UNESCO Culture Ministers unite on global strategy to help culture in Covid-19 crisis

2020 04 UNESCO Ministers Meeting

More than 140 culture ministers convened by UNESCO on April 22nd have backed a global strategy to help culture and the creative sector survive and recover from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. CISAC has worked in partnership with UNESCO, highlighting the vital part played by authors and authors rights in managing the crisis.

The 5-hour online ministers’ meeting followed the April 15th launch of the ResiliArt movement by UNESCO in partnership with CISAC. ResiliArt is a global initiative to mobilise the creative community and governments in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.  Many ministers expressed support for the ResiliArt, which is now being extended to the national level, with more than 80 movements started in different countries.

Opening the meeting, UNESCO Director General Audray Azoulay emphasised the fragility but also the resilience of the creative sector, citing CISAC President Jean-Michel Jarre:

“Achievements of several decades of cultural policies are now endangered because of the fragility of the cultural sector. Employing around 30 million people worldwide and make 3% of the global GDP, the economic importance of the cultural sector is undeniable and there will be no sustainable economic recovery without it. As Jean-Michel Jarre argued, “culture is a driver for resilience. We are going to need a strong cultural sector after this crisis and must therefore come together to share diagnostics, best practices, and find solutions”

Actions and recommendations

Ministers of Culture highlighted different strategies undertaken by governments around the world, encouraging the sharing of experiences and best practices. 

Recommendations included the creation of a guideline on what kind of policies are required in times like this. Measures were also called for to provide stronger intellectual property protections in the migration of culture to the digital world 

Ministers presented in turn their governments’ responses to the crisis. These include measures to:

1)    Protect the health and safety of the cultural and creative sector. This has been done through the application of precautionary measures such as the cancellation of events.

2)    Guarantee the welfare of artists through 

a)    Government emergency funding/ creation and distribution of special creative funds 

b)    Interest free loans, Tax breaks/relief, cost reduction measures, debt moratorium, extended payment plans

c)    Promotion of cultural appreciation and education through classes, seminars, investment in online library and museum etc.

d)    Provision of online tools to aid artists in creating, producing and sharing their works online

e)    Carrying out of Surveys / creation of cultural archives (audio recordings, visual arts, writings etc) to help acquire first-hand knowledge of the need of each cultural sector and provide targeted aids.

3)    Assure the recovery of the cultural sector through:

a)    Setting aside a budget/financial plan to initiate planned kick-off strategies immediately after the lockdown

b)    Monitoring the impact of rolled out measures

c)    Constantly designing and creating exit strategies

d)    Documenting socio cultural transformations currently taking place. Cultural archives were created to provide an insight into current changes and on what to do in the future (e.g Indonesia)

e)    Legalise/define the professional status of authors to give them immunity to the future crisis and improve their economic status

Role of culture and need for unity

Ministers of Culture reiterated the vital role Culture has played in granting people a safe harbour during this period, and its vital role as a driver towards economic recovery post covid-19. Culture is like a life jacket vital for individual and collective development as well as for social cohesion. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is a global challenge which demands a globally coordinated and supportive response. The pandemic has shown how interdependent societies are and Initiatives must go beyond the borders driven by solidarity and mutual support.

Resilience and new opportunities

Despite the catastrophic impact of Covid-19 on the economic buoyancy of the cultural and creative sector, it has:

  1. created an opportunity for the sector to adjust its practices in new ways, responding to increased consumption of cultural works online. The sector must embrace the digital world and policies should be adapted to extend and protect intellectual property right.
  2. created a more united society, working creatively in its responses. 

Some quotes from Culture Ministers:


A global coordinated response is needed to face a global challenge. Our efforts must go beyond the borders of individual countries. We must help the cultural sector both through economic and social support measures”  


Cultural democracy is at stake and we need to make sure that intellectual property rights are respected. It is up to us as public authorities to ensure that the cultural ecosystem and all of its diversity is maintained throughout this crisis and that it comes out stronger. Creative stakeholders must be at the hearts of the initiatives we undertake


The current crisis shows the major importance of policies supporting cultural sector at all stages of the value chain and confirms the need to integrate culture at the heart of sustainable development policies.”


To revive the cultural sector, we must not only ensure its financial survival but also preserve its wealth and creativity. Giant digital platforms must contribute more to the system from which they are benefitting greatly by ensuring that artists receive the remuneration due to them for the use of their works.”


It is important to recognise the vitality of culture but most importantly, the work that artists do. Investing in the cultural sector is not a waste of resources. We must change that mentality and make it clear that artists are people and their works are valuable.”


In the face of a global pandemic it is essential to have a multilateral response. UNESCO must be the main forum to drive joint initiatives to help us address the impact of the crisis and protect the unique value of culture

For further information directly from UNESCO see here.

The UNESCO-CISAC “ResiliArt” debate continues

Creative communities and policy makers are invited to begin their own ResiliArt movement in their counties and organise debates with their cultural professionals. UNESCO has provided a debate and social media guide to help you launch your own movement.  Results of your debates can be shared with UNESCO to ensure that they are placed on the tables of government representatives.