Address by Minister Paul Mashatile at the United Nations General Assembly: high level thematic debate: culture and development

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12 Jun 2013

His Excellency the President of the United Nations General Assembly; Mr Vuk Jeremic

His Excellency, the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon

The Director General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova

Ministers here present

Members of the diplomatic corps  
Our special guests

Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, and the people of South Africa, I wish to thank you for inviting us to participate in this important debate on Culture and Development.

This debate is a continuation of the work started in 2010 by the United Nations to place culture at the centre of development.
We therefore welcome the decision to bring the world together to draw on each other’s experiences on the role of culture in development.

Mr President, we meet here today at a time when the world is still recovering from the recent global financial and economic crisis; never envisaged at the time when the MDG goals were set.

Coupled with this are attempts by governments to rethink their development paths; placing emphasis on new and sustainable approaches to development.

This debate is also taking place a few days after the people of Africa celebrated fifty years since the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union.

As we celebrated this historic milestone, as Africans we recommitted ourselves to working even harder towards realising the vision of the founding fathers of the OAU.

This is a vision to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa; that is people centred and represents a dynamic force for global progress.

Mr President, we are proud to announce that the South African government has approved for ratification by its Parliament, the Charter for African Cultural Renaissance.

Through this Charter we will strengthen efforts towards African unity and solidarity as well as contribute to the rebirth of our Continent. 

The Charter will also support the work we are doing to promote our cultural and creative industries as vehicles for social cohesion, nation building, job creation, economic growth and the building of sustainable livelihoods. 

Mr President, in our considered view, the creative and cultural industries are the “NEW GOLD” for the economies of the world.

This we say drawing lessons from the critical role gold played in the economic history of nations.

The creative and cultural industries play two critical roles; they contribute to nation building, social cohesion and national healing.

They also support local economic development and lead to the creation of work opportunities, including for the most vulnerable in society; the women, youth and those living with disabilities.

For our part as South Africa, since 1994, the year of our liberation, we have continued to use culture as an important instrument to unite our people, to promote social cohesion and to foster the spirit of reconciliation and nation building.

Guided by that seminal document of our people, the Freedom Charter, we continue to spread the message that despite our diverse cultural heritage, we are one people, united in our diversity.

Part of what we did in this regard was to ensure the widespread use of all our eleven official languages, paying particular attention to indigenous languages that have been historically marginalized.

Last year the South Africa Parliament passed into law the Use of Official Languages Bill; allowing citizens to access government services in the languages of their choice.

This we believe is a major step towards promoting multi-lingualism and expanded access to government services.
We have also put legislation and programmes in place to ensure the preservation of our pre-1994 heritage institutions, historic monuments and museums.

In addition we are building new monuments and institutions whose purpose is to tell the stories and raise awareness of that history of our country which was deliberately suppressed.

Mr President, we are doing this as part of crafting a new and inclusive narrative of where our society comes from and where we are headed.

We are also doing this to create new and inclusive symbols and monuments that reflect the values we now stand for as a people.

The work we have done thus far is premised on our understanding that societies with greater levels of social cohesion tend to be economically prosperous.     
In order to maximize the role of culture and in particular the role of the cultural and creative industries in the development of our society, we have included this sector in our Industrial Policy Action Plan and in our National Development Plan; Vision 2030.

Mr President, Vision 2030 is our country’s long term development blue print that articulates the kind of society we seek to become by 2030 and beyond.

This important document has this to say about the role of culture in the development of the South African society;

“The arts and other parts of the creative economy have a potential to generate employment and export earnings. (They) are thus an asset that needs investment to provide opportunities for more people, often outside the formal economy.”

It is for this reason that we continue to implement our Mzansi Golden Economy strategy; aimed at maximising investment in the sector, including drawing in private sector investment.

Through this strategy will ensure that the creative and cultural industries contribute meaningfully to our Gross Domestic Product and to job creation.

Based on existing data, it is not hard to see how this can be achieved through a repositioning of the sector.

Our local music industry was worth USD 200 million in sales in 2011; the craft sector contributed USD 300 million to GDP in 2010 and employs more than 200 000 people; and the visual arts sector has a turnover of nearly USD 200 million per annum.

The Film and television sector currently employs 25 000 people and contributes more USD 500 million annually to GDP.

Mr President, in the coming years we will significantly upscale these numbers.

As part of implementing Vision 2030, we are now revising the policy framework governing Arts, Culture and Heritage in our country.

This we are doing in order to effectively position this sector at the centre of our nation’s human development effort.

The revised policy framework will make provision for greater and more sustained funding for the sector.

It will also cater for increased Information and Communications Technology support for artists to enable the creation of works expressing national creativity.

It will open space for vibrant and inclusive national dialogue on the kind of society we seek to build.

Equally it will assist us to develop and implementing plans for a more effective arts and culture curriculum in schools and provide support for artists even after the peak of their careers.  
Mr President, it is against this background that we believe culture should be located firmly at the centre of the Post 2015 global development agenda.

Specifically, this debate must enhance the work of the UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, focusing on culture as an enabler of sustainable development.

It must also strengthen our resolve to channel more investment, including private sector investment, to the cultural and creative industries.

Related to this is the need to increase the capacity of Member States to effectively measure the impact of the creative and cultural industries.

This will not only help us attract more investment but also facilitate the implementation of adequate policy measures to support the sector.

We must also invest in the development of skills required for the sustainability of the sector.

Equally, we must invest in the preservation and promotion of our cultural heritage, so as to contribute to nation building, social cohesion and national healing as well as to use heritage as a catalyst for local economic development.

Mr President, let us continue to use culture to create new platforms of engagements as nation states.

Indeed let us use the power of the arts, culture and heritage to address challenges of racism, xenophobia and other related intolerances.

Let us promote cultural diplomacy as a tool to strengthen people to people contact and a means to open further avenues for interaction between peoples.

Collectively let us spread the message that as humanity we share a common heritage and ancestory; that our destiny is therefore linked.

There is no better way to do this than to use culture.

Mr President, allow me to wish the founding father of our democratic nation, President Nelson Mandela, a speedy recovery.

As South Africans we are proud to be the children of President Mandela and to share his rich legacy with the rest of the world.

His legacy is now part of world heritage, which we must continue to preserve and promote for generations to come.

I thank you.