UN eyes bigger role for creative economy in promoting sustainable development 

By disrupting cultural life, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the chronic volatility of the creative industries. Many artists were already struggling to make ends meet. (Supplied)
By disrupting cultural life, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the chronic volatility of the creative industries. Many artists were already struggling to make ends meet. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 January 2021

UN eyes bigger role for creative economy in promoting sustainable development 

By disrupting cultural life, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the chronic volatility of the creative industries. Many artists were already struggling to make ends meet. (Supplied)
  • UN has designated 2021 an “International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development”
  • By disrupting cultural life, the pandemic has brought to light both the value and chronic volatility of the sector

NEW YORK CITY: COVID-19 has plunged theaters into darkness, thrown down the shutters on art galleries, and canceled innumerable concerts, exhibitions and book signings. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the cancelation of public performances alone has cost authors roughly 30 percent of their royalties worldwide, while the global film industry has reported a revenue loss of $7 billion.

By disrupting cultural life, the coronavirus pandemic has brought to light the chronic volatility of the creative industries. Many artists were already struggling to make ends meet, often working part-time under precarious contracts. For some, lockdown measures introduced to contain the outbreak were the final straw.

And yet, at the same time, COVID-19 has revealed the industries’ immense potential. Beside their therapeutic effects, arts and culture are also drivers of social cohesion, inclusion, innovation and growth, not only for small businesses but for the broader economy. This potential, to a great extent, remains untapped.




Beside their therapeutic effects, arts and culture are also drivers of social cohesion, inclusion, innovation and growth, not only for small businesses but for the broader economy. (AFP/File Photo)

Marisa Henderson, UNCTAD’s Geneva-based head of the Creative Economy Program, says she sees this potential everywhere she turns, from the Arabic calligraphy she has seen in Dubai, to the jewellery designers she has met in Doha, and the women she has seen telling children’s stories in Gulf libraries.

“Women have been the engine of the creative economy, doing it without even noticing: Sewing, for example, or designing a piece of clothing, or embroidering and telling stories,” Henderson told Arab News.

It is with this in mind that the UN placed women and girls at the heart of its resolution to make 2021 an International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, recognizing the need to promote inclusive economic growth, foster innovation and provide opportunities and empowerment for all.

Indonesia was the main sponsor of the proposal, which was presented by a global grouping of more than 80 countries.




With so many urgent global challenges to contend with, the arts have often found themselves pushed down the pecking order. (AFP/File Photo)

Marking a watershed for the creative industries, resolution 74/198 singled out the creative economy as an important tool on the path to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals — a comprehensive set of universal targets to eradicate poverty in all its forms, protect the planet and improve lives. The 17 goals were adopted by all UN member states in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda.

With so many urgent global challenges to contend with, the arts have often found themselves pushed down the pecking order. This is changing, however, in part thanks to technological advances, which have upended old categories and definitions, giving rise to new, hitherto undefined artforms, making the creative industries more accessible to audiences and consumers, and more profitable for investors.

“We have goods that we’ve never heard of before,” said Henderson. “3D music: How do you classify that in the creative services? How do you count and sell it?

“Technology is affecting the way artists sell jewelry, toys, arts and crafts, paintings, and musical instruments. Visual arts are creative goods, too. But now they’re being sold online, so there’s a service component involved.”

INNUMBERS

Creative industry

* 30m - People employed worldwide in cultural and creative sectors.  

* 10% - The sectors’ projected contribution to global GDP.

Redefining creative industries and improving the way data is collected is a top priority for UNCTAD, as the agency gears up for a busy year. “We need to know so we understand what we’re talking about,” said Henderson.

“This is important for policymakers and governments who are trying, for example, to regulate downloads. How much money does the platform get versus what the creative gets? This is usually done through Google and Spotify, but the government has a role of facilitating it.

“Generally, we don’t have that kind of information in developing countries.”

UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Program helps developing countries maximize their gains from these industries to generate employment and reduce poverty.

The agency’s help is demand-driven. While countries mobilize their own funds, they come to UNCTAD with their own particular set of problems, seeking the UN agency’s data-driven insight to help carve out a space for their creative industries.




Dancers of the Palestinian Jafra Dabke Team perform a traditional dabke dance while wearing latex gloves and surgical masks for people confined due to a COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic lockdown in the village of Tarqumia northwest of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, on April 15, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

Henderson offers the example of Omani music, which she recently discovered. “It was very traditional, but it also had very modern elements to it that are different from what you conceive of as Arabic music. I thought, ‘this music is a creative industry.’ In Oman, they have so much potential, it’s incredible.”

UNCTAD helps countries identify not only their “leakages,” i.e. where their specific needs lie, but also their trade potential: How can they attract investments? What are the legal instruments that need to be in place for implementation? Then a national conversation follows, involving artists and all other stakeholders.

UNCTAD helps draft a plan of action, the execution of which relies on cooperation between different ministries and agencies. “We make sure that the infrastructure is not imposed. It has to be one that is created for their benefit,” Henderson said.

While the main problem in developing countries remains the lack of infrastructure, countries that do have a strategy have a difficult time implementing it.

“And I understand why it’s hard. This is not an industry that can be managed by a single ministry. For the creative industries, you have to bring together the ministries of culture, trade, technology, intellectual property, and foreign affairs,” Henderson said.

“UNCTAD perceives creative economy as a circle. It is not just art. You need to make use of these industries to capture investment, have a production cycle, create employment, and hopefully be able to export. It’s a creative circle.”




Sherazade Mami, a 28-year-old Tunisian professional dancer and performer at the Caracalla dance theatre and a teacher at the Caracalla dance school, practices while wearing a surgical mask on the roof of her apartment building in the suburb of Dekwaneh on the eastern outskirts of Lebanon's capital Beirut on April 4, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

At the first World Conference on Creative Economy in Bali in 2018, an informal group of governments, private stakeholders and NGOs came together under the moniker “Friends of creative economy,” injecting momentum into a nascent movement that believes in sharing experiences as part of the engine of creative economy.

The UAE took the floor in Bali and offered to host the next round, which will take place in December.

“Arab states in general are really pushing this,” said Henderson. “The Emiratis realize there are a lot of things, like gaming and apps, that are not necessarily related to culture as we think about it but are in fact industries. And the driver, the petrol, the main commodity behind these industries is creativity.

“The Emiratis realize that the creative economy is beyond making money, even beyond culture. It is about social change. They know that by encouraging creativity, they will bring about change for so many in society, including young people and women.”

She added: “They know they can buy very precious art and put it in a museum. But they want something different: They are looking to inspire people. They want to integrate creativity into their culture and bring it to a new level.




A painting by a Palestinian artist is seen during an exhibition entitled " Corona and the art " organized by the Arts & Crafts Village, a centre that helps promote artists and their work in an attempt to maintain and preserve the Palestinian heritage, in Gaza City on November 12, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

“But they are also very wise economically. They see the importance of creative economy in terms of economic growth.”

The program of activities to implement the International Year of Creative Economy kicks off on Jan. 25. The event includes the launch of a new book, co-prefaced by Henderson.

“What could be more fitting entering a new era than a dedicated focus on creativity and the role it can play in helping us achieve the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030?” she said.

“More than ever we need creative thinking, innovation and problem-solving to imagine ourselves out of the furrow we have been in. The creative industries, which are the lifeblood of the creative economy, are well placed to help.”

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Twitter: @EphremKossaify

Decoder

Creative Economy

The creative economy is an evolving concept which builds on the interplay between human creativity and ideas and intellectual property, knowledge and technology. Essentially it is the knowledge-based economic activities upon which creative industries are based.


Saudi Arabia calls on Syria to comply with chemical weapons watchdog

Saudi Arabia calls on Syria to comply with chemical weapons watchdog
Updated 15 sec ago

Saudi Arabia calls on Syria to comply with chemical weapons watchdog

Saudi Arabia calls on Syria to comply with chemical weapons watchdog

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has urged Syrian authorities to cooperate with the chemical weapons watchdog and implement all decisions related to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The Kingdom’s position on the matter was reiterated by the Saudi permanent representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ziyad Al-Attiyah.

He said: “The use of chemical weapons and toxic chemicals as weapons anywhere by any person and under any circumstances is reprehensible and completely contradicts the provisions of the convention and the legal rules and standards of the international community.”

His comments came during the 26th session of the Conference of the States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention on Thursday in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

Al-Attiyah also highlighted the importance his country attached to implementing its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, believing in its objectives, and based on its consistent policy to strengthen cooperation to ban weapons of mass destruction and prevent their spread.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia was keen to help free the Middle East of all WMDs, a move that would increase international peace and security.

Al-Attiyah thanked the organization’s director general, Fernando Arias, for his efforts toward the cause, adding that the Kingdom would be supporting his reappointment for a second term.


Civilians among 10 dead in north Iraq attack blamed on Daesh: officials

Civilians among 10 dead in north Iraq attack blamed on Daesh: officials
Updated 48 min 43 sec ago

Civilians among 10 dead in north Iraq attack blamed on Daesh: officials

Civilians among 10 dead in north Iraq attack blamed on Daesh: officials
  • The jihadists attacked the village of Khidir Jija, south of Irbil

IRBIL: At least three civilians and seven Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been killed in northern Iraq in an attack blamed on the Daesh jihadist group, the forces said Friday.
The jihadists attacked the village of Khidir Jija, south of Irbil, killing three civilians, a statement said. The peshmerga, Kurdistan’s armed forces, launched an operation in response, and seven fighters died when “an explosive device planted by Daesh elements” blew up.


Iran nuclear talks to break on Friday with formal meeting

Iran nuclear talks to break on Friday with formal meeting
Updated 57 min 47 sec ago

Iran nuclear talks to break on Friday with formal meeting

Iran nuclear talks to break on Friday with formal meeting
  • The Iranian official said the meeting would be held around noon (11:00 GMT)
DUBAI/VIENNA: The current round of indirect talks between Iran and the United States on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which began this week, will end on Friday with a formal meeting of the remaining parties to the deal, European and Iranian officials said.
The meeting of Iran, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China is in a format known as the Joint Commission which has bookended previous rounds of talks. The Iranian official said the meeting would be held around noon (11:00 GMT). The aim is to resume the talks next week, the European diplomat said.

UN says Daesh committed war crimes at Iraqi prison

UN says Daesh committed war crimes at Iraqi prison
Updated 03 December 2021

UN says Daesh committed war crimes at Iraqi prison

UN says Daesh committed war crimes at Iraqi prison
  • ‘At least 1,000 predominantly Shiite prisoners were systematically killed’
  • Daesh fighters seized Iraqi cities and declared a self-styled caliphate in a large swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014

UNITED NATIONS: The head of a UN team investigating atrocities in Iraq said that Daesh extremists committed crimes against humanity and war crimes at a prison in Mosul in June 2014, where at least 1,000 predominantly Shiite Muslim prisoners were systematically killed.
Christian Ritscher told the UN Security Council on Thursday that evidence collected from mass graves containing the remains of victims of executions carried out at Badush Central Prison and from survivors shows detailed preparations of the attack by senior Daesh members followed by an assault on the morning of June 10 that year.
“Prisoners captured were led to sites close to the prison, separated based on their religion and humiliated,” he said. “At least 1,000 predominantly Shiite prisoners were then systematically killed.”
Ritscher said the investigators’ analysis of digital, documentary, survivors and forensic evidence, including Daesh documents, has identified a number of members from the extremist group, also known as IS or ISIL, who were responsible for the crimes.
As a result of the investigations, he said the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes committed by the Daesh group in Iraq has concluded that Daesh committed “crimes against humanity of murder, extermination, torture, enforced disappearances, persecution and other inhumane acts” at Badush prison as well as the “war crimes of willful killing, torture, inhumane treatment, and outrage upon personal dignity.”
Daesh fighters seized Iraqi cities and declared a self-styled caliphate in a large swathe of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014. The group was formally declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 following a three-year bloody battle that left tens of thousands dead and cities in ruins, but its sleeper cells continue to launch attacks in different parts of Iraq.
In May, Ritscher’s predecessor Karim Khan told the council that investigators had found “clear and compelling evidence” that Daesh extremists committed genocide against the Yazidi minority in 2014. He also said the militant group successfully developed chemical weapons and used mustard gas.
Ritscher hailed the “landmark moment” two days ago that saw the first-ever conviction of a Daesh member for the crime of genocide at the regional court in Frankfurt, Germany. The 29-year-old Iraqi was also convicted of crimes against humanity, war crimes and bodily harm resulting in death over the death of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl he had purchased as a slave with her mother and then chained up in the hot sun to die.
“We now have the chance, collectively, to make such prosecutions the norm, not a celebrated exception,” Ritscher said. “In cooperation with Iraqi authorities and those of the Kurdistan region, together with survivors and with the support of this council, we are building the evidence that can deliver meaningful justice for all those who suffered from ISIL crimes in Iraq.”
Ritscher said evidence collected relating to the Badush prison attacks underlined the detailed planning by Daesh in carrying out their atrocities.
The extremist group’s approach “is seen even more clearly in two other key lines of investigation that have accelerated in the last six months: the development and use of chemical and biological weapons by ISIL, and the financial mechanisms through which it sustained its campaign of violence,” he said.
The team’s evidence also “shows that ISIL clearly identified and then seized chemical production factories and other sources of precursor material, while also overtaking the University of Mosul campus as a hub for research and development,” Ritscher said.
The extremist group’s program became more sophisticated and investigators have identified more than 3.000 victims of Daesh chemical weapons attacks as well as its use of rocket artillery projectiles containing a mustard sulfur agent, he said.
In his next briefing to the Security Council, Ritscher said he will present the team’s findings on Daesh’s use of chemical weapons including the crimes it committed.
He also stressed the critical importance of bringing the Daesh’s financiers and those who profit from the group’s crimes to justice.
Ritscher said investigators have uncovered the inner workings of the Daesh central treasury and a network of senior leaders who also acted “as trusted financiers, diverting wealth that Daesh gained through pillage, theft of property from targeted communities and the imposition of a systematic and exploitative taxation system imposed on those living under ISIL control.”
He said the team recently shared information with the Iraqi judiciary on the use of money service businesses by the group “as key facilitators of their financing,” and it looks forward to expanding this kind of cooperation.


Hashemite kingdom’s Expo 2020 Dubai provides an authentic Jordanian experience

Hashemite kingdom’s Expo 2020 Dubai provides an authentic Jordanian experience
Updated 03 December 2021

Hashemite kingdom’s Expo 2020 Dubai provides an authentic Jordanian experience

Hashemite kingdom’s Expo 2020 Dubai provides an authentic Jordanian experience
  • Pavilion tells the story of the Hashemite kingdom from both the cultural and economic standpoints
  • Jordan has been hosting events designed to promote trade, cultural understanding and stimulate tourism

DUBAI There are two main types of pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai: “Self-build” pavilions that were funded by the participating nations themselves, and those that either received financial assistance from, or were fully built by, the expo.

Despite an unassuming exterior, Jordan’s pavilion — which sits within an expo-built structure at the heart of the Mobility District — is a must-see.

This standard style of fitted pavilion has been transformed into a unique space filled with varying textures and experiences. The resultant atmosphere is inviting, stylish and sensory.

As soon as they enter the reception area, visitors are welcomed to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. A relief display outlines the country’s territory and highlights the significance of its position between Turkey to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south.

Jordan’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai captures the sights and sounds of the country through interactive, multimedia exhibits. (Supplied)

From there, visitors walk down a winding wooden path called the Siq, with every step on their journey accompanied by multimedia effects and sounds. In Jordan, the Siq is the pathway through rock canyons that marks the entrance to the Nabataean city of Petra, which was built 2,500 years ago.

The Siq at Expo 2020 Dubai is a 30-meter, wooden sided path that leads to the pavilion’s main exhibition stage. Here, visitors are invited to enjoy a one-of-a-kind, authentic Jordanian experience that will stimulate all of their senses.

At the end of the pathway, they are greeted by a series of tassel curtains that they must walk through to enter a room bustling with light and sound. It is alive with images of Jordanian landmarks and attractions, including Wadi Rum, The Dead Sea, archaeological sites and lush green landscapes.

In a matter of minutes, visitors can get a taste of the finest experiences Jordan offers, from the lowest land-based point on Earth, on the shores of the Dead Sea, to the highest viewpoints across the country.

For a more immersive experience, they can put on a headset and explore the country in virtual reality.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the exhibition space at their leisure and fully engage with the displays. Every element includes an interactive or sensory element. The highlight is an audio-visual journey that introduces the country’s treasures, past and present.

A PAVILION FOR EVERY NATION

Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to adopt a “One Nation, One Pavilion” approach, which means each of the 192 participating countries has its own pavilion.

This gives them the chance to showcase their national identities, stories, innovations and future strategies in dedicated spaces assigned to one of three key, themed districts devoted to a particular concept: Sustainability, Mobility or Opportunity. This gives visitors a chance to fully experience the beauty and culture of every participating nation.

To make the “One Nation, One Pavilion” goal a reality, host country the UAE set up an assistance fund to support the participation of countries that otherwise might not have been able to justify the cost.

Countries that received assistance were carefully selected based on criteria such as level of development, income and geography, with smaller landlocked countries and island nations given special consideration.

As a result Expo 2020 Dubai features two main types of pavilions: “Self-build” structures that were fully funded by the participating nations themselves, and those fully or partly funded by the expo.

Self-build pavilions vary in size, are spread across the expo site, and are accessible from the main concourses. They are large and diverse, featuring unique facades adorned with national symbols and branding. The largest of these pavilions belong to the UAE, China and India.

The structures built by, or with assistance from, the expo are more similar in external appearance, and surrounded by courtyards or exhibition spaces. The eligible developing countries were provided with a fully fitted pavilion of their own, complete with internal finishing, fittings and basic furnishings, situated at the heart of one of the themed zones to ensure high visibility.

Illuminated fields are projected onto the floor, and when stepped on they change shape and trigger the sounds of traditional Jordanian song and musical instruments, including the oud, nai and tabla.

The role of an expo pavilion, whatever its shape, size or design, is to tell the story of the country it represents from the cultural and economic standpoints.

While some of the interactive displays that help to do this in Jordan’s pavilion are fun and immersive, others provide more specialized, technical information on a range of business topics, including the country’s economy, its agenda for entrepreneurship and policies for female empowerment.

Despite an unassuming exterior, Jordan’s pavilion — which sits within an expo-built structure at the heart of the Mobility District — is a must-see.

Jordan links the content of its pavilion to Expo 2020’s wider, future-focused theme with a display dedicated to the launch of the first Jordanian satellite, CubeSat, which is one of the smallest of its kind.

The innovative design is the product of a cooperative program that partners engineering students at Jordanian universities with experts from NASA, under the supervision of Jordan’s Crown Prince Foundation. It is the first Jordanian venture in the space industry and was of particular interest during Expo 2020’s space-themed week.

Throughout the expo, Jordan will be hosting events designed to promote trade and cultural understanding and to stimulate inbound tourism. On Nov. 12, for instance, the country marked its National Day with a show at the expo featuring traditional music, a military band and other live performances.

Jordan’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai includes a gift shop offering authentic artisan products from the Hashemite kingdom. (Supplied)

After experiencing all that the pavilion has to offer, visitors can browse a gift shop showcasing a wide range of beautiful and unique Jordanian products, including handbags, olive oil and beauty products derived from the minerals of the Dead Sea.

Artisans are on hand to explain the cultural significance of the products, including face masks adorned with the national colors, bracelets made from local turquoise and other natural stones, and tea trays painted and decorated in traditional styles.

A message at the entrance to the pavilion states: “Whatever appeals to you, no doubt you’ll find it in Jordan. This hospitable land was, and still is today, a destination to many who call it home. Its people are known for their generosity and hospitality, making Jordan a visitors’ haven.”

Jordanians who have visited the pavilion told Arab News it lived up to their expectations, capturing not just the sights and sounds but also the spirit of their home country. Visitors are, indeed, likely to find something that appeals to them, they added.