Walking the paths of creativity in Morocco through UNESCO’s 2005 Convention
From the Matisse Gallery in Marrakech to major music celebrations such as the World Sacred Music Festival and Visa for Music, Morocco’s rich creative scene has the potential to grow and increase its international reach.
Recognising this opening, the 2005 Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions has already been supporting the creative industries through the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD). In 2015/16, the Fund is co-financing a project by the local NGO Racines, to develop effective policies for the promotion of the arts and culture sector in Morocco.
This includes expanding online art mapping (www.artsmap.ma), investigating the most popular cultural and creative practices in the country to influence new policies, building on the outcomes of first ‘General State of Culture’ (Etats Généraux de la Culture) conference held in November 2014 and preparing its second edition in November 2016.
More recently, UNESCO has been working directly with Morocco’s Ministry of Culture to reinforce preparation of its periodic report tracking implementation of the 2005 Convention which was ratified by Morocco in 2013.
Launched on February, 29th this year by the Minister of Culture, M. Mohammed Amine Sbihi, Sweden’s Ambassador to Morocco, H.E. Erika Ferrer, and the UNESCO Representative in Rabat, Michael Millward this major project aims to strengthen skills and knowledge on the Convention to enhance cultural policy-making. A consultation session in Rabat on 11 May and a three-day workshop in the artistic city of Assilah on May 13-15 gave artists, musicians, theatre professionals and key players in civil society, as well as leading creative institutions, a chance to question future policy plans. The Government was widely represented in the project through the ministries of culture, trade, higher education and communication among others, showing a broad commitment in fostering creativity for development planning for the country.
“Dialogue and cooperation between the Ministry of Culture, other ministries and civil society are very important to make Morocco’s periodic report a true mirror of current activities on the diversity of cultural expressions,” said Fatima Ait Mhand, Head of Service, International Cooperation, Ministry of Culture. "With this training and knowledge on cultural policies and exercises, I understand how my work can be improved to benefit me more," Othman Nejmeddine, one of the Directors of the Visa for Music Festival said at the workshop.
The export of Moroccan cultural goods was worth US $ 34 million in 2013 and culture experts foresee the international appetite for Moroccan music and visual arts continuing to grow in line with its national strategy to support economic and human development across the country.
UNESCO Representative, Michael Millward, noted that successful and long term expansion of the creative industries would require tight collaboration between decision makers in Government and Civil Society representing creative professionals. International experts member of UNESCO’s Expert Facility , Jordi Baltà Portolés and Christine M. Merkel, paved the way for culture experts and artists to work together on strengthening their reporting on the implementation of the 2005 Convention.
‘’We have seen steps being taken to broaden the access and the reach of a diversity of cultural expressions in Morocco through the adoption of different languages for creative professions in the country,’’ Jordi Baltà Portolés said.
‘’The 2005 Convention also serves to raise awareness of the importance of culture in sustainable development and how many actors can contribute to this,’’ he added.
With the value of the Moroccan music market estimated at US$ 54 million which represent 0.16% of the country’s GDP, (Creative Industries of Morocco Report), experts at the workshop agreed that Morocco can further profit from the creative industries with a better flow of its cultural goods and services - hitting international markets far and wide. This would not only benefit the local economies in Morocco but also enable creative professionals to spur development in communities across a country where some 6.3 million people live in poverty. Participants at the workshop hailed the country’s internationally acclaimed Visa for Music Festival and Fair as an important vehicle for social and economic change. The festival has now developed into a hub for dialogue between key players on improving cultural policy with seminars and conferences raising the importance of the creative industries through the voice of artists. The next edition will take place in November 2016.
‘’Together, we can develop a more balanced flow of cultural goods, as well as new platforms for meetings and exchanges, which will be the pillars of our creative diversity for the future,’’ said Brahim El Mazned, Director of the Visa for Music Festival, which promotes African and Middle Eastern artists.
The Ministry of Culture’s direct and innovative support for publishers, booksellers and support for translation and participation in international book fairs were highlighted as some of the achievements to be included in the country’s first periodic report, due in 2017.
According to figures from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the turnover in the publishing and printing industry reached $2.2 billion dirhams (approx. US$ 253 million) in 2002 to 3.054 billion dirhams in 2007 (US $312 million ). It’s estimated that this sector contributed to 1.8% of the country's industrial employment in 2002. (Creative Industries of Morocco Report).
Following suit is the fast rising audio visual sector where the revenues per company in 2005 is between 200 thousand and US$ 5 million, for a total estimated at between US $20 and 30 million per year (Audiovisual Sector Enterprises Association (ASESA) study - Creative Industries of Morocco)
The latest discussions on the 2005 Convention are the first of a series of workshops made possible due to funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency for Development (SIDA). The project aims is to better-equip Moroccan culture experts, government representatives, and artists with the knowledge on creating cultural policies which will have a long lasting impact on the development of the country. “This Convention on the diversity of cultural expressions is a hidden treasure. It asks to build cooperation across sectors and stakeholders to give the dynamic sector a lasting boost,’’ International Expert Christine M. Merkel said.
‘’The first periodic report is a great opportunity to connect actors who hadn’t talked to each other before. The Assilah workshop encouraged the participants to put their activities in the bigger perspectives of policy making and shaping,” she added.
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