7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Culture: The forgotten lifeblood of development - a roundtable with Louis Michel, MEP, Co-Chair of ACP-EU JPA & Founder of European Development Days

Culture: The forgotten lifeblood of development - a roundtable with Louis Michel, MEP, Co-Chair of ACP-EU JPA & Founder of European Development Days

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 - 18:00 to 19:15

Key points

  • Often underestimated, culture needs instead to be at the centre of development.
  • The source of a people’s dignity, culture underpins democracy.
  • The African diaspora must be ambassadors of their culture.
  • 40 % of tourism in the world is cultural, but needs to be sustainable.


The father of European Development Days, Louis Michel insisted that culture was not a toy for pretentious elites but deserved a place in development equal to its significance to people, nations and civilisations. Recalling an artist’s statement that ‘art is an act of liberty,’ he strenuously rejected the idea that an emphasis on culture led to inward-looking nationalism.

The rich countries of Europe should hold up their end of the moral contract to support their natural allies in Africa by supporting management of globalisation in the cultural as well as the economic field, Michel said. ‘Economic growth needs to serve humanity as a whole,’ he continued. Preserving singular cultures is an imperative, and Africa, the birthplace of humanity, deserves greater recognition and ownership of it future as a continent.

Instead of the concept of aid, which reinforces the archaic donor/beneficiary relationship, more attention should be paid to cooperation and partnership, opening the way to bigger budgets for cultural support and resisting the sad trend of pillaging Africa’s cultural as well as natural resources.

Michèle Dominique Raymond, Assistant Secretary-General for Political and Humanitarian Affairs, African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and Richard Miller, Member of the Belgian Federal Parliament, echoed the former European Commissioner, while emphasising the importance of culture for democracy and economic growth.

Raymond pointed out that promises for in this field tend not to be kept and that culture’s significance should not be overlooked in debates about governance to ensure that political and economic actors offer professionals the respect they deserve. Miller also underlined how the specific nature of populations can be understood only through the expression of their artists and thinkers.

Speaking for the diaspora, Marie Chantal Uwitonze, Parliamentary Advisor to Member of European Parliament (MEP) Louis Michel, also insisted that it was time for Africans to become the main actors in their own development. Culture is a part of the natural phenomenon of migration as knowledge and customs make their way across continents. Just as African designers need to counter the perception of their fashion as old and traditional, promoting Africa music, art, and cooking will help the continent take its proper place in the global village.

Peter Debrine, Programme Specialist at UNESCO, focused on the significance of culture in tourism as a leading source of revenue for many developing countries. However he warned that heritage tourism is often mismanaged, harming fragile environments and leading to degradation of assets, which are both an irredeemable cultural loss to humanity and an economic loss to the countries concerned. Preservation needs to as much a part of who we are as our culture, he insisted.

Silvia Barbone, Founder and Director of the Foundation for European Sustainable Tourism (FEST), pursued the theme, stressing that only a clear vision for sustainable tourism can bring about actions that deliver long-term benefits. New talents and new leaders were needed on the ground so that tourism could help alleviate poverty.


What is Ouagadougou’s equivalent of the Eiffel Tower? Pointing out that the 53 countries on the African continent lacked recognition despite their size, Ola-Dele Kuku, architect and artist, gave an impassioned plea to halt generalisations: ‘Stop saying I’m African, say I’m Nigerian!’

    Doreen Walsweer-Sore
    Lecturer, International School of Protocol and Diplomacy
    Richard Miller
    Member of the Belgian Parliament
    Peter Debrine
    Senior Project Officer, Sustainable Tourism, United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO)
    Ola-Dele Kuku
    Architect / Artist / Lecturer
    Michèle Dominique Raymond
    Former Under Secretary-General
    African-Caribbean-Pacific Group
    Silvia Barbone
    Foundation for European Sustainable Tourism