Unesco conference sees culture declared 'global public good' by 150 states

Mondiacult 2022 brought together nearly 2,600 participants in Mexico to agree a multilateral and governmental approach to cultural affairs

Officials from some of the 150 states attending the Mondiacult 2022 culture conference in Mexico City pose for the official picture. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Unesco's Mondiacult 2022 conference in Mexico has seen 150 states including the UAE adopt a historic declaration pledging to treat culture as a “global public good”.

The largest global conference devoted to culture in the past 40 years brought together nearly 2,600 participants over three days in Mexico City.

At Unesco's and Mexico’s invitation, 150 states sent delegations to the conference — 135 of them represented by ministers of culture.

“Culture has a fundamental role in our societies,” said Unesco director general Audrey Azoulay.

“Through culture people can discover their common humanity and become free and enlightened citizens.

“Yet, despite progress, it still does not have the place it deserves in public policies and international cooperation.

“Mondiacult 2022 has sent a powerful signal to change this. The declaration adopted today is a commitment to action.”

The mass adoption is the product of 10 months of multilateral negotiations and sees countries affirm for the first time that culture is a “global public good”.

Consequently, states call for its inclusion “as a specific objective in its own right” among the next UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The text defines a set of cultural rights that need to be considered in public policies.

These include the social and economic rights of artists, artistic freedom, the right of indigenous communities to safeguard and transmit their ancestral knowledge and the protection and promotion of cultural and natural heritage.

It also calls for substantial regulation of the digital sector, notably of the major platforms, for the benefit of online cultural diversity, artists’ intellectual property rights and fair access to content for all.

Cultural property rights

In the declaration, governments also commit to intensify the fight against illicit trafficking in cultural goods through increased international co-operation.

It calls on art market operators not to attempt to sell objects where the provenance is not clear.

The declaration also calls for the protection of vulnerable, often unlisted, archaeological sites and seeks to prevent illegal excavations and looting.

it mandates Unesco to propose standard-setting instruments to meet these challenges.

Ms Azoulay also announced the creation of a virtual museum of stolen cultural property by Unesco and Interpol, helping people learn about the history of these works. It will be up and running by 2025.

World cultural forum every four years

From 2025 onwards, a World Forum on Cultural Policies will be organised by Unesco every four years.

Its debates will be informed by a world report on cultural policies which the organisation will produce.

According to Unesco data, the cultural and creative sector is one of the most powerful engines of development worldwide.

It accounts for more than 48 million jobs globally — almost half of which are held by women — representing 6.2 per cent of all employment and 3.1 per cent of global gross domestic product.

The sector also employs and provides opportunities for the largest number of young people under the age of 30.

Updated: September 30, 2022, 7:27 PM