28.06.2013 -

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Culture

©Ilan Molcho – Old Tbilisi is known for its distinctive balconies of various colors

The first Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Culture took place on 27-28 June 2013 in Tbilisi, Georgia. This high level event of the Eastern Partnership Initiative is organized by the European Commission – Directorate General for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Youth & Sport and the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia.

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Culture

I am delighted to welcome all participants to this first Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Culture. I wish to congratulate the Government of Georgia for leading this initiative to strengthen the cultural dimension of the Eastern Partnership. I am convinced that cultural cooperation and intercultural dialogue are vital for building a more stable, peaceful and harmonious region. The countries of the Eastern Partnership have unique histories and cultures, which are woven into the wider story of humanity. We must recognize this shared heritage and make the most of it for the benefit of all.

This Conference comes one month after the Hangzhou International Congress on Culture – the Key to Sustainable Development, co-organized by UNESCO and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. The Congress agreed on the Hangzhou Declaration, setting out the importance of culture as a force for lasting peace and sustainable development. This message was echoed in New York on 12 June, during the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Thematic Debate on Culture and Development, which UNESCO helped to organise. Recongizing culture is especially important now, as countries strive to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and as we shape a new global development agenda to follow. Our position is clear: culture is a wellspring of imagination, meaning and belonging, a source of cohesion at a time of change and a force for creativity in a new age of limits. No society can flourish without culture, and no development can be sustainable without it.

It is essential that Governments, civil society and the private sector work together to harness the potential of culture in tackling such pressing developmental challenges as environmental sustainability, poverty eradication and social inclusion. This means integrating culture as a factor into all development strategies, and acting on its power at three levels.

1. Culture as a force for inclusive economic development. In all of its forms, culture has increasing importance as a source of income generation and job creation -- improving living conditions, supporting community-based economic growth, and empowering individuals and communities.

2. Culture as a force for inclusive social development. To be inclusive, development must be relevant to individuals and communities, recognizing cultural rights, building on traditional knowledge systems, and reflecting cultural heritage and the diversity of environmental and sustainability practices. Culture is the enabling context that makes development more sustainable, inclusive and equitable, paving the way for social cohesion and local ownership.

3. Culture as a force for peace and security. As a source of identity and belonging, culture can empower communities under pressure to participate fully in social and cultural life. Respect for culture is essential to inclusive governance and dialogue and can contribute to conflict prevention and mitigation, as well as to reconciliation and recovery. Crucial at all stages of peace-building, culture is a channel through which to make peace last.

 At this time of global change, we must make the most of the boundless renewable energy that is human ingenuity. Culture is a driver of development, led by the growth of the cultural sector, creative industries, and tourism. It is also an enabler of sustainable growth, a force for social inclusion and cohesion in multicultural societies – it is the context in which development can move forward, through local ownership.

Guided by this spirit, I wish you fruitful discussions on the importance of culture for dialogue, democracy and development throughout the countries of the Eastern Partnership.

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