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.


Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December
Updated 16 min 43 sec ago

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December

Iran reports 258 coronavirus deaths, highest daily toll since December
  • That brings the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 64,490
  • 21,063 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of identified cases since the pandemic began to 2,070,141

DUBAI: Iran reported 258 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Sunday, the highest daily toll since early December.
That brings the total number of fatalities from the coronavirus to 64,490 in Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV that 21,063 new cases were identified in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of identified cases since the pandemic began to 2,070,141.
“Unfortunately, in the past 24 hours 258 people have died from the virus,” Lari said. State TV said it was the country’s highest daily death toll since Dec. 10.
Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki, in a televised news conference, warned about more fatalities in the coming week if Iranians fail to adhere to health protocols. On Saturday, Tehran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country to curb the spread of a fourth wave of the coronavirus. The lockdown affects 23 of the country’s 31 provinces.
Businesses, schools, theaters and sports facilities have been forced to shut and gatherings are banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday in Iran.


‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility
Updated 11 April 2021

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility

‘Accident’ strikes Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility
  • Behrouz Kamalvandi said there were no injuries nor pollution caused by the incident
  • Iran later called the incident sabotage

TEHRAN: Iran's Natanz nuclear site suffered a problem Sunday involving its electrical distribution grid just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich uranium, state TV reported. It was the latest incident to strike one of Tehran's most-secured sites amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers.
State TV quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran's civilian nuclear program, announcing the incident.
Kamalvandi said there were no injuries or pollution cause by the incident.
The word state television used in its report attributed to Kamalvandi in Farsi can be used for both “accident” and “incident.” It didn't immediately clarify the report, which ran at the bottom of its screen on its live broadcast. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the civilian arm of its nuclear program, did not immediately issue a formal statement about the incident on its website.
Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion in July that authorities later described as sabotage. Israel, Iran's regional archenemy, has been suspected of carrying out an attack there, as well as launching other assaults, as world powers now negotiate with Tehran in Vienna over its nuclear deal.
On Saturday, Iran announced it had launched a chain of 164 IR-6 centrifuges at the plant, injecting them with the uranium gas and beginning their rapid spinning. Officials also began testing the IR-9 centrifuge, which they say will enrich uranium 50 times faster than Iran's first-generation centrifuges, the IR-1. The nuclear deal limited Iran to using only IR-1s for enrichment.
Since then-President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, Tehran has abandoned all the limits of its uranium stockpile. It now enriches up to 20% purity, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. Iran maintains its atomic program is for peaceful purposes, but fears about Tehran having the ability to make a bomb saw world powers reach the deal with the Islamic Republic in 2015.
The deal lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for it limiting its program and allowing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to keep a close watch on its work.


Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays
Updated 11 April 2021

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays

Libya launches COVID-19 vaccination drive after delays
  • The country's healthcare system has been strained by years of political turmoil and violence
  • Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh called it a "blessed day" in the fight against COVID-19 after receiving his shot

TRIPOLI: Libya's new unity government launched a long-delayed COVID-19 vaccination programme on Saturday after receiving some 160,000 vaccine doses over the past week, with the prime minister receiving his jab on live television.
While Libya is richer than its neighbours due to oil exports, the country's healthcare system has been strained by years of political turmoil and violence, and it has struggled to cope during the pandemic.
Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh called it a "blessed day" in the fight against COVID-19 after receiving his shot, without saying which vaccine he had been given. At least 100,000 of the doses that arrived this week were Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
Dbeibeh's interim Government of National Unity was sworn in last month after emerging through a UN-facilitated process with a mandate to unify the country, improve state services and oversee the run-up to a national election in December.
Dbeibeh's government has framed the delivery of vaccines and the national roll-out as evidence that it is improving the lives of ordinary Libyans after replacing two warring administrations that ruled in the east and west of the country.
"Through the political consultations and the efforts of the prime minister, the vaccine is available," said Health Minister Ali Al-Zanati, who has said previously the government had so far ordered enough doses to inoculate 1.4 million of the country's more than six million people.
Libya's National Centre for Disease Control has said more than 400,000 people have registered for vaccination in more than 400 centres around the country.
Libya has recorded more than 166,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 3,000 deaths, though UN envoys have said the true figures are likely far higher.
"I feel sorry that the vaccine arrived late in Libya after thousands were infected. But better late than never," said Ali al-Hadi, a shop owner, adding that his wife had been sick with COVID-19 and recovered.
Many Libyans fear the vaccination campaign could be marred by political infighting or favouritism after years of unrest.
"We hope the Health Ministry will steer away from political conflicts so that services can reach patients," said housewife Khawla Muhammad, 33. 


Suez Canal receives Middle East’s largest dredger

Suez Canal receives Middle East’s largest dredger
A file photo shows a dredger trying to free the Panama-flagged MV Ever Given long vessel across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2021

Suez Canal receives Middle East’s largest dredger

Suez Canal receives Middle East’s largest dredger
  • Its maximum drilling depth is 35 m and the dredger has control, safety and security systems matching the latest standards of international supervisory bodies

CAIRO: Egypt has welcomed the largest dredger of its kind in the Middle East, the “Mohab Mamish,” on board the heavy transport vessel Xiang Rui Kou.

Dredgers are advanced drilling equipment used by the Suez Canal to cleanse the waterway of sand and mud deposits, contributing to its expansion and deepening.

The Suez Canal showed its reliance on dredgers in the rescue and re-float operation of the giant container ship “Ever Given,” which ran aground in the shipping course on March 23. The incident caused the canal’s closure for six days.

Sources said that the dredger, inaugurated by the Dutch IHC Shipyard, would begin its new duties within the Suez Canal fleet soon.

The “Mohab Mamish” has a length of 147.4 meters, a width of 23 m, a depth of 7.7 m, and a draft of 5.5 m. It has a productivity of 3,600 cubic meters of sand per hour over a length of 4 km.

Its maximum drilling depth is 35 m and the dredger has control, safety and security systems matching the latest standards of international supervisory bodies.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority, Osama Rabie, said the “Mohab Mamish” was one of the vessels used to boost the canal’s development and that the dredging fleet was the main pillar in the strategy for developing the canal’s shipping course.

It provided the best guarantee to maintain the canal’s 24-meter depth, allowing the crossing of giant ships with large submersibles.

Rabie added that the canal’s dredging fleet had recently expanded its work, joining in with the development of Egypt’s ports and the disinfection of lakes.

IHC is working on launching another dredger for the Suez Canal called “Hussein Tantawi.” The two dredgers have a combined value of €300 million ($357.06 million).

Rabie also said the authority’s machines would be developed and the tensile strength would be adjusted to carry 250,000 tons, in comparison to the current 160,000 tons to match the tonnage and size of ships crossing the shipping course.


Iran boosts nuclear program in snub to US

Iran boosts nuclear program in snub to US
Updated 11 April 2021

Iran boosts nuclear program in snub to US

Iran boosts nuclear program in snub to US
  • President Hassan Rouhani inaugurates cascades of 164 IR-6 centrifuges and 30 IR-5 devices at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant
  • The new move is a direct challenge to the US, after talks began last week aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal

TEHRAN/JEDDAH: Iran on Saturday started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in breach of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to curb its nuclear program.

The new move is a direct challenge to the US, after talks began last week aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Washington said it had offered “very serious” ideas on rescuing the agreement, which collapsed in 2018 when the US withdrew, but was waiting for Tehran to reciprocate.

Tehran’s response came on Saturday, when President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a cascade of 164 IR-6 centrifuges for producing enriched uranium, as well as two test cascades of 30 IR-5 and 30 IR-6S devices at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, in a ceremony broadcast by state television.

Rouhani also launched tests on the “mechanical stability” of its latest-generation IR-9 centrifuges, and remotely opened a centrifuge assembly factory to replace a plant that was badly damaged in a July 2020 explosion widely attributed to Israel.

Rouhani again underlined at the ceremony, which coincided with Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day, that Tehran’s nuclear program is solely for “peaceful” purposes.

Under the 2015 deal between Tehran and world powers, Iran is permitted to use only “first-generation” IR-1 centrifuges for production, and to test a limited number of IR-4 and IR-5 devices.

When the US withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, Donald Trump reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran, which responded by stepping up its nuclear enrichment to levels prohibited under the JCPOA.

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Iran’s latest move follows an opening round of talks in Vienna Tuesday with representatives of the remaining parties to the deal on bringing the US back into it.

All sides said the talks, in which Washington is not participating directly but is relying on the EU as an intermediary, got off to a good start.

However, US allies in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, believe any revived deal should also cover Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional meddling through proxy militias in Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere.

Iran has demanded that the US lift all sanctions imposed by Trump before it resumes compliance with the JCPOA. The US insists that Iran must act first.

“The United States team put forward a very serious idea and demonstrated a seriousness of purpose on coming back into compliance if Iran comes back into compliance,” a US official said.

But the official said the US was waiting for its efforts to be reciprocated by Iran.

Iran is also demanding an end to all US restrictions, but the JCPOA covers only nuclear sanctions and not US measures taken in response to human rights and terrorism issues.

(With AFP)