Mauritius International Meeting (MIM) Plenary Panel on Culture

[Disponible en anglais uniquement]

As part of the preparations for the MIM, UNESCO proposed through its Focal Point this plenary panel to UN-New York and was subsequently invited to take the lead in its organization. Under the leadership of the Culture Sector, the panel on the ‘Role of Culture in the Sustainable Development of SIDS’ was planned with a view to examining the broad, holistic definition of culture embraced by UNESCO. The Plenary Panel took place on 11 January 2005. It featured experts in small-island cultural development, who were invited to provide incisive viewpoints from their specific fields and propose concrete actions for follow-up and consideration by Ministerial Round Tables later in the week.

With Rachmat Witoelar (State Minister for Environment of Indonesia) as Chair, an introductory presentation by the Moderator (Dame Pearlette Louisy, Governor-General of St Lucia, specialist in comparative education) was followed by contributions from five panellists:

  • Philippe la Hausse de Lalouvière, President of the Société de l'Histoire de l'Ile Maurice (the largest historical NGO in Mauritius) and chairperson of the National Heritage Fund Board;
  • Adi Meretui Ratunabuabua, Principal Cultural Development Officer with the Fiji Government Ministry of Fijian Affairs, Culture and Heritage and Regional Development;
  • Ralph Regenvanu, anthropologist, Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre and member of the Vanuatu National Commission for UNESCO;
  • Keith Nurse, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of International Relations, and coordinator of the post-graduate diploma in Arts and Cultural Enterprise Management, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Sydney Bartley, Director of Culture at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture in Jamaica, involved in activities within UNESCO's Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity.

As an ensemble, the panellists provided an overview of the importance of culture for the sustainable development of SIDS, emphasizing the issues of cultural identity and diversity, the protection of the tangible and intangible heritage, the incorporation of local languages and traditional knowledge in formal education, as well as the economic opportunities provided by culture, in particular through cultural industries.

Ten speakers from the floor took part in the ensuing debate, from Barbados, Cook Islands, Fiji, France, Jamaica, Mauritius and Morocco as well as the Caribbean Development Bank and NGO groups representing youth and women. All expressed strong and enthusiastic support for the recognition of culture as an indispensable and all-pervading component of human living and development. Mention was also made of ‘Culture’ as a fourth pillar of sustainable development. Several speakers expressed support for an international normative approach to protect cultural diversity, endorsing the drafting process (currently underway) of a Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Artistic Content. The two-hour panel presentations and discussions are available on video.

Further information is posted on the ‘UNESCO at Mauritius’ web-page, including
- Text of UNESCO information paper on ‘What Role for Culture in the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States?’,
- Official background paper for the panel prepared by UN-New York,
- Synthesis of panellists’ proposed priority actions
- Chairman’s Summary of Discussions.

The insights and suggestions of the panel are being drawn upon by UNESCO and collaborating institutions at the local, national,regional and international levels in contributing to the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy.

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