Earlier this year, the Latin American & Caribbean Economic System (SELA) convened a forum in Caracas on the protection of the region's folklore, traditional knowledge and genetic resources.
Protection of these resources, which form the basis of cultural industries, is a particularly sensitive issue for the countries and governments of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is also a relatively new issue, which is simultaneously linked with commercial interests, human rights and national sovereignty matters.
According to SELA, it is also related to the commitments taken on by the Latin American and Caribbean countries within the framework of the multilateral trade negotiations and with the conditions on traditional knowledge negotiated in already signed free trade agreements (FTAs).
Actually, various versions of FTAs negotiated over the past few years now include specific provisions about traditional knowledge, framing it within the general concept of intellectual property.
Generally, cultural industries are specifically concerned with the creation, production, and distribution of goods and services that are cultural in nature, many of which are protected by copyright provisions.
More and more, cultural industries are playing a significant role in the economies of both the developed and developing countries since they produce artistic and creative outputs and have the potential for wealth creation and income generation. Thus, they form an important aspect in poverty alleviation.
In 2000, the global value of cultural industries was estimated at US$900 billion; five years later the estimated figure had jumped to $1.3 trillion and, currently, it is approaching $2 trillion.
With the advance of cultural productions such as the music and entertainment industry, as well as international sports competitions in Latin America and the Caribbean in the past five years, the region stands to achieve even a modest share in the global cultural markets which can have a positive effect on domestic employment and GDP growth.
At present, cultural industries account globally for about 7% of GDP. In Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC), the average contribution of this sector, excluding the cultural tourism sector, to GDP is about 4%. It is relatively much higher in Europe and the United States of America.
A noteworthy aspect of cultural industries is cultural tourism.
Overall, tourism has become one of the most important industries globally and it now a significant factor in the development of the global economy. In recent years, LAC countries have experienced a growth in this sector, even though the current global economic downturn has been a detrimental factor in its advance.
Nevertheless, throughout the region, particularly in Central America, cultural tourism continues as a leading money-earner for local populations and governments.
No doubt, this is because these countries possess archaeological sites, old colonial towns, natural scenery, pristine rain forests and rivers, along with the traditional cultural forms of the people -- all of which present a variety of cultural attractions to tourists from all parts of the world.
National sports also provide an attractive pastime for tourists and thousands of local and foreign tourists congregate in various LAC countries to watch baseball games in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela, to revel at football in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica, and to enjoy international cricket matches in Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, as well as other English-speaking Caricom countries.
Actually, cultural industries, generally environmentally friendly, are especially suited to aid in local development. They are "people intensive" rather than "capital intensive," and often employ creative workers. At the same time, these industries can assist in social cohesion since arts, culture, and sports can offer common meeting places in societies affected by political divisions and economic and social inequality.
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