The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was created in 2004 with the main objective of connecting cities which want to share ideas, experiences and best practices for cultural, social and economic development. There are currently 41 member cities from around the world.
In order to become a member of the Network, a city must submit an application to UNESCO that clearly demonstrates their willingness and capacity to contribute to the objectives of the Network, which include, among others, to strengthen the creation , production, distribution and enjoyment of cultural goods and services at the local level.
Once designated, the city must ensure their continued role as centres of excellence, and to support other cities, particularly those in developing countries, in nurturing their own creative economy. The titles are permanent and non-competitive, and the centres of excellence are classified under seven thematic areas of Literature, Film, Music, Craft and Folk Art, Design, Media Arts and Gastronomy.
There are currently seven designate Cities of Literature: Edinburgh, Melbourne, Iowa, Dublin, Reykjavik, Norwich and Krakow. Kampala’s application to join the network as a City of Literature is being led by the African Writers Trust, and if successful, Kampala will be the first African city to be admitted into the network as a City of Literature. The application is due to be submitted by March 2015, having missed the previous deadline of March 2014, because of not having all the mandatory supporting documents including five Letters of Endorsement from the existing cities.
What would it mean for Kampala to be designated a City of Literature? The benefits are far-reaching and apart from the opportunities to network and showcase Kampala’s literary heritage internationally; the Cities of Literature work together to build strong global partnerships: encouraging literary exchanges, creating cross cultural initiatives, and developing local, national and international literary links.
Each year, the Network holds its annual delegates meeting, hosted by one of the appointed cities. This year, 2014, the meeting was held in the beautiful city of Chengdu, in western China, and home of the adorable Pandas. Chengdu is a City of Gastronomy. Previous hosts include: In 2012, Montreal – Canada (City of Design), in 2013, Bologna – Italy (City of Music) and in 2015, the conference will be hosted by Kanazawa – Japan (City of Design). In 2016, the conference will move to Ostersund – Austria (City of Gastronomy).
The main goals of the 8th Chengdu meeting, among others, were to refine the strategic objectives of the Network in the framework of the Post 2015 Development Agenda, and to Orient the future enlargement and growth of a reinvigorated Network. The conference brought together all the 41 member cities with their respective representatives comprising Mayors and other municipal/government officials, heads of cultural centres and creative networks, and officials from UNESCO.
For the first time in the history of the Network, candidate cities were also invited as observers. I participated on behalf Kampala city. It was a privilege for me to meet and interact with the other city members, especially those from literature. I strongly believe that my presence at the meeting strengthened Kampala’s application, and I felt immensely reassured by sharing experiences with the other candidate cities of literature.