cultural management

Culture in crisis: policy guide for a resilient creative sector – UNESCO

In December 2020, UNESCO prepared a practical guide for the CCI to cope with the impact of COVID-19 and build resilience to the current situation. Read an overview of this guide!

UNESCO published a guide entitled “Culture in crisis: policy guide for a resilient creative sector” (released in Dec, 2020) to overcome Covid-19 consequences for CCI.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the cultural and creative industries. Around the world, the livelihoods of artists and cultural professionals have been profoundly affected by lockdown and physical distancing measures. The precarious nature of their work has made them particularly vulnerable to the economic shocks caused by the crisis, which have, in turn, exacerbated the creative sector’s pre-existing volatility and inequalities. Artists and cultural professionals have lost their jobs in record numbers and around the world, the sector is fighting to survive.”

Ernesto Ottone R. Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO

The practical guide consists of 3 kinds of supportive measures from the different perspectives such as 1) direct support for artists and cultural professionals, 2) support for sectors of the cultural and creative industries, and 3) strengthening the competitiveness of the cultural and creative industries.

Direct support for artists and cultural professionals measures intended to allow artists and cultural professionals to continue pursuing their creative work by protecting their income, safeguarding their jobs or providing guaranteed social security. They are:

  • Social benefits
  • Commissioning and purchase of works
  • Compensation for loss of income
  • Skills development

Support for sectors of the cultural and creative industries measures intended to guarantee the survival of bodies encountering a severe lack of liquidity or cash-flow. It consists of:

  • Accelerated payment of aid and subsidies
  • Temporary relief from regulatory obligations
  • Compensation for business interruption losses
  • Relief from taxes and social charges
  • Stimulating demand
  • Preferential loans
  • Strengthening infrastructure and facilities

Strengthening the competitiveness of the cultural and creative industries measures intended to assist the cultural and creative industries in readying themselves for the new conditions on the domestic market and international trade. These measure are:

  • Participatory needs assessments and feasibility studies
  • Adapting business models
  • Promoting national content
  • Tax incentives for foreign investment

According to the category/market level, the support advised by UNESCO can be implemented to resist the current situation.

General recommendations as conclusion:

This practical guide seeks to present a representative sample of the numerous measures adopted in many countries across all continents to assist the cultural and creative industries during the pandemic and the crisis it created. The short format with summary factsheets, chosen for practicality, obviously does not do justice to the effort involved by countries. There is no hesitation in claiming that artists, creators, cultural bodies, enterprises and institutions have been given special attention in many countries.

For those attentive enough to have read to this text, four recommendations are offered:

  1. The most effective measures are those that draw on the best ideas and match them with the real needs experienced on the ground. This blend of theory and practice produces measures with optimal chances of success. In times of crisis, it is not enough to act. Measures must be deployed swiftly and efficiently to produce the expected results and limit unwanted side effects. Participatory governance, as championed by UNESCO, notably in the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions,1 is a fundamental principle in its elaboration and implementation. These pages contain telling examples of participatory governance, which must encompass not only civil society organizations, understood here in its broader sense to include private enterprise, socio-economic players and the academic community, but also consultation between ministries.
  2. The second fundamental principle on which UNESCO’s action is based is that of gender equality. While women are overrepresented in the arts and culture sectors hardest hit and most at risk as a result of COVID-19, the research undertaken in compiling this practical guide failed to identify any government measures specifically aimed at promoting gender equality. Such aid does exist, but it comes from private foundations, mainly in the visual arts sector, in the form of occasional emergency support for women artists who have lost all their income or are unable to work because of health problems due to COVID-19. We must assume, and hope, that the measures taken to help the arts and culture have benefited men and women alike, without discrimination. It is recommended that the terms of reference of the audit and verification of measures taken throughout the pandemic include an assessment of their impact on women artists and culture workers to ensure they have benefited fairly.

UNESCO. “Culture in crisis: policy guide for a resilient creative sector”, 2020. P. 50.


To read more about all measures and good practices of these measures, open “Culture in crisis: policy guide for a resilient creative sector”.

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