Written by: Laura Hobeiche
What is culture? In its most simplistic terms, the Oxford dictionary defines culture as the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. What this definition leaves unsaid, is how culture represents a source of identity, innovation and creativity for the individual and community— making it arguably, the principal component of human growth and sustainable development.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of culture and the creative industries in driving economic growth and boosting recovery. According to the 2022 UNESCO report, Re|Shaping Policies for Creativity – Addressing culture as a global public good, these industries, which include music, film, television, literature, and the visual and performing arts, account for 3.1% of GDP and 6.2% of all employment worldwide. Exports of cultural goods and services doubled in value from 2005 to reach US$389.1 billion by 2019. At the same time, creativity and culture have a significant non-monetary value that contributes to inclusive social development, dialogue and understanding between peoples.
Education, Culture and Information as Instruments of Rebuilding and Recovery
Indeed, one of the most valuable aspects of the creative economy is its power to inspire, unite, and heal communities affected by violence or conflict. For example, following the August 2020 Beirut port explosion, (considered one of the most powerful accidental artificial non-nuclear explosions in history) UNESCO launched the #LiBeirut initiative to help rebuild the cultural heritage of Beirut and support the Lebanese creative industries as a means of promoting social cohesion and economic recovery. Through this ongoing initiative, UNESCO aims to mobilize resources and support the revival of the capital’s cultural, creative and educational life, working for and in collaboration with local communities, so that the city can continue to be a beacon of tolerance, diversity and creativity.
Impact in numbers, 1 year on:
#LiBeirut’s impressive impact on the education, culture and media sectors is a testament to the belief that the arts can bring hope and healing to communities in need. To learn more about the many activities LiBeirut is supporting and to make a donation today, visit: https://www.unesco.org/en/libeirut
The Musical Dialogue of Peacebuilding
Following the historically devastating assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, the famous composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein said:
"Our music will never again be quite the same... They will be mourned and remembered as long as our art lives. But music will be changed—changed because their deaths had to be addressed, and music is so much a part of our lives that, if we are composers, we react to what happens to us, and to our country... this will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
Echoing these sentiments, I am pleased to spotlight United Through Music (UTM), a non-profit organization with a mission of creating world-wide musical programs and events that demonstrate the power of unity, inspire generosity, and promote kindness and gratitude. Exemplifying UTM's approach to peacebuilding, is the Compton Youth Orchestra, one of the organization's many successful initiatives led by world-renowned Maestro Dino Zonic. In partnership with the Compton Board of Education, the Compton Youth Orchestra was created for at-risk youth in Compton, California with the goal of exposing students to meaningful cultural experiences through the appreciation of music that has endured throughout history— demonstrating that music can be a bridge between people and is in fact, a viable career choice.
Ultimately, this initiative encouraged talented young people to pursue their dreams and ambitions by providing them with a real opportunity to improve their ability to play a musical instrument; collaborate in an ensemble; and perform in a public concert— in alignment with UN SDG 4 (quality education), UN SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and UN SDG 10 (reduced inequalities).
In partnership with Orange Matters, United Through Music is currently organizing its next exciting and socially impactful initiative, United Through Music Arabia. Designed as a transmedia project that centers around a live musical fantasia concert extravaganza titled, Arabian Rhapsody, this initiative aims to engage the local creative industries in the MENA region and celebrate Arabic music heritage through a modern lens – fostering a powerful legacy that will continue to thrive and evolve for years to come.
Today, the creative industries are among the most dynamic areas in the world economy, providing new opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog into emerging high-growth sectors. That being said, new and ongoing challenges also make the creative economy one of the most vulnerable sectors that is often overlooked by public and private investment.
As we look to the future, it is vital that decision-makers and investors continue to bolster, finance and empower the creative arts – recognizing their central role in building more peaceful, prosperous, and culturally diverse societies that celebrate our differences and shared humanity.
If you are passionate about music and believe in the importance of preserving cultural heritage and storytelling traditions, stay tuned to our LinkedIn channel for more information about United Through Music Arabia and how you can play a key role in bringing this legacy project to life.