Global financial crisis: Culture's Achilles heel.
In times of rapid societal and environmental change, culture provides opportunities, through its role in human development, as a repository of knowledge, as a driver of economic growth, and as a symbolic force for stability and meaning, to address the challenges of an increasingly complex world.
The Greek government debt crisis is one of a number European sovereign-debt crisis which was triggered by the arrival of the global economic recession in 2008.
A "loan Facility Agreement" (May 2010) and "Memorandum” was signed between Greece, the Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditional of the implementation of austerity measures.
The economic turmoil is having a devastating effect on the country's rich cultural heritage. The Ministry's of Culture budget has been cut by 50% over the past 3 years. Greece has 210 archaeological museums, 250 organized archaeological sites and 19.000 designated monuments and sites.
As a result, a large number of cultural employees have been dismissed. The State authorities can't implement any more projects concerning the effective protection, conservation, and presentation of monuments and sites. Research and excavations are being abandoned. Museums are closed or shut down entire halls because of shortage of guards. Clandestine excavations, pillage and illicit trafficking of cultural property increased by 25% the past 3 years.
The Memorandum comprises provisions on privatization of public assets, organizations and enterprises.
According to the Greek Constitution and the Archaeological Law in force, the archaeological movable and immovable heritage is considered national property belonging to all Greeks. The privatization and commercialization of public assets affects this heritage dramatically and weakens its protection and conservation due to the lack of necessary funds.
Within the UN system, UNESCO has a unique mandate and expertise to promote culture as a driver and an enabler of peace and sustainable development in conformity to the Millennium Development Goals and the Post-2015 UN Development agenda.
UNESCO cultural Conventions provide a unique global platform for international cooperation and establish a holistic governance system based on human rights and shared values. These international treaties endeavor to protect and safeguard the world's cultural and natural heritage, intangible heritage, museum collections, and to support creativity and innovation.
Each State Party to these Conventions undertake to take the appropriate legal, scientific and financial measures necessary for the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of the heritage.
The policy of severe cuts affecting cultural budgets in Greece and in other countries is not in conformity with the relevant UNESCO Treaties. For instance, the signatory States to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005), will formulate and implement cultural policies that include in particular "measures aimed at providing public financial assistance" and "establishing and supporting public institutions" (Article 6.2). The implementation of these Conventions without financial action or interference on the part of public authorities, it’s impossible if it is not invigorated by corresponding practice.
The ongoing financial crisis cannot be taken as an excuse for cuts in culture.
A diverse and productive cultural environment can provide important tangible contributions towards overcoming the present difficulties faced by governments, civil society and economic players.
The protection, conservation and presentation of cultural heritage is one that interests the international Community and it should be considered as a moral obligation upon all human beings.