COVID-19 and the World of Work

UNESCO statement for the May - June edition of the MPTF Informal Economies Recovery Project Monthly Newsletter

Director of the Office and UNESCO Representative to the Pacific States

Statement | 31 May 2021
It is with much pleasure that I write this note not just on behalf of my Organization, UNESCO, but also in the name of the wonderful partnership that we have with our fellow organizations – IFAD, ILO, UNDP and a range of national partners.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how large the informal economies are in the developing countries and small island developing states (SIDS). In the SIDS the typically small entrepreneurial efforts of the individuals and households are the norm. Their formalization may bring them into the formal economy but it may not necessarily lead to economic growth until specific measures are put in place for their recovery.

Cultural and creative industries have been providing employment and economic development to all the SIDS in the Pacific. These micro-industries, however, are so small and dependent on the tourism sector that income and employment from them is precarious. A large number of artists – of traditional or contemporary art forms – are dependent on freelance work. No wonder that with the border closures, these micro-industries either ceased to exist or as other freelancers, have been struggling to survive.

This joint programme, “Inclusive Economic Recovery through Sustainable Enterprises in the Informal Economies of Fiji, Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu” is unique. In particular, for bringing different expertise of the participating UN organizations to address an issue that is so pervasive and yet invisible in the policy and legislative domains. UNESCO is assisting recovery, by cooperating with the ILO for the application of the Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist (1980) and the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005) in support of organizing workers. It aims at facilitate ResiliArt debates, which aim to shed light on the impact of COVID-19 on artists, performers and other actors in the cultural and creative industries sector at the national and regional levels to generate policy-attention. And by advancing the 2030 Culture Indicators and the recently launched report by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) that introduces new database on international trade of cultural goods and updated its global database on feature films.

In practical terms for immediate assistance, UNESCO is implementing tailored assistance to address the specific needs identified during the Socio-economic Impact Assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:

a) A master apprentice scheme in the four countries: This action aims to safeguard the traditional artistic skills, upskill existing young professionals, but also develop the next generation of creatives by promoting the traditional system where the masters or the elders perform the most essential duty to pass on their knowledge to the next generation;
b) Capacity development: This is to ensure that those participating gain specialized skills that will support creative entrepreneurs plan and run a successful business; and
c) E-Commerce: This is support improved access to e-commerce for creative entrepreneurs.

This joint programme aims to acknowledge the economic, social, and cultural value of creative production in the Pacific. Through our assistance, we aim to recognize and bolster the professionals of the cultural and creative industries in a way that will allow them to form resilient enterprises.