Message from Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Art Day 15 April 2022

FIZ-Guadeloupe Exhibition 2021 - Photo: Évelyne Chaville

Just as man needs oxygen to survive, he also needs art and poetry”. These words by Aimé Césaire remind us how vital art and culture are to humanity, and how they underpin our unity and resilience.

This World Art Day is a timely reminder that art can unite and connect us even in the most difficult of circumstances. Indeed, the power of art to bring people together, to inspire, heal and share, has become increasingly clear during recent conflicts and crises, including COVID-19.

Yet according to the UNESCO Global Report “Re|Shaping Policies for Creativity: Addressing culture as a global public good”, published in February 2022, some 10 million jobs were lost in the cultural and creative sector globally in 2020.

Indeed, in a sector where employment is often informal and unstable, and in the absence of an appropriate social safety net, artists and culture professionals too often find themselves vulnerable in the face of the loss of income brought on by crises and conflicts. This shows us just how much we need to accord artists appropriate status, as urged by UNESCO’s 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, in order to bolster respect for their rights and boost the resilience of arts and culture.

The challenge of keeping art alive, now and in the future, is therefore twofold: we must support culture professionals and cultural institutions, and promote access to art for all.

In order to better identify priority needs, we must listen to the voices of the art world in all their diversity. This is the aim of UNESCO’s ResiliArt movement, which was launched to affirm the resilience of art in this period and prepare for the future. To date, thousands of artists and professionals have participated in more than 300 debates around the world.

The challenges we face today can only be met through far-reaching cultural policies aimed at helping creative communities overcome this crisis and protecting and improving the status of artists. The UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development – MONDIACULT 2022 will bring together the world’s culture ministers 40 years after the first MONDIACULT in 1980. It will ensure that the voices of artists and civil society are fully heard as countries set the agenda for culture for the years to come.