PUBLIC STATEMENT on the consequences of crises caused by Coronavirus outbreak for the civil society organisations of South-East Europe in the field of culture30. 04. 2020.
The independent cultural organisations from South-East Europe have been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the closing of cultural venues and cancellation of hundreds of public programs, exhibitions, performances and festivals, the crisis revealed the fragility of the cultural sector and have threatened its very existence. Being active over the last thirty years, these organisations have played a profound role in building pluralistic societies, enabling new, innovative, socially aware and critically reflective practices, providing different methodologies and models of learning and knowledge production, fostering international cooperation, promoting free speech and fighting for human rights, as well as practicing new forms of participation.
The aftermath of the first month of lockdown is worrisome. No minimum security is provided for the duration of the state of emergency to the civil cultural sector, freelance artists, self-employed or unemployed artists, cultural workers, while their existence in the coming period is completely uncertain. Organisations with decade’s long activity are facing insolvency, loss of employees and risk closure which, in some cases, might result with complete disappearance from the cultural field. This relates also to many organisations applying to the European Commission Cultural Cooperation in the Western Balkans program, which might not survive into next year.
The public budget for culture has always been well below the needs of the sector or continental standards, despite the dynamism of the scene and long-term engagement of its actors. Some governments and local administrations in the region saw the situation that followed COVID-19 outbreak as an opportunity to cancel the annual calls for subsidies, annul existing calls or suspend the work of evaluation committees. While modest emergency measures were proposed in few of the countries, the scope and timing of the initiatives is very limited and will not suffice for the survival of many important organisations. In times of crisis, isolation, limited mobility and social distancing, culture will play a crucial role in rebuilding societies, connecting and working together for a better future. These organisations have come together on local, national, regional and international forums to discuss their situations, articulate positions, imagine alternatives and share their solidarity. However, to safeguard the legacy of the last thirty years of work and to save the future of the civil sector in culture, authorities must step in.
We call on the National Governments, Municipalities, the European Commission, Development Agencies and Foundations to take action for reducing the consequences of crises caused by Coronavirus outbreak for the civil society organisations in the field of culture and the independent cultural workers. We ask authorities to take urgent measures in supporting independent actors through existing schemes, as well as to work together with national networks and organisations in designing interventions with mid-term and long-term solutions.
If it is needed, we are offering our knowledge and expertise in this process of reducing the consequences affected by COVID-19 pandemic in finding sustainable solutions for the recovery for civil society organisations in the field of culture and independent cultural workers.