[EN] Video Transcript

Art and Intercultural Dialogue in Times of COVID-19:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic served to underscore humanity’s fundamental interconnectedness and interdependence. 
  • However, in their initial responses, states did not exhibit the solidarity and cohesion needed to find equitable solutions to face the crisis. 
  • The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the important role of intercultural dialogue in forging trust and cooperation between nations to tackle global risks. 

Apart of being a health crisis, the pandemic has announced various challenges from an intercultural perspective, such as the increase in socio-economic inequalities, the lack of access to credible information, the amplification of fragmentation and segregation in societies, increased restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms in the form of travel restrictions. COVID-19 increased the threats to diversity through increase in racism, stereotypes, and discriminatory practices against certain nationalities, as well as gender-based violence during quarantine. The crisis undermined collective solutions by favoring individual strategies to ensure self-protection.

  •  Through dialogue, nations can address these shared challenges which intensified the effects of the pandemic.
  •  On the other hand, the lockdown during the pandemic triggered solidarity among neighbors regardless of nationality, as well as youth engagement, and strengthening social relations through digital tools.
  •  It is very important to take advantage of these opportunities to sustain cross-cultural solidarity and interaction.
  •  Intercultural dialogues can reinforce a shared vision, sense of belonging, cooperation and collective responses to COVID-19 and the socio-economic problems associated with it. 
  • Defined as “open and respectful exchange of views between individuals and groups with different ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds and heritage on the basis of mutual understanding and respect”,
  • Intercultural dialogue can bolster inclusion and resilience in addressing challenges to most vulnerable groups and individuals during and after lockdown and physical distancing. 
  • The arts act as a mediator for intercultural dialogue as well as an interpreter of one’s culture to another.
  •  Art acts as platform of self-expression. It helps negotiate feelings of anger and injustice, and highlight voices of the marginalized. 
  • Arts can also play a role in developing a vision for real inclusion during and post COVID-19.
  • UNESCO launched its art campaign in order to highlight and celebrate the art and artists who responded to COVID-19 crisis through the production of artwork to show how various societies responded to the crisis. 
  • For example, UNESCO has launched its “Open your Heart” art campaign in Cambodia in order to counter xenophobia, stigmatization and disinformation triggered by COVID-19. 
  • The World Health Organization launched the virtual solidarity shows art initiative in July 2020 in order to present and highlight the contribution from the creative community in response to COVID-19.
  •  The “COVID-19 Art Gallery” shows a selection of outstanding artists who “educated and cleared up rumors” with the help of their art during the global pandemic and documented this difficult time for history.

The events discussed the role of the arts in improving health and wellbeing in the context of COVID-19 and how creating art and participating in creative expression can be a source of healing for those experiencing anxiety, depression and other mental health issues as a result of COVID-19. 

Anna Lindh Foundation has been involved in organizing major cultural events, as culture can create “a common sense of belonging in the Mediterranean region”. 

The ALF intercultural trends survey assesses the value citizens from the two sides of the Mediterranean give to cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and cooperation. 

When asked about barriers to cross-cultural encounters, respondents identified “social and cultural constraints” as “a big barrier”.

  • “Language differences” was the most cited barrier to dialogue. 
  • Visa and travel difficulties were perceived to be a ‘big barrier’. 
  • Travel-related barriers were exacerbated due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • The internet and social media enabled people to engage in cross-cultural encounters, in which travel difficulties are less apparent. 

A majority of respondents agree that cultural barriers are less of an obstacle to dialogue during digital communication than during face-to-face interaction.

The survey data suggests that there are clear benefits to online intercultural dialogue. 

According to the survey results, digital technology is playing a key role in shaping perceptions of other cultures and in creating new, virtual opportunities for cross-cultural communication. Most respondents think that digital technology has a positive impact on intercultural dialogue. 

This aligns with the increase in use of digital technology during COVID-19 lockdown and physical distancing. Digital technology has the potential to bring people and culture closer and foster inclusive and just societies.

Findings of the survey draw attention to the importance of initiatives that encourage artistic expressions in order to overcome the misunderstandings and stereotyping which affect relations between and within the societies of the region.

  • Attempts can be made to educate and empower people through the arts. 
  • Innovative artistic mediums can be used to promote intercultural learning. 
  • In times of crisis, activities and programs are needed to keep the community spirit, locally and internationally, alive in the fight against COVID-19.