The role of culture in enabling resilience, IFACCA presents at the Commonwealth People’s Forum

02 December 2015, International

IFACCA’s Deputy Director, Magdalena Moreno, was among a group of experts invited to present at the 2015 Commonwealth People’s Forum, held in St George’s Bay, Malta, from 23 to 26 November in the lead up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

The Commonwealth People’s (CPF), organised by the Commonwealth Foundation, brings together civil society representatives from around the world to discuss and debate key issues facing Commonwealth people. Held every two years in the run up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) the ‘Commonwealth Summit’, the CPF is the single largest opportunity for civil society to engage with Commonwealth leaders on global issues.

The CPF 2015 theme: ‘What Makes Societies Resilient?’ drew on work developed in Malta on resilience and vulnerability.  The Forum aimed to add global value to the discourse on resilience, particularly in the lead up to the COP21 meeting in Paris shortly after, as well as the recent violence occuring in different parts of the world.

CPF was inaugurated with remarks by Malta’s Prime Minister, Dr Joseph Muscat, and closed with an inspirational speech by Mary Robinson, ex-President of Ireland and the UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, on behalf of UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon.

The CPF keynote was presented by Dr Vandana Shiva (India) with a stirring call of ‘resilience is life’, urging delegates to embrace resilience as a means for the world to break out of vicious cycles of violence and competition. Dr Shiva also spoke on the need for humility and internal reflection as we ponder some of the challenges facing the global community today. Encouragement for constructive debate in the Forum was opened by Dr Shiva posing the question of ‘whether resilience leads to transforming imbalances of power, or acts as a cover for maintaining the status quo?’

The plenary session, titled ‘Deconstructing Resilience’, explored a range of perspectives on how societies become resilient. IFACCA presented the case for culture. Ms Moreno stressed the critical role that culture and artists in society play in providing resilience, and how often culture is not at the decision-making table. She added that creative expression, and its diversity, is at the heart society’s capacity to deal with external disturbance, as we cannot separate culture from life.

Other parallel sessions also included the role of culture.  For example, the session on migration with Bangladeshi artist Shahidul Alam’s eloquent photo documentation on making visible the invisible, Fijian based Elise Huffer’s delivery (representing Ni-Vanuatu Ralph Regevanu) on alternative measures to GDP that include cultural heritage; and a session dedicated to cultural responses to conflict with perspectives from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland and Uganda. 

With a strong undercurrent on the importance of indigenous knowledge as a driver for resilience, this edition of CPF also saw the first time that the LGBTI community had a dedicated space for policy dialogue. This is as a result of the recent report of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the violence, including physical assault and death, to LGBTI persons around the world.

Further details on CPF 2015 and the Malta Declaration on Governance for Resilience for CHOGM, can be found at:

For more information on IFACCA’s advocacy on the role of culture in development, please visit: