UNESCO Member States reassess the role of culture in the global economy

The 7th Conference of Parties to the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, ratified by 145 countries and the European Union, closed its doors on 7th June. The second edition of the Civil Society Forum brought together over 80 non-governmental actors from around the world, adding diversity of voices to the cultural policy discussions.

Under the chairmanship of Abdoul Karim Sango, Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism of Burkina Faso, the 7th Conference of Parties to the 2005 Convention took place at UNESCO Headquarters from 4 to 7 June 2019. Upon his election, Minister Sango declared that “the Conference of Parties is a tremendous opportunity to take stock of progress made and inform innovative cultural policy making.”

UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Culture Ernesto Ottone R further set the scene for the global discussion by saying: “Today, the 2005 Convention is recognized as a key policy reference framework to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. “This is a key platform to examine the challenges encountered and to draw an action plan towards a common goal to support creativity and innovation the cultural sector”, he continued.

During the Conference, an open Roadmap for the implementation of guidelines to promote the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital environment was approved, reflecting the shared sense of urgency to address emerging issues such those of discoverability of content, diversity in media ownership, digital literacy or fair remuneration for creators on line. The Conference also saw the adoption of revised Operational Guidelines on Article 9, “Information Sharing and Transparency”, giving a greenlight to a robust and simplified process of policy monitoring for the implementation of the 2005 Convention.

The second edition of the Civil Society Forum took place before the Conference of Parties on 4 June, during which active exchanges took place between cultural professionals from all regions and thematic areas. Concerns were voiced to increase the level of financial and political support for civil society actors in order for them to contribute sustainably and effectively to the monitoring and support of cultural policies. The role of UNESCO Chairs as the network of knowledge and resources accessible to civil society organizations was reiterated throughout the day.

Create | 2030 sessions – a series of interactive talks with policy makers and cultural professionals – were also organized on three topics: Strengthening cultural entrepreneurship; Rethinking the status of the artist; and Rebalancing trade flows. The debate on culture in trade coincided with the publication by UNESCO of a review study examining the impact of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) concluded in 2008 between the CARIFORUM States and the European Union. The session was followed by a presentation of a new training module on preferential treatment, created by the UNESCO Chair at Laval University (Québec, Canada) and designed to explore ways to grant market access and expand the mobility of artists for developing countries.

Various side events took place during the session. This included an exchange session with national points of contacts of the 2005 convention; an information meeting on the EU/UNESCO open call to  support the strengthening of regulatory frameworks for cultural and creative industries, as well as a meeting of the beneficiaries of the project “Re|Shaping Cultural Policies for the Promotion of Fundamental Freedoms and the Diversity of Cultural Expressions”, funded by the Swedish government. There was also a screening of the film Mercy of the Jungles, directed by Rwandan Joël Karekezi, a winner of two prizes at the 26th FESPACO Pan-African Film Festival in Ouagadougou in 2019.

On the final day, Member States identified priority activities for the future activities of the Intergovernmental Committee for the years 2019-2021, which include technical assistance and support in areas of policy design and implementation, data collection and analysis, artistic freedom and preferential treatment. Providing international assistance to governments and civil society through increased contributions to the International Fund for Cultural Diversity was also recognized of key importance.

The conference concluded with the election of 12 new members to the Intergovernmental Committee: Austria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Denmark, Mongolia, Qatar, Senegal, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The 8th Conference of Parties to the 2005 Convention will take place in June 2021.