International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies releases 2023 overview

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs on June 22, 2018 (Photo: Reg Natarajan/CC BY 2.0 DEED)
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs on June 22, 2018 (Photo: Reg Natarajan/CC BY 2.0 DEED)

The International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (IFACCA) recently issued its Year in Review statement. The paper opens with a quote from Simon Brault, former president of IFACCA and then CEO and director of the Canada Council for the Arts, who calls the world in its current state “a vast, complex, unequal, divided, distressed and beleaguered place, largely due to climate crisis and too many armed conflicts’.

In other words, art and culture are needed to deal with all its complexities and support sustainable development that will lead us all to a more positive future.

First, what is the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (IFACCA)?

Based in Australia, the organization represents public institutions from around the world whose mandate is to support and develop art and culture. This can include promotion and investment, as well as the development and support of policies that in turn underpin the cultural sector.

Canada is one of the member countries of the organization. Simon Brault, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts for nine years (ending June 2023), served on IFACCA’s board from 2016 to 2023. The current board includes representatives from South Africa, Uruguay, Sweden , USA, Australia, Vietnam, England and Norway. The current chairperson is Kristin Danielsen, executive director, Kulturdirektoratet — Arts and Culture Norway, a dancer and choreographer before specializing in arts management.

The vital role of culture for resilience in an increasingly fragile world

The report highlights the role of culture in the implementation of the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development. Also called the 2030 Agenda, the SDGS lists 17 global development goals:

  1. No poverty;
  2. Zero hunger;
  3. Good health and well-being;
  4. Quality education;
  5. Gender equality;
  6. Clean water and sewage;
  7. Affordable and clean energy;
  8. Decent work and economic growth;
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure;
  10. Reduced inequalities;
  11. Sustainable cities and communities;
  12. Responsible consumption and production;
  13. Climate action;
  14. Life under water;
  15. Life on land;
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions;
  17. Partnerships for Purpose.

It is clear that art and culture can play a key role in many of the objectives identified. Among the political gains, the report mentions MONDIACULT. Signed by 150 Ministers of Culture in September 2022, the MONDIACULT Declaration, among other things, recognizes culture as a global public good — but at the same time it is often not supported by public policies or international cooperation.

On a positive note, MONDIACULT’s mandate was reiterated in recent declarations by EU Ministers of Culture and was adopted by the 12th Conference of Ministers of Culture in the Islamic World, among other global organisations.

Other matters:

  • The creative economy is among the fastest growing sectors in the world and is of particular importance in developing economies;
  • Culture brings people together and instills a sense of unity, important qualities in uncertain times;
  • Arts and culture contribute to general good health and well-being as proven by scientific research.

Good will versus action

Naturally, the report mentions the overall vulnerability of the arts and culture sector. Artistic freedom is also threatened in many places around the world. Working conditions for musicians and so many other artists are precarious, and there are many systemic elements that contribute to this condition.

In conclusion, the authors point out that all political and symbolic recognition must be backed up by tangible recognition. They cite some examples:

  • Development of insurance for artists in Jamaica;
  • Laws that support the status of an artist in Spain;
  • Social protections for artists in Seychelles;
  • In Saudi Arabia, a public program designed to stimulate employment in the cultural sector.

The ever-changing digital environment looms as another area of ​​both potential growth and creation, as well as risk. Copyright laws need to be updated and strengthened in the age of AI, and some of these processes are already taking shape around the world. The African Union, for example, has produced a continental AI strategy paper, and the EU has produced its first AI regulations.

Culture is part of the solution, but it can only play its part if it is supported both locally and globally.

You can read about the UN Sustainable Development Goals for cultural and heritage organizations in Canada [HERE].

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