The contribution of culture to sustainable development

Oriental Languages school, a Hindi dancing class. Photographer: Muratova Auli. © UNESCO/ASPnet

 "Culture is the fountain of our progress and creativity and must be carefully nurtured to grow and develop."

World Commission on Culture and Development

Deep in our hearts, we all understand that the quality of our lives depends, to a great extent, on our being able to take part in, and benefit from our culture. We instinctively know, with no need for explanation, that maintaining a connection with the unique character of our historic and natural environment, with the language, the music, the arts and the literature, which accompanied us throughout our life, is fundamental for our spiritual wellbeing and for providing a sense of who we are. There is an intrinsic value of culture to a society, irrespective of its place in the human development index, which is apparent to everyone and which makes it a development outcome in itself.

However, when it comes to articulating the specific ways in which culture contributes to sustainable development, particularly to the objectives defined as priorities in Rio+20, the link is less obvious. Yet, the role of culture in creating green jobs, reducing poverty, making cities more sustainable, providing safe access to water and food, preserving the resources of oceans and forests, and strengthening the resilience of communities in the face of disasters, is truly major and irreplaceable. But how does it happen, in practice?

UNESCO argues that placing culture at the heart of our strategies is both the condition for enabling sustainable development, and a powerful driving factor for its achievement.

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