Speaking at the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Culture in Varanasi, India, Salem Al Qassimi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, called on global partners to collaborate to address climate challenges through culture and creativity.
The comments come as the UAE prepares to host the Cop28, which will focus on the importance of co-operation and inclusivity to mitigate environmental damage.
Addressing the far-reaching impact of climate change, Al Qassimi said: “Today, across the world, cultural heritage is in jeopardy because of climate change.
“Historic sites provide a poignant reminder of our unique cultural identities. Without them, that connection risks being slowly eroded over time, also resulting in the damage to the practice and transmission of living heritage from one generation to another,” he added.
While celebrating the G20 Culture Working Group’s emphasis on the role of culture in promoting co-operation between nations, Al Qassimi also pointed to the UAE’s own commitment to reducing disparities and fostering stronger south-south co-operation.
He illustrated this point with the example of the UAE’s partnership with the African World Heritage Fund to support conservation and protection of cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value in Africa.
In a previous interview with The National, Al Qassimi explained the importance of such co-operative projects.
“The UAE and Africa share long-standing ties,” he said. “In the last decades we have reinforced our historical and cultural ties with the continent. Africa shares common heritage with the Middle East and deep-rooted links in the field of trade, culture, history and the Arabic language.”
“This priority not only raises expectations from African countries, but also hopes from other countries, like ours,” he added.
Other examples cited in his Varanasi speech include the UAE’s partnerships with Unesco to rebuild the heritage sites of Mosul, and its leading role in the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas, which has already financed nearly 180 projects.
Al Qassimi also discussed the UAE’s efforts to create a robust cultural and creative ecosystem in the country through institutions. "The UAE National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries aims to enhance the growth of cultural and creative industries and increase their contribution to 5 per cent of the national GDP by 2031,” he said.
He cited examples, including the UAE’s partnership with Wipo to measure the economic contribution of copyright-based industries towards the creative economy, as well as the creative economy’s contribution to GDP. He also pointed to the country's new National Grant Programme for Creativity and Culture, emphasising that the UAE's focus on empowering cultural practitioners aligned with the priorities of the G20.
Al Qassimi concluded his speech, stating: “As we approach Cop28, taking place in Expo City in Dubai, we look forward to meeting you again to move forward with sentiments shared in the Culture Working Group and take collective action in highlighting the intersection between culture and climate and the role the creative industry plays in climate action.”