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Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr. the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley has stated that “culture is a driver of development, and at a time of change, we must broaden the debate about development to harness culture’s transformative power.”
Honourable Wheatley made this statement at the Regional Consultation of Ministers of Culture for Latin America and the Caribbean which was held on the 14th and 15th of February. Honourable Wheatley made his contribution on the 14th of February.
Further to his statement he added, “Culture provides a sustainable framework for social cohesion and peace, indispensable to human development.” The timing of the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies – Mondiacult 2022 – is of great benefit to the British Virgin Islands because we are, currently this year, reviewing and revising the 2013 cultural policy. We consider this a real opportunity.”
The cultural policy, which will undergo public consultation, is being revised to emphasise current national priorities which include a focus on developing the creative industries, cultural heritage, and cultural education. According to the Minister, this revision also includes “integrating culture across all sectors: trade, tourism and economy, education, environment and climate change or justice, health, community, youth, gender, media, and sports.” Along these lines, the Department of Culture is currently collaborating with the Ministry in order to integrate cultural arts education and cultural heritage across the education sector and into the national curriculum. The Minister believes this will allow for the transmission of cultural values and heritage to younger generations. Furthermore, he believes that cultural education is important as it fosters a sense of belonging, identity and a sense of historical place.
“We will include public education as a focus along with formal education. It is also important for the community to be informed regarding culture and heritage; lifelong learning is important. Cultural education and awareness lead to social cohesion in society,” Honourable Wheatley said.
The Minister also addressed the need for the revision to include strengthening a Virgin Islands sense of national pride and identity whilst acknowledging that the Territory is now and presently a multicultural society. Other areas include a focus on programmes for the conservation and development of tangible and intangible heritage, including a comprehensive oral history programme.
The Minister also spoke to the critical need to develop infrastructure such as a performing arts centre, a national museum and a national gallery as well as to the need to develop already existing festivals.
In closing, he expressed the need to move forward with ratifying several UNESCO conventions. These conventions include: the Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage (2003); the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Heritage (2001); the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972); and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005).