Insight into UNESCO to EXPO 2015. Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life

100 days to go until EXPO 2015, when visitors from around the world will converge in Milan and its co-locations, Venice amongst them. As this major event gets underway, and thanks to the Italian Government’s contribution to its programmes, the UNESCO Office in Venice is putting the finishing touches to its participation, mobilizing UNESCO’s networks across the globe to present a broad and comprehensive vision of food-related sustainable development as practiced in a vast range of communities and territories.

EXPO 2015 is a universal exhibition, set to host 20 million physical and one billion virtual visitors, that embodies an ongoing conversation between many players from around the world on a central theme, Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. It is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the contradictions inherent in today’s world - hunger, food excess and waste – and to see our questions asked and answered.

The United Nations (UN) is participating in EXPO 2015 in Milan with the theme “The ZERO HUNGER CHALLENGE: United for a Sustainable World”. It is a call for action to ensure that all people have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and sustainable food. 

“At least one in nine people worldwide goes to bed without a meal. Food is life, it should be a fundamental right, a basic need to be met if we wish to build more equitable and secure societies”, observed our colleague, Philippe Pypaert, coordinator of the Science Unit. “We must shape our future around the sustainable use of resources, good practices and education, developing solutions together to build a better, hunger-free world!”

In accepting this challenge, UNESCO has taken a cross-sectoral approach to its participation in EXPO 2015, preparing a rich set of activities as part of the Venice to EXPO 2015 programme. In particular, activities will showcase experiences from UNESCO heritage networks – be they World Heritage properties, Man and the Biosphere reserves, Intangible Heritage elements – as beacons of food sustainability, raise global awareness on water as an essential and limited resource and educate youth on sustainable development.

EXPO 2015 comes at a key moment for the UN as it reviews overall progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and it provides an excellent example of the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach. “By enquiring into food production and consumption throughout history and in the present day, it reveals the essential links and mutual influences between traditional cultural values and technological innovations”, noted Véronique Dauge, Officer-in-charge of the Venice Office and Head of the Culture Unit. “We are currently preparing a series of exhibitions, conferences and events that will showcase UNESCO’s unique insight into the relationship between man, culture, nature and sustainable practices.”

The exhibition, Behind Food Sustainability, organised at our premises in Palazzo Zorzi from 1 May to 31 October 2015, will bring together best practices from UNESCO’s heritage networks. It will provide a platform for communities to share the knowledge they have acquired over the course of generations, bearing witness to their values and passing on the lessons learned in the field of sustainable development to others. In order to reach the widest possible audience, activities are also being developed in the Po Delta Area and the Padua Botanical Gardens.

“UNESCO’s networks of cultural and natural sites and intangible cultural heritage elements celebrate natural and cultural diversity in all its forms, as a crucial factor for sustainable development. The communicative value of these international networks is unparalleled”, Matteo Rosati, Programme officer of the Culture Unit, stressed. “EXPO 2015 offers the opportunity to look at such networks in terms of food sustainability, and to use their experiences to raise awareness on the importance of cultural and natural heritage as assets for achieving sustainable forms of food production and consumption. Viewed together, these examples of humanity’s resourcefulness and of man’s relationship with nature hold the key to understanding present and future challenges in the field of sustainable development.”

Under the banner “Water, Energy for Life”, the Venice Office will also lend its support to the creation of a Venice Water Museum, in partnership with the Centro Internazionale Civiltà dell’Acqua, by providing a “taster” of what the Museum would offer, allowing the World Heritage site of Venice and its Lagoon to share its experiences with other water-based communities around the world. Related activities will include an interactive video installation, international conferences and workshops to reach the widest possible public.

“Venice itself is an excellent example of the relationship between nature and culture, between people and the environment they inhabit. The city is both surrounded and defined by water – water as a precious resource, and water as a threat to its very existence”, observed Philippe Pypaert.

Water will therefore also be at the centre of the Treasure hunt for blue gold based on the “H2Ooooh! initiative”, a popular series of short cartoons on issues of water protection and its sustainable use. The hunt, to be produced by Gruppo Alcuni, will reach out to EXPO 2015’s younger visitors, sending them on an exciting adventure around Venice to learn more about this vital resource. Complimentary board games in 8 languages will allow participating children to continue and explore at home.

Lastly, 13 episodes of the 3D cartoon series ‘Leonardo’ will be produced for EXPO 2015 in cooperation with the Alcuni Group. The intrepid inventor, Young Leonardo Da Vinci, will lead his young audience on a voyage of discovery to highlight a range of sustainability issues. The cartoons will be aired at EXPO 2015 in Milan and globally through the internet and public broadcasters, with the potential to impact millions of children all over the world.