EFA at first Forum on Festivals in Arab Countries

8 December 2009

From 2 to 4 December 2009, the first Forum on Festivals in Arab Countries took place in Beirut, Lebanon. Darko Brlek, President of the European Festivals Association and Director and Artistic Leader of Festival Ljubljana, was one of the invited high-level guests. The Forum was organised by the Arab Administrative Development Organisation (ARADO) affiliated with the League of Arab States and in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival, member of the European Festivals Association. The aim of the Forum was to discuss the administrative role of festivals in social, cultural, and economic development. Next to President Brlek, Dr. Refaat Faouri (D.G. of Arab Administrative Development Organisaton), Dr. Walid Gholmieh (Director of the National Music Conservatory), and MP Mrs. Bahia Hariri (Ex-Minister of Education & President of International Festival of Saida, Lebanon) were part of the opening session. Mrs. Hoda Kanoo, Head of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival, contributed as a keynote speaker. In addition, two guest of honors, HE Sheikha May Al Khalifeh, Minister of Culture and Information in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and HE Dr. abdel Aziz Khoja, Minister of Culture and Information in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, attended the high-level Forum. A variety of topics were discussed during the three-day Forum: ‘Local, regional and international festivals: definition, characteristics, and priorities’; ‘Festivals: a way of intercultural communication’; ‘Interrelationship between the social and economic status of the cities and the festival events/programmes’; ‘Fundamental requirements of festivals’; ‘Technicalities and services at festivals’; ‘Future and development of festivals’; ‘Importance of culturally and artistically specialised media’; ‘Financing Festivals’ as well as ‘Collaboration and Coordination between Festivals, Municipalities, and Ministries.’ In his speech during opening session, EFA President Darko Brlek stressed that festivals such as the Baalbeck International Festival or the Al Bustan Festival who have been members of EFA since many years “add an important dimension to our Association.” Referring to the importance of strong partnerships beyond nations and culture, he urged that “we have to come together to advocate the important role of festivals, arts and culture in society!” During the opening of the Forum, Bahia Hariri, President of Hariri foundation for sustainable human development, underlined according to the Daily Star Lebanon: “Baalbek International Festivals have become world class festivals. They are the first starting point of the different, diverse and miscellaneous festivals that all contributed to the social, economic and cultural development of Arab countries at the national and regional levels. (…) Those festivals have promoted the sector of economy, tourism, culture and arts.” At the end of the opening May Arida, President of Baalbeck International Festival, was honoured by ARADO. “Throughout all the difficult times, Baalbek International Festival was able to show that Lebanon is a land of freedom, intelligence, open mindedness and of intense culture,” she said according to the Daily Star Lebanon.