Ideas, solutions and new policies for sustainable creative economy development.

The dynamic World Conference on Creative Economy 2021 held from 7-9 December at Dubai Expo was organised by the UAE Ministry of Culture and Youth under the theme "Inclusively Creative, Cultivating the Future". Featuring an inspiring international line-up of thought leaders, aspiring creatives and innovators, the program was neatly organised around six broad themes: Future Sustainable, Reworking Work, Technology Transformation, Inclusivity & Diversity, Education Unleashed and Elevating Media & Communications Landscape. 

The exciting event was opened by HE Audrey Azoulay, Director General, UNESCO, along with HE Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture & Youth, UAE and HE Sandiaga Salahuddin, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Republic of Indonesia, and they each shared their ambition to explore the potential of the creative economy for a collective, cohesive and thriving society. 

HE Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture & Youth, UAE

In her keynote address, Noura Al Kaabi reiterated the UAE leadership’s commitment to nurture and develop the cultural and creative sector and said, "Nothing has preoccupied my mind in the recent past as the present and future of the creative economy, and how we may enable the UAE to boast a vibrant cultural sphere which also contributes substantially to the local and global economy.”

She emphasised “that global cooperation is key to realising the true potential of the creative economy," and indicated that the UAE has launched a 10-year National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries which marks a shift in the nation’s efforts and ambitions towards a more sustainable creative ecosystem. 

Day one was filled with eleven exclusive ‘Friends of Creative Economy’ meetings, that revolved around how taking a human-centric approach to the development of the creative economy is essential to building and sustaining a thriving future. 

Key sessions with international speakers, Daren Tang, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) addressed the emerging needs related to IP protection against the shifting landscape of the creative economy. 

In his session, ‘Lessons for a New Inclusively Creative World’, British International Cultural Advisor, Leader and Communicator, Anthony Sargent CBE, unpacked some of the fundamental changes to the way we now live as a result of the pandemic, and how we must harvest the true lessons for the future of the world’s cultural and creative industries.

Sheikha Fouz Al-Sabah, Founder of Khaleejesque, launching Radar

Day two began with a lot of buzz and highlights included a session titled “The Value of Mapping Creativity " under the theme Future Sustainable. During this session, Sheikha Fouz Al-Sabah, Founder of Khaleejesque, launched Radar, a regional creative mapping project that is a first of its kind resource. She spoke about how Khaleejesque has mapped more than 200 organisations in the regional CCI landscape and conducted research sessions with leading institutions and sector specialists. She explained how this led to the launch of the Radar Regional Creative Mapping Project, the first resource of its kind to highlight cultural happenings and opportunities for creatives in and from the GCC. The informative session covered insights and challenges that emerged from this unique initiative.

Later in the day, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) and Member of Dubai Council, was interviewed in a ‘Sofa Session’ by Becky Anderson, Anchor of CNN’s Connect the World and CNN Abu Dhabi’s Managing Editor.

During the session titled ‘Accessible Creativity: Inclusivity & Diversity’, Sheikha Latifa spoke about the region’s creative potential, the CCI sector’s contributions to the economy and the importance of collaboration. She also noted that Dubai has built strong foundations to develop into one of the world’s leading creative communities. Adding that the pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of the creative community’s work, which has led to an acceleration of Dubai Culture’s efforts to foster creative talent and bring the entire government and partners in the private sector together to support the CCI sector.

The last day began with a full audience present to hear Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, founder and CEO of Kalimat Group for Children’s Publications session entitled “Accepting Humanity through Books”, where she discussed the role of books as a creative medium in promoting interpersonal connectivity and creating a more inclusive and diverse public space where all voices are heard and accepted. She said: “I am delighted that growing scientific evidence proves that books can transform us into more compassionate and accepting people.” She concluded by expressing how grateful she is that “publishers are working towards more inclusivity and diversity to the world of books. In doing so, they invite us to explore various cultural, ethnic, artistic and historical issues from unique perspectives.”

Award-winning author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell

The day went on with an inspirational talk by award-winning author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell, who spoke about how diversity is key to creativity by unexpectedly referencing Paul Simon’s singing career and his multi million album Graceland

Gladwell urged the audience, “If you are willing to experiment, to be brave, to take chances, to be uncomfortable, then the creative life can last as long as you want it to last.”  He concluded by saying “Open your mind and your heart to those who think and create and live differently from you – and the world will be yours.”

While closing the conference, Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, said: “The success of this three-day conference is our tireless effort to emphasize the importance of putting the creative economy on the global agenda.” Adding that “this is the beginning of the road.” Her Excellency concluded by expressing excitement for the third edition of the conference that will be held in Indonesia next year.

During these three action-packed and thought-provoking days, policy makers and creatives from around the world discussed ideas, solutions and new policies for sustainable creative economy development. A common theme was the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the creative and cultural industries. The dynamic platform allowed diverse and accomplished participants to share their ideas and perspectives and reinforced the fundamental value of knowledge sharing and collaboration. 

WCCE 2021 served as a platform to engage and facilitate the taking of concrete steps towards a more sustainable creative economy. As the pace of innovation and technological disruption continue to accelerate, WCCE 2021 provided a unique forum and an ideal opportunity to share knowledge, analyse trends and debate ideas. 

Hosting more than 3,000 participants and virtual participants, this conference confirms the position of the UAE as an important and pioneering center for creativity in the region and the world at large.

Words by Saira Malik

Images by Rahaf Al Oraifan

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