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MANILA, Philippines – Just recently, Iloilo City made history as the first-ever Philippine city to be declared a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Iloilo had been eyeing the title since 2021, and even maximized its efforts this year by holding numerous food festivals and publishing the Flavors of Iloilo cookbook.
There are now a total of three Philippine cities in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN). Before Iloilo’s designation, Baguio was named a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art in 2017, while Cebu later earned the title of Creative City of Design in 2019.
But what is the UCCN in the first place, and why is it a big deal that three Philippine cities have made it to the network?
Origins and key objectives
The UCCN was established in 2004 to foster international collaboration among cities for sustainable development. With 7 in 10 people in developing countries projected to be living in urban areas by 2050, cities that are committed to harnessing culture and creativity are tapped to become members of the UCCN.
UNESCO selects these cities based on their innovation and strategy when it comes to implementing initiatives that yield positive social, cultural, economic, and environmental impacts.
Cities across the globe are categorized into seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. Given this year’s designation of 55 new cities, 350 cities from over 100 countries now make up the UCCN.
All of these cities will then work with civil society and the public and private sectors to achieve six key objectives:
- To strengthen international relations between member cities through their shared value for culture and creativity;
- To nurture the creation, production, distribution, and dissemination of cultural goods, services, and activities;
- To spotlight creativity-oriented initiatives by member cities by working with the public and private sectors and civil society;
- To develop outlets for creativity and innovation and provide more opportunities for creative professionals in the cultural sector;
- To make cultural life more accessible for marginalized sectors and individuals;
- To include culture and creativity in sustainable development plans.
What’s in it for Baguio, Cebu, Iloilo, and other member cities?
Membership to the UCCN gives cities “strategic positioning and opportunities” to create local policies and implement initiatives for the promotion of creativity. With this, member cities are then provided with the platform to forge connections with each other, and in turn, help each other by sharing knowledge for further development.
Furthermore, member cities can boost their national, regional, and international impact as their creativity-oriented policies and sectors are made visible.
In the process, cities can also attract economic investors and stakeholders and creative professionals and visitors – ultimately making financial mobilization from private and public sectors possible.
Most importantly, the people within the cities’ creative communities are spotlighted and connected with international networks and markets.
Member cities’ responsibilities include monitoring major trends in their respective fields, participating in the annual UCCN Conference, reporting the outcomes of its action plan every four years, and actively partaking in the activities of their respective fields.
With Baguio, Cebu, and now Iloilo being part of the network, the work of Filipinos across different regions and fields will be regularly amplified – ensuring that the diversity of Filipino ingenuity will always have a space on the global stage. – Rappler.com