Culture and Sustainable Development: the Key Ideas

The cultural landscape of the Lavaux region bears traces of human interaction with nature over many centuries. Photographer: Niamh Burke © UNESCO

If achieving sustainability is first and foremost about making an appropriate use of the planet’s resources, then culture must be at the centre of our development strategies, since cultures frame people’s relationship to others in their society and the world around them, including the natural environment, and condition their behaviours.  

Development initiatives and approaches which take local conditions and cultures into account are likely to result in more context-sensitive and equitable outcomes, whilst also enhancing ownership by target beneficiaries. Integrating culture into development policies and programmes, therefore, fundamentally contributes to their effectiveness and sustainability.  

Moreover, as sectors of activity, heritage and the creative industries, contribute significantly to the objectives identified by stakeholders in the wake of Rio+20: from green jobs and more sustainable consumption and production patterns, to resilient communities that are able to better cope with disasters and have safe access to water and food, thereby reducing imbalances and poverty across regions and strengthening sustainability.

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