Dubai becomes a creative city

Dubai has joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), currently numbering around 180 members from 72 countries – none of which were previously in the Middle East.

UCCN was created in 2004 “to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development”, an aspiration to which we can surely all subscribe.

The Network says its members work together towards a common objective: “placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level”.

The specific goals include strengthening the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods and services; developing hubs of creativity and innovation in the cultural sector, and broadening opportunities for creators and professionals; improving access to and participation in cultural life, “in particular for marginalised or vulnerable groups and individuals”; and fully integrating culture and creativity into sustainable development plans.

UCCN cities commit to sharing their best practices and developing cultural exchanges. At the local level the mechanisms include establishing pilot projects, partnerships and initiatives associating the public and private sectors, and civil society; producing policies and measures for sustainable urban development; and awareness-raising.

Cities sign up to major in one or more of seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music and Design. Dubai has gone for Design, of course, given the investment that has gone into the sector here.

“The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority’s support for this project will be present in the next phase as part of our efforts to achieve our vision of making Dubai a creative and sustainable global city for culture, arts heritage and literature,” said Saeed Al Nabouda, acting director general at Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

The announcement and accompanying press conference were a bit light on specifics, but Al Nabouda did report that it “will allow us to build partnerships and develop creative and innovate projects and initiatives locally regionally and globally within a dynamic and flexible governance framework”.

There are several “creative and innovate projects and initiatives” already running locally, of course – d3, Design Week and DIDI are leading the way here. The reference to regional and global actions could be more interesting; despite the elephant-in-the-room muscle of Saudi Arabia and the ferment of ideas in centres like Amman, it’s clear that Dubai has an opportunity to take regional leadership in the design field. And that can easily be developed into international significance. The UNESCO connection looks an essential precursor to that.

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