Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cultural Unification: A Pertinent Instrument of African Unity

As part of the conclusions reached at the Cultural Diversity for Social Cohesion and Sustainable Development international conference held September 11th-15th in Sun City, South Africa, cultural unification appears to be a powerful tool when considering the corrosive impact of globalization on indigenous culture.

The Conference, attended by cultural professionals from Africa and the Diaspora, focused on UNESCO member states and relevant civil society agents to examine and ratify the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of The Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted in October 2005.

“The convention has great implications for the whole of the developing world in particular. It highlights the need for national governments to develop a coherent policy for cultural industries and to synergize its approaches within the appropriate ministries involved in creative entrepreneurship.
In this regard, a liaison between ministry of culture and ministry of trade, culture and education, culture and tourism, culture and external affairs need to be reinforced. The convention seeks to provide measures needed to balance the current imbalances in the trade of cultural products and also to enhance capacity building for areas of the cultural sector in the developing world.
Personally, I regard Article 4, 1-3 of the convention as being extremely significant to Africa because it recognizes oral tradition, heritage and indigenous knowledge system as part of cultural capacity. This is very important to some of us who decry the corrosive effects of globalization on our indigenous culture”, said George Ngwane**, a civil society cultural advocate from Cameroon, and party to the conference.

When asked about what he came out with the Sun City Conference, Mr. Ngwane’s response was:

“We were able as civil society actors, government departments and isolated cultural practitioners to lobby for the establishment of national cultural policies in our respective countries. What this implies is that countries would have to convene all partners in the cultural sector to a kind of forum.”

He also expressed a need for reviving the national commission for UNESCO in Cameroon, and mentioned the successful cooperation of the National Commission for UNESCO in South African with the South African Department of Arts and Culture and University of South Africa that has created a transcontinental platform of Africans and the Diaspora. The platform is expected to develop a common position on issues like bilateral partnerships on cultural diversity and regional strategies and the role of culture in effecting social cohesion, human rights, democracy and social justice.

“Someone described culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development and this has been recognized by the UNESCO Convention, AU, NEPAD and Art Moves Africa. But the successes of these global or continental cultural charters depend on the integration of national and sub regional cultural policies. Cultural unification is a vital instrument for African unity. Hence, the urgency for countries and more so African countries to follow the example of Togo, Madagascar, Mauritius and Djibouti in ratifying the UNESCO Convention and establishing the structures identified in it.”

*UNESCO and Cultural Diversity
*21 May: World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
*International Network for Cultural Diversity

**George Ngwane was interviewed by Walter Wilson Nana for the Post, Cameroon's English- language newspaper
Poster© UNESCO


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