Mauritius set to develop a new law on the status of the artist

From 18 October to 6 November 2017, UNESCO supported a technical assistance mission to help the Government of Mauritius design a new law on the status of the artist.

Led in tandem by Vesna Čopič, a member of the Expert Facility of the 2005 Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and Sobhanund Seeparsad, national expert appointed by the Ministry of Arts and Culture, the mission brought together numerous government actors and the artistic community in Mauritius and Rodrigues, organized in thematic focus groups.

Building on the achievements of a first preparatory mission held in February 2017, the work was structured around six main themes: definitions of different categories of professionals in arts; working status; social security; tax measures and schemes; different cultural policy measures to support artistic creation and other measures regarding education and training; preferential treatment; governance and establishment of a national body for professionals in arts.

An inter-ministerial task force, comprising the Ministries of Arts and Culture; Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment; Social Security, National Solidarity and Environment and Sustainable Development and Finance and Economic Development as well as the Attorney-General’s Office took note of the measures proposed by the thematic focus groups for inclusion in the future law on the status of the artist and agreed on the modalities for further consultations within each Ministry. Throughout the process, special attention was given to scrutinising the social, professional and financial schemes already in place to determine what could be extended to professionals in arts and what would require specific measures.

The conclusions of this intense work, which benefited from the engagement of artists and professionals in all fields of culture (music, visual arts, performing arts, audio-visuals, dance and literature) were presented to the Minister of Arts and Culture during a meeting on Monday 6th November.

“It is critical to equip the country with such a law to allow artists and a large part of the cultural sector to make the transition from the informal to the formal sector”, said Minister Prithvirajsing Roopun. “I reiterate my commitment to the project and my determination to work with the Ministries concerned and the artistic community”. It is only after this last round of consultations that the text should be submitted to the State Law Office for drafting the law. A third UNESCO mission should take place early 2018.

UNESCO’s assistance responds to the commitment announced by the government in the Budget Speech 2016/2017 to introduce a Status of the Artist Bill in the National Assembly. This announcement reflected the Mauritian government’s conviction that an appropriate legal framework for artists is essential for the revitalization of the cultural sector as a key development sector. It marked a renewed commitment to better integrate artists into the country’s economic development, a goal to which the future law aims to contribute by protecting the economic and social rights of professionals in arts.

UNESCO is able to support this challenging process through its Aschberg programme for the mobility of artists and cultural professionals with which UNESCO strives to promote artistic freedom and respect for the various rights it embodies, such as the right to protection of social and economic rights. UNESCO relies in this work on two international normative instruments, 1980 Recommendation on the Status of Artists and the 2005 Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, now ratified by 145 Parties, including Mauritius which was the second country in the world to ratify it at the beginning of 2006.