From Jamaica to the world - tapping into the island's creative potential

“There are more than 300 reggae festivals in Europe” announced Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, to the audience on October 31 in Kingston.

Reggae music and its “King of Reggae”, Bob Marley, have been the icons of Jamaica and its culture over the past decades. In recent years, FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 has introduced the sports fans to Reggae Girlz, Jamaica's women's football team, on the map. Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce have stunned the world with their record-breaking sprints.

While these extraordinary individuals may be the most recognizable faces of the Jamaican culture, the Caribbean island has a rich and diverse cultural landscape full of potential, and the country is making effort to tap into diverse creativity and achieve greater recognition of the country's culture and identity through cultural governance.

Since the ratification of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) in 2007, Jamaican Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport has led the implementation of this global legal instrument on contemporary culture and creativity. The Convention provides a framework for the management and administration of culture based on the understanding of culture and creativity as a driver and enabler of sustainable social and economic development.

Article 16 of the Convention advocates for "preferential treatment" of cultural goods and services and prompts Parties to facilitate the mobility of artists, particularly from the Global South. Cultural trade agreements between developed and developing countries is an effective tool to implement this Article: the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed between the European Union and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) in 2008 is a leading example. With the support of UNESCO 2005 Convention’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), Jamaica's National Policy on Culture and Creative Economy (2017-2027) is also being revised.

In 2019, UNESCO organized series of events in Kingston, Jamaica: a national multi-stakeholder consultation was held on 31 October, followed by a national training workshop on the 2005 Convention from 6 to 8 November.

The opening ceremony of the multi-stakeholder consultation on 31 October took place at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, with presentations and remarks by Mrs Katherine Grigsby, Director of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, Mrs Olivia Grange, Minister for Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Mr Everton Hannan, Secretary General of the Jamaican National Commission for UNESCO, and Mr Peter Goldson, Honorary Consul of Sweden in Jamaica. The multi-stakeholder consultation discussed issues such as media diversity, digital technology, mobility of artists and gender equality in the cultural and creative sectors.

The three-day workshop in November was organized by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the UNESCO Caribbean Office in Kingsto with the funding of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency for Development (Sida), and led by Avril Joffe, a member of the UNESCO Expert Facility. The training welcomed government representatives from cultural fields as well as actors from Jamaica's creative and cultural sector including fashion, broadcasting, film, literature, academia and the Rastafari community.

To many participants, the in-depth look into Jamaica’s cultural management system and initiatives were a revelation. “There has been little transparency in the cultural sector and its governance, including available financial support. In the last three days, I learned about many new things that are happening in our creative sector and within the governmental system that I did not know about,” said one participant representing the creative community.

The training’s focus was to improve Jamaican cultural professionals’ understanding of the 2005 Convention and its benefits for the island’s creative and cultural industries (CCI). The participants also learned how to fill out quadrennial periodic report (QPR), a mandatory report on the state of CCI and cultural policies submitted every four years by the Parties to the 2005 Convention. Upon learning about the QPRs, the participant reflected “The quadrennial periodic report will help us get a better overview of Jamaica’s creative sector as well as to present ourselves to Jamaica and the world.” The importance of cultural policy in achieving the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, in particular gender equality (Goal 5), decent work and economic growth (Goal 8) and reducing inequalities (Goal 10) were highlighted throughout the sessions.


The activities in Kingston are part of the project “Reshaping Cultural Policies for the Promotion of Fundamental Freedoms and the Diversity of Cultural Expressions”, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The project, which includes 16 beneficiary countries including Jamaica, aims to strengthen the human and institutional capacities of governmental and civil society actors in order to monitor and report on policies and measures that protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions.