Happy Birthday, OCPA!

Message by the Executive Director

Ten years of existence for a project is a proof of performance and, at the least, a feat. Ten years of existence and continuity for a cultural project, an institution of the mind is an indication of its relevance, consistency and legitimacy.

1. History will record that this is after a large gathering attended by-114 experts from across the continent and by five Ministers, invited from its five regions,-the Panafrican Consultation, held in Lome, Togo in February 1998, beyond the preparation of Africa to the Stockholm Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development to be held seven months later, came to the conclusion that a structure should be established to address concerns and projections that experts had expressed around the theme of cultural policies for development of Africa under the watchful and benevolent eyes of governments.

2. This concern was re-examined by Agora 21 during the Stockholm Conference, that had "Africa's position" for theme, as a project as well as several smaller and more technical meetings between 2000 and 2001. This process ended in May 2002 to a regional conference held in Maputo, Mozambique approving the establishment of an Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa for which an action strategy and a constitution was proposed and a provisional program of action adopted.

Thus was decided the launch of OCPA, it is true, with the label of a UNESCO project, but with the blessing of the nascent African Union and a vital logistic support ensured by the Ford Foundation.

3. This combination of efforts facilitated, two years later, the legal recognition of the entity and the establishment of an independent and permanent secretariat of an organization having a recognized international and Pan African status and the mandate to provide information, to ensure training, technical assistance and to promote cultural policies.

4. In its working method, OCPA adopted from the beginning the approach which extended the general guidelines defined by the international community through the declarations and conventions adopted by UNESCO, but also through the contributions of other UN Agencies, UNDP and UNCTAD in particular.

In this respect, considerations have emerged regarding the relationship between culture and development, safeguarding and promotion of heritage, support for creativity as the openings which appeared with the deepening of the economic dimension of culture by reflections on the creative economy.

Other themes such as cultural indicators of development, diversity, cultural routes and the dialogue of civilizations have emerged as components underlying the review of the legitimate cultural policies at the state level as at the level of the cities and local governments.

UNESCO for its part welcomed this orientation and recognized OCPA status of non-governmental organization working in operational relations and in consultation with it.

5. Thus, starting from its public appearance on the international stage at the Universal Forum in Barcelona in 2004, OCPA was to initiate the conclusion of numerous framework agreements of cooperation with organizations in the field of culture as CULTURELINK, INTERARTS, Culture.mondo, and undertake activities in partnership with organizations such as the OIF and international non-governmental foundations such as PRINCE CLAUS FUND. In this respect, to give honour where honour is, we have to pay a special tribute to AECID, the Spanish Agency for International Development that has offered to OCPA the most substantial support.

6. In Africa, OCPA has benefited from a strong back-up of the African Union has expressed its support in kind by associating it with all its consultations and reflections, in the drafting of fundamental texts in the field of culture and, in particular, of cultural policies as well as to all meetings and projects in this area where sometimes it confided a role of "first among equals".

On these steps, OCPA was to approach the regional economic organizations such as ECOWAS or UEMOA for the West, ECCAS for Central Africa, EAC for the East and SADC for Southern Africa. In all these organizations the continuity of the relationship is ensured by the regional coordinators of the Observatory.

But OCPA has built also partnerships with specialized institutions or regional cultural associations that became reference institutions in the various sectors of culture such as AFRICOM, WAMP, and EPA for tangible heritage, the CELHTO, CERDOTOLA ACALAN for the intangible heritage, CODESRIA and IDEP for research and CDEA and CRAC for training among others.

7. However, if it considers the services to to offer to different categories of leaders and managers of culture, art and heritage, members of civil society interested, its activities concern more directly the cultural policy makers of the States. Government authorities for their part did not fail to express their appreciation to the OCPA and their attention particularly on the occasion of official contacts and public panels. Thus, just to quote some examples, several meetings and panels took place with the Ministers of Kenya, in the East, in 2005, Tunisia, in the North, in 2009, Cameroon and Chad, in 2010 and 2012, in the Central Africa, Nigeria, in the West in 2010 and 2012, as well as Zambia, in the South, in 2011 and of course several times with the Ministers who have successively led the Department of Culture in Mozambique.

Local governments on their side expressed their interest and willingness to initiate a dialogue after which they decided to review their cultural policies with a concern of better integrating the cultural dimension in the in the living together of populations and improving access to public services, the organization of leisure, in short, the social life of people in cities like St. Louis, in Senegal, Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, Brazzaville in Congo and Maputo in Mozambique.

8. But ensuring the sustainability of the program launched lies in the mobilization of skills and capacity building at various levels. OCPA can be proud of having organized 10 training seminars for administrators, managers and cultural entrepreneurs. It expresses its satisfaction also for having successfully developed a trainee programme the beneficiaries of which, a dozen trainees, were African and European university students. Thus, beyond the short term training, a long-term and academic type training program is profiling on the horizon through the agreements in preparation in particular and with the Higher Institute of Arts and Culture (ISARC) of Mozambique and with Universities in Europe, like the Hildesheim and Zeppelin Universities in Germany.

Definitely, OCPA, at this stage in its short history, is part of a dynamic of hope oriented to the future in spite of the vagaries of the inadequacy of the material resources necessary for its continuous operation and its operational structure and in spite of the difficulty to mobilize them.

9. Here a tribute and thanks must be expressed.

A tribute to UNESCO, at its Headquarters and at the level of its diverse operational entities, for its constant and mobilizing support. Tribute to the African Union for its continued support and unaltered confidence! Tribute to the Ford Foundation for the facilities that enabled the smooth delivery of the Observatory. Tribute to the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development which has permitted to the Observatory to maintain its orientation and to expand its action towards new areas. Thanks to significant sponsors like TRUSTAFRICA and Prince Claus Fund. Thanks to the African and international partners for the testimony of their friendship. Thanks to the experts and the great number of actors of the cultural sector committed to seeking ways and means to include the cultural dimension, in the heart of policies, as well as in their vision, mission and goals.

10. OCPA, for celebrating its tenth anniversary, extends the events planned over a period from November 2012 to December 2014. In opening, a workshop will be held in Maputo on November 29 in cooperation with the Higher Institute of Arts and Culture, opened by an academic session for the occasion. For its closure, a major international conference is planned and coupled with a regional conference on the theme of Cultural Routes.

Already there is a call to the world of culture and to the international development and cooperation organisations to preserve the precious achievements by renewing and expressing their support to the initiative of OCPA for promoting the ideal defended by our organization, that of placing culture at the heart of development by a conscious and voluntary political commitment. This co-operation will constitute a testimony of their commitment to the defence and promotion of contemporary African culture inscribed on the frontispiece of the quest for the Cultural Renaissance of Africa, placed in the centre of the Agenda of the African Union, in a momentum of a friendly and active international solidarity.

Lupwishi Mbuyamba
Executive Director of the Observatory of Cultural Policies in Africa

Maputo, 21 May 2012