On 1 and 2 July, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, took part in the High-level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) substantive session, held this year under the theme “Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations opened the session by sending a strong message that “science, technology and culture are necessary elements for any post-2015 development agenda”.
The Director-General, in her keynote speech, highlighted the importance of meeting the MDGs to be credible in setting a new agenda to follow and declared “we meet at a turning point – with exactly 2.5 years left before the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals”. “Supporting innovation cannot be separated from promoting culture and cultural diversity. There is no innovation possible without a vibrant cultural environment,” she continued underlining the role of creativity and culture in accelerating innovation.
Within the framework of the ECOSOC High-level Segment, the Director-General chaired a UNESCO Ministerial Roundtable on “Culture and innovation in the post-2015 development agenda" on 2 July*. The event brought together Ministers of culture, science and technology, Permanent Representatives of Member States to the United Nations, UN system agencies including UNDP, World Bank, UNCTAD and WIPO, and the civil society.
The Director-General called for the support of Ministers to develop “explicit references to develop strategies harnessing the potential of creativity and cultural industries – as a vector for sustainable development, as a source of identity and innovation, as a force for social inclusion and eradicating poverty.” Ms Bokova also stressed the need for "new types of evidence of critical factors for local creative economies to flourish and lead to sustainable economic and social development" and added that these will be featured in the forthcoming special edition of the world report on the Creative Economy to be published by UNESCO and UNDP in September 2013.
During the discussion, participants gave examples of how the creative industries increase trade, provide employment, especially for youth, act as a catalyst for social inclusion and drive a “new economy” which is also based on technology and innovation, and how investing in creativity can transform societies, build stability and peace and thus constitutes an investment in inclusive sustainable development. The participants also called for more partnerships in development initiatives that include civil society and private sector players, and for more and better data and indicators reflecting culture’s impact on sustainable development.
Referring to the situation in her country, H.E. Mrs Maria Teixeira, Minister of Science and Technology of Angola said that “after thirty years of civil war our young people are taught to respect the many cultures present in Angola – to build peace and move forward as one people”.
H.E. Ms Rola Dashtim Minister for Planning and Development Affairs of the Kuwait underlined that “social cohesion and innovation are necessary for sustainable development and both depend on culture”. “Culture must not be left as an outside issue – it must be a pillar in the post-2015 development agenda,” she said.
In discussing Nigeria’s powerful film industry as an employment and economic force, a tool for social cohesion, and an engine to disseminate messages about health and education, Dr. Precious K. Gbeneol, Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on the MDGs, underscored that “we can’t underplay culture if we want to achieve the MDGs, and it must be included in the post-2015 development agenda”.
“Culture, education and technology together are enablers that leave no one behind,” summarized Mr Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank President’s Special Envoy on the MDGs and Financial Development.
At the side event organized by UNESCO, CERN, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), on the role of women in science, the Director-General, in her keynote address, emphasized the vital role women play in advancing science and the need for women in science in a new age of limits – in terms of resources and boundaries of the planet. “We must release the full powers of innovation, to craft new solutions that are inclusive, just and sustainable,” she declared, “This is why gender equality is so vital.”
The Director-General also took part in the launch of the Global Innovation Index (GII) to which UNESCO has actively contributed as a member of its Advisory Board.
Finally, Ms Bokova seized the opportunity of her visit to hold bilateral meetings with Executive heads of UN Specialized agencies based in Geneva.
*A second UNESCO Ministerial Roundtable focusing on the theme "Science, Technology and Innovation for Global Sustainability" will take place 3 July.