusion of Heritage Protection.

It also builds on reports such as the British Councils Art of Peace report and the recommendations from the EUNIC Knowledge Sharing Workshop on working in fragile contexts in 2019.

This report sets out eleven diverse examples of how cultural relations can help address fragility, peace and stability in different contexts. Analysis in the full report identifies enabling factors such as taking a people-centred and process-oriented approach.

These approaches place an emphasis on skill-development, person-to-person relations, long-term engagement and the adoption of an enabling role by national institutes for culture, who should operate as mediators, interpreters and facilitators of cultural relations at local, national, regional and/or international level.

Based on the analysis conducted, a theory of change model connecting cultural relations with the promotion of peace and stability has been proposed in the full report. This report also presents evidence of how EUNIC members and other agencies involved in cultural relations have undertaken activities that contribute to reducing fragility across different five dimensions:

  • economic fragility: cultural relations can contribute to addressing economic fragility by fostering entrepreneurship in cultural and creative areas, which in turn enhances employability and can foster the emergence of micro and small-sized enterprises; by integrating capacity-building in projects fostering heritage protection, restoration and improvement, and in broader programmes concerned with civil society strengthening; and by protecting and promoting cultural heritage as a component of sustainable tourism strategies
  • environmental fragility: cultural relations can contribute to addressing environmental fragility by supporting the inclusion of cultural actors and resources in the face of natural disasters and climate change, through funding, technical assistance and heritage preservation activities; by making cultural organisations and venues more environmentally sustainable and responsible towards the climate emergency; and by supporting creative forms of environmental awareness-raising
  • political fragility: cultural relations can contribute to addressing political fragility by supporting civil society organisations that are committed to fostering democracy and human rights, recognising the role of artists in the promotion and defence of human rights and the exploration of political issues, providing ‘safe spaces’ for the discussion of controversial topics and the exercise of freedom of artistic expression, protecting artists and cultural agents at risk, and supporting institution-building in the cultural field (e.g., public bodies and strategies concerned with heritage, the arts and culture generally, as well as their intersections with other areas of peace, stability and development)
  • security fragility: cultural relations can contribute to addressing security fragility by facilitating an interpretation of the cultural dimensions of conflicts, responding to the impact of conflicts on cultural heritage (e.g., through restoration, mapping, management, capacity-building), and strengthening prevention and restitution measures towards the illicit trafficking in cultural goods
  • societal fragility: cultural relations can contribute to addressing societal fragility by investing in cultural heritage as a community-building vector, fostering capacity-building that enhances participation in society, enabling the emergence of alternative narratives about society and history, and promoting collaboration and networking between cultural actors and with broader civil society.

The report closes with a set of recommendations to EU institutions, EU Member States, EUNIC members and other stakeholders on ways to strengthen the consideration of cultural relations in the design and implementation of policies and programmes relevant to cultural relations, peace and stability in fragile contexts.

Read the executive summary of the report

Read the full report

Ian Thomas, Head of Evidence, Arts, British Council

See also