IDB Hosts Culture Ministers Parley in Washington


Ministers of Culture, and other government officials representing 15 countries in the western hemisphere were invited to Washington on April 26 for consultations with President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Dr. Enrique Iglesias, to discuss the proposed establishment of the Inter-American Culture and Development Foundation (IACDF). The forum, which was held at the bank’s Washington headquarters, also included the leadership of the cultural office of the Organization of American States (OAS) as well as IDB officials tasked with developing a new cultural agenda for the hemispheric body. Held under the theme, ‘Strengthening the Global Competitiveness of Cultural and Creative Industries in Latin America and the Caribbean in Support of Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction’, the meeting was charged with providing the leadership of the IDB with a range of practical areas where the promotion of cultural industries could aid in overall national development.
Opening the forum, President Iglesias said that the bank’s vision was to have the proposed Foundation develop creative approaches to linking cultural industries, with the overall development agenda of specific countries within the hemisphere.
Declaring this initiative as the culmination of a long-standing recognition that cultural industries have enormous potential to alleviate poverty and generate economic growth within Latin America and the Caribbean, he stressed that it was critical that strong private sector participation be encouraged in providing the necessary capital and support that would be needed to develop these new sectors.
The President also noted that the bank’s acknowledgment of culture as a viable engine for economic development was demonstrated in its financing of related sectors such as tourism, education, and other micro enterprise development entities, which sought to capitalize on existing cultural resources. “This is therefore an expansion of our previous work in looking at development in an integrated way and ensuring that culture also becomes a component of this integrated approach,” he said.
One of the Foundation’s major objectives is to expand the cultural sector in Latin American and Caribbean economies to a level that will be comparable to that of developed countries such as the United States.
Currently, cultural industries account for between 6 and 8 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States, but in comparison, similar industries in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean account for less than 2 per cent of GDP. The Foundation will be a separate entity from the IDB and will function as a non-profit organization and in conformity with existing American federal tax legislation. This designation will allow the Foundation to receive significant private sector support from American corporations.
Marcia Hextall, Executive Director of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), who headed Jamaica’ delegation, commended the IDB for placing a new emphasis on culture as a prime vehicle for economic development. She said the Foundation could play a meaningful role in providing essential technical assistance to expand cultural product offerings, and to prepare emerging cultural industries to access external markets.
Turning to the Jamaican music industry, which she said could benefit significantly from support from the IACDF, she explained that assistance was needed “particularly in the area of copyright protection and also in accessing royalties, which were owed to Jamaican reggae performers”.
“This is an important area in which the Foundation could work with us to resolve these challenges,” she emphasised.
The meeting also dedicated significant time to focus on a ‘debt for culture swap’, which would be largely modelled on similar debt for nature swap initiatives, which have increasingly been adopted by countries in Latin America and the Caribbean as a strategy to advance their development objectives. The functional concept underpinning such a ‘swap’ would involve a given financial institution, economic entity, or private corporation agreeing to purchase either the entire or a part of a specific debt portfolio with the understanding that a government would, in turn, invest the agreed ‘forgiven’ sum in the creation or expansion of a given cultural enterprise.
IDB officials in attendance also agreed that the Foundation would focus on cultural heritage preservation and restoration in the Caribbean as a key component of any prospective assistance to CARICOM countries. They also acknowledged that given the centrality of tourism in the economy of the Caribbean, it was important that initiatives aimed at preserving and restoring elements of the region’s cultural heritage be fully integrated into an overall thrust to enhance the tourism sector in the Caribbean.
During discussions among the participating ministers and other officials, it was agreed that a comprehensive programme should be developed, which would seek to underscore the role of cultural and creative industries in facilitating economic growth and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
At the end of the consultations, President Iglesias thanked the participating countries for the strong support and meaningful contributions which emanated from the discussions. He also expressed confidence that the enthusiasm of the participants would serve to encourage the Board of Governors to move forward in constituting the Foundation.

JIS Social