Culture in the 2030 Agenda

Urban Policies in the Voluntary National Reviews

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 aims to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, whose Target 11.4 also emphasises “efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage”. In their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted to the UN to monitor progress towards the SDGs, several Member States make reference to cultural heritage within cities, in line with this target. Other VNRs also cite initiatives that could be linked to the achievement of other SDGs, such as SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) when citing tourism or SDG 10 (reducing inequalities) when citing housing or public spaces.

Laws and policies to protect urban heritage

Mexico cites its law on Cultural, Natural and Biocultural Heritage of Mexico City, enacted in October 2020, which aims to guarantee the conservation, restoration, and enrichment of heritage in the city. Zambia, meanwhile, highlights its main legislation, which guides urban development while ensuring the preservation of cultural and natural heritage and the environment. Slovenia’s 2017 architectural policy agenda is cited as a tool for fostering, social cohesion and cultural identity in urban areas through the protection of cultural heritage and the promotion of creativity through concert halls, galleries, museums, theatres or libraries. Cabo Verde and Seychelles both mention urban management plans to safeguard historic centres, as well as cultural and natural heritage.

Investment for tourism and the creative sector

Several countries also cite a strong level of investment in culture in urban areas, such as Bulgaria’s Sustainable Cities Fund, for urban development and cultural heritage projects in Sofia and southern Bulgarian regions, Tunisia’s “Cities of Civilizations” Programme, which aims to protect cultural heritage or Panama’s investment in heritage conservation. Germany’s urban development assistance aims to build vibrant centres, rehabilitate vacant buildings and invest in cultural and creative industries. Sometimes, investment is explicitly linked to tourism policies, including Thailand’s budget for urban cultural and heritage conservation, linked to its World Heritage Tourism Project or the Historical, Cultural, and Religious Tourism Project or Morocco’s recent multi-partner project to rehabilitate seven old cities to enhance attractiveness for tourists.

Innovation for the urban space

Uruguay, places emphasis on its public spaces, citing Montevideo, which is adapting to a new cultural demand requiring innovative solutions to meet the needs for new gastronomic, sports and open cultural facilities and activities. Cyprus underscores the Nicosia International Festival 2019 – Under the Walls, which aims to revitalise the city centre through performing arts (theatre, dance, music) and cultural productions. The city of Copenhagen in Denmark is implementing an action plan to make sporting and cultural “mega events” more sustainable and aims to be an international leader in this initiative. Finally, two countries cite contemporary reflection on architecture that meets current urban needs whilst being culturally relevant. Estonia’s VNR mentions the 5th Tallinn Architecture organized by the Estonian Centre of Architecture, which aims to ensuring adequate and affordable housing in the modernization of Soviet-era housing districts. Meanwhile, Austria cites the Closing Conference of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, held in Vienna in 2018, which focused “Baukultur”: the preservation and development of quality, sustainable and culturally relevant buildings and cities.