17.05.2013

The Hangzhou Declaration: Heralding the next era of human development

© UNESCO/Matthieu Guevel -
UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, speaking at the welcome reception of the International Hangzhou Congress, China, May 2013.

Calling for a new approach toward sustainable development, the "Hangzhou Declaration" advocates for placing culture at the heart of public policy. The Declaration urges governments, civil society and the private sector to harness the power of culture in addressing the world’s most pressing developmental challenges, such as environmental sustainability, poverty, and social inclusion.

"Culture is precisely what enables sustainability – as a source of strength, of values and social cohesion, self esteem and participation. Culture is our most powerful force for creativity and renewal." stated the Director General, Irina Bokova.

Released at the end of the Hangzhou International Congress, the Declaration is the product of intensive discussions led by over 100 of the world’s most cutting-edge leaders in the field of culture and development, who joined forces to prove the inextricable link between culture, sustainable development and lasting peace. As the largest and most high-profile global event in 15 years dedicated to culture and development, the Hangzhou Congress brought together ministers and high officials, private companies and experts and civil society actors, including Highness the Aga Khan, chairman of the Ag Khan Development Network, H.R.H Prince Sultan bin Salman Abdulaziz, and Liu Yondong, Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China. 

© UNESCO/Michel Ravassard
Maquillage du danseur - Rituel masqué du Karnataka (Sud de l'Inde).

Building on UNESCO’s longstanding advocacy to demonstrate the link between culture and development, the Declaration brings together a decade of evidence and initiatives to showcase culture’s indispensable role for sustainability. Culture is at the vanguard of social and economic development in an increasing number of countries. Yet culture is still not fully integrated into sustainable development strategies worldwide. The Hangzhou Declaration urges that public policies need to reflect and scale up the variety of initiatives led at the local and national level. Because of culture’s cross-cutting role across a variety of fields, the Declaration exhorts stakeholders in the cultural sector and beyond – such as education, heath, and urban planning – to integrate culture in strategies for social growth and development.

Cultural and creative industries, such as tourism or heritage, and cultural infrastructure, such as museums and public theaters, are engines for social dialogue and cohesion, as well as jobs and revenues, especially in developing countries, thereby fighting poverty, unemployment and violence. The Declaration suggests that the creative economy, fueled by the power of new technologies, may be the next new economy, following the agrarian, industrial, and service economies.

The Hangzhou Declaration is a key step in UNESCO’s advocacy to integrate culture into sustainable development strategies, as the international community shapes a new global agenda for sustainable development after 2015. Its recommendations include:

  • Integrate culture within all developement policies and programmes, as equal measure with human rights, equality and sustainability
  • Mobilize culture and mutual understanding to foster peace and reconciliation
  • Ensure cultural rights for all to promote inclusive social development
  • Leverage culture for poverty reduction and inclusive economic development
  • Build on culture to promote environmental sustainability
  • Use culture to strenghten resilience to disaters and combat climate change through mitigation and adaptation
  • Value, safeguard and transmit culture to future generations
  • Harness culture as a ressource for achieving sustainable urban development and management
  • Capitalize on culture to foster innovative and sustainable models of cooperation

Saad Akhtar -
Opera performance in Beijing (China)

The Hangzhou Congress came at a critical juncture, less than one thousand days from the 2015 deadline and as the world debates the shape of new global post-2015 development agenda. The Hangzhou Declaration is expected to play a crucial role in helping to set the terms for that debate and to push for the full integration of culture into post-2015 development goals.

For the Right Honorable Michaëlle Jean, UNESCO Special Envoy for Haiti, aid programmes in Haiti that have the greatest impact are those that incorporate the cultural characteristics of the target populations -- "the emergency tents needed to be reconfigured according to Haiti’s villages, not in straight lines, as is too often the case”.

For Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), if development is to be sustainable, it must be embedded in culture and social fabrics. For example, in 1979, infant mortality in Bangladesh had been as high as 252 per thousand. Most of this infant mortality had been due to diarrhoea, easily treatable with oral rehydration solution. Attempts to teach village women the importance of using this solution were initially disappointing; and it was discovered that this was because the men in the households were not encouraging its use. Following extensive work among men, infant mortality in Bangladesh now stood at fewer than 40 per thousand, the lowest rate in South Asia, demonstrating that if an intervention was not culturally appropriate and if it had not been accepted and made part of the culture, it would not have worked.

According to Wiendu Nuryanti (Vice-Minister of Education and Culture for Cultural Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia), 10 per cent of Indonesia’s GDP now comes, directly or indirectly, from the creative industries. The Borobodur Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is, for her, an exemplary example of the importance of cultural heritage in Indonesia. Situated in a majority Muslim area, it is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and the local population is keenly aware of its importance for the local economy. It attracts five million visitors a year, 90 per cent of them domestic. One million jobs had been created directly or indirectly as a result of the temple.

According to Carlos Villasenor (President of Cultural Interactivity & Development), turning to the cultural sector helped the Colombian city of Medellin, which was plagued by endemic violence in the 1990s, diminish violence by 80% in a dramatic turnaround. In 2011, 30% of the city’s budget was invested in education, culture, and urban landscaping. New cultural infrastructures, such as public libraries and concert halls, gave access to culture to all. A new urban landscaping succeeded in bringing residents together, through the creation of open and green spaces.

“The diversity, durability and dynamism of these initiatives prove the viability of culture in development models. Their value must be recognized and supported by public policy at the highest level. Let’s put culture on the world development agenda now!” stated the Director-General.

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