The poet Gabriel Celaya he said that poetry should be as necessary as daily bread and he cursed art conceived as a luxury. I subscribe to his words and defend culture as a symbolic asset, as a form of knowledge, as an artistic expression, as an economically relevant product, as a human right, as a tool to combat insecurity or as entertainment, among many other facets.
But not only that. I would like to take advantage of and advance the concept of culture as an engine of development in an exercise, 2022, which in Ibero-America we wanted to be the Year of Culture for Sustainable Development.
Less than a week before the celebration of the World Conference on Cultural Policies for Sustainable Development (MONDIACULT 2022), the scenario, marked by migratory, food, health, armed conflicts or violence against women and vulnerable groups, in much of the world, is not at all rosy. That is why it is more important than ever that we understand that we need that culture to breathe, as the poet pointed out. It was shown during the pandemic, when everything was turned off.
Culture was that necessary air in the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, through initiatives such as the ResiliArt Global Movement, Loudspeaker or Resilience. Thanks to them, the cultural sector was able to articulate itself in many ways with the UNESCO, which allowed it to meet the most pressing needs, through very specific proposals to subsist and -later- promote a global restart of artistic and cultural activities. This has been an unprecedented exercise in the history of the organization; not only because of its relevance, but also because of the speed of response and the global reach that the UNESCO Creative Front program has had.
In some way, culture in that period was resistance, but also participation. And that will also be at this important world event that welcomes the representatives of the Culture portfolios of 193 states. Because for its preparation, a highly participatory consultation process has been previously developed in which the voices of the world’s cultural diversity have been heard. From the local to the multinational, from the dominant cultures, to the expressions of minorities, the UNESCO has compiled and systematized information and contributions destined to be part of the discussions of that World Conference that will take place at the end of September, in Mexico City.
Especially for the 22 countries that make up the Ibero-American community, MONDIACULT 2022 it is also the opportunity to consolidate many of the processes initiated in the last 30 years; in which, within the framework of the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government, constant steps have been taken for the design and implementation of an institutional framework for culture that responds to many of the particular challenges of Ibero-American society.
Thanks to these 30 years of work, a unique model of Ibero-American cultural cooperation has been generated. However, its exceptional nature as a regional multilateral cooperation mechanism and its indisputable achievements, the pace of growth and results are still not enough to satisfy the effervescent increase in citizen needs for participation in cultural life.
It is a fact that there are still inequities in participation in cultural life that must be assumed as challenges by Ibero-American cultural cooperation, which can become an important catalyst and companion in addressing these areas of opportunity.
Thus, we have also had -through Ibero-American cultural cooperation- significant joint progress in such important matters as the illicit trafficking of cultural property, the promotion of community safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, especially with regard to our linguistic diversity and the way to tell us our stories. In music, our rhythms are not only danced, felt and transcended, our cinema, plastic arts and literature make it clear to the world about the way we see ourselves and recreate ourselves.
Through the Ibero-American Strategy for Culture and Sustainable Development, we want to consolidate processes already started and make the enormous efforts carried out and their results more visible. On the other hand, even with the characteristics of the international cultural market and its demanding value chains, our cultural diversity makes us highly competitive in terms of the participation of our cultural industries in the international flow of symbolic content. However, that competitive advantage that is the product of our high cultural density cannot be the result of chance or of conceiving culture as a good that has always been there, but rather demands from states and societies, concerted actions of public policy that are fully aware of this reality and react in a timely manner to the increasingly rapid changes.
Based on the strengths that the Iberoamerican Cultural Space through their cooperative actions and against MONDIACULT 2022As a region, we have decided to respond as soon as possible to the call of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, to promote cooperation and multilateral dialogue that allow culture to be fully recognized as a global public good and thereby guarantee the full recognition of culture in all its dimensions. To achieve this, we must open a new global and regional agenda that works mainly on cultural policies and institutions; heritage management in its different categories, the promotion of participation and the expansion of cultural citizenship to advance in the recognition and access to rights of different social groups, as well as in the new models of management and sustainability in the cultural system, of governance, international cooperation and advocacy at the global level, based on learning, opportunities and global experiences in terms of rights and compliance with the SDGs, both in culture and in other areas of the 2030 Agenda in order to advance in an action international according to future challenges and the consequences of the current global crisis.
*The author is Coordinator of the Ibero-American Cultural Space, Ibero-American General Secretariat.