Cultural prospectives: challenges of the digital era & a stronger civil society

Adoption of new operational guidelines on the implementation of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in the digital era marked the 6th Conference of Parties to the 2005 Convention. The Conference also welcomed some 30 organisations who gathered for their first formal Civil Society Forum to enrich dialogue on the future of cultural policy.

The 6th Conference of Parties to the 2005 Convention was held at UNESCO Headquarters from 12 to 15 June 2017, under the chairmanship of HE Asaduzzaman Noor, Minister of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh.

On 15 June, the 145 Parties approved new Operational Guidelines on the Implementation of the Convention in the Digital Environment - the fruit of five years of research and debate with experts, governments and civil society.

The guiding principles look at policy responses to emerging challenges in the digital environment, such as supporting new forms of creativity, providing opportunities for artistic work to be distributed, ensuring access to diverse cultural expressions. They also call, in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for the integration of culture into digital plans and strategies, and a larger monitoring of evolutions in the digital world with civil society (Read here News)

UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova welcomed this development saying, “These guidelines are a way of ensuring that the digital environment can fulfil all its promises as a motor for an inclusive and creative society.”

Bolstering civil society

The guidelines were adopted after civil society groups identified fair remuneration of artists in the digital environment as one of the most pressing issues to be addressed. This was the theme of a side event jointly organised on 12 June between UNESCO and the Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), which represents 4 million artists worldwide, during which several artists called for greater guidance at an international level. UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Deeyah Khan and French composer Jean-Michel Jarre, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and President of CISAC, described the urgency of designing a new business model to ensure fair pay for artists.

Earlier in the day, whilst opening the first formal Civil Society Forum linked to the Convention, Giacomo Mazzone, Head of Institutional and Members Relations for the European Broadcasting Union  had described the event at ‘historic’ saying “it is the beginning of the process of civil society structuring its contribution in a better way”.  This  was the first opportunity for organisations from all cultural and media professional sectors to discuss how best to coordinate their action.

In the spirit of offering diverse cultural content, UNESCO also hosted the first European screening of “Reseba: The Dark Wind”, winner of the 2016 UNESCO-sponsored Cultural Diversity Award at the 11th Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA). Chairman of APSA, Michael Hawkins said “it is an incredibly powerful and unforgettable experience to see such talented filmmakers honoured in such a renowned forum as UNESCO. Many filmmakers, including [Reseba Director] Hussein Hassan, face incredible challenges in making their films coming from what are currently the most troubled parts of our world.”

Gaining momentum

The main task of delegates to the Conference was to discuss progress made in the past two years and set future activities.

Numerous countries, including those who recently benefited from technical assistance on participatory policy monitoring within the framework of the Swedish funded project “Enhancing fundamental freedoms through the diversity of cultural expressions”, shared their experiences in building policy platforms between governments and civil society, leading up to the submission of their first Quadrennial Periodic Report (QPR). Representatives from Colombia and Ethiopia shared their experiences during a special panel, whilst members of the Expert Facility gave their perspective on the process and how the QPRs feed into the Global Report on the implementation and impact of the 2005 Convention.

During a special panel organized on 15 June, beneficiaries from the International Fund for Cultural Diversity also spoke of the positive outcome of their projects in order to strengthen the national cultural industries in developing countries. Representatives from Haiti, Morocco and Burkina Faso spoke of the long-term benefits brought about by the mapping their culture sector and decentralising policy-making.

To the next milestone

Overall, the Parties applauded progress made on strengthening the bedrock of the Secretariat’s work: implementing the 2005 Convention’s global capacity development strategy; continuing policy monitoring activities to assess the impact of the Convention through the collection and analysis of data, information and good practices, particularly through support to the completion of quadrennial periodic reports; mobilizing funds for the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), which has already benefited 90 projects from 51 developing countries since 2010.

Parties also requested a strengthening of work related to the 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, as well as pursuing synergies with the Communication and Information Sector on freedom of expression.

In addition, the Intergovernmental Committee was tasked with reviewing the operational guidelines relating to information-sharing and transparency on the quadrennial periodic reports, as well as exploring actions to reinforce the role of culture in the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to pursue its work on preferential treatment.