UNESCO has recognized the potential of arts education and creativity to enhance social cohesion and to promote a culture of peace. In 1999, the Director General of UNESCO issued an appeal on arts education which stated,
at a time when family and social structures are changing, with often adverse effects on children and adolescents, the school of the 21st century must be able to anticipate the new needs by according a special place to the teaching of artistic values and subjects in order to encourage creativity, which is a distinctive attribute of the human species. Creativity is our hope.
Canadians participated actively in the first UNESCO World Conference on Arts Education in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2006, which emphasized the value of arts education and the important role it can play in building creative capacities for the 21st century. Wishing to share the gathering's international findings, Canadian delegates identified the need for a broader national voice for arts and learning which would build on existing initiatives and promote awareness of the benefits of the arts and creativity for all Canadians. In 2008, the evolving group passed a Framework for Action at its symposium in Kingston, Ontario, and at its 2009 symposium in Toronto, the Canadian Network for Arts and Learning was formally established. In 2012 the Canadian Network for Arts and Learning achieved charitable status.
Over the past decade The Canadian Network for Arts & Learning has developed to include artists, artist-educators, teachers, arts organizations, researchers, universities and advocates across the nation, and has built a skilled staff, recruited dedicated board members, created a remarkable advisory council and engaged outstanding, celebrated Canadian champions. The Network has hosted seven profile building national conferences, launched relevant research studies, gathered valuable resources and made these easily accessible to the public. Currently The Network is constructing a digital map that will represent arts and learning across Canada.
Central to the success of The Canadian Network for Arts & Learning has been its distinctive partnership with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO as well as the UNESCO Chair in Arts and Learning, Queen's University. This distinctive partnership has recently resulted in the drafting of a position paper entitled Transformative Action on Arts Education: Re-invigorating the Seoul Agenda. The paper was formally launched and disseminated May 27, 2017 at the AGM of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. This important document and its strategies makes the case for the vital importance of arts education as a key component of human culture, education and sustainable development.