Launch of the Final Report of the Post-2015 Dialogues on Culture and Development

On 25 March 2015, Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, chaired a high-level breakfast meeting, hosted by the Chair of the Group of Friends on Culture and Development at the UN Headquarters in New York, to discuss the ways and means to ensure that culture is integrated in the post-2015 development agenda, and to launch the Final Report of the Post-2015 Dialogues on Culture and Development. Kate Gilmore, UNFPA Deputy Executive Director, and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), joined the Director-General on this occasion, accompanied by Alfredo Pérez de Armiñán, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture.

On the margins of the post-2015 negotiation session held on the future Sustainable Development Goals, Targets and Indicators, the Peruvian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Gustavo Meza Cuadra, Chair of the Group of Friends on Culture and Development convened, on 25 March 2015, a high-level debate with the UNESCO Director-General on the impact of culture for sustainable development, the ways and means to ensure that culture is integrated in the post-2015 framework, and the way forward in view of the implementation and monitoring of the international development agenda.

The high-level breakfast meeting was chaired by the UNESCO Director-General, with introductory remarks by Augusto Thornberry, Deputy Permanent Representative of Peru to the United Nations, representing the Chair of the Group of Friends, Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Participants included members of the Group of Friends and other Permanent Missions to the United Nations: Albania, Bangladesh, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Irak, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and Vietnam.

On this occasion, UNESCO and UNFPA launched the Final Report of the Post-2015 Dialogues on Culture and Development, as co-lead agencies together with UNDP, to showcase the outcome of this global consultation process held throughout 2014 to inform the post-2015 debate with key messages, case studies, and indications as to how to measure the impact of culture.

The two UN Agencies recalled that the preliminary results of the Dialogues had notably allowed to inform the elaboration of the UN Secretary-General synthesis report on the post-2015 development « The Road to Dignity by 2030,” and the Florence Declaration, adopted at the UNESCO World Forum on Culture and Creative Industries (Florence, Italy, October 2014).

Building on the national consultations held in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Mali, Morocco and Serbia, as well as global thematic events, and an international call for papers and e-discussions, the Final Report examines the contribution of culture to six sub-themes: (1) poverty reduction, (2) quality education, (3) gender equality and women’s empowerment, (4) sustainable cities and urbanization, (5) the environment and climate change, (6) inclusion and reconciliation.

As stated by the UNESCO Director-General, the consultations brought further evidence that Culture is an essential component of human development – as a source of identity, innovation, diversity and creativity for individuals and communities. Culture is an important factor for social inclusion and poverty eradication, providing for sustainable economic growth and job creation, economic resilience and sustainable use of resources as well as sustainable tourism. Culture contributes to quality education, sustainable urban development and greater environmental sustainability through local and traditional knowledge, as well as gender equality, and it reinforces the ownership of development policies and effectiveness in their implementation.

The Director-General added that a number of indicators and statistical data exist to measure the impact of culture, but that they need to be systematically collected to support and monitor the post-2015 framework.

For instance, in the World Conference on Tourism and Culture (Siem Reap, Cambodia, February 2015), it was highlighted that 40% of world tourism is related to cultural heritage sites and activities. For this reason, as put forward by Italy and Vietnam, countries need to be engaged in the sustainable safeguarding of their heritage, as this also allows to preserve the identities of communities, cities and countries.

Silvia Montoya, UIS Director, confirmed that the contribution of culture to GDP and its impact for the relevant parts of the post-2015 development agenda will be further researched by the Institute.

Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, concurred with the UNESCO Director-General, adding that « the global debate should not only examine the ‘what’ but also focus on the ‘who’ and the ‘how’. In this shift, culture has an essential role to play » and that “ it is important to listen to all voices, notably those of civil society, academics, experts, national and local authorities and the private sector, on which the Post-2015 Dialogues built throughout 2014”.

A number of Permanent Missions, including Bangladesh, Cuba, Thailand, Brazil, Costa Rica, highlighted that the impact of culture goes beyond GDP, as culture is not only a commodity but also an enabler and driver of sustainable development.

Bangladesh notably referred to the fact that the independence of the country was initiated and based on cultural grounds.

The Director-General expressed the strong support of UNESCO to Tunisia for the latest events that took place at the Bardo Museum, and highlighted that culture is not only key to identity, but also peace and reconciliation, as shown by the reconstruction of the Bridge of Mostar, inscribed on the World Heritage List. Bosnia and Herzegovina indeed fully concurred with the Director-General by adding that culture has the power to contribute to heal the wounds of the past. Tunisia and Iraq confirmed that a multidimensional approach was needed to counter terrorism and that it is now clear that culture and cultural diversity should stand at the heart of the action of the international community.

The participants in the meeting all agreed, as suggested by Cuba, Republic of Korea, Greece and Hungary, that the way forward in the negotiations on the post-2015 framework should focus on fully reflecting the role of culture for sustainable development in the Political Declaration, while maintaining the current gains for culture in the framework proposed by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, as well as putting forward the indicators and statistical data that allow to monitor the culture-related entry points in the post-2015 development agenda.

The meeting provided a timely opportunity for the Group of Friends on Culture and Development to renew its commitment to ensure that the role of culture is fully acknowledged in the post-2015 development agenda. The Final Report of the Post-2015 Dialogues on Culture and Development is a key resource in this respect.