An initiative by non-governmental organization, Acte SEPT, is fostering a platform for dialogue on culture between the government and civil society in Mali. A national congress organized by the NGO brought together some 370 Malian cultural actors to discuss the implementation of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
Mali ratified the Convention in 2006, yet awareness and understanding remained limited. To help overcome this, Acte SEPT organized the event in Bamako in April 2012 involving members of cultural organizations, government representatives and diverse regional delegates. As a result, Malian civil society and local governments have created an action plan and activities that will lead towards a more transparent policy-making and more equal opportunities for local artists.
Mahamadou B. Touré, Secretary of Tangible and Intangible Heritage of the Regional Coalition of Gao, said that the Congress was the first of its kind. “It brought all Malian men and women in the field of culture together … They are informed and they assert ownership and commitment to participate in the Convention’s full implementation in the country,” he said. At the meeting, representatives from eight regions and one district debated issues and established regional coalitions for cultural diversity, in which civil society can play a greater role.
As part of the event, participants also agreed on the rules of procedure and a national action plan for the Malian Coalition for Cultural Diversity (CMDC) – an institution that allows artists and cultural professionals join efforts to promote the diversity of cultural expressions.
Following the event, additional meetings were held in five regions, which resulted in the creation of a list of requirements for developing cultural polices in the regions. Yusuf Goundiam, Secretary to the Organization in the Regional Coalition of Ségou, said: “The project allowed me to escape my isolation at the local level.”
5,000 copies of the Convention, translated into the local Bambara language, were distributed free of charge. An audiocassette and a CD narration of the Convention text were also produced as an innovative means to raise awareness about the Convention.
By widely disseminating the Convention, Mali has fostered greater understanding within the cultural sector and among civil society. It has also improved understanding in how to design local cultural policies and infrastructure that enable the creation, production and distribution of creative works.
Acte SEPT President, Adama Traoré, said that learning about the Convention provided participants a concrete basis to work with. “The heart of this commitment will be translated into action plans to be produced by each regional coalition,” he explained.