UK Representation to the European Union is a responsibility of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The UK is a founding member of the Council of Europe and the UK Delegation to the Council is also part of the FCO. The UK Government, through theDepartment for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and in consultation with the devolved administrations, has had the lead responsibility for cultural cooperation in the EU, and on cultural policy issues in the Council of Europe.
The UK Government had been one of the founders of UNESCO and after a 12-year absence due to financial and political differences, the UK re-joined in 1997. It adheres to many UNESCO Conventions, but although it signed the 1934 Hague Convention that requires signatories to protect cultural property during military conflict, a decision to ratify it was not made until 2015, no doubt prompted by the destruction and looting of the heritage in Iraq and Syria.
The DCMS is the government department responsible for the implementation of the UNESCO Convention of the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and also the implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. A number of UK cities have been designated UNESCO creative cities – Bradford, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich and York – and so are among those represented in the Creatives Cities Network as recognising culture and creativity as a strategic driver for sustainable urban development.
The British Council and the British Film Institute lead the Creative Europe Desk UK, which supports organisations to access funds from the EU’s Creative Europe programme. According to the Creative Europe Desk UK, grants from the programme are worth an average of €18.4 million a year to the UK cultural and audiovisual sectors. From 2014-2017 the UK benefitted by €74 million through the MEDIA sub-programme and 150 organisations received €18.7 million to participate in the Culture sub-programmes through 142 projects. The Impact of Creative Europe in the UK by Drew Wylie Projects is an analysis for the Creative Europe Desk UK (for other reports on the impact of EU funds for UK culture, see chapter 2.9). The UK is one of the most partnered of EU countries in the Creative Europe programme and there is concern that Brexit will impact the capacity of the creative and cultural sector to access finance, audiences and markets in Europe and undermine the ability to form partnerships and networks. At the time this text was being prepared, it was expected that UK organisations would be able to participate in EU programme funding and continue to apply to calls for applications during a transition period until December 2020. In the case of a no-deal scenario, the UK Government indicated it will underwrite the payments of awards to UK organisations for the duration of the project.
English and Welsh heritage bodies participate in international groups, e.g. the International Committee on the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage and the International Council on Monuments and Sites; and support European Heritage Days, an initiative of the Council of Europe and the UK and Welsh Governments, Natural England and Countryside Council have been joint organisers of the UK Landscape Award. The winner of the Award represents the UK in the Council of Europe Landscape Award.
Both Arts Council England and the Arts Council of Wales are members of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies (IFACCA).