How Cultural & Creative Industries Can Power Human Development in 21st Century

Credit: UNDP Nepal

By Aaron Glantz

Cultural and creative industries, which include arts and crafts, advertising, design, entertainment, architecture, books, media and software, have become a vital force in accelerating human development.

They empower people to take ownership of their own development and stimulate the innovation that can drive inclusive sustainable growth.

If well-nurtured, the creative economy can be a source of structural economic transformation, socio-economic progress, job creation and innovation while contributing to social inclusion and sustainable human development.

It is thus not by chance that the 2004 UNDP Human Development Report made a case for respecting diversity and building more inclusive societies through policies that recognize cultural differences and multicultural perspectives.

Cultural and creative industries (CCI) are generally inclusive. People from all social classes from the indigenous to the elite participate in this economy as producers and consumers. Work in the sector tends to favour youth and women compared with other sectors.

For example, a 2015 UNESCO publication highlighted that CCI sectors in Europe typically employed more youth than any other sector. The study also highlighted that though women account for only 47% of the active population, they accounted for more than 50% of people employed in the United Kingdom’s music industry in 2014.

A recent UNDP/HDRO paper also shows how women play a dominant role in making creative products in the developing world. In countries such as Rwanda and Uganda, for example, women sustain the practice of making baskets, mats and other craftwork.

In Turkey and South Asia, women have been playing a major role in making carpets and other ancient crafts for millennia. Another UN report pointed out how creative industries offer eco-friendly solutions to sustainable development challenges, giving examples such as eco-friendly fashion, including jewelry, handicrafts and interior design products as well as protecting biodiversity by marketing natural health and cosmetic products that work in harmony with nature.

Though these examples show the cultural and creative sectors help achieve inclusive development, the intensification of the creative economy is also exacerbating existing income inequalities and marginalisation of certain population groups.

For example, Richard Florida in his new book, The New Urban Crisis: How Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class – and What We Can Do About It highlights how the cities that have the most innovative and creative economies are often associated with the worst social and economic inequality.

The book shows a strong correlation between the presence of the creative class in metropolitan areas and income inequality. This is because the creative industry generally employs skilled workers which led to a rise in the relative wages of more educated workers.

Yet, the creative industries have become an increasingly important contributor to GDP growth. Data show, over the past 15 years, that the creative economy is not only one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy, but also transformative in generating income, jobs and exports.

According to UNESCO estimates, in 2013 CCI generated $2.3 trillion (3 percent of world GDP) and 29.5 million jobs (1 percent of the world’s active population). An Oxford Economics study estimated that CCI account for over 10 percent of GDP in Brazil and the United States.

Global trade in creative goods and services is also increasing rapidly. Globalization and new technologies have accelerated cultural interactions among countries and the export of creative goods has been growing at about 12 percent per annum in the developing world in the last 15 years or so.

However, these gains are not equality distributed across the globe. Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America are seeing rapid and unprecedented growth in the creative economy.

These regions account for 93% of the global CCI revenue and 85% of jobs. By contrast Africa, the Middle-East, and Latin America and the Caribbean have not yet capitalised on their potential.

For these regions, the CCI represent untapped economic potential, and a chance to contribute to the innovation economy and other sectors through supply chain effects.

This is an opportunity for policies that accelerate and sustain a dynamic creative economy that contributes to human development progress. Growing a dynamic creative economy depends in part on how proactive countries are in grasping opportunities and tackling challenges across many areas—including technology, education, labour markets, macroeconomic policies, gender issues, urbanization, migration, and more.

Cultural and creative activities are usually diverse and multifaceted. And while no “one-size-fits-all” solution will work in this sector, we advocate some policy options as follows.

First, in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), countries need to integrate the opportunities and challenges related to CCI into their national development plans, strategies and budgets.

Second, greater effort needs to be devoted to protecting intellectual property rights. Failing to properly reward creators is holding back growth. Legal frameworks that protect the rights of creators and secure fair remuneration for them is key.

Third, culture often transcends borders. And so improved international, regional and South-South cooperation is important.

Fourth nurturing talent is vital for CCI. The cross-fertilization of ideas, leveraging new technologies and learning from mistakes are important for any economic sector, but these play a fundamental role in the cultural and creative sectors.

Governments and higher education institutions have an important role in attracting, developing and retaining talent.

Fifth, a sound understanding of the challenges and opportunities is vital for planning and policy making. Collecting and analysing CCI data should be a priority to support better policies.

The UN has made a concerted effort to promote the cultural and creative economy in the last decade, through a series of joint UNESCO, UN Convention on Trade and Development and UNDP knowledge products and meetings.

The United Nations will continue to provide a platform for governments, business and others to consider long-term goals and partnerships in an area that can make an important contribution towards achieving sustainable development for all.

Veteran Diplomat Challenges Security Council’s Imbalance of Power, Offers Solutions for Reforms

Arul Louis, a New York-based journalist who covers the United Nations, is a non-resident senior fellow of the Society for Policy Studies.

By Arul Louis

A reexamination of the role of the United Nations and a tallying of its successes and failure get underway as it prepares for the 75th anniversary next year in the world of the 21st century while its core entity, the Security Council, is trapped in the time warp of 1945, its founding year.

Being both a critique and analysis of the Council’s role as well as a work of encyclopedic proportions about its history, the political philosophies girding it and its evolution, former Indian diplomat Dilip Sinha’s book is a valuable resource for these debates that are gaining urgency from the milestone anniversary.

The title may give the impression that it is about the legitimacy of the Council’s power, but it actually questions the Council’s legitimacy in the exercise of power as seen from the perspective of a diplomat with an insider’s view of its working, both when its members gather in its chamber around the circular desk under the painting of Phoenix rising, and when the real business takes place in negotiations far from public view.

Sinha handled United Nations affairs for India from New Delhi as a special secretary during its 2011-12 tenure on the Council and he has also served as New Delhi’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva.

The main mission of the UN is maintaining international peace and security and UN Charter assigns that role to the Council, but in public perceptions its failures reflect on the entire UN.

While most of the other parts of the UN and other international organisations have been “developing processes of inclusive decision-making and modified their mandates,” he writes, “the Security Council remains mired in its archaic politics of power.”

When the UN Charter was adopted with 51 members in a world emerging from the trauma of World War II, its victors assumed the veto-wielding permanent seats on the Council as spoils of war and the veto powers of the five permanent members – the P-5 made up of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – is at the core of the Council’s functioning — and its consequent dysfunction.

In his critique of the veto powers, Sinha says that it either reduces the Council to “a dictatorship of the hegemons” or it functions as a “safety valve,” but concedes that “it is at best an unpleasant necessity.”

While the veto powers have made it impossible to take decisive action to end the multi-dimensional civil war in Syria or Yemen – as it has failed numerous times in its history – where vital interests of the P-5 clash, the Council is expanding its reach beyond the Charter-mandated primary role of maintaining international peace and security in a mission creep that now includes, among other things, human rights, women’s empowerment, climate change and terrorism, Sinha points out.

But beyond the dysfunction, “the permanent membership of the five violates a basic principle of democracy,” he says.

The non-representation of the developing counties, which make up more that two-thirds of the UN membership (unless one adds the economic superpower China to their number) in the ranks of the permanent members is at the heart of the imbalance in the power equations.

Meanwhile, the 28-member Group of Western European and Other States has two permanent members, Britain and France, (or three, if the group’s observer, the United States, is included). But Latin American, African and the Middle Eastern nations have none.

While there is near consensus that African countries – the largest group in the UN with 54 members or 28% of the 193 membership, and from the continent home to most peace operations mandated by the Security Council – deserve representation, the demands of other countries – notably Brazil, Germany, India and Japan that make up the Group of 4 or G-4 – are more controversial.

While these glaring inequalities may cry out for reform that changes the composition of the permanent membership, Sinha is not optimistic it can happen.

For the US and the European Union, “UN reform means giving more powers to the organisation to regulate the internal affairs of member states” on issues like human rights and good governance, he writes.

And on the other side, among the developing countries and others, there are differing interests and clashing opinions, as he points out.

As an illustration of the difficulties before G-4 and others in finding their way to a permanent membership, Sinha writes, “The permanent seat aspirants face the impossible challenge of satisfying the larger membership of the General Assembly without displeasing the permanent five.”

Sinha instead introduces the idea of weighted voting as a starting point for the reforms. The concepts of the equality of member states in the General Assembly and their inequality in the Council “are outdated,” he points out because “all countries are not equal” given the disparities in population and economic and military powers, among other things.

The P-5’s permanent veto power, moreover, “violates the principles of constitutionalism” and “has crippled it.”

As a remedy, he suggests, “Weighted voting can partially address the concerns of the permanent five and introducing the requirement of a super-majority for resolutions under Chapter VII (for taking military action) will allay the concerns of others.”

“A moderate increase in the size of the Council will improve regional representation,” he adds.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

*Legitimacy of Power: The Permanence of Five in the Security Council;
Author: Dilip Sinha; Publishers: Vij Books India Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, and Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi; Price: On Amazon: Hardcover $65; Paperback $39.95; Rs.940