Culture enables and drives development

Eight young capoeira players from Salvador of Bahia (Brazil) presenting their work. Photographer: Michel Ravassard © UNESCO

Consideration of culture effectively enables development when projects acknowledge and respond to the local context and the particularities of a place and community through the careful use of cultural resources, as well as emphasis on local knowledge, skills and materials. Emphasizing culture means also giving members of the community an active role in directing their own destinies, restoring the agency for change to those whom the development efforts are intended to impact, which is crucial to sustainable and long-term progress. Respecting and promoting cultural diversity within a human right based approach, moreover, facilitates intercultural dialogue, prevents conflicts and protects the rights of marginalized groups, within and between nations, thus creating optimal conditions for achieving development goals.

On the other hand, culture as a sector of activity – including tangible and intangible heritage and the creative industries - is in itself a powerful driver of development, with community-wide social, economic and environmental impacts.

Experience is showing how the cultural resources of a community can be converted into economic wealth by promoting the unique identity, traditions, and cultural products and services of a region, towards generating jobs and revenue. Investing in the conservation of cultural assets, promoting cultural activities and traditional knowledge and skills developed by humans over very long periods of adaptation to the environment, moreover, are also very effective means to strengthen environmental sustainability and the social capital of communities.

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