The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures of social distancing and quarantine have posed unprecedented challenges to the world, especially affecting the value chain of the cultural sector, further weakening the situation of cultural professionals, mainly workers in micro, small and medium enterprises, and artists and independent workers, many of them informal.
In this context, the project “Evaluation of the impact of COVID-19 on the cultural and creative industries: a joint initiative of MERCOSUR, UNESCO, IDB, SEGIB and OEI”, was launched in June 2020. It aimed at generating accurate data and estimates of the impact of the pandemic on the cultural and creative industries in 10 Latin American countries, with the overall purpose to support the design of effective policies tailored to the needs of the sector, highlighting the importance of culture as a vector of sustainable development.
“Strengthening cultural information systems will allow shaping more effective recovery policies for the culture sector, support the people whose life has been turned upside down by the pandemic and position culture as a cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” said Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture.
The project was implemented by the UNESCO Offices in Montevideo, Quito and La Havana, in cooperation with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB) and the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) and was articulated in three main components: a regional survey on the perceived impact of the pandemic (whose results will be available at the beginning of 2021); a study on the impact of the pandemic on the cultural and creative industries; and a capacity building workshop for the cultural information system of MERCOSUR.
The project has shown that the cultural and creative industries in the region amount to more than 2.6 million jobs. According to the data provided by the cultural information systems that participated in the initiative, between February and June 2020 approximately 80% of the 21,928 libraries, 11,304 cultural centers, 7,516 museums, 5,658 theaters and 5,219 movie theaters in the region had to cease their activities due to the pandemic. Key solutions proposed include an effective collaboration between international organizations, the reinforcement of regional cooperation, as well as the development of innovative tools, such as cultural information systems.
The first results of the project were presented on 17 December, during an online meeting which saw the participation of the representatives of the different countries and organizations involved, and which was opened by the Minister of Culture of Argentina, Mr Tristán Bauer, on the account of Argentina’s Pro Tempore Presidency of MERCOSUR Cultural; the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Mr Ernesto Ottone R.; the Vice President of Sectors and Knowledge of IDB, Mr Benigno López; the Secretary General of OEI, Mr Mariano Jabonero Blanco; and the Secretary General of SEGIB, Ms Rebeca Grynspan.
 The UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund has received the generous support of: the Qatar Fund for Development, the Kingdom of Norway, the Government of Canada, ANA Holdings INC., the Principality of Monaco, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Republic of Estonia, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Slovak Republic, the Principality of Andorra, and the Republic of Serbia.