Forum inspires Asia-Pacific cultural cooperation

The city of Dhaka welcomed the Ministerial Forum with much enthusiasm © Charles Vallerand

More and more countries in Asia-Pacific are investing in cultural industries as a key part of their socioeconomic progress. A timely three-day forum in May, organized by the Bangladesh Ministry of Cultural Affairs, brought representatives of 33 countries together in Dhaka. The focus was on exchanging experiences and exploring how UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions can further boost cultural industries and international cooperation in the region.

The Forum concluded with the adoption of the Dhaka Ministerial Declaration on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. This landmark statement provides a foundation for future collaboration among participating countries.

Through plenary sessions and discussions, ministers of culture, experts and civil society representatives shared information and knowledge on a range of topics. These included: cultural policies and programmes, ways of growing cultural industries, as well as the successes and challenges they face in promoting and protecting the diversity of cultural expressions. Also on the agenda was weaving culture into sustainable development programmes, and the value of involving stakeholders when it comes to governance for culture.

Opened by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, the high-profile event was widely covered by the national media and created a momentum across the cultural sector. “I believe this Forum … will further the cause of tolerance, democracy, human rights, and cumulative cooperation …,” Ms. Hasina stated in her address.

Supported by the International Fund for Cultural Diversity, the event also called on UNESCO to take three actions: help implement the Dhaka Declaration; foster regional cooperation among networks of cultural industries professionals; and step-up awareness efforts about the Convention among Asia-Pacific countries so as to encourage its ratification. Already, UNESCO regional offices are marshaling resources to help meet these goals.

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova was the event’s guest of honor. With cultural and creative industries making up more than 3% of global GDP and growing at a rapid rate, she expressed “cultural diversity holds keys to releasing the creative energies societies need today.”

By participating in the forum and unanimously adopting the Dhaka Declaration, Asia-Pacific nations proved their commitment to promoting cultural and creative industries and to strengthening regional cooperation in this area.

The resulting Declaration is a practical and important step forward, said Danielle Cliche, Secretary of the Convention, who also attended the forum. “The conversation started in Dhaka is essential for the Convention’s vision to promote universal engagement,” she noted.

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