News - 2015.09.02 - Cultural reform

Photo: Mystetskyi Arsenal (c) 2015

The Cultural Arsenal: a Concept for social and cultural development of Ukraine

The Cultural Arsenal project has the objective of reforming Ukraine’s humanities sphere through developing and implementing a Concept for social and cultural development of the country that focuses on realisation of cultural, educational, scientific, social, sporting and other governmental and private projects and initiatives.

The Cultural Arsenal project was initiated by Natalia Zabolotna, Director General of the Art Arsenal (Mystetskyi Arsenal). Presentation of the Concept and public debating on the draft Law of Ukraine about the State Fund for social and cultural development of Ukraine took place on 2 September 2015 at the Art Arsenal in Kyiv.

The set of proposals presented for the debate came as the result of more than two years of research by an initiative group from the Art Arsenal together with numerous experts and professionals. These preparations included a fact-finding visit to the UK by this initiative group in 2014 that was financially supported by the British Ukrainian Society.

“The Concept for social and cultural development of Ukraine and the draft Law which we presented for the debate are based on our latest research and include best practices from European countries, such as the United Kingdom and Estonia,” explained Ms Zabolotna at the presentation. “The British experience of supporting cultural and social projects by using proceeds accumulated by the UK National Lottery and its Good Causes fund was used as the prototype for this Concept.”

At the heart of this proposed reform is the idea of establishing a State Fund for social and cultural development of Ukraine that will accumulate proceeds from socially-harmful businesses such as gambling, tobacco and alcohol, and channel these proceeds to support governmental and private initiatives. These would be called ‘social responsibility contributions’.

Selection of projects to be supported by the Fund would not be administered by government officials, but by relevant expert commissions. The reform would also make it possible to attract financing from external donors, while the draft Law provides accountability mechanisms to ensure transparent use of funds.

“Anyone would be able to submit their projects to the Fund and take advantage of transparent procedures of applying, independent project selection, public hearing and accountability. Distribution of funds and project approval would be done under the public control, also through their majority representation in the Fund’s governing bodies – the Expert Board and the Supervisory Board,” explained Anton Drobovych, the principal coordinator of the Concept and draft Law development. “It is also important that the Fund would finance concrete projects bringing evident results, rather than supporting numerous institutions that are out of touch with reality and the needs of the society.”

On 10 August 2015, a start of the public debate on the Concept was announced, and the organising committee received over a hundred comments and proposals in feedback. A number of experts in the fields of cultural policy and management, economy and law, as well as artists, analysts, civil society activists, scientists, diplomats and the wider public took part in the 2 September public debate at the Art Arsenal.

Among them were Deputy Head of the President of Ukraine Administration and the draft Law co-author Dmytro Shymkiv, the Ya Gallery Art Centre founder Pavlo Gudimov, Ukrainian MP and first deputy head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on culture and spirituality Iryna Podoliak, Deputy Minister for Education and Science Oleg Derevianko, Polish Ambassador to Ukraine Henrik Litvin and others.

“The public debate that has been running for almost two months now, including the public hearing at the Art Arsenal, again proved the urgent need for establishing an alternative system of supporting social and cultural initiatives of the society,” stressed Natalia Zabolotna at the presentation. “The State Fund for social and cultural development of Ukraine has every chance to become that alternative. Over the next 10 days, we will process all the proposals we received in course of the public debate, as well as finalising a set of financial instruments required to secure sources of funding.”

A final document containing a list of revisions and additions to the draft Law of Ukraine about the State Fund for social and cultural development of Ukraine will be completed until 12 September 2015. Later, the draft Law will be reviewed by the Verkhovna Rada Committee on culture and spirituality, and by the Ministry for Finance of Ukraine, before it being submitted to the National Reform Council. The final version of the draft Law will be referred to the President of Ukraine for submission to Verkhovna Rada.

“This draft Law offers a practical and transparent mechanism for supporting governmental and private initiatives. Subject to it being passed by the Parliament, dozens of topical social and cultural projects may be selected already by the beginning of 2016, with a guaranteed combined annual budget of UAH 1.5 billion,” explained Anton Drobovych.

A number of organisations and individuals contributed on various stages of developing and debating the Concept and the draft Law, including the British Embassy to Ukraine, the British Council in Ukraine, the British Ukrainian Society, the Ukrainian World Congress, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Oleksandr Shlapak, Andriy Pyshnyi, Natalie Jaresko, Dmytro Shymkiv and others.