OAS Assistant Secretary General, Albert R. Ramdin meets with Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Department of Culture, Celia Toppin in Washington DC. (Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS)

A government official has lamented that some developing countries have not paid due attention to the development of the socio-economic potential of their cultural sectors.

Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Division of Culture and Sports and Vice Chair of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Committee on Culture, Celia Toppin, said this had occurred even though organisations such as the World Bank, UNESCO and the Inter-American Development Bank had continued to exhort them to diversify their often vulnerable economies.

While speaking at the official launch of the Inter-American Year of Culture at the OAS Headquarters, Washington, last Wednesday, Ms. Toppin stated: "The cultural and creative industries are well positioned to provide the sustainable development which is so critical to our future."

She told the gathering that statistics published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development showed that the cultural industries at that time were valued at seven per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product. According to her, as at 2004, global exports had grown from US$39 to $59 billion, with only marginal contributions made by all developing countries combined.?? She suggested that it was, therefore, the responsibility of developing countries to not only enhance the quality of cultural products, but to work to narrow this glaring trade deficit.

". . . The countries of the Caribbean Community are comparatively small, and most of them have few natural resources – other than our people. And, it is this human capital which is the major resource needed for the development of the cultural industries. It is the wealth of creative talent which exists in the Caribbean which will provide the needed raw material. Human capital is a renewable resource, ensuring that investment in this area is both sound and sustainable.

"Research has also shown the extent to which involvement in cultural and creative activities can result in the development of more stable, more cohesive societies, promoting human resource development in the true sense of that term," Ms. Toppin told her audience.

Noting that policy makers were making provision for the development of young people, including defining youth policies, the Deputy Permanent Secretary said it was critical that priority be given to encouraging the fullest possible creative expression.

She continued: "Research has confirmed the extent to which the integration of cultural and artistic activities in education can promote, among young people, increased self-confidence, enhanced skills in conflict resolution, and contribute in so doing, to increased social cohesion and the reduction of youth violence. It allowed young people who were disadvantaged, living so to speak on the periphery of their societies, to feel a sense of acceptance and inclusion."

According to Ms. Toppin, the Inter-American Year of Culture provided an opportunity to bring the richness of the cultures of our countries and its potential for contributing to national development to the attention of the world.

The Inter-American Year of Culture celebrates the diverse cultures of the Americas and promotes the central role that it plays in economic, social and human development in all communities. The objectives of the year include highlighting the rich cultural diversity of the Americas and promoting the development and implementation of public policies in member states.

In related news the Government of Brazil has signed an agreement with the OAS to contribute one million reales or over US $600,000 to assist with the implementation of the Work Plan of the Inter-American Committee on Culture. The United States has also contributed an additional US $100,000 for similar programmes.


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