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UNESCO Cultural Activities Worldwide
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Promoting cultural diversity through cultural industries

 The ability of societies to enjoy diverse cultures is not only a good thing in itself but has been recognised as an important precondition for social and economic development. For such diversity to exist in a world in which inter-cultural exchange increasingly takes place through trade, strong cultural industries need to grow at a local level in developing countries to ensure diversity of cultural expression.


In recent years creative industries have become a significant source of social and economic development and are now recognized as a powerful driving force of world trade and offer great potential for developing economies rich in cultural diversity. Recent figures clearly illustrate the economic and job-creation potential of cultural industries. According to figures for 2001/2002, creativity based and copyright industries accounted for 3,3% of Australian GDP, 5,24% of the US’s GDP and 5% of the UK’s GDP in 2001.

However, these industries are far less advanced in the developing world and transition countries despite their rich cultural heritage, tradition and creativity. They would have much to gain by more effectively harnessing their creative potential through cultural industries.

Throughout the 1990s the structure of cultural industries worldwide changed dramatically with the development of new digital technologies and the liberalisation of international trade. Cheaper and faster production and distribution systems make it possible in theory to market products to ever larger audiences.

However, in reality there are growing gaps in the capacity of countries to participate in global markets. Many lack the infrastructure, training, capital, market knowledge and government policy necessary to realise the sector’s potential. Furthermore, cultural industries have undergone progressive concentration with the emergence of a small number of large conglomerates with the advanced technical capacities for producing and distributing creative work.

Global Alliance projects are therefore underway to unlock the potential of local cultural industries. These recognise that a successful cultural industry has a range of needs that span the production chain from initial conception through to distribution and they support countries in their efforts to develop a conducive business environment necessary to allow such industries to grow.

To do this is it is vital that intellectual property rights are protected. Copyright protection encourages and rewards creative work, ensuring that creators get paid for their production, a key ingredient for the successful development of cultural industries.

Recent technical innovations, particularly of digital technology, have led to an ever-increasing level of piracy which impacts on the sales of cultural products. Piracy is equally detrimental to authors, who lose royalties, and the publishing, music, audiovisual and software industries are the sectors most severely harmed. Global Alliance projects therefore pay particular attention to reinforcing and encouraging the respect and enforcement of these intellectual property rights.

For a more comprehensive understanding of cultural industries, click here to browse 25 questions and answers and explore key concepts and ideas related to culture and trade in the context of globalisation.

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