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NGOs and global cultural citizenship

This article presents an emblematic case of how NGOs can develop international cultural relations.
© European University Institute
NGOs are increasingly recognised as key actors in cultural cooperation, both in bilateral and in multilateral frameworks, as they bring knowledge from the ground.
The expression Non Governmental Organisation is a general term that can designate large organisations, such as Oxfam or Doctors Without Borders, but also small grassroots ones. As opposed to the individual initiatives we mentioned earlier, an NGO is more structured, yet it is not under the direct authority of the state and does not aim at making a profit.
Let us look at the case of the NGO “Cambodia Living Art”, which has played an active role in developing international cultural relations. Founded in 1998 by a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide, which at the time of the massacre killed 90% of the Cambodian artists and intellectuals, the NGO aimed to preserve the memory of ancient performing arts and rituals, which risked disappearing. Along with the development of the Cambodian art scene, it evolved into a representative of the country’s art and culture and established numerous partnerships with institutions around the world to promote them. In 2013, it organised the Season of Cambodia in New York City and brought on the international stage 125 Cambodian artists, ranging from visual and performing arts to movie production, as well as traditional rituals and shadow puppetry. This project aimed to show the results that the country’s cultural scene had been able to achieve after the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s.
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© European University Institute
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