In the Asia-Pacific region, the fostering of dynamic cultural and creative sectors is increasingly recognized as a priority for sustainable development. And yet, the region is the least represented in terms of ratification of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions: Out of 44 Member States of UNESCO in the Asia-Pacific region, only 14 States had ratified the 2005 Convention when this project was launched in 2018.
The Asia-Pacific region is also marked by a lack of experts on the 2005 Convention and is underrepresented in the 2005 Convention’s Expert Facility. This may be both a cause and effect of the low rate of ratification of the Convention among the countries in Asia-Pacific, but in any case, the consequence is that few individuals are equipped to provide technical assistance support to developing countries in the region in line with UNESCO’s participatory approach involving civil society.
To answer to this problem, UNESCO, with the support of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, organised a regional workshop for mid-career cultural professionals from Asia-Pacific to address the following regional challenges: 1) low awareness of the 2005 Convention; 2) fragile advocacy networks for the ratification of the Convention; 3) lack of expertise; and 4) a low level of representation from the region in UNESCO’s Expert Facility.
The project sought to build a network of experts from the Asia-Pacific region on the 2005 Convention and highlight the importance of the cultural and creative sectors for sustainable development.
The project resulted in the creation of a network of experts in the region who can provide technical assistance and capacity building support for the promotion and the implementation of the 2005 Convention in the Asia-Pacific region.
These experts have been instrumental in raising awareness about the benefits of ratification of the 2005 Convention, in preparing Quadrennial Periodic Reports (QPR), and participating in training of trainer sessions. For example, two experts from Mongolia were involved in the preparation of the QPR of Mongolia in monitoring and in reshaping its cultural policies in implementing the 2005 Convention. Also, several Seoul workshop participants, including from Pakistan, Japan, and Korea, were invited to share their insights on regional challenges in a panel discussion on the implementation of UNESCO’s 2005 Convention in Asia-Pacific in 2019 organised by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO (KNCU).
Furthermore, four new experts (from Mongolia, China, Republic of Korea, Japan) joined the UNESCO Expert Facility for the 2019-2022 period after successfully completing the training in Seoul, bringing the number of experts from the region to 6.
To enhance expertise on the 2005 Convention in the Asia-Pacific region, a 5-day capacity development programme took place in Seoul in June 2018, with the aim of training a group of cultural specialists from Asia and the Pacific on the 2005 Convention, its guiding principles and UNESCO’s capacity-building strategy and methodology. UNESCO culture programme specialists from UNESCO Field offices based in Asia-Pacific also participated in the training.
30 participants from 17 countries (Kazakhstan, Vietnam, China, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Mongolia, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Philippines, Pakistan, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Uzbekistan, Australia) were selected to take part in the programme. The selection considered the applicants’ potential to support the ratification and implementation of the Convention at the regional and national levels. Gender and geographical balance were also considered during the selection process to ensure diversity.
During the workshops, a variety of themes were covered, including: the goals and relevance of the 2005 Convention, the 2005 Convention in the context of the Asia-Pacific region, various cultural policies, digital technology, the role of civil society in implementing the Convention, preferential treatment, gender equality and culture, and human rights and fundamental freedoms. The programme helped participants to discuss collectively why and how it can be beneficial to ratify the 2005 Convention, how cultural policies can support the implementation of the 2005 Convention, and how diverse stakeholders within a nation should play a role in implementing the Convention.