On 14 May 2020, UNESCO Headquarters organized its second Global ResiliArt Debate in partnership with the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (IFCCD) and the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC).
This rich discussion, which was moderated by UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone R., focused on the recovery of the cultural and creative industries after the COVID-19 pandemic. It brought together seven renowned panelists from around the world: Anitta (singer, songwriter and actress), Mohamed Saif Al-Afkham (President of the International Theatre Institute), Ferne Downey (actress and President of the International Federation of Actors) Pascal Rogard (Director General of SACD and President of the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity) Fouzia Saeed (Director General of the Pakistan National Council of Arts), Cheick Oumar Sissoko (Secretary General of the Panfrican Federation of Filmmakers and former Minister of Culture of Mali) and Jana Vozarova (CEO of LITA, Society of Authors).
As lockdown measures are gradually lifted around the world, cultural activities that are compatible with physical distancing measures have been allowed to resume, albeit with constraints that have significant social and financial impacts. In this context, the panelists discussed the crucial importance of protecting and promoting the status of artists as we emerge from this crisis.
“Artists prove again their fundamental value to society so let status of the artist live in the laws of your country,” said IFA President Ferne Downey, calling for the meaningful and sustainable implementation to the UNESCO 1980 Recommendation concerning the status of the artist. Cheick Oumar Sissoko, Secretary General of the Panafrican Federation of Filmmakers, said “we need to build solid cultural policies to give artists, creators and cultural enterprises the means to move forward.” He noted that the big challenge facing the creative sector in Africa as we emerge from this pandemic will be the structuring and professionalization of the cultural sector.
A particular concern raised by the panelists was the rapid trend toward the digitization and platformization of cultural content. From a European perspective, Pascal Rogard suggested that states could join together to create their own European online distribution platform in order to encourage the diversity of cultural expressions and ensure the fair remuneration of artists. “Artists need to be remunerated when their work is exploited”, Rogard said. “It is important to ensure that already existing laws are applied so artists can live.”
“We need to find ways to keep cultural professionals doing their work safely and to be able to monetize their work”, said Anitta, a singer and songwriter from Brazil. “People need to pay for entertainment because people are working for this.” Fouzia Saeed, the Director General of the Pakistan National Council of Arts, remarked that the crisis had pushed her community fifty years ahead in terms of technology, but warned that this advance was not universal. “Artists are people who were already vulnerable. A lot were not equipped to quickly jump into the online world, because of the remoteness of a lot of artists, insufficient access to digital technologies and language issues,” Saeed said.
The panelists agreed on a key issue: When emerging from this crisis, ways to maintain diverse, sustainable and dynamic cultural ecosystems must be identified and reinforced. “Governments should support artists in these tough times because they are the soul of their countries,” said ITI President Mohamed Saif Al Afkham. “We have to keep them alive and give them priority to help the country survive this crisis.” LITA CEO Jana Vozarova concurred, noting that if small and niche sectors disappear because of the crisis, cultural diversity would diminish and suffer.
The exchange highlighted that although physical distancing measures are beginning to ease in parts of the world, there is no going back; the creative sector must find ways to adapt to a new reality. “Despite all of its negative aspects, the crisis offers an unparalleled opportunity to change and improve things around the world,” believes Downey.
ResiliArt is a global movement that was launched by UNESCO on 15 April 2020. The movement has three main goals:
First, to raise awareness about the impact of COVID-19 on the culture sector and the livelihoods of artists and cultural professionals
Second, to give visibility to artists and cultural professionals worldwide to ensure their voices are heard at the policy level to address existing gaps and needs
Third, to contribute to the decision-making processes of Member States during the development of policies and financial mechanisms aimed at empowering the creative sector.
Cultural industry professionals are encouraged to join the movement and replicate the ResiliArt series in their respective regions and thematic focus by following publicly available guidelines (embed link). The devastation brought to the entire culture value chain will have a long-lasting impact on the creative economy; ResiliArt aims to ensure the continuity of conversations, data sharing, and advocacy efforts long after the pandemic subsides.