Unesco intends to fight against the cultural impoverishment that the web is accelerating

The World Culture Summit in Mexico is committed to protecting and promoting artists’ rights and cultural diversity against the steamroller of search engines and streaming platforms.

Promoting cultural diversity on Netflix, Spotify or YouTube, and fighting against the trafficking of Mayan or Yoruba heritage: these are two of the issues on the table of a world culture summit which is being held from Wednesday to Friday in Mexico City, a first since 1998. The Covid-19 epidemic has once again shown that culture is vital for public health, said summit coordinator Pablo Raphael. “No one would have been able to survive confinement and stress without books, music and cinema“, he explains.

The representatives of 160 countries, including a hundred ministers who have confirmed their presence, must adopt a declaration negotiated for a year at the end of this meeting entitled Mondiacult. The declaration wants to guarantee “artists’ rightson the platforms, said the director general of Unesco Audrey Azoulay, who will inaugurate Mondiacult with the Mexican Minister of Culture Alejandra Frausto. Issue: fight againstthe impoverishment of cultural and linguistic diversity online“, according to the experts who worked on the statement.

Access to the online market for all

The danger? The “artificial intelligence systems” and an “insufficient regulation of algorithms“. It will also be about “unfair remuneration of artists“, and “the uneven concentration of global cultural platforms“. Most are American or European. Unesco wishesthat all artists have access to the online market, that diversity is accepted, and intellectual property is respected“, indicates a source of the organization, without details for the moment on the courses of action.

In the real world and the universe of objects, the Mexico Declaration claims to reinforce “the code of ethics for art dealers“. How? With a “certificate of origin“guaranteeing that the works they sell”were obtained legally“, confided Audrey Azoulay to the Mexican newspaper The Universal. What happiness for the organizing country. Mexico continues to demand the return to the country of its immense Mesoamerican heritage dispersed in Europe and the United States. “My heritage does not sell“, insists the Mexican Minister of Culture, Alejandra Frausto, at each auction in Paris or elsewhere of a Tehotihuacan mask or the statue of a Mayan goddess.

The African Union, for its part, announced the organization of a round table on the nagging question of “restitution of cultural heritageto sub-Saharan countries. Unesco is considering in the same vein for 2025 “a virtual museum of stolen cultural property“, on the eve of this unprecedented meeting for 40 years.

Global public good

In its most political aspects, the Mexico Declaration intends to define culture as a “global public good“by including it”in the next UN Sustainable Development Goals, as was the case for education in 2015“.

Finally, the Mondiacult meeting wants to lead to “a definition of a global corpus of cultural rights“. It’s about “artists’ rights» but also «right of indigenous communities to the transmission of their traditions“says a spokesperson for Unesco. “Indigenous languages ​​are key to saving cultural diversity“, explains the general manager. “In the great challenge of fighting climate change, indigenous knowledge is fundamental“.

The final declaration intends to mobilize culture “in international discussions on climate change (…) including through traditional and indigenous knowledge systems“. The countries will meet by workshop. Ukraine will participate via video in a panel discussion on “heritage and cultural diversity in crisis“. Together with Iran and China, Russia will host another meeting on the theme “renewed and strengthened cultural policies“. The experts who prepared the meeting condemn “actions targeting culture in the context of armed conflicts“.

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Unesco intends to fight against the cultural impoverishment that the web is accelerating

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