The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the crucial need for culture yet at the same time, it will have a devastating impact on the culture sector, both in the short term and the long term. Already around the world, governments and regional organizations have mobilised to assess the consequences of the pandemic on the sector, as well as to propose solutions. Yet, the unprecedented nature and magnitude of this crisis compels us to reinvest, more than ever, in international cooperation and intergovernmental dialogue, in order to unite our efforts, engage in a shared reflection and take concerted action to fully embed culture into the socio-economic response to the crisis.
It is important to act now, and UNESCO has the unique convening power to engage relevant stakeholders and actors and to facilitate this cooperation. On 17 April, the Organization will bring together major regional Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO’s) and Development Banks via videoconference to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the culture sector. The twelve organizations will also discuss proactive ways to respond to the crisis, including enhancing data sharing, identifying good practices for building on the role of culture as a source of resilience and strengthening advocacy strategies.
On 22 April, the Organization will convene over 90 Minsters of Culture for an online debate to share their observations on the impact of the health crisis on the cultural sector, as well as on the measures being taken within their countries. This meeting of Ministers represents a continuation of the Forum of Ministers of Culture organized by UNESCO on 19 November 2019, in which 120 Ministers called for stronger cultural policies for more sustainable societies.
These two meetings – with regional partners and Ministers - will provide information that will help UNESCO to support its Member States. The outcomes will also feed the new weekly UNESCO “Culture & COVID-19: Impact and Response Tracker”. This is a regular update that reports on both the immediate impact of the health crisis – such as on artists, World Heritage sites and living heritage practices – as well as examples of how countries around the world are adapting to the situation. By convening regional partners and Ministers, and by collating innovative practices, UNESCO is working to support the cultural sector during these exceptional circumstances.
* Representatives of regional organizations from the African Union (AU), the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALESCO), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, the European Commission (EC) and the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI).
The development banks are the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the World Bank (WB). Other intergovernmental organizations include the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) – a United Nations body - and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).