Growing awareness of culture for development

Culture contributes to 30 million jobs worldwide and represents around 3% of the world’s GDP (UNESCO). However, we are still far from policies that put creators at the centre of our booming creative industries and that understands their full potential and value in global development and cooperation.

Yet, the debates at the European Development Days and the dedicated Colloquium shows a promising and growing awareness about the value of culture. Cultural industries come together, share experiences and develop concrete recommendations; a space that needs to remain and be expand upon.

What I learned is that creators’ contributions are valued differently across the globe and are generally higher paid in developed countries. An example of Burkina Faso illustrates that cultural activities that people engage in during the dry season is not recognised as a part of the country’s GDP, despite its obvious and essential contribution to the economy. This was explained by Mr Armand Béouindé, Mayor of the city of Quagadogou, speaking at the European Commission’s Colloquium on 16-17 June. The creative economy, especially in developing countries, lacks a solid infrastructure. It relies on informal systems and fragile regulatory and financial environments. There is a need for policies to govern creative industries and education to professionalise the cultural sector.

The need for cultural education was repeated many times in the group discussion on job creation and inclusiveness that I participated in at the Colloquium. Creators need training in their arts and supporting professionals require specialisation in legal matters and policymaking. While the preservation of culture of the past is often cared for, artist spaces for contemporary production is rarely supported, “we need to be able to make a living,'' said a young woman. I took the opportunity to highlight that when creators get fair and proportionate remuneration for the use of their works, it gives them more chance to make a living and the means to develop new creative projects. Collective management has proven to be a cost effective, transparent and efficient system to negotiate, collect and distribute royalties to audiovisual authors.

Mr Béouindé pointed out how the creative industries, in Burkina Faso especially, employs young people and women, who otherwise might not have been given the opportunity. This is true for the industry at large. The topic of women, culture and development was further discussed at the European Development Days on 18 June, as part of a small but well-attended event. Women as innovators in local business and entrepreneurship was highlighted as an opportunity to seize, while the lack of them in big structures of decision-making and on Boards of Directors was addressed as a challenge to come to terms with. I mentioned that equally many women as men study film, the glass-ceiling appears when they enter the labour market. Few women make it as film directors and when they do, they do not access the same budgets. Gender equality is both about equal access to the film industry and women’s representation on the screen. Read our blog posts and see also the event organisers ‘call to action’.

Other initiatives to note besides the Colloquium and EDD is the EU strategy for International Cultural Relations, of which the EU, together with UNESCO, initiated a network of international experts. The network looks at South-South cooperation on issues such as artistic freedom, status of the artist, gender equality and intellectual property rights. The UN also recognises cultural diversity as a contributor to its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Finally, watch also a video about the "SouthMed WiA" project, coordinated by Interarts and co-funded by the EU. The project is about women professionals in the audiovisual sector in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia. 



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