UNESCO and Sweden bolster public debate around the implementation of cultural policies

Cultural policies for artistic freedom and the mobility of artists were at the forefront of the public discussion organized at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Stockholm, on 2 March 2017. The event was organised by the Swedish Arts Council and the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO, in cooperation with UNESCO.

Staffan Forssell, Director General of the Swedish Arts Council, opened the event, highlighting the importance of bringing a global comparative perspective on how countries around the world are re-shaping their cultural policies as a result of efforts to implement the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, now ratified by 145 Parties. This was followed by a presentation of the Convention and its overall objectives by Danielle Cliche, Secretary of the 2005 Convention and Chief of the Section for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. 

Per Olsson Fridh, State Secretary to the Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy and Yudhishthir Raj Isar, Principal Editor of the 2017 edition of the Global Report on the monitoring of the 2005 Convention, debated new approaches to the governance of culture in the first session.

“We must place the diversity of cultural expressions at the heart of all sustainable development efforts”, highlighted State Secretary Per Olsson Fridh. “This must be accompanied by commitments to work closely with civil society actors at all levels. Digital technologies and networks require new types of measures and interventions. We can break down barriers, through participatory and transparent policy-making”, he added.

Sara Whyatt, former Deputy-Director at PEN International and Elnaz Baghlanian, Literary Director at Atlas publishing house, then initiated discussions on the new challenges in the area of artistic freedom that affect significant contemporary issues such as freedom of expression and access to cultural life, digital technologies and the Internet, ease of travel for artists and social protection.

A third panel discussion, with Khadija El Bennaoui, Independent cultural advisor/Art Moves Africa and Hedda Krausz Sjögren, Cultural Counsellor, Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, South Africa, focused on new mobility opportunities arising within the Global South for artists and cultural professionals: art residencies, safe houses and cities of refuge for artists at risk, mobility funding schemes, transnational exchanges.

Tracking progress on the policy framework

In his concluding remarks, Mats Djurberg, Secretary General, Swedish National Commission for UNESCO, recalled the dramatic figures released in the 2016 Freemuse Report “Art under threat”, which registered 1,028 attacks on artists and violations of their rights in 2016 across 78 countries.

 “The UNESCO 2005 Convention is the policy framework that can allow us to implement new policies to support the rights of artist, whether political, economic or social”, he emphasized.

This public discussion took place in the context of the second Editorial Board meeting to prepare for the 2017 edition of the Global Report on the monitoring of the 2005 Convention, held at the Swedish Arts Council from 1-3 March 2017.

The Report, to be released during the next session of the Intergovernmental Committee of the 2005 Convention (12-15 December 2017), is supported within a broader programme entitled “Enhancing fundamental freedoms through the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions”, funded by the Government of Sweden and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA

The Global Report series is conceived as a tool to monitor the policy impact of the 2005 Convention since it entered into force in 2007.

The first Report, “Re|Shaping Cultural Policies”, was published in December 2015.