Colombia’s creative industries reaching new heights with UNESCO’s 2005 Convention

''It’s very important that we continue to support this musical diversity to build Colombia’s cultural industries hand in hand with the artists, and that we can still count on financial support, so that culture remains an ambassador for Colombia,'' Catalina Garcia from the Colombian music band ‘Monsieur Perine’ said.

 ''This support - in a country that has been marked by war, where there are so many social differences, where there is so much inequality – is precious,'' she added while attending the opening of a five-month process of dialogue supported by UNESCO that will lead to the submission of its first Quadrennial Periodic Report.

Catalina Garcia is part of a core group of 60 Colombian creative professionals and cultural policy makers who are working on this periodic report, due every four years, which will highlight policies and measures implemented in line with the 2005 Convention on the Protection and the Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to support creative professionals across the country, as well as challenges encountered.

A national consultation between 9-10 November in the capital, Bogota, set the scene for tracking progress made on putting innovative cultural policies into action since Colombia became a signatory to the Convention in 2013.

Representatives from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Culture, Communication, and Commerce, local administrations, civil society organizations and experts lay the foundations for influencing future cultural policymaking to  strengthen the nation’s creative scene.

Adriana González Hassig, representative of the Ministry of Culture, pointed out that this on-going policy-dialogue process will support Colombia in implementing policies fostering freedom of artistic creation and increased participation in cultural life..

Colombia’s main creative industries centre around the arts, audiovisual production, film and music - these industries make significant contributions to the country’s economy, representing more than 1.7% of Colombia´s GDP, according to Government statistics. Recognising the importance of these industries, the country has managed to turn around film production by implementing new legislation -  increasing the number of new releases from 3 to 40 over the past 10 years.

Creativity has proved to be key in promoting social cohesion in parts of Colombia. From 1991 to 2010, homicide rates in the city of Medellin dropped by 80% due to transformative change through small-scale yet high-impact creative urban projects targeting the city’s social and economic inequalities.

In 2013, Colombia clocked US $153 million in the export of cultural goods, according to the latest UNESCO UIS statistics and is now exploring ways of increasing its reach internationally through the 2005 Convention.

As part of this first phase of consultations, key players in Bogota were given an introduction to the 2005 Convention and periodic reporting and discussed the complex and rich policy system in place intended to foster the diversity of cultural expressions.

The intense dialogue and negotiation with civil society from the start is key according to Luis Armando Soto Boutin, Executive Secretary for the National Commission for UNESCO.

Omar López and Giselle Dupin, from the Convention’s Expert Facility led the workshop in Bogota where participants raised the need to develop financing schemes adapted to the needs of cultural industries.

“In Colombia, the art and culture sectors are underfunded. The implementation of the UNESCO 2005 Convention could contribute to improve the funding mechanisms available and the recognition of the different actors involved in the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions in Colombia,” Mr Edgar Shaper, Coordinator of the Departmental Plan for Music in Caldas, Colombia.

This consultation process in Colombia was made possible due to support from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), under the project “Enhancing fundamental freedoms through the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions”.

The project’s overarching goal is to enhance human and institutional capabilities in developing countries to improve systems of governance for culture.  It aims at raising awareness of the 2005 Convention, monitoring policies and measures to promote the diversity of cultural expressions at the international level and provide support to Parties in their efforts to engage in evidence based, transparent and participatory policy making at the country level.

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