Country Perspectives

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is first and foremost a country-driven agenda, whose achievement relies on the full and effective commitment and participation of Member States. Spanning across urban development, climate action, quality education for all, civil society engagement, social justice and strategic partnerships, integrating culture in development strategies, processes and plans provides a wealth of opportunities for inclusive and sustainable communities. 

This page is dedicated to country perspectives and monitors progress on the integration of culture across policy implementation at the national level as reflected in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) that aim to illustrate and document country experiences including opportunities, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and filling in its implementation gaps. The section presents innovative approaches linking culture to other development areas, highlighting country-led and country-driven efforts to accelerate the SDGs. The adaptation of cultural policies to sustainable development challenges is also an integral part of country-driven efforts presented under this section and illustrated through UNESCO decentralized initiatives, programmes and actions. 

Culture in the Voluntary National Reviews

Culture is not only a sector of activity in itself, but also a transversal, intrinsic component across the public policy spectrum, acting as an enabler to accelerate sustainable development processes. While culture does not have a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the 2030 Agenda, it is reflected across many of the goals and targets including those on sustainable cities (SDG 11), decent work (SDG 8), reduced inequalities (SDG 10), climate action (SDG 13), gender equality (SDG 5), innovation (SDG 9), and peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG 16).

This transversal dimension of culture in public policy-making is increasingly reflected in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted by Member States. These reports, which countries are invited to provide to monitor their progress in the achievement of the SDGs, are key indicators of public policy priorities and commitments at country level, and draw a global picture of the ways in which countries envision a more sustainable future. The transversality of culture can be appreciated in the ways in which countries explicitly integrate culture in education, heritage, innovation and city development, and implicitely through environmental dimensions, social inclusion, and peace-building.

UNESCO, has analysed the VNRs for the period 2016-2020, and can confirm that culture interacts with all 17 SDGs at the different policy levels. This snapshot provides inspiration going forward as we place culture at the heart of the UN Decade of Action on Sustainable Development.

Facts and Figures

Since 2016, 205 VNRS were submitted by 169 countries

63% of the countries that submitted their VNR in 2020 have successfully integrated culture by mentioning concrete policies and initiatives

How countries mention culture in their VNRs

Since 2016, Culture has been mentioned across ALL 17 SDGs in relation to laws, policies, and initiatives.

From 205 VNRs analysed, 95 directly linked initiatives with a cultural component to SDGs.

22 countries mentioned the transversal role of culture and is therefore the bedrock of all 17 SDGs.

Download the complete flyers on Culture and Sustainable Development in the VNRs here