Thank you for this excellent initiative. This virtual event sends a strong message about the importance of culture and international cooperation during this pandemic.
Freedom of cultural expression and free access to culture are not just a “nice to have”. They are fundamental for our democracies and for the cohesion of our societies. They are a strong backbone of our economies. And they play an important role in achieving the SDGs.
And therefore, we must join our efforts and protect the cultural sector in this existential moment. Germany has taken decisive measures to do so:
- We have provided up to 50 billion euros of emergency assistance for companies. These emergency funds also include help for the cultural sector.
- Social insurance contributions will be adjusted, and tax debts will be deferred until the end of 2020.
- We have decided that tickets for cancelled cultural events must not to be reimbursed: ticketholders are offered vouchers for other events.
- Government-supported cultural activities are adapted instead of being cancelled in order to minimize partners’ financial losses.
- And finally, German development cooperation supports our partners in Africa and the Middle East during this crisis – including access to finance for cultural and creative entrepreneurs.
COVID-19 is a huge challenge and a threat for the cultural sector in all of our countries. But the virus has also triggered many ideas for new methods, platforms, projects and ideas. Digitalization in particular provides huge opportunities.
For example: the Goethe-Institut has developed a platform called kulturama.digital, where artists from all over the world can distribute their art, reach higher visibility and generate income.
Many world heritage sites also counter the shutdown by offering digital visits. The internet platform “Daily Drone World Heritage” will present short video clips of German World Heritage sites. I hope that we can open up the platform for international sites in 2021.
As politicians we should take up these ideas and support them. But we should do so together. If anyone needed proof, COVID-19 shows that no country can master the challenges of today’s world on its own.
When, if not now, is the time to send a strong signal that we will all pull in the same direction and defend the international rules-based order? I’m convinced cultural cooperation must play an important role in this endeavor.
It is time to look beyond our borders and to deal with the challenges for the cultural sector in countries most in need. UNESCO is the right multilateral Forum to develop and coordinate such initiatives.
Thank you very much!