The International Congress “Culture: Key to Sustainable Development”

Hangzhou (China), 15 May – 17 May 2013

The International Congress "Culture: Key to Sustainable Development" was held in Hangzhou (China) from 15 May to 17 May 2013. This was the first International Congress specifically focusing on the linkages between culture and sustainable development organized by UNESCO since the Stockholm Conference in 1998.  As such, the Congress provided the very first global forum to discuss the role of culture in sustainable development in view of the post-2015 development framework, with participation of the global community and the major international stakeholders.

While culture was absent from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), integrating the cultural dimension into actions and goals in achieving sustainable development is an approach that is making its way on the international level. The Outcome document of MDG Summit, “Keeping the promise: united to achieve the Millennium Development Goals” (2010), emphasized the importance of culture for development and its contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Furthermore, the trend toward integrating culture into UN development policies is particularly visible at the level of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Indeed, by January 2012, culture was included in 70% of UNDAF work plans worldwide. These figures are the result of an increasingly positive trend since the late 1990s, when only about 30% of UNDAFs included cultural entries.

Despite the progress made, the most recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, accorded a very modest weight to culture. While considerations were made to acknowledge the contribution of cultural diversity and cultural tourism, the Rio+20 document entitled “The Future We Want” did not harness culture’s ability to truly support sustainable development. The Rio+20 experience shows that unless a broad and in depth examination of the nexus between culture and sustainable development is done with global community, the Post-2015 development framework and decision makers will not be fully informed on culture’s centrality and effective contribution to sustainable development.

Therefore, the Hangzhou International Congress underlined the role of culture in fostering sustainable development as an enabler and as a driver. The Congress aimed at providing state of the art knowledge, research, data and best practices on the contribution of culture to sustainable development, and at engaging the international community in an open debate, in view of the Post 2015 United Nations agenda. Through the contribution of eminent development experts, United Nations leaders, governmental decision makers, international and regional organisations, private sector and civil society key representatives, the Congress provided an historical opportunity to make a difference in the global sustainable development agenda Post 2015.

 

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