Culture for Sustainability - 'Mainichi Newspaper' (Japan)
Published in Mainichi Newspaper on 28 May 2012.
As we approach the Rio+20 conference, the world is seeking new ways to support green growth and sustainable development for all. Culture is one of these ways. It is a thriving economic sector and an accelerator for individuals to participate in and access development efforts.
In all my visits around the world I see the visceral attachment of people to their culture. In Japan, during the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in Hiraizumi, I saw how culture and heritage help to heal the wounds of people affected by disaster. Culture is a source of identity and dignity; it provides points of reference when faced with risks and uncertainty.
Culture and cultural industries also represent income, sources of growth and employment – often green jobs – which are difficult to relocate as they are deeply rooted in the social fabric of local communities. I recall the energy of craftspeople and students who mobilized to clean the temple of Borobudur last year, with Japan’s contribution. The operation was a way to revive the economic activity of an entire region by supporting tourism and crafts.
History shows that development strategies that overlook the cultural factor are doomed to fail because they do not attract the support of the targeted populations. This is one of the lessons learned from efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is true for healthcare, justice and the fight against hunger. Sustainable development is not possible without mobilizing the people. Culture can be used to encourage participation. This is UNESCO’s message, which has since been adopted in the Human Development Report 2004 and numerous United Nations resolutions. For over 65 years, from Abu Simbel to Angkor, UNESCO has been at the forefront of world heritage rescue and protection operations. UNESCO has developed a comprehensive standard-setting framework to ensure the promotion of culture, cultural diversity and creative industries for development.
The world is depleting its natural environment; it must nurture its cultural environment. The time has come to change the way we see culture, to see it not just as fragile heritage or lavish recreation, but as a force for renewal and progress, an economic sector and a facilitator of development policies. Culture is a condition of sustainability. I will take this message to Rio, so that it may thrive after Rio.
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