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CULTURE: Creativity Has (Cash) Value

Mario Osava

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 21 2006 (IPS) - The culture and creativity economy and its contribution to sustainable development will be the central theme at a 10-day meeting of experts, artists and government delegates from more than 70 countries, which kicks off Friday in two Brazilian cities.

Three days of discussions on the “Creative Economy” will begin on Sunday with a conference on “21st Century Strategies for Development”, headed by Brazilian Culture Minister Gilberto Gil and the director of the United Nations Development Programme’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SSC-SU), Yiping Zhou.

The new creativity-based economic sector, barely defined as yet, includes handicrafts, artistic output of all kinds, and new technologies such as computer software. Culture, therefore, plays a key role in its expansion.

Dieter Jaenicke, the director general of the Fórum Cultural Mundial (FCM, World Culture Forum), told IPS that cultural goods and services are now of great importance in the economy of many countries, and in some cases they are the main stimulus for tourism and the principal export product.

The FCM will be held from Nov. 24-30 in Rio de Janeiro, and Dec. 1-3 in Salvador, the capital of the northeastern state of Bahia.

There are many examples of small countries, like Jamaica with its reggae music which “has gained incredible standing,” and others in the Caribbean and in Africa, that are joining the United States, where films and other cultural products are the second largest export category, Jaenicke remarked.

The United Nations has estimated that culture accounts for seven percent of the global gross domestic product, amounting to 1.3 trillion dollars. Because this sector is growing at an annual rate of 10 percent, considerably higher than the average for the global economy as a whole, it is one of the keys to future development.

Gil, better known as a world-class singer-songwriter, is enthusiastic about the creative economy, and wants Brazil to establish the first international centre dedicated to it. An important innovation introduced at his initiative has been “to treat cultural activities as economic activities as well,” he said, reporting on nearly four years as minister of culture.

Intellectual property and proposals for making its regulations more flexible, or changing them, in the light of the emergence of the Internet and other technologies, are issues that will concern many experts and government officials at several meetings at the Forum and its associated events, which will include a meeting of the ministers of culture of the Mercosur (Southern Common Market) trade bloc. Culture and the arts are also important “in education and in conflict prevention,” and therefore the debate on “Culture for Peace” will be another important event at the Forum, Jaenicke said. Interesting experiences in which artistic projects have reduced tensions and violence, for example in Brazil’s “favelas” or shantytowns, will be presented.

Discussion on these and other topics, such as the relationship between culture and development, globalisation, rights and cooperation, will be part of the Global Convention, to which over 500 experts and artists have been invited, 400 of them from outside Brazil. The programme includes conferences, lectures, panels and workshops devoted to reflecting on the role of culture in the world.

But the Forum will also provide the occasion for countless dance, music and theatre performances, and visual arts, photography, fashion and design exhibits, especially from Africa and Latin America. Videos and a series of 11 documentary films will also be shown.

A “White Night” consisting of 24 hours of uninterrupted cultural activities, will take place from Saturday to Sunday at several locations in Rio de Janeiro, on the same lines as multi-site arts festivals held in several cities in the world, particularly in Europe.

The associated events are to include the annual meetings of the International Network of Cultural Policies, bringing together delegates of ministries of culture from over 60 countries, and the International Network of Cultural Diversity, comprising more than 300 artists’ and cultural groups’ organisations from 50 countries.

The ministers of culture of the community of Portuguese-speaking countries, and about 30 cultural networks and foundations from around the world will also be meeting here, making Rio de Janeiro the capital city of cultural debate for seven days.

This is the second FCM to be held. The first, hosted by Sao Paulo in 2004, drew some 15,000 participants to the debates and more than 150,000 visitors to the shows and exhibits. This year it is hoped that those numbers will at least be maintained, Jaenicke said. The next Forum, in two years time, will be held in a different country which has not yet been chosen.

The Forum is an initiative of 51 governmental and non-governmental organisations. This year the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, Serviço Social do Comercio (SESC, Social Services provided by the trade private sector) and the Casa Via Magía Cultural Institute, in Salvador, are supporting the event.

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