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UNESCO Yemen ResiliArt Webinar Identifies Support Measures for Young Artists Affected by COVID-19 Crisis

Amid an escalating COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen and loss of jobs among young cultural professionals, UNESCO organized on 18 May 2020 a Yemen ResiliArt webinar, aimed at bringing together young artists and international cultural experts to identify the impact of the crisis on young cultural practitioners and discuss how to build the resilience of livelihoods in the cultural sector. This initiative was organized under the EU-funded project “Cash for Work: Promoting livelihood opportunities for Urban youth in Yemen”, which supports the expansion of revenues and employment opportunities for 4,000 youth in the culture and cultural heritage sectors.

ResiliArt Yemen allowed for an open discussion on how artists have been affected by the crisis, what the impact is likely to be on the state of creativity in Yemeni arts and culture, and the support needed to build future resilience and strengthen solidarity and global professional networks. The webinar benefitted from over 750 viewers and mobilized artists from Yemen and the diaspora, culture experts, influencers, media professionals, donors as well as representatives of UNESCO and the European Union. Speakers included Yemeni visual artist, Asim Abdulaziz; Yemeni filmmaker Mariam al-Dhubhani; film producer and CEO of Yemen Will Triumph Nasser Almang; media activist Ahmed Baidar; social media influencer Mazen Al-Saqqag; cultural practitioner and Executive Director of the Basement Cultural Foundation, Shaima Jamel; as well as Basma El-Husseiny, the founder of Al Mawred Al Thaqafy and Action for Hope and an international expert in promoting culture for social change during the crisis.

Following powerful testimonies from Aden and Sanaa, participants came up with thematic recommendations focussing on the most vulnerable artists and female creators and on the untapped potential of the diaspora. In the context of a large shift of cultural activities and contents to online portals, participants reiterated the importance to exhibit and monetize projects in the digital sphere, while also protecting artists’ copyrights. In this respect, creative collaborative and distribution platforms were explored. Speakers also insisted on the need to reinforce and sustain an independent network of artists from Yemen and the diaspora to support transnational cooperation, exhibit creative contemporary artworks, mutualize funding opportunities and resources, and increase the overall outreach to new audiences.

Attendees have also called for additional financial support through small grants for pilot cultural projects to enable innovative and sustainable business models in the cultural and creative industries and in the performing arts in particular, which can be led by youth and cultural organizations. Many interventions underlined the need to involve the private sector in designing new financing instruments such as crowdfunding, emergency funds for Yemeni artists, as well as preferential treatments charging a percentage (1%) on international development projects targeting Yemen in order to support the culture sector. Those initiatives require increased awareness of the vital role of artists in conflict context and the power of culture as a confidence-building measure for peacebuilding. In this regard, the mobilization of traditional and social media is key to share quality content on arts and to develop new narratives on Yemen.

On the other hand, the debate highlighted the need to articulate funding with tailored capacity building for young artists and long-term mentorship for business development. The lack of contextualized resources, as well as the absence of educational materials in Arabic were identified as a challenge.

Finally, the discussion revealed the need to invest in protecting further the status of Yemeni artists; especially in the context of high unemployment and lack of access to health and basic social services that are exacerbated by the conflict. Legal services and new measures are needed to protect artists’ freedom of expression with the cooperation of social media and activists.

As an immediate follow-up, UNESCO and its partners will continue advocating for the ratification by Yemen of the 2005 Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. UNESCO is also committed to developing a contextualized Yemeni capacity-building toolkit on cultural entrepreneurship in times of crisis; supporting knowledge production on the status of creative industries in Yemen, sustaining and further developing an independent and inclusive network of Yemeni culture professionals, while mobilizing additional partners and donors.

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ResiliArt Campaign

ResiliArt sheds light on the current state of creative industries amidst crisis through an exclusive global discussion with key industry professionals while capturing experiences and voices of resilience from artists – both established and emerging – on social media. Together, it raises awareness about the far-reaching ramification of COVID-19 across the sector and aims at supporting artists during and following the crisis.

Cultural industry professionals are encouraged to join the movement and replicate the ResiliArt series in their respective regions and thematic focus by following publicly available guidelines. The devastation brought to the entire culture value chain will have a long-lasting impact on the creative economy; ResiliArt aims to ensure the continuity of conversations, data sharing, and advocacy efforts long after the pandemic subsides.

For any questions or inquiries about the Resiliart movement, please contact UNESCO at resiliart@unesco.org