National Culture Policy to be Unveiled in April

It is expected that the National Culture Policy will be unveiled next month, articulating clearly what is the Jamaican culture.

Since June 2016, staff of cultural agencies and community members have been participating in islandwide consultations aimed at revising the Policy.

The consultations are being spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

Funds for the review of the policy were provided under two United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) platforms – the Japanese Funds in Trust (JFIT) and the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), which provided US$20,000 and US$60,000, respectively.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, says that the revision process is far advanced and should be completed by April 2017.

Following the launch, she notes that there will be public sensitisation sessions and messages to address the significance of the revised policy.

She points out that about 700 persons in the fields of culture, youth, academia and cultural communities participated in the consultations, which included five stakeholder meetings and three subsector meetings. There were also two national consultations, one in Kingston and the other in St James.

Miss Grange says the consultations targeted special-interest groups, such as persons with disabilities, unattached youth and women in rural Jamaica.

Also targeted were sport administrators, representatives of film, music, dance and theatre sectors, museum and heritage site operators, representatives of culture agencies, local authorities and the publishing industry.

Apart from defining what the Jamaican culture is, the policy will help in identifying a fund that will assist in streamlining the work of practitioners and the crafting of a specific framework that promotes economic viability of cultural and creative industries.

A recent study by the Planning Institute of Jamaica indicates that culture and the creative industries contribute 5.2 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP), generating revenue of US$15 million to US$20 million annually and accounting for three per cent of total employment.

Additionally, the policy will facilitate opportunities for practitioners to market goods and services in regional and global markets.

Participants at the consultations also want a policy that helps in recognising the contribution of special-interest groups in culture, to include persons with disabilities, underserved youth and rural women.

They said that it should also allow for the development of private-public sector partnerships that support the infrastructural needs for the cultural sector.

Acting Director of Liberty Hall, Dr. Shani Roper, who was a participant at one of the consultations, said it was “useful and informative”.

“It allowed members of the cultural agencies to speak with each other about some of the issues they were having,” she said.

Dr. Roper argued that the role of the museum in the existing policy is not clearly defined.

“If we are moving towards developing a sports museum and a music museum, we have to know exactly what we want the institutions to do, how we are going to fund them, because we don’t have a private funding body and we need to know what we are going to do about collecting artefacts, and conservation,” she said.

Dr. Roper noted that a culture policy is “absolutely essential” to guiding the development of cultural institutions in Jamaica.

“The culture policy allows the Government to effectively harness the resources in the cultural sector to facilitate community work and engagement, to help build national identity and to facilitate effective and efficient investment in the sector,” she explained.

Additionally, she said there is need for an effective policy that allows the Government to ground the cultural sector, so it cannot be moved from ministry to ministry “or cannot be divided every time we have an election”.

The Acting Director said that culture policies should be reviewed over time, adding that persons reviewing the policy must be cognisant of what is “our long-term vision that we have for the cultural sector”.

Article by: E. Hartman Reckord
Photo from: www.jis.gov.jm

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