UN report with Abu Dhabi Department of Culture sheds light on pandemic’s effect on arts scene
DUBAI: While lockdowns, postponements and cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seem largely over, socio-economic upheavals are still factored in – and the international arts and culture scene is just one of many sectors that have been shaken.
A new report published by UNESCO in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism (DTC) Abu Dhabi, entitled “Culture in the time of COVID-19 resilience, recovery and renewal” , explores the main global trends that have reshaped the cultural sector due to COVID -19 and provides solutions for its revival.
Research for the report began in September 2021 when DCT partnered with UNESCO to publish the first global assessment of the impact of COVID-19 across all cultural domains since the advent of the pandemic.
The findings were released at an event late last week in Abu Dhabi, where DCT President Mohamed Al-Mubarak and UNESCO Deputy Director-General Ernesto Ottone Ramirez were present.
“The lockdowns suffered by many countries have destroyed jobs and businesses in the culture sector,” Ramirez told Arab News. “This has had a severe impact on the sector with over 10 million jobs lost in 2020 alone and a 20-40% drop in revenue across the sector.”
Site-based businesses such as theaters and museums – as well as World Heritage sites – have been hit hard.
“UNESCO has reported that around 90% of museums and cultural institutions have closed around the world and that around 90% of countries have had their World Heritage sites fully or partially closed in 2020,” he said. added.
“Many artists and cultural professionals have lost their livelihoods; pre-existing inequalities have deepened – including for women and girls – further amplifying social and economic insecurities. These impacts have led key policy makers and culture professionals to rely more heavily on the social and economic role of culture as a pathway to recovery,” the report states.
The cultural and creative industries, as well as artists, have also suffered greatly, Ramirez and the report point out. “The estimate is that in 2020, there was a contraction of $750 billion in the gross value added generated by cultural and creative industries globally, compared to 2019,” he told Arab News. “We need strong policies that support these industries and artists. Artists and cultural professionals should now not only be adequately recognized, but also appropriately credited for their work and contribution.
It is also essential to recognize the importance of museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites.
“Not only do they preserve heritage, but they provide equal access to culture and ensure vital education, social inclusion, cultural diversity and well-being,” Ramirez said.
As the culture sector begins to recover, what the pandemic has taught actors in the field is that it cannot move forward in today’s world without developing and sustaining a collective ecosystem.
“This includes data-driven policies, inter- and intra-sector collaboration, economic investments, infrastructure, regulations, socio-economic support and capacity building,” Ramirez explained.
Fundamentally, he stressed, “if we want to preserve our culture, we must ensure the continuity of its creation by helping artists and professionals to adapt to a changing world; ensuring equal access and opportunities along the cultural value chain; provide social protection and fair compensation for all; harness technological change to support innovation and facilitate a diversity of cultural expressions.
The cultural sector, even in its weakened state, has caused many to question what they value and prioritize. Cultivating in this light is often a source of comfort, connection, and beauty for many. Take it away and we lose a vital part of our well-being and our communication with others.