ACPCultures+ : Why is it important to invest in culture?
ACP Secretary General Dr. Patrick Gomes: The investment is fundamental for what we attempt to achieve in the ACP Group as a whole, namely to allow the full realisation of the talent and ability of persons to contribute to their own development. And that is why we gave a slogan or a theme to this programme [ACP Cultures+ Programme, financed by the European Development Fund]: “Without culture, there is no future”. “Without culture” meaning without the use of our artistic talents and the skills of people, we will not see real development. Especially for ACP – Africa, Caribbean and Pacific – this is so enriching because it brings to bear what is so fantastic in African culture… from across the West of Africa, the East into the Southern part of Africa and links that with the Caribbean and then the Pacific. You know the richness of the diversities of cultures across the Pacific is tremendous. So, it is a great source of information of wealth to give people a sense of their identity, to give people a sense of how important they are as persons and all that ACP really wants to do is to see the human dignity enriched and realized in various forms.
ACPCultures+ : Is culture important for economic development?
PG: Culture is very important for our economic development. I would say our social economic development. Why? Because again, it creates an opportunity for young people and the programme has focus so much on various young artists having an opportunity to display their skills and in displaying their skills to be able to feel a sense of self-reliance; to feel also a sense of they have something to contribute from their talent.
It contributes in another way, not to only in creating jobs but in working on any cultural production; there is a sense of being a team – the équipe – of doing things ensemble together, and that is so important on how people see their identity not that in an individualistic way, but certainly as one in which they may be part of a team or as a group, for their community. And that is so important at this time when societies are being polarised, when people, young people in particular, feel a sense of alienation. They are so alienated, they do their schooling, come out of school and they can’t find a job. We think this is an opportunity for their talents to be realized, and to give them a sense of their importance and earn their living.
ACPCultures+ : Do ACP member states appreciate the value of the ACPCultures+ Programme?
PG: Increasingly they are coming to appreciate the programme. One of the most distinguished parts was when we had our 40th anniversary and we put together what we call our little coffee table book and the coffee table book enables us to show the varieties of cultures from our own staff and some of the achievements from the programme, persons who have been trained etc. But more importantly than that, it shows that the ACP is linking now with countries like Brazil, with Turkey, with India and also ensuring that all our participants are able to appreciate more and more why culture is essential in giving a sense of dignity, identity and also reducing polarisation in society, and cohesion, coherence about how people work together is what we are about, and that will be so necessary for us to feel a common purpose looking after our universe, whether it is climate change, looking after the poor people who are dealing with fishing, looking after those who are in agriculture, but specially more recently looking after women and girls who have a great tremendous part to play and they have been denied opportunities.
ACPCultures+: What would be priorities for the next culture programme to be launched in 2018?
PG: As much as possible, I would like the programme to deal with gender equality, looking at women and girls but also room for young men. But we must look at the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 that have been agreed by all the heads of government of our 79 countries. The first one is speaking about ending poverty. But also, we have to be concerned about health and looking at our health and nutrition. [That is] looking after the health of young mothers, and to reduce the mortality of women giving birth to children, losing their lives.
Now that is so much focus around the individual. We also have to see our concern on how this can highlight what is happening in issues like migration, what is happening in terms of climate change, the desertification that is taking place, the trouble that is taking place with drought and in the Caribbean, and the hurricanes. So, we see the program itself having this culture dimension, running across all the aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals, focused on some, more than others. But if we can say gender equality is at the core of it, it’s because woman will make a big difference and young girls, to see that they will be educating others and they will be earning livings and finding a way for us to build equality into society in which motherhood and woman will play a key role.