Closing remarks by AgSG Fong Toy, Inaugural Meeting on Cultural Statistics

CLOSING REMARKS by Acting Secretary General, Ms Andie Fong Toy
27 MAY 2011

Heads of Statistics Ministries and Agencies,
Heads of Cultural Commissions,
Representatives from our development partners, UNESCO and UNESCAP
Colleagues from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community,
Ladies and gentleman.

I reiterate my colleague, SPC Deputy Director General Utoikamanu’s opening remark, that statistics development indeed like culture, is an underutilized area that has immense potential to bring economic development to our people. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat views development of the Cultural Industry as an integral part of the Forum’s small economies supported by the Economic Development Programme in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Through linkages in culture and statistics, policy makers are able to measure the success and failures of aspects of cultural activities. From promoting cultural industries for domestic commerce and international trade exports, protecting traditional knowledge and expressions of culture from theft and abuse, to allocating resources in promoting social cohesion to mitigate internal conflicts.

We have been informed by both national statistics and cultural officers of the difficulties in cultural statistical collection. These range from a lack of capacity and resources to the technical features of appropriate classifications, and modalities of surveys. Such challenges no doubt affect the ambition of countries to advance their cultural sector and this in turn inhibits the implementation of cultural polices.

Therefore, we are delighted that our partners, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (IAS) has shared with us the 2009 UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics. By using the Cultural Statistics Domain Framework, cultural activities may be measured using established classification, and economic and social arrangements. They have also informed us of the need to progress social indicators, as this is an integral area to measure cultural activities.

While appreciating this great initiative by UNESCO IAS, I encourage Pacific Islands Countries and Territories to actively and widely consult on its appropriateness in your cultural and development polices. These frameworks are only effective when they are further developed to apply to the unique circumstances of your countries; as we have observed in the Traditional Knowledge Action Plan, where Forum Island Countries have used regional model laws and policy toolkits to develop their TK frameworks. Through their national consultations, they have refined legal terms and traditional protocols which have provided greater policy and legislative clarity in protecting Traditional Knowledge. Therefore, further consultations are indeed critical.

In concluding, I quote from what the Secretary General remarked to the Forum Trade Ministers Meeting recently in Va’vau:

“Ours is a region rich in culture and tradition, closely linked to the environment – a distinctive environment of land and ocean - and our Pacific “mana” – a concept of deeply engrained, and often shared, traditional awareness and self esteem. These are rights and possessions of inestimable value; they must be protected."

We are delighted to work closely with SPC and other partners in promoting and protecting our MANA and stand ready to move forward in progressing the outcomes of your meeting. May I wish you safe travels back to your countries.


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