Barcelona, 12 December 2014. Hosted by the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the project “Development of cultural and creative industries and clusters in the Southern Mediterranean”, which is labelled by the UfM and funded by the European Union (EU) with a financial contribution from the Italian Development Cooperation, held its first regional Project Approval Committee (PAC) in Barcelona, Spain.
The PAC took note of the completion of the project’s inception phase, which included a mapping of clusters and cluster initiatives in cultural and creative industries in the beneficiary countries as well as an open call for proposal, which led to the technical assessment of the candidatures received and which was followed by a pre-selection of two promising clusters in each country that was undertaken by each National Steering Committee (NSC).
As the host of the PAC, Claudio Cortese, Senior Deputy Secretary General of the UfM, expressed the Committee’s satisfaction with the results achieved so far: “we are very happy that over 140 clusters and over 70 other (non-cluster) economic realities were identified during the mapping exercise; this reflects both the tremendous cultural wealth of the Southern Mediterranean and the potential for job creation based on cultural heritage in the countries of the region”.
Most of the clusters identified are in the design-based industries that include clothing and footwear, jewelry, furniture and home decoration, crafts and textile. The other cultural and creative industries – cultural transmedia, live culture and professional creative services – are very present in the countries of the Southern Mediterranean, yet they are seldom geographically concentrated (or “clusterized”) as they are rather spread across the national territory.
As the Chair of the PAC and as the project’s main donor, Vladimir Rojanski from the European Union further stated: “the European Neighborhood Policy Instrument (ENPI) and the Euro-med charter provide the framework for enhanced cooperation between both sides of the Mediterranean; the European Union continues to support the inclusive and sustainable development of the Southern Mediterranean, also through innovative approaches such as applying the methodology of clusters on the cultural and creative industries”.
The PAC validated the pre-selection made by each NSC and approved the activities of the project, both for selected clusters as well as support activities for non-selected clusters. In particular, the PAC asked that the project also provides support to non-selected clusters while paying special attention to gender requirements and specific actions for youth.
In Algeria, the jewelry cluster in Batna and the brass (in French “dinanderie”) cluster in Constantine were selected; in Jordan, two Amman-based clusters were selected, namely the garment and ceramic clusters; in Lebanon, the jewelry cluster in Beirut and the furniture cluster in Tripoli were chosen; in Morocco, the garment/fashion cluster in Casablanca and the homeware cluster in Marrakesh were selected; in Palestine, the handicrafts cluster in Bethlehem and the furniture cluster in Nablus were picked by the NSC; and in Tunisia, the Nabeul arts de la table cluster and the mosaic cluster in El Djem were selected.
Gerardo Patacconi, Project Manager for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which implements the EU-funded project, and co-chair of the PAC said: “we have witnessed great enthusiasm throughout the region for our project, which is at the nexus of industry and creativity. We are looking forward to working with both selected and non-selected clusters, and to develop partnerships with potential buyers, experts and institutions”. He added: “the challenge is to transform working as individual companies into SME clustering/networking, and to transform the region’s cultural heritage and creativity into new products, business opportunities and jobs; this is the core objective of the EU-funded project”.
The PAC gathers the main protagonists of the project, including the chair and one private sector representative from each NSC as well as representatives from the European Union, the Italian Development Cooperation and UNIDO. Other participants have also been invited to participate as observers to the PAC. The PAC meets once a year and validates both the decisions of the NSCs and approves the way forward of the project.