The cultural emergency law: lived and practiced knowledge for citizenship, cultural diversity and cultural economy

1. Belo Horizonte and culture

Belo Horizonte is the capital of the State of Minas Gerais and has an estimated population of 2,530,701 inhabitants. Its economy is rooted in commerce, tourism, services and, more recently, by technological innovation. Culturally, the city’s diversity is reflected in its heritage, in which culture and territoriality are, in a way, synonymous.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many cultural actors struggled to maintain a livelihood for their families. As a result, federal Law 14.017/2020, known as the Aldir Blanc Cultural Emergency Law (A.B.C.), was born. This initiative sought to contribute to the cultural sector and mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, whose restrictions and suspended cultural activities harmed the cultural sector.

Federal Law 14.017/2020 financially supported the Brazilian cultural sector during the lockdowns caused by COVID-19. The A.B.C. in Schools Program, created by the Municipal Secretariat of Culture (SMC), helps bring to life the third stage of the governing structure adopted to implement the law throughout Belo Horizonte, and whose organization saw the following processes implemented: The granting of the subsidy, Accountability by the Beneficiaries and Counterpart(s). The A.B.C. in Schools program addresses the importance of the connection between culture and education. It brings issues like the possibilities of cross-cutting policies, rights, knowledge, processes, and experiences to the fore so that conversations around rights and management are transformed into practices for social, pedagogical, and economic development. Through this program the SMC creates a channel for carrying out counterparts foreseen in the law, which focus on municipal schools. schools is a programme for mediation and continued offsetting actions within municipality's school board. The objective is to identify opportunities for cultural learning and involvement through pedagogical processes.

2. Project goals and implementation

2.1. Main goal and specific objectives

The main objective of the program is to strengthen the cross-cutting action between culture and education by offering of counterpart activities under the Aldir Blanc Law to students of the municipal public education network of Belo Horizonte, carrying out coordinated cultural activities and new learning opportunities and experiences. The specific goals are:

  1. To organize the process for implementing counterpart actions of the Aldir Blanc Law
  2. To promote an environment of exchange between schools and beneficiaries, as well as the confluence of interests
  3. To help democratize access to the various cultural manifestations present in Belo Horizonte
  4. To promote dialogue and practices geared towards to the comprehensive approach to issues, diversity, and cultural education

The SMC coordinated dialogue with the beneficiaries and the municipal department of education by designing structured activities.

2.2. Project development

At the beginning of the planning process, the aim was to share information and seek out joint solutions that would overcome the challenges of implementing A.B.C. in large cities. To this end, Belo Horizonte’s Municipal Department of Culture (SMC) put together a group of cultural officers and public managers from 15 cities, with virtual meetings used for discussion, evaluation, and collaborative training on issues related to federal and municipal regulations. They also discussed the approach for implementing a registry for cultural spaces, companies, and public announcements.

The SMC created a joint local management committee, called the Monitoring Committee for the Municipal Implementation of the Aldir Blanc Law, and was established by SMC Ordinance No. 016/ 2020. This committee was composed of members of civil society, different cultural sectors, various municipal bodies, and the Federal University of Minas Gerais.

Then, a preliminary survey was conducted with the Municipal Finance Department of Belo Horizonte, which found 18,060 establishments focused on cultural activities. Of these, approximately 8,665 were identified as facilities whose purposes were already closely aligned with the potential beneficiaries outlined in the Aldir Blanc Law. After the assessment, the SMC improved the application process for applying for a monthly subsidy to be more based on the characteristics, formalization, and size of the different types of cultural organizations.

While taking into account the target audience outlined by the counterpart law, members of this group were invited to direct the cultural activities that would be carried out in municipal public schools, which came to be called the A.B.C. in Schools program.

3. Impacts

3.1. Direct impacts

The initiative successfully supported over 600 cultural organizations and spaces throughout the city, serving approximately 1,200 beneficiaries. This saw a 98% cost-effectiveness rate for the amount made available to the municipality, amounting to almost R$15.8 million, which was injected into the city’s cultural sector as emergency support.

More than 500 cultural activities are now being offered, with a combined total of 2,280 hours of opportunities for new learning and cultural experiences available to over 190,000 students throughout the municipal board of education.

3.2. Assessment

Follow-up and evaluation are carried out through regular meetings between the Municipal Departments of Culture and Education, ongoing dialogue and guidance with beneficiaries, the use of monitoring reports, information management, and social networks.

The results showed the following: 43% of the institutions and 82% of the beneficiaries joined; there were 12 planning meetings that included the participation of 443 beneficiaries and partners; there was an average attendance of 11% from all students across the 09 administrative regions of Belo Horizonte.

By offering a diverse array of cultural activities, sparking dialogue between schools and beneficiaries, and broadening people's understanding of time and space, the programme has helped forge bonds and foester a sense of belonging.

3.3. Key factors

The management of the program made it possible to grant subsidies to cultural spaces, helping to maintain the spaces during the most devastating parts of the pandemic, and reducing the possibility of their permanent closure. Another important point was the connection created with the Municipal Department of Education, establishing an intersectoral link between culture and education.

3.4. Continuity

The A.B.C. in Schools program follows the legal requirements of Law 14.017/2020, known as the Aldir Blanc Law. Its implementation process ended on June 30th, 2022. However, the program’s management structure is similar to another SMC Program, called Connecting Culture and Learning - CULTAA. The proposal is to replicate the experience of A.B.C. in Schools for other promotion mechanisms in the cultural economy. Furthermore, the goal is to expand coordinated counterpart activities both for the public education network as well as for other areas of municipal management. This will come into effect in 2023 with the Paulo Gustavo Law - LPG (Complementary Law No. 195 of July 8th, 2022) which aims to support the makers of culture in the face of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

4. Further information

Belo Horizonte was a candidate for the fifth UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award (February - June 2022). The jury for the award drew up its final report in September of 2022, and requested that the UCLG Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices implemented under Agenda 21 for culture.

Municipal Department of Culture, Belo Horizonte Municipality.

Contact: gab.smc (at)


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Belo Horizonte