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Discussion on Committee Operations


Discussion on Southeast Asia Advisory Committee Operations

Moderator: Consuelo "Nikko” V. ZAPATA

  • Functions of the Committee and missing areas
  • Sustaining value created through substantive arts and cultural exchange
  • Setting up work groups

The first afternoon session consisted of a discussion of Southeast Asia Advisory Committee operations. The committee discussed "the government's role and its engagement in cultural exchanges” and agreed unanimously that the government should not lead cultural exchanges with a top-down approach but should rather play a facilitative role and use a "decentralized” bottom-up approach. The key to promoting cultural exchange is to emphasize interaction among individuals, groups, and communities, because this is where culture comes from and exists.

Philippe Peycam pointed out that Taiwan's liberal democratic society and unique political status in the international community put it in a very special position in Southeast Asia, which means that Taiwan can make invaluable contributions to the region. In a democratic society like Taiwan, perceptions of "state” and "culture” may differ from one person to another; Taiwan, therefore, should think beyond the traditional concepts of "state” and "nation status” in order to map out a more flexible and dynamic strategy to engage Southeast Asia.

Nobuo Takamori suggested that Taiwan should play to its strength: "less stringent censorship”. For instance, a Cambodian artist published a book in Taiwan before Cambodia because of Taiwan's more open press. In addition, in order to facilitate further exchanges and understanding between Taiwan and Southeast Asia, Taiwan should set up an interactive platform for ethnic Chinese groups in Southeast Asia and encourage the publication of texts on Chinese-Southeast Asian art and culture, and involve the preservation of Hokkien and Hakka cultural heritages, such as folks stories, traditional music and theater…ex.

After building collaborative networks at individual and community levels, the government could set up funding programs and provide assistance. At the same time, however, the government should limit itself to formulating a broad policy framework and then leave the details and execution to the private sector. The government could also act as an information exchange platform to provide NGOs engaged in art and cultural exchanges with information in order to help them to forge ties with suitable partners for cross-border collaboration. This is the model that has been adopted by the Singaporean government.

The Ministry of Culture has started to place greater emphasis on diversity and has identified diversity as an important cultural asset for Taiwanese society. The committee believes that this is the first step towards facilitating grassroots people-to-people exchanges; they commended the government for making the right decision and leading by example. The government should now think about how to promote international cultural exchanges among NGOs while at the same time striving to create a free environment where art and cultural groups who receive government grants do not thereby have to sacrifice their independence.

Long-term Exchange Projects and Collaboration


1. Major SEA arts festival

  • Confirm objectives of SEA festival partnerships
  • Exchange, engage, collaborate
  • Partnership funding
  • Set up a festival committee and identify development milestones
  • Mobilize for the upcoming festival


In this session, the committee discussed whether Taiwan should organize a major Southeast Asian arts festival and concluded that the time has not yet come for Taiwan to think about hosting such large-scale events. On one hand, committee members were unsure whether Taiwan is ready to embrace Southeast Asia; on the other hand, arts festivals and events organized for Southeast Asian migrants by the government in the past failed to attract a large turnout.

The committee determined that major Southeast Asian arts festivals should have the following two objectives:

  • To facilitate people-to-people exchanges. Past experience of government agencies hosting arts festivals and events for Southeast Asian migrants showed that they were not able to promote people-to-people exchanges. Therefore, authorities should re-strategize, striving to bring art closer to communities and the general public, to change mindsets and give rise to new opportunities for art and further exchanges.

  • To help Southeast Asian migrants gain recognition in Taiwan. Instead of organizing large-scale festivals, for the time being the government should adopt a bottom-up approach to create an inclusive society that encourages openness and tolerance from the general public and the employers of such migrants. Cultural workers should also be mobilized to initiate projects and work with the media to achieve this end.

The committee put forward the following suggestions:

  • The government should lay down general guidelines for organizing large-scale festivals on the basis of current states of development, rather than imposing detailed policies. In addition, the guidelines should be able to endure changes brought by the new administration taking office later this year.

  • Government agencies should take a back seat and, in line with current trends, set up a general framework that promotes people-to-people exchanges at the grassroots level.

  • Large-scale festivals and events should focus on "co-production” or other themes (for instance, identity). By using different themes, festivals and events can make bridges and form networks between Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries. By disseminating information through these networks, these networks can create more connectivity.

  • Instead of organizing large-scale festivals, the government can engage people in small events targeting local communities before reaching out to wider society. Target communities should of course include Southeast Asian migrants.

  • When organizing such events, government agencies should not focus mainly on economic outcomes, because what matters is the events themselves and the process.