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CULTURE IN THE SDGs

In the lead-up to the Special Summit on Sustainable Development, hold within the UN's 70th General Assembly in New York on 25-27 September 2015, the leaders of the global campaign "The Future We Want includes Culture" released a joint communique.

The Communique identifies achievements and shortcomings of the UN in their recognition of culture's role in sustainable development processes. These processes led to the Outcome Document, "Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development". The communique also identifies six steps that the campaign hopes to take in the future, based on the experience gained to date. 

The network leading the campaign were: IFACCA, IFCCD, Agenda 21 for culture (UCLG), Culture Action Europe, Arterial Network, IMC - International Music Council, ICOMOS, IFLA and the Latinoamerican Network of Arts for Social Transformation

The campaign was launched on 1 May 2014 with the "Declaration on the Inclusion of Culture in the Sustainable Development Goals" which was signed by 900 organisations and more than 2 500 individuals in 120 countries. Campaign leaders thank these signatories and other supporters for the important role they played in creating - for the first time ever - a global voice for the cultural sector.

Here is the communique:

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Communique:
Culture in the SDG Outcome Document:
Progress made but important steps
remain ahead

 

#culture2015goal

Advocate now!

 

CONTEXT

Various UN events and processes decide the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. These processes will have a significant impact on local cultural policies and the place of culture in the globalisation. This page in our website explains the processes and proposes actions that can be taken to advocate for culture to be fully and explicitly acknowledged in the Post-2015 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

CAMPAIGN

Join us in calling for recognition of culture’s role in Sustainable Development Goals post-2015. Together with IFACCA, the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity - IFCCD, Culture Action Europe, Arterial Network, International Council on Monuments and Sites - ICOMOS, the International Music Council - IMC, the International Federation of library Associations and Institutions - IFLA and the Red Latinoamericana de Arte y Transformacion Social, we, the Committee on culture of UCLG are calling on governments and policy makers defining the post-2015 UN Development Agenda to ensure that targets and indicators on culture be included as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our slogan: The future we want includes culture

To support this campaign:

  • Visit www.culture2015goal.net and sign the Declaration either as an organisation or as an individual
  • Send this Declaration, or your own message, to your country’s representative at the United Nations
  • Circulate this Declaration to your networks and spread the word.

Culture was completely absent from the Millennium Development Goals document. Don’t let this happen again. Please act now.

In the framework of this campaign, two key-documents have been edited and spread: the Declaraction on the Inclusion of Culture in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was published in September 2013; the Declaration "Culture as a Goal in the Post-2015 Development Agenda", was launched in May 2014; and the Declaration on possible indicators for the SDGs was published in February 2015:

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Declaration on the Inclusion of Culture in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)   Declaration "Culture as a Goal in the Post-2015 Development Agenda"    Declaration on possible indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

 

 

 

BACKGROUND

This campaign builds on the document we launched in September 2013 with IFACCA, the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity, Culture Action Europe to support the inclusion of a goal explicitly focused on culture in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The wording we suggested for the Goal was: “Ensure cultural sustainability for the wellbeing of all”. Such a goal could provide coherence, conceptual clarity and strength to the Agenda. It could also accelerate change in other areas and the achievement of other goals. This document carries the justification for such a goal and puts forward several targets and indicators.

 

THE CONGRESS OF HANGZHOU

The International Congress "Culture: Key to Sustainable Development" was held in Hangzhou (China), 15-17 May 2013. This was the first International Congress specifically focusing on the linkages between culture and sustainable development. As such, the Congress was the first global forum to discuss the role of culture in sustainable development in view of the post-2015 framework.

About 400 people attended the congress. Many UN agencies, civil society activists, government representatives, arts and culture organisations, academics and other experts on culture and development attended the Congress. UCLGwas represented in Hangzhou. We had written a document to prepare Hangzhou which was very well-received.

Under the leadership of UNESCO and China, the declaration of Hangzhou says:

  • We believe that the time has come, building on these important statements of principle and lessons learnt, for the full integration of culture -through clear goals, targets and indicators- into agreed development strategies, programmes and practices at global, regional, national and local levels, to be defined in the post-2015 UN development agenda.
  • We embrace an understanding of culture that is open, evolving and strongly framed within a rights-based approach and the respect for diversity, the free access to which enables individuals "to live and be what they choose".
  • Consideration of culture should therefore be included as the fourth fundamental principle of the post-2015 UN development agenda, in equal measure to human rights, equality and sustainability.
  • The cultural dimension should be systematically integrated in definitions of sustainable development and well-being, as well as the conception, measurement and actual practice of development policies and programmes.
  • Ensure cultural rights for all to promote inclusive social development.
  • We recommend, therefore, that a specific Goal focused on culture be included as part of the post-2015 UN development agenda, to be based on heritage, diversity, creativity and the transmission of knowledge, and including clear targets and indicators that relate culture to all dimensions of sustainable development.

The above-mentioned four global cultural networks (IFACCA - International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies, IFCCD - the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity, the Committee on Culture of United Cities and Local Governments and Culture Action Europe) contributed to give shape to the Final Declaration. We would like to emphasize the last paragraph of the Final Declaration: “We recommend… that a specific Goal focused on culture be included as part of the post-2015 UN development agenda, to be based on heritage, diversity, creativity and the transmission of knowledge and including clear targets and indicators that relate culture to all dimensions of sustainable development.” This is a real challenge for all actors on culture and development, in the concepts (“what contents?”), in the strategy (“how to reach this objective?”) and in the tactics (“what should we do between today and 2015?”). It is a very nice challenge.

 

WHY THIS MATTERS?

The eight internationally-agreed upon Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) drive the way in which governments worldwide and international agencies such as the World Bank spend billions of euros and dollars every year on development initiatives. The MDGs also drive the way in which development is evaluated. See for example, here and here.

The MDGs were set in 2000 with a 15-year horizon. The process of revising them is already underway (as described above) and decisions are likely to be made in the coming months that will seal the newPost-2015 Development Agenda and a new list of Objectives.

Let's face it. Culture is not recognised in the current MDGs. It is not a means to achieve sustainable development, it is not an issue that should be considered in the evaluation of development programs, and it is neither a Goal in its own right. For arguments on why this should change see the Hangzhou Declaration or other the other papers provided below. 

If culture was to be acknowledged in the future Goals “as a driver and as an enabler of sustainable development”, it would represent a quantum leap in the awareness of the value of culture to societies, stimulate engagement between future development programs and the local cultures in which they operate, and enable governments and international aid agencies to allocate far greater resources to cultural policies and programmes.

In these weeks, many other thematic agencies (health, education, children, gender, youth, energy, mobility, climate change...) are also advocating for their concerns to be reflected in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. These concerns have a cultural dimension and our advocacy must take these arguments into account, acknowledge them and support them. But we must also, and foremost, advocate for the intrinsic values of culture: heritage, diversity, creativity and knowledge. We must also take into consideration those advocating against culture being part of the development agenda due to the perception that cultural diversity can be divisive or that the arts, the making of meaning and cultural practices can be construed as a luxury and not as core to human well-being. We must fight without fear.

Many international agencies (both intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations) are joining the efforts to advocate for culture to be integrated in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

It is important to ensure that cogent and convincing arguments are heard at the very highest levels in the UN as to why culture must be explicitly included in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

We need a specific Goal focused on culture to be included as part of the post-2015 UN development agenda.

 

WHAT HAS UCLG DONE?

UCLG - United Cities and Local Governments played an important role in this decade to promote the role of culture in sustainable development. A few landmarks follow.

  • In 2004, United Cities and Local Governments adopted the Agenda 21 for culture, a declaration with 67 articles that describes the relationship between local cultural policies and human rights, governance, sustainable development, participatory democracy and peace. The Agenda 21 for culture was the first worldwide document establishing principles and commitments by cities and local governments for cultural development. More than 450 cities, local governments and organizations from all over the world are linked to Agenda 21 for culture.
  • In 2010, United Cities and Local Governments approved the document “Culture: Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development” in its World Congress held in the City of Mexico. This document engages local governments to explicitly include culture in the model of development that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. Operationally, the document points to the relation between culture and sustainable development through a dual approach: developing a solid cultural policy (culture as a driver of development) and advocating a cultural dimension in all public policies (culture as an enabler of development).
  • In 2012, United Cities and Local Governments was present in the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and was leading the advocacy for the role of culture in sustainable development. The Committee on culture of UCLG recently published a report on Rio+20 and culture, which analyses in detail the Outcome Document, celebrates the progress, explains why it is insufficient and suggests a better alignment of the strategies of the actors concerned on the role of culture in sustainable development.
  • United Cities and Local Governments, with its Committee on culture, has created a unique platform, which gathers together cities, organizations and networks that foster the relation between local cultural policies and sustainable development. The Committee is chaired by Lille-Métropole, co-chaired by Buenos Aires, Mexico and Montreal, vice-chaired by Angers, Barcelona and Milano, and it has members and partners in all continents.

 

KEY EVENTS

There are several processes currently underway within the United Nations to set new global goals for development. While there have already been a number of lead-up events the key events that will influence the UN’s decision-making are:

The Thematic debate on culture and development was convened by the President of the UN General Assembly on 12 June 2013 in New York. You can analyse the agenda and this Concept Note. The Councillor for culture of Montreal, and Co-president of the Committee on culture of UCLG, Ms Élaine Ayotte participated in this meeting. This page has all the information on the presence of Montreal in this debate of the UN General Assembly.

The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals organised its fourth session in June 2013, and UCLG prepared by UCLG a document with our key messages.

The High Level Segment of the ECOSOC on ‘Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ took place on 1-4 July 2013 in Geneva.The Committee on culture of UCLG wrote a document to advocate for the role of culture in development at the ECOSOC and UCLG presented awritten statement. See also pages 14-16 of the ‘advanced unedited version’ of the report for the ECOSOC’s Annual Ministerial Review which provides arguments why culture is important to development.

The Global Taskforce of Local & Regional Governments for Post-2015 towards Habitat III represents the world-wide municipal movement, is convened by UCLG and includes “culture as driver and enabler of development and people-centered societies” as a key issue for the Global Agenda of development. The Committee on culture of UCLG is a founding members and we have been in all meetings of the GTF (Catherine Cullen in Istanbul - March 2013; Hernán Lombardi in NY - May 2013, and Catherine Cullen, Marianne Prodhomme and Eugene Zapata in Rabat – October 2013).

The World Congress of UCLG took place in Rabat on 1-4 October 2013. The place of culture in the Post-2015 Development Agenda and Habitat III was discussed in-depth.

The World Culture in Development Forum hosted by the President of Indonesia (a co-chair of the High Level of Eminent Persons) took place on 24-29 November 2013 in Bali.

A special event on Sustainable Cities at the general Assembly of United Nations was organized on 13 December 2013. Our Committee was represented by Catherine Cullen of Lille-Métropole (you can read her speech) All participants agreed to include culture in the joint proposal of a Stand Alone Goal on Sustainable Urban Development or #UrbanSDG.

The World Summit on Arts and Culture is organised by IFACCA and the Chilean National Council on Culture and the Arts. It took place on 13-16 January 2014 in Santiago de Chile, and the Minister for culture of Buenos Aires, Mr Hernán Lombardi, explained the importance of culture to become operationally as Goal and Target of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Third World Forum on Culture and Cultural Industries, organized by UNESCO in Florence (Italy, 2-4 October 2014), permitted to launch Florence Declaration which outlines Recommendations on Culture for the Post-2015 Agenda.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Familiarise yourself with the issues, and in particular the arguments that we wrote in our advocacy paper.
  • If appropriate, urgently communicate your concerns about culture being included in the new Post-2015 Development Agenda to relevant government agencies such as your Minister for Culture, your Minister for Foreign Affairs, and your delegation to the UN. Ultimately it is the member states that will influence and vote on the Post-2015 Development Agenda
  • Find out if there are UNDP national consultations taking place in your country and seek to include culture into those debates.
  • Circulate information about this issue to your own networks and civil society organisations in your country via email or social media (In Twitter you can use #Culture2015Goal )
  • Advise us of any news about the issue that we could share with others or any feedback you have on the material provided above.
  • We hope you have found this briefing useful and that together we can influence the outcome of the current deliberations.

Acknowledgement. This page is partly based on a similar page written by IFACCA on the same issue. The IFCCD has also written a very interesting page on the Declaration of Hangzhou. You may also see the official UNESCO website on the Congress of Hangzhou.