Saturday, 23 January 2021

UN in your language

SDGs meet Reeperbahn Music festival

RBF19 Festival Village Volunteers
© Robin Schmiedebach

What do music and the UN have in common?

Music and the UN are both universal, they are a vehicle for diversity and connect people all over the world.

What do the music sector and the SDGs have in common? They aim to reach out and to make people feel good and in tune with everyone and with the environment, sometimes they call for our attention on certain themes and for actions on our values.

You may wonder why the UN was represented at one of the most popular club music festivals in Europe, the 14th edition of the Reeperbahn music festival.  The United Nations communications team aims to reach out into new territories to raise awareness within festival audiences, which typically bring together a diverse crowd. Although music and culture are formally not part of the 17 SDGs, they could be a fantastic accelerator for their implementation today and tomorrow, another reason for exploring opportunities first hand at Reeperbahn Festival.

“It is a step in the right direction of what could become an “SDG Music Compact” to bring the music industry in line with the SDGs and create a meaningful impact for a wide audience”, said Caroline Petit, Deputy Director at UNRIC about the music sector’s role in building a sustainable future together.

I love Reeperbahn sdg

As Detlef Schwarte, the festival Director declared at the opening of the first session on SDGs and Music held as part of the festival conference: “The music industry has a voice and starts to think on how to get its voice heard in the public discourse”.

Together with Sound Diplomacy a firm that develops music and night-time economy strategy and policy in cities and with the European Commission teams, UNRIC and UN Women were part of a new kind of session. A 3-hour mini-summit of panels and presentations discussed how artists, the music industry and NGOs are already playing a crucial role within the music industry to show their commitment to gender equality, decent work, ethical business and sustainable ways to run a festival. In the audience, representatives from the media, culture, active NGOs and a diverse line-up of new, international talents of progressive music were there to exchange future-oriented ideas that are in line with the sustainability spirit. 

panel rbf19 sdg united nations
© Christian Hedel

But the crucial role of the music industry in the implementation of the SDGs goes far beyond plain awareness-raising. As such, Panelist Patricia Yague, the Head of Sustainability for Live Nation Europe, highlighted the need for the music industry itself to become more sustainable. ”The industry needs to reduce the environmental impact of venues and festivals to ensure we are being responsible global citizens, taking care of the communities where we operate and doing our part to curb the most harmful impacts of global climate change,” she stressed.

Dr Shain Shapiro who organized the session said: “If every government around the world took music seriously as the economic giant it can be, we can create a new generation of creative entrepreneurs. If we can make festivals carbon neutral, then our insights can be taken from the stage into our towns and cities. If we included music in global development conversations, we can ensure music ecosystems are being developed in emerging economies, which can reduce poverty, increase literacy and promote equity.”

Dagmar Schumacher, Director of the Brussels Office of UN Women presented a case study entitled “UN & Music”. According to her, music has the potential to play a key role in being both a channel for and the expression of women’s empowerment. “The Reeperbahn Festival is an important gathering of the music industry. It offers a great opportunity to showcase the importance of mobilizing the music industry to achieve gender equality”.

One initiative taken up by the Reeperbahn Festival for the promotion of equality within the music industry, the Keychange Pledge, is already underway. In partnership with international institutions such as the Musikcentrum Sweden and the Tallinn Music Week, the campaign seeks to ensure that female, transgender or non-binary artists get equal visibility on stage and during conference programmes. A total of 180 festivals and hundreds of music companies are already on board with this campaign. 

For the first time, Reeperbahn and the European Commission presented a 20-meter-long interactive SDG wall at the Festival site which has been visited by 40,000 young European music and festival lovers. At other stands, visitors could inform themselves about water as a human right while the speakers of the session off-set their flights’ carbon emission by planting trees.

SDG Interactive Wall RBF19


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