The UCLG committee on Culture and the City of Rome have published a statement on the need to recognise, incorporate, and support cultural concerns.
I thought this to be an eye-opener as well as a wake-up call. when thinking of how to resolve a crisis, we often look at infrastructure or at revising certain systems (healthcare, public transport etc.).
Only after reading the following paragraphs did I realize that culture, in the broadest sense, is a crucial part of the response as well.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge requiring an unprecedented
response. All actors can and should play their part, not least the cultural communities,
sectors, actors and agents.
Clearly, the primary concern must be health. We would like to extend our thanks to all
those working in the frontlines, in particular the hospitals, public health teams and
elsewhere in the health sector who are doing so much to care for the ill and protect
the well now, as well as all other essential service providers.
Alongside them, artists, creators and culture professionals, as well as organisations
in the culture sector, have a fundamental role in promoting well-being and resilience
in individuals and communities, guarantee access to information, encourage
awareness, tolerance and build the capacities to imagine the societies of the future,
which are already in formation due to the ongoing global upheaval.
The cultural communities have responded. There have been countless initiatives to
boost access and engagement and to create together new expressions, meanings and
energies. They have all underlined the impressive power of culture to build healthy,
resilient communities and improve well-being for all.
Yet we also need to think about the future. Even when the pandemic is declared over,
the scars will remain. The challenges that the 2030 Agenda seeks to address are still
here. Some have become more challenging still.
Now more than ever, we need to recognise, incorporate, and support cultural concerns
in our response to the crisis and planning for the recovery.
We believe that in doing so, we can contribute to ensuring that the crisis does not
exacerbate the already high levels of inequality at the global level and often within
national borders. This can particularly affect older people, minorities, women and
girls, indigenous peoples and those with less access to health and other basic public
services and economic resources. Appropriate cultural responses at the global,
regional and domestic levels can take this reality into account, and place equality and
non-discrimination at the centre.
We must also strengthen the global mindset and international cooperation that
are critically needed, faced with the risk of closed borders and divisions in the
international community. At the global level, appropriate resources and collaboration
mechanisms including cultural cooperation, should recognise existing barriers and
seek to address them.
Overall, responses to this pandemic should aim to be inclusive and look at a broader
framework of inequality and challenges to sustainable development, including climate
change and disaster risk reduction. The assertion that nothing will be the same in
the aftermath of the crisis is becoming commonplace, and there is a call to rethink
the way we live, work, produce, consume and relate to nature. But we too often fail
to realise that culture is both a source of inspiration and a means of realising our
thoughts and ideas, that culture makes it possible to mend the social fabric, to forge
new forms of solidarity, to create new spaces in which to draw the energy needed to
meet together the intense challenges facing us.
We have an opportunity to build back better, designing policies that allow culture to
fulfil its role as the fourth pillar of sustainable development. Doing so will provide a
more comprehensive frame to understand our world and make for stronger, more
innovative, more tolerant and more resilient communities tomorrow.
Conversely, failing to support culture in this time of crisis will result in potentially
irreversible losses to creators, artists and cultural professionals, who already often do
not benefit from adequate protections, as well as damage to many cultural practices,
resources and organisations. This risks triggering a considerable deterioration in the
richness and diversity in all manifestations of culture – from heritage sites, museums,
libraries and archives to traditional practices and contemporary cultural expressions
– and the ability of culture to contribute to a better future.
Too often, in the past culture has been the first to be compromised in budget
allocations and the most heavily affected economically and financially. We cannot
accept that this happens again..”