Building confidence: crafts for development
Artisanal products are those produced by artisans, either completely by hand, or with the help of hand tools or even mechanical means, as long as the direct manual contribution of the artisan remains the most substantial component of the finished product. These are produced without restriction in terms of quantity and using raw materials from sustainable resources. The special nature of artisanal products derives from their distinctive features, which can be utilitarian, aesthetic, artistic, creative, culturally attached, decorative, functional, traditional, religiously and socially symbolic and significant.
(definition adopted by the UNESCO/ITC Symposium "Crafts and the international market: trade and customs codification" - Manila, 6-8 October 1997)
As the only international organization with a global vision of the socio-cultural and economic role played by crafts in society, UNESCO has, for many years now, endeavoured to develop well-balanced, coherent and concerted action in favour of this sector. The programmes devoted to crafts facilitate training and promotional activities and stimulate the necessary cooperation between the relevant national bodies and regional, international and non-governmental organizations. The aim of the different actions undertaken by UNESCO is to prove to the concerned authorities that the artisanal sector deserves priority in national development plans.
UNESCO has been specially involved in stimulating the creation of original models through the UNESCO Crafts Prize from 1990 to 2005, and, since 2001, in the promotion of quality handicrafts through the UNESCO Award of Excellence for Handicrafts, and also in the commercialization of artisanal products on the international market. In this view, a series of activities are carried out for artisans' training (through further training workshops) and for the promotion of craft products outside of their place of origin (in exhibitions held at UNESCO Headquarters or on the occasion of international fairs).
Moreover, UNESCO encourages regional and international cooperation by supporting the organization of meetings of experts. The aim is to improve the life and working conditions of the artisan, to protect craft creation and to harmonize data collection on crafts. The books, studies and reports published by UNESCO on this subject are widely disseminated.
UNESCO organized an International Symposium-Workshop on natural dyes which took place in Hyderabad (India) from 5 to 12 November 2006. It brought together master craftpersons, researchers and specialists in natural dyes and craft promoters from the five continents. The aim of this encounter was to attain practical outcomes based on the diversity of experiences and respectful of the variety of natural, social and cultural environment of the concerned craftspeople.
In the framework of design, with the aim of stimulating and recognizing the creativity of young designers worldwide, UNESCO implements the Design 21 programme.
The UNESCO Programme for Crafts and Design also hosts the Tribute 21 project which is meant to create "DREAM centres" for artistic activities in favour of children in countries in post-conflict situation.