Parties to the 2005 Convention address the impact of COVID-19 on cultural and creative industries and the role of the creative economy in overcoming the crisis

Under the chairmanship of His Excellency Mr. Park Yang-woo, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, the 14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee was held online from 1 to 5 February 2021, in line with the public health measures put in place around the world to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, praised the “inclusive and sustainable” format of this first online Committee. In his opening remarks, he noted that “despite the constraints, this session allows non-governmental organizations from around the world to participate as observers, free of charge. These new working methods offer a promising opportunity to explore different possibilities for multilateral collaboration and dialogue.”

The Committee welcomed the proposal to establish an assistance programme for the implementation of the Convention in the digital environment and strongly encouraged Parties to support it through voluntary contributions. Committee Members shared innovative practices implemented to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions online. Many noted the new challenges that technologies and the digital environment pose to this diversity, challenges that have been aggravated by the acceleration in the platformization and digitization of culture triggered by the pandemic. Parties were also invited to share information on the progress made and challenges encountered in the elaboration and/or implementation of their national roadmap for the implementation of the Convention in the digital environment with a view to providing the most comprehensive overview possible at the 8th session of the Conference of Parties which will meet from 1 to 4 June 2021.

A large portion of this session of the Committee was devoted to the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), the Convention's cooperation mechanism to support the emergence of dynamic cultural sectors in developing countries. The Committee approved six new projects for funding, out of the 1027 funding requests received in 2020. In order to bridge the growing gap between the Fund's resources and the increasing number of funding requests received each year, the Committee adopted a new fundraising and communication strategy for the IFCD for the period 2021-2023.

For the first time, a preliminary analysis of the ResiliArt movement, launched by UNESCO on World Art Day (15 April 2020) to highlight the effects of the pandemic on culture, was examined by a UNESCO intergovernmental body. Committee Members noted that ResiliArt, now involving more than 110 countries worldwide, has contributed significantly to multi-stakeholder consultations and the empowerment of women artists and cultural professionals, and requested the Secretariat to continue its efforts to collect data and testimonies on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on cultural and creative industries.

The Committee examined 79 quadrennial periodic reports on measures to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions submitted by Parties to the Convention in 2020. In addition to welcoming this remarkable submission rate, especially given the challenges Parties faced in 2020, the Committee noted with satisfaction that 19 Parties had submitted their first-ever report this year, thanks in large part to the Secretariat's capacity-building programme for participatory policy monitoring.

Several side events also took place online to contextualize the Committee's discussions. On 2 February, the debate “ResiliArt: Through the lens of Asian women filmmakers” brought together Bora Kim (director of the film “House of Hummingbird.) and Naomi Kawase (director of the film “True Mothers”) for an in-depth conversation on the film industry. An event titled “Making of 'Parasite': Dialogue with the Producer”, which addressed the creative and production processes of the Oscar winning film, was broadcast on 3 February.

The 14th session of the Committee was also marked by UNESCO’s celebration of the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. The implementation of activities within the framework of the International Year is being carried out by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, in cooperation with UNESCO and other relevant United Nations agencies. In this context, a debate titled “ResiliArt in celebration of the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development: Building back better through the creative economy” took place on 4 February. The debate focused on ways to rebuild the creative and cultural industries in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and on how artists have been able to use the digital environment to continue their activities.

During the debate, Jean-Michel Jarre, musician and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, stressed that “During this pandemic, we watched films, listened to music and read books. Our museums and theatres are public services. These prime necessities for human life are in danger and we must ask ourselves and our governments if we want to save culture. The pandemic should unite us to work together.”

This session of the Committee ended with the election of H.E. Dr. Nasser Hamad Hinzab, Ambassador of the State of Qatar to UNESCO, as Chairperson of the 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee, which will be held from 8 to 11 February 2022