Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Culture in Saudi Arabia between Centralization and Decentralization | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Janadriyah Festival Riyadh 2013

Arab communities, just like other counterparts have witnessed confusion in their view and relation with the cultural movement concerning the determination of the term’s definition, and its management between centralization and decentralization. Culture resembles beauty felt by people in their lives and which they are unable to express even if they seek to explain it in dictionaries.

In the context of history, heritage, and arts, the media in Saudi Arabia tackles the perspectives of civilization and culture, but it succeeded in neither defining the cultural depth nor highlighting this aspect in the government’s policies and strategies. The Saudi society heavily discusses culture and its people, but it can’t define them, which may be reflecting a sort of confusion in reaching a required definition of culture.

Over the history, the Saudi cultural issue passed through many stages of administrative organization including the establishment of a General Secretariat for the Supreme Council of Arts, Sciences, and Literature by the Ministry of Education in 1973; then the Youth Care has worked on launching cultural platforms along with sports clubs, establishing a number of cultural clubs, holding a number of conferences for writers, launching a number of prizes for people who excelled in efforts to promote the social culture. All these efforts have been crowned by adopting Al Janadriyah – “National Festival for heritage and culture”, then Souk Okaz near Al Taif city.

During the eighties, the Ministry of Economy and Planning also tried to enhance the level of culture in the public sector and institutions of civil society, by merging them in one entity, which led to the consolidation of culture affairs and information affairs in one ministry.

However, this procedure that was heavily lauded back then didn’t succeed in fulfilling its goals; instead, it paralyzed and obstructed the growth of the culture sector in the ministry.

This year, the government announced the establishment of the General Authority of Culture; the cultural society has greeted this step and hoped it will achieve flexibility, administrative and financial independence, freedom of creativity in cultural activities, development of movement in intellect and arts, advancement in activity of composure, translation, and publication, and the building of knowledge and humanitarian communication with other cultures.

The cultural society in the Kingdom expects the new commission to be a supervisory and organizational authority that promotes cultural affairs far from the intervention of the censure entities; it also expects the establishment of a Supreme Council of Culture supposed to be responsible for setting a cultural policy (national strategy) that benefits from experiences, and exterior and internal expertise.

Some people look at the authority from a different perspective, which is the possibility of losing the decentralization on culture. Therefore, the new authority should coordinate with all the other parties, which can provide positive contributions, because culture is a national affair that be coordinated by all the government sectors.