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UN report with the Department of Culture in Abu Dhabi highlights the effect of the pandemic on the art scene

DUBAI: While the lockdowns, postponements and cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seem largely in the past, the socio-economic upheaval is still factored in, and the international arts and culture scene is only one of the many sectors that have been reeling. .

A new report published by UNESCO in association with the Department of Culture and Tourism (DTC) of Abu Dhabi, entitled “Culture in times of resilience, recovery and reactivation of COVID-19”, explores the main global trends that have reshaped the sector due to COVID -19 and provides solutions for its reactivation.

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 unveiled during an event late last week in Abu Dhabi, where both DCT President Mohamed Al-Mubarak and Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Deputy Director General of UNESCO, were present.

“The lockdowns experienced by many countries destroyed jobs and businesses in the culture sector,” Ramírez told Arab News. “This had a severe impact on the sector with more than 10 million jobs lost in 2020 alone and a 20 to 40 per cent drop in revenue across the sector.”

Place-based activities such as theaters and museums, as well as World Heritage sites, were hit hard.

“UNESCO reported that around 90 per cent of museums and cultural institutions closed worldwide and around 90 per cent of countries saw their World Heritage sites fully or partially closed in 2020,” it added.

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“Many artists and cultural professionals have lost their livelihood; pre-existing inequities have deepened, including for women and girls, further amplifying social and economic insecurities. These impacts have led leading decision-makers and culture professionals to place even greater trust in the social and economic role of culture as a path to recovery,” the report states.

Cultural and creative industries, as well as artists, also suffered greatly, Ramírez and the report emphasized. “The estimate is that in 2020 there was a contraction of $750 billion in the gross value added generated by the cultural and creative industries globally, relative to 2019,” he told Arab News. “We need strong policies that support these industries and the artists. Artists and cultural professionals must not only be properly recognized going forward, but also duly credited for their work and contribution.”

It is also vital to recognize the importance of museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites.

“Not only do they preserve heritage but they offer equal access to culture and provide vital education, social inclusion, cultural diversity and well-being,” said Ramírez.

While the culture sector is beginning to recover, what the pandemic has taught those in the field is that you cannot move forward in today’s world without developing and sustaining a collective ecosystem.

“This includes data-based policies, inter- and intra-sectoral collaboration, economic investment, infrastructure, regulations, socioeconomic support, and capacity building,” explained Ramírez.

Crucially, he emphasized, “if we want to preserve our culture, we must ensure the continuity of its creation by supporting artists and professionals in adapting to a changing world; providing equal access and opportunities throughout the cultural value chain; guarantee social protection and fair pay for all; take advantage of technological change to support innovation and facilitate a diversity of cultural expressions”.

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The cultural sector, even in its weakened state, has caused many to question what they value and prioritize. Culture in that 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.