By Staff Writer LUSAKA – A forum convened last week by HIVOS Southern Africa at Crossroads Lodge in Lusaka to discuss the ‘way forward’ for arts and culture, has called for closer interaction among the arts groupings in the region. The forum also wants regional exchange programmes and a multi-disciplinary festival on the scale, at least on the same lines, as the regional Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Castle Cup. At the end of the three-day meeting whose representatives were drawn from Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia, the meeting resolved that governments in the region work towards improving arts infrastructure which in most cases is non-existent or in a deplorable state. They said governments should ratify the UNESCO convention on the protection of freedom of expression, which also recognize the right to artistic expression. Arts associations like the National Arts Council of Zambia (NAC) should sign memorandums of understanding with their counterparts in Zimbabwe while those countries like Malawi without a mother arts body should work at forming one. The corporate world should also take an interest in the promotion of arts and culture, much the same way they do in countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe. Companies with a deliberate policy of supporting and promoting arts and culture within the region should be given special tax incentives so as to encourage more to invest in the sector which for a long time now has not been given its rightful place. Even more, governments should waive duty on all imported artistic tools to enable artistes to make their work much easier. *Hivos annually finances specifically identified and selected art bodies in Namibia such as the JMAC Arts Center. This report appeared in the Times of Zambia on Monday 18 December.