Boosting artists’ status in Mauritius: designing a new law

Mauritius, with the support of UNESCO, has launched an initiative to design a new law to professionalize the status of artists in Mauritius. Defining their professional status, improving their economic and social working conditions - including through preferential treatment measures - and recognizing their role in the sustainable development of the island were at the heart of discussions held from 2 to 16 February 2017.

The consultation process for gathering inputs from relevant stakeholders (responsible ministries, institutions and artists) and creating new legislation was led by the Ministry of Arts and Culture, with Vesna Čopič, member of the 2005 Convention Expert F acility, helping to guide the discussions.

 “The government of Mauritius acknowledges that career opportunities for artists need to be expanded if we want to transform and bring a new dynamism to its creative and cultural sector. It is in this context that we announced in our Programme and the Budget 2016-2017, the Status of Artist Bill”, states Hon. Pradeep Roopun, Minister of Arts and Culture of Mauritius. “This piece of legislation shall be the first national public policy attempt to address the socio-economic rights of artists.  On the other hand, it will provide for a framework to legitimize their status in the society and the economic market, as well as regulate the environment in which they work”.

This initiative comes as a follow-up to the technical assistance programme implemented by UNESCO in 2012-2013 with the support of the European Union, in order to help design a new policy on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, and leading to the adoption in 2013 of the Creative Mauritius-Vision 2015 White paper. 

A complex and participatory process

Altogether, 11 working sessions and 12 workshops were organized.

A Working group of the Ministry of Arts and Culture was established to define core parameters of the initiative: categorization of professional artists, registration mechanisms, introduction of a national body for professional artists to promote artistic creativity and provide career relevant services for artists.

In addition, a Transversal Inter-Ministerial Task Force – across the ministries for labour, social affairs, foreign affairs, information technology, education and finance – was set up in order to ensure cohesion and cooperation across ministries.

With the participation of artists, covering six areas of artistic creation (music, visual arts, performing arts, audio-visuals, dance and literature), thematic Focus Groups worked on key issues of status, social security, management services, education and training, funding and taxation.

Results of the initial consultations were presented to the Minister of Arts and Culture of Mauritius during the final meeting, held on 16 February.

“Designing a Status of the Artist legislation is very complex and challenging. Recognizing the role of artists as a driving force for the development of cultural creative industries in Mauritius is also a new policy area”, underlines Čopič.

“Artists participating in a joint workshop with representatives of the Ministry of Culture expressed the need to implement the policies that have been discussed intensively over the last years. Furthermore, their priorities for the new status of the artist legislation are not only to have a recognized category for ‘professional’ artists but, more specifically, to introduce a social security system for artists, a system of travel grants and scholarships, free spaces for rehearsals and performances, artists-in-school schemes and so on. We had a very fruitful meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Finance, of Arts and Culture and also participating artists to discuss new funding sources and mechanisms”.

Towards the end of April 2017, the different partners will come together again and UNESCO will support a second expert mission, to help consolidate proposals from all stakeholders and support the design of the new law.

Other African countries' "Status of the Artist" legislation

Over the last years, several new laws inspired by the 1980 Recommendation on the Status of Artists,  have been revised or adopted in African countries such as Burkina Faso (2013), Morocco (2003, revised in 2016) or Togo (2016). UNESCO, though its Office in Nairobi (See Press release), also supported on 28-29 December 2016 national consultations in Djibouti on measures to improve the status of the artist.

Within the framework of the Aschberg programme for artists and cultural professionals, UNESCO will continue to support the design and implementation of policies that serve the core objectives of the 2005 Convention on the promotion and protection of the diversity of cultural expressions, now ratified by 145 Parties.