Part of the changes that took place in 2018 and 2019, and the shift in the Ministry of Culture's role to one of a regulator and policymaker in the cultural sector, was the establishment of three cultural councils to drive discussions amongst industry stakeholders to further the cultural sector in the UAE and to ensure inclusive decision making. The Heritage Council, the Arts Council, and the Cultural and Creative Industries Council each include representatives from public sector, private sector, NGOs and CSOs, and play an integral role in monitoring and analyzing the various trends shaping the cultural sector, as well as anticipating any upcoming challenges. The regular meetings of the councils provide all council members with the opportunity to recommend policy changes and initiatives that ensure that the UAE's culture agenda is all-encompassing while creating a collaborative culture amongst partners.
Each council has a mandate to do the following within its domain:
1. Discuss and study the most important issues related to cultural regulations and strategies in the country and make decisions about them
2. Study the cultural regulatory and legislative needs in the UAE and provide recommendations related to them
3. Collective planning for the cultural sector in the UAE
4. Exchange of cultural experiences, best practices, and lessons learned amongst council members
5. Any added mandate members agree on
The Culture Councils have helped to gather all stakeholders from the public sector, private sector and CSOs around the same table to determine the best way to support and nurture the cultural ecosystem, anticipating challenges and determining ways to address them. Below are a few examples (non-exhaustive) of the outcomes of these meetings:
* At its second meeting in 2019, the Heritage Council agreed on a five-year plan for inscribing elements of cultural and intangible heritage on UNESCO lists, enabling coordination and cooperation among stakeholders in the country to prepare high quality files on behalf of the UAE.
* The Heritage Council meetings provided an opportunity to gather the insights of stakeholders on laws relating to antiquities, allowing for an inclusive discussion on regulations that will impact the preservation of the cultural heritage of the UAE.
* In early April 2020, the Art and Cultural and Creative Industries Councils held several remote and urgent meetings to discuss a collective action plan to overcome the challenges of the industry in the time of Covid-19. This enabled a coordinated, immediate, and systematic response among stakeholders in the country's cultural sector.
* In April 2020, the Art and Cultural and Creative Industries Councils launched a survey to study the impact of Covid-19 on the creative community, and this led to the launching of the Creative Relief Fund to support creatives and SMEs in the cultural sector impacted by COVID 19. In the first phase of the program 87 creative individuals and small enterprises operating in the cultural and creative industries received financial grants. The grant, which ranged between AED15,000 to AED50,000 (roughly USD4,100 to USD13,600) were distributed among 50 individuals and 37 companies to help them overcome the financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to supporting freelancers, the second phase of the program aimed to support organizations with up to 20 employees. With the second phase, the National Creative Relief Program was able to provide financial grants between AED15,000 to AED75,000 (roughly USD4,100 to USD20,500) to another 53 freelancers and organizations, bringing the total number of individuals and companies helped throughout both phases of the program to 140.
The Cultural Councils have been restructured a few times to include new members that were deemed necessary to be part of cultural policy discourse. The Cultural Councils began with government members, and then were expanded to include representatives from the private and non-profit sectors for their vital roles and contributions.
The UAE government has recently undergone restructuring after COVID 19 to ensure that the government is agile, responsive, and impactful. The Cultural Councils will be expanded to include new partners that were formed as a result of the restructuring, to include representatives from advanced technologies, artificial intelligence and other vital sectors that affect and are affected by the cultural sector.