The Director-General of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (Alecso), Dr Mohamed Ould Amar, has praised the fruitful cultural co-operation between the organisation and Qatar.
He stressed the organisation’s role in protecting the cultural and civilisational heritage in the city of Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories, and striving for international governmental and non-governmental organisations working in the cultural field to expose the practices of the Israeli occupation in destroying Arab and Islamic cultural institutions.
He also underlined that the Palestinian cause, with all its components and ramifications, receives special attention and support from the organisation and all Arab countries.
In an interview with Qatar News Agency, the Alecso director general said the organisation, based on the request submitted by the Cultural Village Foundation – Katara in 2016, and in co-ordination with the rest of the Arab countries, succeeded in presenting a pioneering initiative to grant the Arabic novel its position in the Arab and global cultural scene in general. This was an outcome of the World Novel Week being adopted during the meeting of the Executive Council of Unesco in its 112th session, and the General Conference of Unesco in its 41st session, which was held in November of last year. There will be an annual celebration from October 13-20 with narrators and novels in its various genres, topics, purposes and books.
Dr Amar pointed out that this occasion is an opportunity all over the world to spread the values of tolerance, peace and co-existence and to promote human creativity in this field, especially introducing what is rich in Arab civilisation and highlighting it to all humanity, explaining that the organisation has begun preparing for this week by communicating with all those interested in this field in all Arab countries. The idea is to adopt a theme for each session, and for the first session to be a joint Arab celebration, while leaving the initiative to each Arab country to celebrate in its own way.
He stressed that the issue of Palestine and its heritage is present in all activities, programmes and conferences held by Alecso, especially with regard to the cultural aspect and mobilising support for it as well as dedicating a session in the Conference on Archaeology and Cultural Heritage of the Palestinian Heritage as well as with regard to the meetings of the Urban and Architectural Heritage Observatory in Arab States, whose fifth meeting was devoted to the topic preserving cities of human heritage in danger the City of Jerusalem.
He added that the 40th meeting of the Committee of Arab experts in the world cultural and natural heritage was devoted to studying the Arab files registered on the list of world heritage in danger, during which special focus was given to the Jerusalem file: the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls.
Dr Amar also called for the necessity of evaluating the course of Arab cultural work during the period of the coronavirus pandemic, and proposing an Arab cultural project that carries dynamic confrontations and responds to the challenges facing the joint Arab cultural work.
“We need a project that foresee solutions and supports the exchange of experiences and successful experiences in the field of cultural sectors between Arab countries and benefit from them to achieve a sustainable recovery in local economies based on creativity,” he said.
He noted that the organisation is currently working with specialised agencies in Arab countries to implement this project according to the needs expressed by countries, stressing the vital and decisive role of culture in times of crisis, because culture enhances the sense of belonging to human society and gives meaning to humanity and civilisational values.
Dr Amar explained that Alecso had developed a joint Arab cultural project during the coronavirus crisis to enhance the professional and practical capabilities of operators and workers in the field of culture and heritage in the Arab countries to support the social safety for workers in the culture and heritage sector, and to strengthen the capacities of individuals and small cultural institutions to be able to withstand the challenges of the current crisis.
The project offers a wide range of activities, including capacity support, networking and accompaniment, structuring cultural institutions and sponsoring small and emerging institutions in the field of culture and heritage, noting that this project came after the cultural and creativity sector in the Arab countries was exposed to large financial losses in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and increased rates of unemployment among creators, technicians, employees and workers associated with these sectors.
Dr Amar noted that the Arab countries have adopted varying policies to confront the repercussions of the pandemic and its negative effects on the cultural and creative sectors, considering that most of these policies and measures were not sufficient to save these sectors and contain the repercussions of the pandemic, and therefore it is not possible to measure the projects reflection on the current cultural situation and verify its results before the completion of the approved executive programme for the current year.
A report will be submitted on the progress of the completion of projects and what it was achieved during the upcoming conference of ministers responsible for cultural affairs in the Arab world, which will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, next December.
He stressed that the organisation has been working since its inception to strengthen the cultural unity of the Arab nation by valuing the cultural commons, especially the Arabic language and cultural heritage, seeking to support joint Arab cultural action, and co-ordinating between cultural programmes in Arab countries with the development of a national plan to achieve integration between cultural and media policies, through several mechanisms.
The most important of these are: faithful implementation of all recommendations and projects issued by conferences of ministers responsible for cultural affairs in the Arab world and those issued by the Arab Conference on Cultural Heritage.
He pointed out that one of the most important mechanisms of Arab cultural integration is the launch of the common Arab cultural market to allow the free exchange of cultural goods and products, intensify participation in activities and events, and the freedom of movement of intellectuals, creators and artists among the participating countries, in addition to the Creative Arab Cities Network project, which is considered a huge opportunity to confirm the role of the Arab city as a stimulating space for creativity and sustainable development.
He stressed the importance of the role of cultural industries and the creative economy in achieving development goals as statistics indicate that the cultural and creative industries are the fastest growing in the world, and that they are a sustainable development option, and that cultural industries and the creative economy constitute a green industry that contributes to achieving sustainable development goals in the Arab countries, pointing out that the organisation is currently working on developing a long-term Arab plan to advance the cultural industries and creative economy sector in the Arab countries and employ it in the service of sustainable human development goals, and to set an indicator, the first of its kind, that determines the contribution of cultural industries and the creative economy to the GDP in Arab countries.
Dr Amar explained that the objectives, principles and projects of the Arab Decade for Cultural Right (2018-2027), which was signed in Tunisia in June 2018, is a framework for joint Arab action to develop culture and employ it in development and support economic growth through the development of creative industries.
He stressed that this decade, which extends for ten years, represents an opportunity for Arab countries to further think, reflect and deepen their consideration of the “cultural right” as a fundamental and future issue for our countries to restructure cultural institutions and bring cultural service closer to the Arab citizen.
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