Improving the status of artists in Africa
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Adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 1980, the Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist acknowledges the important role artists play in society and calls upon Member States to improve the professional, social and economic status of artists and recognize their fundamental right to freedom of expression and association.
The last years have witnessed a renaissance in the implementation of the Recommendation. Notably, new regulations and laws on the status of artists have been adopted or updated in several African countries as Benin (2011), Madagascar (2011), Burkina Faso (2013), Morocco (2016), Mali (2016), Togo (2016), Côte d’Ivoire (2017) and Mauritania (2017). New laws are also in preparation in Djibouti, Gabon, Mauritius and Senegal, with the support of UNESCO or networks such as Arterial.
These legislative frameworks encompass a wide range of key issues, including social security, employment, funding and taxation, representation and association, intellectual property rights management, and education and training. While primarily seeking to professionalize the status of artists and define their economic and social working conditions, they also serve to reaffirm core principles of freedom of expression for artists.
In Senegal, which has been one of the target countries of the programme ‘Enhancing Fundamental Freedoms through the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions’ (2015–2018), funded by the Swedish Government, the design of a new law on the status of the artist comes in the aftermath of a multistakeholder policy review process that led to the submission in 2016 of Senegal’s first periodic report on the implementation of the 2005 Convention. The new law will also support the ‘Mutual Health Insurance for Cultural Actors’ mechanism, launched in 2016 to allow artists and their families to benefit from medical care at a lower cost.
With the support of UNESCO, Mauritius has also initiated in 2017 a participative process involving ministries, institutions and artists in order to design a new law to professionalize the status of artists. A Transversal Inter-Ministerial Task Force was set up to ensure cohesion and cooperation across all relevant stakeholders. The proposed law defines the professional status of artists, improves their economic and social working conditions - including through preferential treatment measures - and recognizes their role in the sustainable development of the island.
The adoption and update of legislations on the status of the artist directly contribute to implement Goal 3 of the Convention intended to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in particular to promote and protect artistic freedom. It also led to the operationalization of SDGs 16 and 17 by protecting fundamental freedoms of artists, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements (Target 16.10) and promoting effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships (Target 17.17).