Unequal access to new technologies, illicit trafficking and other threats to cultural heritage were among the issues on the agenda for international culture ministers who met Wednesday in Mexico.
Representatives of around 160 UNESCO member states were participating in the three-day World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development in Mexico City.
The goals of the final declaration to be adopted on Friday include guaranteeing artists’ rights and regulating distribution platforms, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.
It also aims to ensure culture is included in international discussions on climate change, notably through traditional and Indigenous knowledge systems.
“Our cultural heritage is threatened very directly by global warming,” Azoulay said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that culture is vital for public health, according to conference coordinator Pablo Raphael.
“No one would have been able to survive the confinement and stress… without books, music and cinema,” he said.
But the health crisis also laid bare technological inequalities between different communities, Mexican Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto said.
One of the meeting’s objectives is to find ways to guarantee artists access to technologies to share their work.
The final declaration is expected to include a call to recognize culture as a “global public good” that benefits all of the world’s citizens.
“I really hope that the final declaration will be a renewed roadmap to ensure that cultural diversity is recognized as humanity’s greatest wealth, thus erasing racism and discrimination,” Frausto said.
Two issues on the agenda — defending communities’ intellectual property and the restitution of cultural property — are of particular interest to Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has criticized foreign auctions of items that form part of other nations’ cultural heritage as “immoral.”
Since 2019, Mexico has managed to retrieve thousands of pre-Hispanic archaeological pieces from abroad that were in private collections or set to be auctioned.
Some were handed over voluntarily, while others, such as items in Italy, were recovered in police raids.
“Let’s unite in our efforts to stop once and for all cultural appropriation, illicit trafficking and commercialization of cultural goods — practices that have violated the dignity of peoples,” Frausto said.
Mexico regularly denounces what it calls plagiarism by foreign fashion houses of the motifs, embroidery and colors of its Indigenous communities.
The Latin American nation has lodged complaints of alleged violation of intellectual property against major clothing brands including Zara and Mango in the past.
The government of war-torn Ukraine was due to participate by video in a session about “heritage and cultural diversity in crisis.” © AFP