The Organization of American States explains that: “Culture and cultural diversity is a fundamental element of an organization like the OAS whose 35 member countries span across the two continents located in the western hemisphere. Bringing cultures together while preserving the integrity of each unique culture is important to fostering cooperation and the continued success of the OAS. The OAS has many programs designed to expand understanding and awareness of its member’s cultures as well as safeguarding their distinctive heritages.” For more specific information on the OAS role in cultural promotion and protection, please see their website.
Culture is extremely important to the United States and one manifestation of this is in US support for OAS development work on culture. The United States always sends exemplary delegations to the Ministerial meetings on Culture and other related meetings. The United States also fully participates in many related events and sponsors a host of development programs in culture.
The Inter-American Committee on Culture
The Inter-American Committee on Culture, or CIC, is a body for discussion at the technical - policy level. It is composed of representatives of the Ministries of Culture and highest appropriate authorities of the Americas. Its main function is to follow the implementation of the mandates of the Declarations and Plans of Action of the Ministerial Meetings on Culture, as well as of those that emanate from the Summits of the Americas.
CIC’s priorities include:
- Preservation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage
- Culture and the Enhancement of the Dignity and Identity of Our People
- Culture and the Creation of Decent Jobs
- Overcoming of Poverty, and Culture and the Role of Indigenous Peoples.
In November 2009, the CIC met in Washington to discuss numerous topics, ranging from engaging vulnerable youth in cultural activities to discussing national programs for cultural protection. The United States attended and was excited to see enormous support for the upcoming Inter-American Year of Culture, which will begin in 2011.
2011: Inter-American Year of Culture
On January 1, 2011, OAS Member States launched the Inter-American Year of Culture. The Year of Culture will serve to highlight the tremendous importance of culture in the western hemisphere. The Inter-American Year of Culture will promote respect for the great diversity of cultures in the OAS member states, to foster intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding, and to reinforce the important role culture can play in social and economic development.
The Inter-American Year of Culture will also highlight numerous events and programs around the Americas and will also include unique culture-related programming.
Inter-American Meetings of Ministers of Culture
The Inter-American Meetings of Ministers of Culture and Highest Appropriate Authorities occur roughly every two years. Meetings promote policy dialogue and consensus at hemispheric level on priority topics of the public policy agenda in the field of culture.
- The Fourth Inter-American Meeting of Ministers of Culture and Highest Appropriate Authorities took place on November 20 and 21, 2008 in Bridgetown, Barbados. Ministerial discussion centered on the topic: "The Economy of Culture in the Americas: A Path to Sustainable Growth and Social Inclusion". Within this topic, four sub-topics were analyzed:
- How to develop effective public policies for the development and sustainability of a vibrant cultural sector?
- How does an artist obtain international recognition?
- What is the impact of partnerships and alliances in the economy of culture and what is the role of the public and private sectors and of international partners?
- How to engage youth in the economy of culture?
Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities, served as Head of Delegation for the United States.
Ignite the Americas
Ignite the Americas is a Youth Art Policy Forum, which took place in Toronto, Canada on September 15-21, 2008. In collaboration with the CIC and the OAS, the goal was to bring together young leaders and artists, cultural policy makers and industry leaders from across OAS Member States, creating an important first step towards building strong partnerships and cultivating new opportunities for cultural, professional, and creative exchange between the youth arts and cultural sectors. Ignite the Americas was such a success that 2008 Cultural Ministerial further endorsed the program and Brazil offered to host a second phase of Ignite in 2010. The United States fully supports the aims and policies of Ignite the Americas.
The United States Mission to the OAS works closely with its inter-agency partners regarding culture. Firstly, the Mission enjoys tremendous support from within the Department of State, especially from:
USOAS also works with:
- the United States Trade Representative,
- the National Endowment of the Arts,
- the National Endowment for the Humanities,
- the Department of the Interior,
- the Library of Congress,
- the Smithsonian Institution,
- the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences,
- and the President’s Council on the Arts and Humanities.