UNESCO peer-to-peer learning workshop on policies for creativity brings together country representatives and experts from 18 countries around the world in Namibia
Between 29 March and 1 April, the Entity for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions with selected UNESCO Field Offices, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Arts of Namibia convened a “Peer-to-peer learning workshop on policies for creativity: Monitoring and implementing the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” in Swakopmund, Namibia. This coincides with the upcoming “UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development Mondiacult 2022” to be held in Mexico in September 2022. This workshop proposed to reflect on strategic orientations for future participatory policy monitoring and policy making for creativity within the framework of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
Fostering peer-to-peer learning and South-South cooperation
The workshop gathered 50 participants, including representatives from Botswana, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Gabon, Georgia, Jamaica, Namibia, Palestine, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe as well as experts from Argentina, Cuba, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. UNESCO Field Offices representatives from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Jamaica, Mexico, Kenya, Palestine, and Namibia were also present. The workshop, created a space for this emerging community of practice to flourish, nurture connections between policymakers, national and international experts, as well as with UNESCO Field Offices, thus strengthening working relationships and creating new avenues for collaboration in the future. Through a methodology dedicated to creating spaces of exchange and collective thinking, the workshop intended to foster peer-to-peer learning and South-South cooperation. The peer-to-peer learning approach is thought to effectively address policy making and the governance of creativity through a robust exchange of knowledge, expertise and skills and mutual learning. Indeed, South-South learning and knowledge exchange present a powerful tool to assess development challenges and find locally appropriate solutions to address them.
The UNESCO peer to peer learning in Namibia was a wonderful example of creativity, balance and freedom of expression – all core values of the 2005 Convention. The process allowed for open, honest, reflective and even provocative exchanges between the expert facility, local experts, field offers and UNESCO head office. The participants proved to be a collective resource for each other with powerful links forged between all of us, allowing each of us to learn from each other’s processes, strategies and to keep abreast of new developments in UNESCO and in each of our areas of work. These is no doubt that the physical meeting provided the conducive space to really hear, listen and be involved in learning from one another.
Strengthening participatory policy processes for creativity and democracy
This 3-day event was organised within the framework of the EU/UNESCO Programme “Supporting new regulatory frameworks to strengthen the cultural and creative industries and promote South-South cooperation”, and the Programme “Reshaping cultural policies for the promotion of fundamental freedoms and the diversity of cultural expressions” funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). Both projects address participatory policy making and policy monitoring, two key phases of the policy cycles, have notably enabled the creation of spaces of dialogue and the establishment of participatory policy processes for creativity. As both projects are ending in 2022, the workshop was a timely opportunity to take stock on the impact, results and lessons learnt. Participants debated over participatory policy processes, consultation mechanisms and specific issues such as consultation fatigue, how to adequately engage with stakeholders from the cultural and creative sectors, or implementation procedures following the adoption of a strategy, law, policy, or action plan.
I was amazed at how similar the situation is across the continent, and the global south in general, regarding policy frameworks and regulation of the cultural sector. From the individual country submissions, it was apparent that many governments are grappling to understand how the sector operates, which often translates into implementation of misguided policies and public programmes for the sector. Through peer-to-peer engagements, however, governments, the civil society and industry practitioners can be able to make a self-assessment, identify these gaps and work upon them together as a team while leveraging on each other’s strengths.
Promoting UNESCO latest research products and tools
A public launch of the 2022 Edition of the Global Report “Reshaping policies for creativity: Addressing culture as a global public good” was organised on the margins of the workshop. This UNESCO flagship publication and the only one of its kind provides a global overview of the state of the cultural and creative sectors, through insightful new data that shed light on emerging trends at a global level and puts forward policy recommendations to foster creative ecosystems that contribute to a sustainable world by 2030 and beyond. Two panel discussions were organised to discuss the Global Report on linkages between national and global monitoring for creativity, enabling a virtuous and indispensable cycle as well as new opportunities and challenges for inclusive cultural and creative industries in the digital environment.
Several recent research tools were additionally presented to participants on emerging policy areas in order to foster uptake and dissemination of these tools. As such, artistic freedom, the status of the artist and gender equality were addressed through several tools such as the “Freedom & Creativity” and “Gender & Creativity” special editions and the 1980 Recommendation. The creative economy, which is increasingly becoming an encompassing paradigm for the development of the cultural and creative sectors, was also discussed, notably around the recently launched UNESCO Creative Economy Course. Finally, the digital environment, through the “Open Roadmap for the implementation of the 2005 Convention”, and the film sector, through the report on “The African film industry: trends, challenges and opportunities for growth” were highlighted as two key policy areas for the strategic development of the cultural and creative sectors.
Reflecting on the future of creativity
The opening ceremony, which counted on speeches by a representative of the Governor of Erongo province, a representative of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture, the Ambassador of the European Union to Namibia and the 2005 Convention Secretariat, addressed the importance of the cultural and creative sectors to be strengthened post-COVID-19.
As we have entered the last decade of action for the implementation of the SDGs and in view of the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic brought about – especially in the cultural sector, by disrupting cultural activities and practices, I think we all agree on the urgent need for adaptation of the cultural sector in order to become more robust and resilient. I have no doubt that this workshop will serve as a policy lab that will generate innovative and creative proposals for the future post-COVID-19.
Key takeaways and policy advice that emerged from the workshop included the need for the adaptation of legislations to tackle the challenges for artists in the digital environment, in particular with regards to platform development, the remuneration of artists and the development of local content law. A more intensive collaboration with the private sector in policy processes regarding creativity was encouraged, to attract investments for the cultural and creative industries. Furthermore, topics such as trade were marked as a subject of concern for most participants. In this regard, it was agreed that there is a need for more capacity-building and technical assistance on such specific topics but also for governmental agents and civil society organisations on policy making and monitoring processes for creativity. The film sector has additionally been pointed out as a key sector for development, creating jobs and bringing possibilities for regional and international distribution. Measures for developing the sector, such as tax incentives for film equipment or employment quota for foreign production filming were discussed by participants as possible ways to develop and foster creation in the film sector. Gender equality and artistic freedom were marked as areas for which policy making remain emergent and needed, most measures to address those challenges being implemented on the part of civil society organisations, such as workshops for women creatives to benefit from the digital environment or quotas of female-directed movies in film festivals.