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Culturelink International Conference

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Cultural Diversity, Civil Society and International Cultural Cooperation in South-East Europe

Zagreb, Croatia, 3-4 June 2013

Conference Report

The 2013 Conference on Cultural Diversity, Civil Society and International Cultural Cooperation in South East Europe, organized jointly by the Culturelink/IRMO and the Centre for Democracy and Law Miko Tripalo, in cooperation with the Croatian Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe (Venice), was held in Zagreb on 3 and 4 June 2013, bringing together representatives of national focal points for the 2005 UNESCO Convention, researchers, professionals, artists, members of the Culturelink Network and other participants from the region of South East Europe and beyond. The event was attended by 55 participants from 16 countries.

Following its adoption and the first round of periodic reports that have been received and analysed by UNESCO, the question of the effective implementation of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005 UNESCO Convention) is more pertinent than ever. The Convention aims to strengthen the link between culture and development, to foster cultural interaction and dialogue, and to establish innovative approaches towards international cooperation and solidarity. It encourages opening towards other cultures, and recognizes and defends the distinctive nature of cultural activities, goods and services as vehicles of identity, values and meaning. The Convention also encourages its signatories from the developed world to offer preferential treatment to artists and cultural workers from developing countries in order to assist the development of their cultural industries. It emphasizes the role and the legitimacy of public/cultural policies in the promotion of cultural diversity, and defines their relations with other international instruments.

The discussions at the Conference were focussed around a set of key issues concerning the implementation of the Convention, aiming to analyse good practices and expectations from the international community. Special attention was paid to the analysis of the information submitted to UNESCO through the periodic reports, with focus on the state of affairs in South East Europe. The conference was structured in four thematic round tables, centring around different levels of intervention: policy-advice and planning, information sharing, operational partnerships, and civil society.

The participants of the Conference were greeted by Ms. Sanja Tišma, Director of the Institute for Development and International Relations; Mr. Goran Radman, President of the Board of the Centre for Democracy and Law Miko Tripalo, coorganizer of the Conference; Mr. Anthony Krause, Head of the Culture Unit of UNESCO's Regional Office for Culture and Science in Europe, Venice, Italy; and Ms. Tamara Perišić, Assistant Minister of Culture of the Ministry of Culture, Republic of Croatia.

Mr. François de Bernard, GERM, France and Dr. Joost Smiers, University of Utrecht, Netherlands introduced the participants to the key concepts related to cultural diversity and the current state of debate. In their analytical, and at moments even provocative introductory speeches, the keynote speakers evoked the history of the cultural diversity debate, from the times of discussing the new world information order, via the decade on Culture and Development, to the negotiations of the Declaration on Cultural Diversity and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, with reference to the relationship of these instruments to other international treaties, including trade agreements. Both speakers insisted on the importance of the continuous mobilization of governments and the civil sector, offering a number of recommendations, aiming to make the Convention as effective as it can be.

Under the title A New Vision: Integrating Cultural Diversity in Sustainable Development Policies, Legal Frameworks, Strategies and Action Plans, the first round table was moderated by Nada Švob-Đokić from the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO), focusing on integrating cultural diversity in sustainable development policies, legal frameworks, strategies and action plans. Danielle Cliche, Chief of the UNESCO Section of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Secretary of the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions gave an exhaustive overview of the main aspects of the Convention, reporting on the most important steps undertaken by UNESCO in order to ensure its effective implementation. Serhan Ada from the Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey explained the difficulties of integrating cultural diversity into Turkey's cultural policy. He underlined the fact that Turkey had not yet ratified UNESCO's Convention, and also pointed out the ideological clash between conservative and liberal currents within the country, which became explicitly evident in the Taksim Square Riots, that were presently taking place. Dona Kolar Panov from the International Balkan University in Macedonia outlined her analysis of the cultural policy of Macedonia by focusing mainly on the specific connections between the Convention and the design of media and communication policies. Arlinda Kondi Toci from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports of Albania and the National Focal Point for the 2005 Convention presented the cultural policy of Albania by highlighting the legislative measures of the Ministry and the mechanisms established to promote and preserve the country's tangible and intangible heritage. Dragoljub Janković from the Ministry of Culture of Montenegro and the National Focal Point for the 2005 Convention outlined the structure of the Montenegrin cultural policy. He emphasized the measures the government was taking through the construction of cultural centres and the financing pensions for self-employed artists.

The second round table, entitled Promoting Cultural Policies: Exchange, Analysis, Dissemination of Information and Awareness Raising and moderated by Jaka Primorac from IRMO, dealt with the promotion of cultural policies through exchange, analysis, dissemination of information and awareness raising. The focus of this round table was on the reporting mechanisms set under Article 19 (sharing of information and expertise concerning data collection and statistics, as well as best practices) and Article 9 of the Convention ("Parties shall provide appropriate information in their reports to UNESCO every four years on measures taken to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions within their territory and at the international level."). Christine M. Merkel from the German National Commission for UNESCO described current international efforts in the implementation of the Convention, and shared her extensive experiences in the monitoring and following-up of the Convention. Paško Bilić and Nina Obuljen Koržinek from IRMO presented an outline of an analysis focused on South East European countries, as compared to selected European countries (including Canada). The purpose of this comparative analysis was to contribute to the reflection on the future mechanisms for the comparative analysis of national reports, in order to be able to assess the strengths and weaknesses in the implementation of the Convention's main goals. Yuriy Vulkovsky from the Foundation for Urban Projects and Research (FUPR) from Bulgaria explained the decline of cultural diversity in his country, owing to economic pressures and the centralization of cultural production and consumption in the capital and a limited number of local centres, which leaves their peripheries completely isolated in this regard. Violeta Simjanovska from PAC Multimedia from Macedonia painted a gloomy picture of the status of cultural diversity in her country, whose cultural policy is blighted by nationalistic manipulations, exemplified by the Skopje 2014 project, that involves the construction of multiple monuments and museums glorifying a heroic past and ignoring the multicultural present.

On the second day the conference opened with the third round table, entitled Strengthening the Diversity of Cultural Expressions: How to Nurture Creativity? and moderated by Daniela Angelina Jelinčić from IRMO. It focused on finding ways to strengthen the diversity of cultural expression and nurture creativity. Participants of this round table were invited to look at the current state of affairs, also with regard to international cooperation, such as framed in articles 12 to 18, to look at the relevant information gathered in the national reports, and to present cases of innovative examples of the implementation of the Convention at country and regional levels. Special emphasis was placed on the reports of representatives of non-governmental organizations from South East Europe, beneficiaries of the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) in 2011/2013, who presented major achievements and challenges in the implementation of their projects and activities in the field of cultural policy and cultural industries. The round table was opened by Asu Aksoy from the Istanbul Bilgi University, who spoke about the role of cultural industries in enhancing the visibility and acceptance of cultural identity groups, and who made a link with the contribution of the 2005 Convention to this idea. Through a number of concrete examples focusing on the cultural policies of Turkey, and Istanbul in particular, she highlighted the importance of the democratisation efforts that nurture diversity. Zaneta Trajkoska from the School of Journalism, Skopje Macedonia and Simona Goldstein from the NGO Knjižni blok from Zagreb, both representing organizations recipients of the IFCD, described the main objectives and results of their two projects. Zaneta Trajkoska spoke about the specific challenges in the development of media policies in Macedonia, while Simona Goldstein presented the results of a study of the book policy in Croatia, accompanied with a set of recommendations for policy reforms. Hristina Mikić, from the Creative Economy Group, Belgrade, Serbia presented the results of her research into assessing the potential of the creative economy in South East Europe in general, and in Serbia in particular.

The fourth round table on Promoting Mobility and Engaging Civil Society was moderated by Biserka Cvjetičanin from IRMO, with the participation of Charles Vallerand of the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity Canada, Diego Gradis of Traditions for Tomorrow, NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee from Switzerland, Ferdinand Richard of the Roberto Cimetta Fund from France; Zoran Galić of VIZART from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Siniša Šešum from the UNESCO Antenna Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The aim of this discussion was to tackle the question of new possibilities of intercultural dialogue, partnerships and networking that are being created by various dynamic forms of transnational and transcultural mobility. Charlles Vallerand and Diego Gradis described different aspects of the work of the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity and the Swiss Coalition for Cultural Diversity, and presented numerous examples of activities of these and other networks in promoting the main goals of the Convention. Ferdinand Richard spoke about several projects aimed at the promotion of mobility which fall under the obligation of the parties to the Convention to grant preferential treatment to artists and cultural goods and services from developing countries. At the end, Siniša Šešum and Zoran Galić presented examples of the involvement of civil society in the region, through examples from Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the discussion that followed after the round table, participants discussed the possibilities for strengthening cooperation, primarily between the countries from South East Europe. In this context, the question was raised whether civil society in South East European countries had an interest in the creation of coalitions for cultural diversity in the countries of the region, and which other forms of civil society participation, including informal networking and consultations, could be envisaged.

At the end of the meeting, UNESCO representative Anthony Krause and IRMO's Aleksandra Uzelac and Nina Obuljen Koržinek gave their concluding remarks and thanked all speakers and participants.

The Conference offered diverse views on the goals, priorities and main challenges of cultural policies in the region of South East Europe and beyond. Through exchanges and discussions the participants gained insight into the development and intensity of, as well as the main obstacles to cultural cooperation in South East Europe. The presentation of specific projects financed by UNESCO, as well as other case studies, enabled the participants to share their views of the impact of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the development of specific cultural policies in the region. The conference participants also raised a number of issues with regard to the monitoring of the Convention, as well as the evaluation and measurement of its impact through national reports. A number of participants expressed their interest in strengthening cooperation through formal and informal networking and establishing collaborative platforms, including the possibility of setting up national Coalitions for Cultural Diversity. Through follow-up research and participation in networking activities, Culturelink/IRMO will invite participants to continue the reflection and exchange on cultural policies in South East Europe within the framework of broader UNESCO consultation processes and initiatives.

In addition to seeing the Mimara Museum, the participants of the Conference had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Broken Relationships, at which the welcome reception was organized. The Conference attracted interest in the Croatian media, including the press and Croatian Radio and Television.