4.2.8 Social cohesion and cultural policies
As social cohesion is defined as "the capacity of a society to ensure the welfare of all its members, minimising disparities and avoiding polarisation", it can be said that Serbian society in transition had neglected such issues, at the expense of the rural population, retired population, immigrants (refugees), Roma and a few other specifically weak social groups.
Social cohesion has not yet been acknowledged as part of the cultural policy issue in Serbia. It is an issue within social policy, so the specific cultural needs of migrants (refugees, etc.) are not addressed through cultural policy instruments and measures. However, within social policy, it is very rare (only as an exception through the help of foreign donors), that art and culture are used.
The main actors involved in the social cohesion programmes and projects are NGOs and international donors. In this respect, we can cite several cases of good practices carried out through the work of the Soros Foundation, CARE etc.
However, although there are no explicit cultural programmes to promote social cohesion, the Ministry of Culture has supported a few cultural activities directed at the integration of special social or marginalised groups into cultural life. One example of this kind of project is "Sky in the eyes", organised by the Cultural Front (NGO) in cooperation with the Central Prison Hospital, the Embassy of Great Britain and the Belgrade Youth Cultural Centre. The project was the organisation of an exhibition, which presented some of the patients' work from a large collection, covering the period from 1970, when occupational therapy started as part of the rehabilitation programme up to current times. The money collected by donations and the sale of patients' work was used to improve the treatment, conditions of life and finally to offer the right to normal living. The aims of the exhibition were: to bring public awareness to this important aspect of their re-integration into society; to provide a public a platform for prison arts and to encourage similar efforts in other towns in the Republic of Serbia. After two successful exhibitions ("Sky in the eyes" and "Neisključivi"), the project has been continued and broadened.
NGO ApsArt continued their interventions in prisons as well as outside in the public space in which they question access to culture at large (in 2009, an innovative performance with prisoners as actors, based on the story of Pinnochio, was performed in Cultural Centre "Vuk" in Belgrade. The project aim was to build a bridge between prisoners and the community outside of the prison, creating possibilities for them to reintegrate into society through different art forms. Since then, ApsArt has further developed its activities). There are many initiatives regarding inclusive performances. The famous Serbian actor Miki Manojlović founded a theatre for visually disabled people, where they participate in performances as actors and creators.
The most important project of the Ministry of Culture was Inclusive Culture, a project developed within the framework established by the government. In 2007, the Ministry had approved Instructions for implementation of the activities enabling the creation of conditions for the use of programmes and contents of cultural institutions by disabled people. The Instructions contain suggestions on the programme content, access to cultural institutions (inclusive design) and other relevant information.
Serbia has signed an International Convention on the rights of disabled people in December 2007. There are many examples of best practice in this domain: