In December 2019 UNHCR MENA organized the first of its kind regional roundtable which brought together over 60 participants from across MENA to unpack areas of engagement and good practices in which artists and cultural actors have been engaged already. Participants identified opportunities for cross-fertilization on shaping the discourse around displacement, enhancing social cohesion, dispelling myths, reducing discrimination.
Based on the above, there was a recognition of the need to maximize the impact and scope of effective responses to the growing needs and vulnerabilities. Following consultations with network members, artists and cultural influencers, and UNHCR country operations, the first follow-up virtual Regional Dialogue on the Role of Artists and Cultural Actors was held on Thursday 21 May 2020; with participants from 14 countries, looking to design an audio-visual collaborative project, that would combine different forms of artistic and cultural expressions with the background themes of resilience, solidarity, and inclusion of refugees, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
It was agreed that the cultural project would be infused with the national and sub-regional contributions of each participant, including different dialects, musical genres, performing arts, and literary styles, with the goals of:
a) shedding light on the impact of displacement on MENA and contributing to advocacy for the most vulnerable refugee populations.
b) reflecting on how refugees can contribute in collaboration with artists and cultural actors to produce content for such purposes, given their own lived experiences over the years.