18.06.2013 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

Operationalizing the “Culture for Development” concept in Lumbini

On 31 May 2013, a local stakeholders’ consultation meeting and brainstorming session on integrating culture into education in the Greater Lumbini Area was held in Lumbini, with participation from local stakeholders from both culture and education sectors.

This meeting and brainstorming session is part of a strategy to operationalize UNESCO’s “Culture for Development” concept in the Kapilvastu, Rupandehi and Nawalparasi districts in the Greater Lumbini Area where poverty runs rampant and many in the local population are plagued by illiteracy in spite of residing in a region with rich cultural heritage with Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, at its center.

“Why have we not been able to harness this cultural richness for accelerating the development of this region?” asked Axel Plathe, Head of UNESCO Office in Kathmandu and the UNESCO Representative to Nepal, opening the event.  This question was at the heart of the discussions when participants brainstormed on ways to tap into the cultural resources of the three districts to empower, educate and build the capacity of vulnerable groups through the integration of culture related components into the education system.

Representatives from the non-formal education sector such as the Community Learning Centres (CLCs) as well as local teachers, government officials, representatives of NGOs and other active members of the community took part in the lively discussions and the brainstorming session to identify areas in which culture can be included in the educational curricula with potential for income-generation for vulnerable and marginalized groups. 

At the meeting, there were two presentations on projects from the recent past in which heritage and tourism were closely inter-linked, including a presentation by Jharna Joshi, Architect and Coordinator for the Alliance for Ecotourism, about her experience from a project to restore Bandipur, and a presentation by Rabi Jung Pandey, former National Project Manager of the Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Programme (TRPAP) in Rupandehi, about TRPAP activities.  Tap Raj Pant, Education Programme Officer of the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu, facilitated the brainstorming session and encouraged the participants to consider if any of the highlights and lessons learned from TRPAP and Bandipur projects can be adapted in the local context by the schools and CLCs. 

Some of the recurring comments during the discussions were that many traditional and religious practices and beliefs tied to superstitions in the region have become barriers to socio-economic development, which need to be addressed at the grassroots level through the schools and CLCs.   Many pointed out that cultural exchange programmes should be implemented to foster greater understanding and tolerance among the diverse groups of people within the three districts. Participants also indicated that traditional occupations need to be modernized and adapted to new requirements through protection and enhancement of existing knowledge and skills of the local residents.  It was further mentioned that there needs to be a support system for those producing traditional products because foreign goods have taken over the local market and the market itself is controlled by a monopoly.

Government officials, including Bharat Mani Subedi, the Joint Secretary of Culture Division from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Bishnu Dware, the Director of Regional Education Directorial of Western Region, and Acharya Karma Sangbo Sherpa, the Vice-Chair of Lumbini Development Trust, also made remarks during the opening and closing sessions.  They all echoed that linking culture with development will not be sustainable until there are solid commitments to turn discussions into concrete plans of actions that are directly linked to the livelihoods of the local people. 

The strategy to operationalize UNESCO’s “Culture for Development” concept in the context of Lumbini was initiated by the UNDP/UNESCO Lumbini Support Project.  A broader follow-meeting is currently being planned to be held in Kathmandu with participation from international experts to move this strategy into a larger initiative with involvement from both national and international stakeholders. 

For further information on the UNDP/UNESCO Lumbini Support Project, please visit http://www.unesco.org/new/en/kathmandu/culture/lumbini-past-present-future/.    

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