UNESCO is launching initiatives to support cultural industries and cultural heritage as billions of people around the world turn to culture for comfort and to overcome social isolation during the COVID-19 sanitary crisis, which is hitting the culture sector hard.
“The global nature of the COVID-19 crisis is a call for the international community to reinvest in international cooperation and intergovernmental dialogue” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO. “UNESCO is committed to leading a global discussion on how best to support artists and cultural institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, and ensure everyone can stay in touch with the heritage and culture that connects them to their humanity.”
On Thursday, UNESCO launched a global social media campaign, #ShareOurHeritage to promote access to culture and education around cultural heritage during this time of mass confinement.
UNESCO is also launching an online exhibition of dozens of heritage properties across the globe with technical support from Google Arts & Culture.
The Organization will furthermore provide up-to-date information through an online map on its website and through social media on the impact of, and responses to, COVID-19 on World Heritage sites, which are partly or fully closed to visitors in 89% of countries due to the pandemic.
UNESCO will also share first-hand accounts by World Heritage site managers, who are particularly well placed to bear testimony on the impact of COVID-19 on the sites they manage and the communities living around them. Children around the world will be invited to share drawings of World Heritage properties, giving them the chance to express their creativity and their connection to heritage. Once the immediate crisis is over, the #Shareculture and #ShareOurHeritage campaigns will be maintained to share reflection on measures to safeguard World Heritage sites and promote sustainable tourism.
On World Art Day, 15 April 2020, UNESCO, in partnership with electronic music pioneer, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and CISAC President Jean Michel Jarre, will host an online debate and social media campaign, the ResiliArt Debate, bringing together artists and key industry actors to sound the alarm on the impact of COVID-19 on the livelihoods of artists and cultural professionals. The debate, organised in partnership with CISAC (the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers), is designed to inform the development of policies and financial mechanisms that can help creators and communities overcome the crisis. Creators and creative workers around the world are encouraged to join the ResiliArt Debate on social media and invite fellow artists to showcase the work they produce during confinement.
On 22 April, UNESCO will bring together the world’s Ministers of Culture in an online meeting on COVID-19 and its impact on culture. Building on the Forum of Ministers of Culture UNESCO hosted on 19 November 2019, the meeting will help Ministers exchange information and views on the impact of the health crisis on the cultural sector in their countries and identify remedial policy measures appropriate to their various national contexts.
“Now, more than ever, people need culture,” said Ernesto Ottone R., Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Culture. “Culture makes us resilient. It gives us hope. It reminds us that we are not alone. That is why UNESCO is doing all it can to support culture, to safeguard our heritage and empower artists and creators, now and after this crisis has passed.”
The closure of heritage sites, museums, theatres and cinemas and other cultural institutions is jeopardizing funding for artists and creative industries, and for the conservation of extraordinary places and the livelihoods of local communities and cultural professionals. COVID-19 has put many intangible cultural heritage practices, including rituals and ceremonies, on hold, impacting communities everywhere. It has also cost many jobs and across the globe, artists, most of whom rely on ancillary activities to supplement income from their art, are now unable to make ends meet.
More information on UNESCO’s response to COVID-19 in the field of culture can be found on the UNESCO website here.