“Fair Culture Charter”
An overview of the first Public Consultation
Inspired by the Fair-Trade movement, a group of experts from all world regions is drafting a “Fair Culture Charter”.
The “Fair Culture Charter” is as a “living document” and inspiration for a movement towards an equitable and sustainable culture and creative sector. In short: Applying “Fair Trade” principles, as appropriate, to culture and the creative sector.
On 6 June 2023 at UNESCO in Paris, the very first public consultation on this draft Charter was held. The event was organized during the Conference of Parties of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and gathered experts from all corners of the world on site and offline. UNESCO Member States’ diplomats, National Points of Contact for the 2005 Convention, Observers, National Commissions for UNESCO, NGOs, CSOs, cultural and creative professionals and grass-roots organizations took part and shared their comments.
The consultation was organized by the German Commission for UNESCO and its partners such as Fairtrade International, the French Culture Ministry, UNESCO Chair on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at University Laval and International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (IFCCD), with support by UNESCO.
Building both on the experience of the Fair-Trade Movement and on the normative framework of UNESCO
Ernesto Ottone, ADG for Culture of UNESCO underlined the importance of the Fair Culture initiative in the context of the 2005 UNESCO Convention, especially with a view to achieving a more balanced flow of cultural goods and services as set out in Article 16 of the Convention. Lutz Möller, Deputy Secretary General of the German Commission for UNESCO presented the key goals and milestones of the initiative and invited all interested actors to get involved: “This is not a “closed shop” but a truly open process”.
In an inspiring keynote, Sandra Uwera, CEO of Fairtrade International, pointed out the relevance of the Fair Culture initiative to overcome major structural inequalities. She deplored the huge access obstacles to international markets and precarious labour practices resulting from unfair contracts and remuneration, from which both artists and cultural workers as well as small producers and farmers are suffering globally and in particular in the “Global South”. “If our experience (from the Fair-Trade Movement) has taught us anything, it is the importance of having genuine, meaningful and equal participation by those most directly impacted by unfair and unsustainable trade - and they, of course, are the artists and cultural workers we seek to empower”, she underlined.
A guiding reference document for a “Fair Culture” movement
The Editorial Team presented the results of their work achieved over the last few months, in four working sessions.
Members of the Editorial Team are Jordi Balta Portolés, Cultural Consultancy and Research, Transit Projectes, Spain, Brahim El Mazned, Director, Visa for Music festival, Morocco, Prof. Véronique Guèvremont, UNESCO Chairholder, University Laval, Canada and Head of the Editorial Team, Eddy Johana Gómez, Director of Projects, Llorona Records, Colombia, Farai Mpfunya, Executive Director, Culture Fund, Zimbabwe, Eduardo Saravia, Chief Economist, Sound Diplomacy, Colombia, Anupama Sekhar, Curator, South-South Arts Fellowships 2022-2023 and Board Member,
ArtsEquator, UAE/India, Luanda Smith, CEO, NGO Creatividad y Cultura Glocal A.C., Mexico and Katrina Stuart Santiago, Writer and Founder, PAGASA-People for
Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action, Philippines.
The Charter they are in the process of drafting is a call to action and an invitation to participate in a movement. It is intended to be a reference document for all stakeholders involved in the value chain of culture and creative industries putting the individual, the creator and artist, at centre-stage. The Charter also speaks to civil society organisations, private companies – including multinationals and major cultural content platforms – as well as governments.
As the title suggests, the “Fair Culture Charter” is largely inspired by the Fair-Trade movement, but it is also intended to go beyond the framework of "international trade", in a twofold understanding: First by explicitly recognizing that culture is much more than an economic commodity that can be traded; it is a source of inspiration, sense, identity, community, cohesion and purpose. Second, trade in cultural goods and service is currently unfair also in domestic markets, including in the “Global North”.
The draft “Fair Culture Charter” also reflects the conclusions of the Study "Fair Culture - A Key to Sustainable Development" (2021), to which dozens of experts have contributed. It refers to principles of market access and preferential treatment, but it embraces more broadly all relationships involving artists or other cultural professionals. The Charter also draws on the work on the due diligence standard for multinational companies to suggest that the responsibility of these companies to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions and linguistic diversity should be recognised.
Structure and key elements of the draft “Fair Culture Charter”
The Editorial Team targets producing a comparatively short document, using an accessible and inviting language. The team very consensually agreed on a structure and key elements of the Charter. Its form follows that of a conventional charter of international law — consisting of preamble; objectives; a definition; and principles as commitments towards “Fair Culture”. At the core of the Fair Culture Charter are artists and other cultural workers, in their diversity of experiences and practices, including collectives, organizations, and small entrepreneurs.
Main objective of the “Fair Culture Charter” is to secure the recognition of artists and cultural workers as irreplaceable contributors to society and economy, and to ensure fair working conditions and just remuneration. Inspired by the good practices and methodologies of the Fair-Trade movement, the “Fair Culture Charter” will acknowledge the urgent need to raise awareness and further mobilize stakeholders from the public and private sector, civil society, and in particular multinationals in the cultural sector, including digital platforms, so that they can contribute to the protection of the diversity of cultural expressions and strengthen capacities of cultural and creative value chains at all levels.
The Editorial Team emphasizes the importance of recognizing the value of already existing strategies, mechanisms and instruments adopted at local, regional, and international level to protect the status of the artist. In this regard, the core legal framework for the fair culture charter includes the 2005 Convention, the United Nations 2030 Agenda, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to mention a few.
Ensuring artists’ right to fair payment and empowering them to protect their fundamental rights as cultural professionals and as citizens, taking into account the vulnerability of their status has been a challenge for a long time that becomes even more complex in the digital environment. Fair cultural relations between regions and at the local level require ecosystems of culture with ethical policies and regulations, respect for freedom of expression and human rights, balanced trade flows, and respect for Intellectual Property Rights.
The Editorial team proposes eight key Fair Culture principles for the Charter. These principles are the heart of the document and represent the commitments all stakeholders of the cultural and creative value chain have to fully respect towards achieving Fair Culture:
At the end of the event, the Editorial Team invited the audience to join the open and transparent process. Many participants expressed support and the urgency and timeliness of the initiative. Inter alia, the impact of new technologies and AI on artists and cultural workers, the importance of the involvement of collectives, trade unions and their sectorial federations in this process were underlined and the necessity to take into account other international frameworks and processes at ILO, G20, G7 and the first steps towards a Post-2030-Agenda were mentioned.
The Fair Culture Initiative – Background and the Way Forward in 2023
The German Commission for UNESCO has developed the Fair Culture initiative since 2017. With international partners the initiative wants to build a global consensus on Fair Culture, hence towards making international cultural cooperation, cultural partnerships, and trade in the culture and creative sector more equitable and sustainable, building on the existing legal frameworks and commitments. As recommended by the study “Fair Culture – A Key to Sustainable Development” by UNESCO Chair at University Laval in Quebec/Canada (2021) and the Side Event at UNESCO World Conference MONDIACULT in Mexico (2022) first priority is the implementation of existing legal instruments – in particular – the 2005 UNESCO Convention and the 1980 UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of the Artist. Key recommendation and priority for 2023 is the drafting of a “Fair Culture Charter”.
International cooperation partners of the initiative and Members of the Advisory Committee for the “Fair Culture Charter” are (so far) the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (IFCCD), Fairtrade International, the Ministry of Culture of France, the National Commissions for UNESCO of Germany, Kenya and South Korea, the Goethe Institute, and the UNESCO Chair on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions at University Laval Canada. In 2022, fifteen “Young Experts for Fair Culture” from all over the world were selected to accompany the initiative with their expertise. Moreover, a large number of international experts and stakeholders are invited to comment on the draft Charter and get engaged in the process as part of the Sounding Board for the Fair Culture Charter.