The third panel of the Regional Conference “Pan-African Perspectives for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” (9 and 10 October 2019) focused on the participation of civil society in the development of public policies in Africa. It brought together Annie Ngo Njock Njock Njock (CODEC), Mohamed Diakité (Malian Coalition for Cultural Diversity), Josh Nyapimbi (Nhimbe Trust), Malik Chaoui (GTPCA), Daves Guzha (Arterial Network).
- The first speakers of the panel, Annie Ngo Njock Njock, cultural engineer and Secretary General of the Collective of Cultural Experts and Entrepreneurs (CODEC) and Mohamed Diakité, expert in cultural management and communication and administrator of the Malian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, presented the situation in Cameroon and Mali.
Their analysis was based on a questionnaire submitted in both countries to civil society cultural organizations. On the basis of the replies to this questionnaire, some meetings, and a review of existing documentation on this subject (in particular, in Mali, the framework document defining the country’s cultural policy), Annie Ngo Njock Njock and Mohamed Diakité showed that, in both countries, there is a real involvement of civil society in the adoption of cultural policies. However, this involvement is still low and could be much higher. There are many expectations on the part of civil society actors towards the government for better consideration of their concerns and better involvement in public policy making processes. There is a general impression that initiatives in favour of culture most often remain at the level of actors, locally, but that they have difficulty accessing the political level.
– In Mali, cultural policy is multiannual and the Ministry of Culture opted for a participatory approach. The contribution of cultural actors has been taken into account. However, some actors are more involved than others.
– In Cameroon, there is a special allocation account to support the arts and culture sector, but this remains insufficient (out of a budget of 4 billion CFA francs for culture, only 1 billion goes to artists and professionals in the sector). There are also laws, implementing decrees, copyright collective societies, but the latter often have funding and management problems.
- Josh Nyapimbi, Director General of the Nhimbe Trust, then shared his experience and thoughts on the drafting of the quadrennial periodic reports on the implementation of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
It is not always easy to implement the 2005 Convention in some countries; nor is it easy to report on what has been implemented. This was explained by Josh Nyapimbi in his presentation, which focused on the challenges of writing the quadrennial reports provided by countries. Several difficulties are to be noted:
- There is a governance problem in some countries with a lack of civil society trust in governments and vice versa. There is also a division between Western and non-Western countries, both politically and economically. The money available to African civil society often comes from external aid, which is not the case in other parts of the world.
- It is difficult to assess the exchange of cultural goods and services in the absence of data. Data is the new global gold and is increasingly being privatized. In the absence of publicly available data, it will no longer be possible to have a realistic picture of what is happening in the field.
- The integration of culture into sustainable development objectives is an important issue. The challenge of climate change is central, but not all members of civil society have the same priorities in this area. Again, there are differences between regions.
- The promotion of human rights and freedoms is also a major challenge. We must account for what is happening in terms of artistic freedom. But this is not always easy because critical issues are censored by states.
Josh Nyapimbi said he was in favour of a “shadow report”. He explained that the reports submitted to UNESCO are far from reflecting reality and that it would therefore be essential to have a report on what is actually happening in the countries.
*In the Lomé Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, participants at the regional conference, and in particular organizations from countries of the South, called for the need to prepare alternative reports.
- Third speaker, Malik Chaoui, a cultural actor, presented the Algerian context and the actions of the Groupe de Travail sur la Politique Culturelle en Algérie (GTPCA) (Working Group on Cultural Policy in Algeria).
Almost sixty years after its independence, Algeria still does not have a cultural policy. The members of the GTPCA decided to fill this gap by drafting a policy themselves. Taking into consideration all the dimensions related to the cultural sector, some 100 artists, writers, cultural activists, journalists and students undertook a consultation process in 2011, which led to the publication in 2013 of a “Cultural Policy for Algeria”, published online on the GTPCA website. Consisting of clear principles and concrete recommendations, this e-participatory project aims to provide Algeria with a policy that will allow the development of the arts and culture.
Malik Chaoui also mentioned other activities of the GTPCA:
- Six training workshops that were organized to strengthen the capacities and skills of cultural actors;
- The next Forum on Culture, which will make it possible to make a precise assessment of the Algerian cultural sector and will give rise to a report by the GTPCA;
- The creation of a cultural map of Algeria (www.culturemap-dz.org) launched in 2015 to identify the places, links and resources available, promote local talents, enable networking of actors and facilitate their mobility. The database of this platform is continuously updated and each person can register and share information freely.
Malik Chaoui then spoke about the cultural context in Algeria. The culture budget fell by 8% between 2017 and 2018, from the equivalent of $145 million in 2017 to $132.7 million in 2018. The sector has lost 70% of its public funding in recent years. The 2005 Convention was not ratified until 2015. Since February 2019, the country has experienced major demonstrations against corruption. There is a real call for cultural renewal and a willingness to have a new cultural policy.
- Daves Guzha, President of Arterial Network, presented Arterial’s experience with the African Union and the case of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
An Action Plan on Cultural and Creative Industries in Africa was adopted in Dakar in 1992 and updated in 2008. In October 2018, Arterial Network was approached by the African Union to update this action plan for the creative industries. The objective is to align this action plan with the challenges of the 21st century (copyright, digital issues, etc.). This plan is supposed to be a roadmap for civil society, but Daves Guzha found that of all the organizations present at the Congress, only two have heard of its existence. In January 2019, many requests were sent to individual African countries for data; most countries provided these data but others never responded. This roadmap will define priorities for the next ten years and Daves Guzha deplored the lack of response from some countries. From November 6 to 9, 2019, the Arterial Network team will meet to finalize this action plan. The document will then be shared with all governments and submitted for adoption in February 2020, at the 13th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Daves Guzha explained that this plan was developed by cultural professionals who conducted a broad analysis. He welcomed the fact that, for the first time, Arterial Network had succeeded in establishing a link between civil society and the African Union.
Daves Guzha then spoke about the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) that was negotiated by the African Union. It entered into force in May 2019 and defines the African Continental Free Trade Area. Two months ago, artists and creators met in Kigali. There is a willingness on the part of some groups to accelerate the implementation of the agreement in relation to the technology and creativity sectors. Arterial Network will launch a call in the coming weeks to analyse the trade agreement. In each region (five in total) an expert will examine the clauses of the agreement and the issues it raises. When asked about the cultural exemption clauses and the scope of the agreement on the diversity of cultural expressions, Daves Guzha said he would share information and contextualization with the IFCCD secretariat.
Arterial Network is also working with the African Union on Africa Day on May 20. Several artists will be invited by Arterial and the African Union on this occasion. Daves Guzha also presented Artwatch Africa, another Arterial Network project that will be launched on November 25, 2019. This is a new approach that aims to encourage dialogue between artists and with those who develop cultural policies.
With the support of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, the Union Économique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine (UEMOA), the Togolese Coalition for Cultural Diversity, the French Coalition for Cultural Diversity, the Coalition for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (Canada), the Austrian Coalition for Cultural Diversity, the Government of Togo, the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec, the National Commission of the Francophonie in Togo.