IN TRANSIT: A Study on International Law and the Mobility of Artists, Art Works, Cultural Goods and Services

The aim of the IN TRANSIT study is to provide an overview of the main international legal instruments which impact on the mobility of artists, art works, cultural goods and services. Case studies of bilateral and multilateral legal agreements give practical insight into how legal instruments are used by countries across the world to enhance cross- border mobility.

The research was carried out in early 2009 and included a consultation with organizations across the world representing artists and cultural professionals in the audiovisual sector, performing arts, literature, music, visual arts and heritage. Feedback from professionals provides a valuable picture of the difficulties which exist in implementing the legal instruments and of the obstacles professionals face when crossing borders or moving cultural goods and providing services abroad.

IN TRANSIT refers to the patterns of cross-border cultural mobility, frequently temporary and short-term. The title of the study also captures some of the problems encountered in setting up, ratifying and implementing supportive legal instruments and ensuring that the intended effects of the legislation are experienced on the ground by artists and cultural operators.

An impressive international legislative framework promoting cultural mobility is described in the study. Nevertheless, many obstacles still exist, often due to non-compliance with existing legislation. There are important gaps in terms of insufficient protection and promotion of artists, art works, cultural goods and services and cultural industries. Persistent difficulties with visas and work permits and a lack of transparency on applicable rules also hinder cross-border mobility.

A number of recommendations are put forward to improve cross-border mobility. Proposals also include a common Action Plan for Cross-Border Mobility for Cultural Diversity which could be set up and implemented by UNESCO, in partnership with States, other international organizations, and in association with civil society organizations representing professionals in the cultural sector. Such an Action Plan could help address many of the obstacles, build on existing good practices (which are numerous) and support cross-border mobility as an efficient means of promoting diversity of cultural expressions.

This study was commissioned by UNESCO (Section for the Diversity of Cultural Expressions) in the framework of additional assistance to the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions1 as established by the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions2 and as part of the follow-up of the 1980 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist. The study was carried out by Richard Poláček & Judith Staines and is now available in English and French.