Each and every day, millions of people are moving from a part of the world to another. Most of them are in search of better opportunities, i.e. education, career and lifestyle. In the process, people of different cultural backgrounds often find themselves going to the same educational institute, working in the same office and so much more. As citizens of this interconnected world, we are, therefore, left with no choice other than to embrace our cultural diversity. Over the last several years, the digital environment has profoundly transformed the world's cultural scene, overturned traditional regulatory mechanisms and affected the status of cultural goods and services in international trade negotiations. Hence, it is very important to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital environment.
In this regard, the adoption of the '2005 UNESCO Global Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions' was a milestone in international cultural policy. As a legally binding tool, it imposes obligations domestically and internationally for the support of the rights of artists, creative professionals, practitioners and citizens worldwide to "create, produce, disseminate and enjoy a broad range of creative goods, services and activities, including their own." The UNESCO Global Report 2018 "Reshaping Cultural Policies" examines how the 2005 UNESCO Convention has inspired policy change at the global and country levels and puts forward policy recommendations for the adaptation of cultural policies for a rapid change in the digital environment, based on human rights and fundamental freedoms of expression. It highlights the strategic frameworks best adapted to the digital environment, the emergence of exchange platforms and the dynamism of artistic incubators in the global South. It also points to the existing inequalities and underrepresentation of women in the culture sector, trade barriers on cultural goods and services from the global South and the vulnerability of artists at risk. The publication consists of 10 chapters grouped into four thematic sections (i.e. goals): 1) Supporting sustainable systems of governance for culture; 2) Achieving a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase the mobility of artists and cultural professionals; 3) Integrating culture in sustainable development frameworks; and 4) Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The first goal is to support sustainable systems of governance for culture that contribute to the implementation of SDGs 8, 16 and 17. This challenge is addressed in the four chapters that make up the first section of this Report. The first chapter analyses policies and measures to promote the diversity of cultural expressions and shares a series of key findings. It is found that the Convention clearly provides increased legitimacy and indeed inspiration for the adoption of cultural policies and their adaptation in changing times. The next chapter is devoted to the public service media as producers, commissioners, distributors, disseminators and mediators of high-quality cultural content. The author attempts to identify many substantial improvements in the legislative base for media freedom and diversity, and notes that creativity and diversity in both the public service and private media are being enhanced through quota regulations, currently applied by 90 countries around the world. The third chapter explores the implications of the rapidly evolving digital environment. The cultural value chain is being transformed from a pipeline-like configuration to a network model. The author argues an entirely new type of relationship between the public sector, private companies and civil society is urgently needed; one that is based upon interactivity, collaboration and the co-construction of policy frameworks. The fourth chapter analyses this dimension, arguing that the Convention's goal of supporting sustainable systems of governance for culture can be achieved only through strong civil society participation.
The second section of the report relates to the goal of achieving a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and the mobility of artists and cultural professionals which is crucial to maintaining a heterogeneous world of ideas, values and worldviews, as well as to the promotion of vibrant cultural and creative industries. The fifth chapter analyses the world picture in this regard. While the global North still provides the main market destinations for artists and cultural practitioners from the global South, access to these destinations is becoming increasingly difficult in the current security climate. The sixth chapter analyses recent trends with regard to flows of cultural goods and services. All developing countries taken together (including China and India) represented an increasing portion of the flow of cultural goods, and accounted for 45 per cent of global trade of cultural goods in 2014, compared to 25 per cent in 2005. Nevertheless, trade barriers, scarcity of preferential treatment measures and limited human and financial capacities continue to slow down developing countries' access of cultural goods markets to the global North. Protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions must also rely on the influence of the Convention on other international legal treaties and agreements, notably in the trade arena. This dimension is analysed in the seventh chapter.
The third implementation goal is to advance the long-standing cause of integrating a cultural dimension in sustainable development frameworks that contributes to the implementation of SDGs 4, 8 and 17. The eighth chapter sheds light on two critical areas. First is an integration of culture into national development plans and policies, targeting, particularly regional equity, and enabling equitable access for vulnerable groups. Secondly, culture needs to be integrated into international level sustainable development programmes. Technical assistance is especially important to "strengthen human and institutional capacities in the cultural and creative industries in developing countries", with financial assistance to support creativity in these countries.
The last section of the report is devoted to a key principle of the Convention that has come to the fore in recent years. The ninth chapter draws our attention towards the multifaceted gender gap that persists in almost all cultural fields and in most parts of the world. Women are not only severely under-represented in the workforce, particularly in key creative roles and decision-making positions, but they also have less access to resources and are generally paid much less than men. The author of this chapter vehemently argues that diversity of cultural expressions will remain elusive if women are not able to participate in all areas of cultural life as creators and producers, and as citizens and consumers. The final chapter is dedicated to artistic freedom, which is relevant not only to the being and creative practice of artists themselves but also to the rights of all cultural producers and audiences.
S. M. Rayhanul Islam is an independent researcher.