Culture in Public Policy

Given the scale of contemporary global challenges and their interconnectedness, achieving a more sustainable future must be the priority of all public policies today. In more fragmented societies, public policies must respond to the aspirations of diverse populations, as well as guarantee pluralism and respect for fundamental rights. Culture provides boundless resources in responding and adapting to development challenges by playing a transversal and effective role in all areas of public policy. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out precisely a shared vision for a more just, inclusive, and sustainable world. It encompasses a framework to support countries in the development and implementation of their public policies at the local, national, regional and international levels.

This page is dedicated to culture in public policy. It presents the key milestones of our mission to strengthen intergovernmental dialogue and international cooperation, in particular through policy making processes, including ministerial dialogues, as well as related tools and mechanisms. It also provides examples of sustainable development strategies and plans at country level. This section also encompasses thematic strategies and policy mechanisms anchored in UNESCO's cultural conventions that provide a solid framework for cultural cooperation and cultural diplomacy across countries and regions, towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Finally, this section features prospective cutting-edge reflections in relation to the impact of culture on sustainable development. 

Driving Global Advocacy

United Nations Resolutions: Culture & Development


Leveraging Policy Dialogue

Forum of Ministers of Culture

On 19 November 2019, UNESCO hosted the Forum of Ministers of Culture, a major event to discuss the central place of culture in public policies around the world and its impact on sustainable development. More than 120 Ministers and high representatives were present to mark a high point during the 40th session of the General Conference of UNESCO (12-27 November 2019). UNESCO, the only United Nations agency for culture, is returning to the tradition of ministerial meetings in the field of culture, 21 years after the Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1998.

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Supporting Public Policy

UNESCO's Cultural Conventions Tools

Protecting our World Cultural and Natural Heritage

The most significant feature of the 1972 World Heritage Convention is that it links together in a single document the concepts of nature conservation and the preservation of cultural properties. The Convention recognizes the way in which people interact with nature, and the fundamental need to preserve the balance between the two.

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Protecting Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict

The Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was adopted at The Hague (Netherlands) in 1954 in the wake of massive destruction of cultural heritage during the Second World War.  It is the first international treaty with a world-wide vocation focusing exclusively on the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict.

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Fighting Illicit Trafficking

The 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property urges States Parties to take measures to prohibit and prevent the illicit trafficking of cultural property. It provides a common framework for the States Parties on the measures to be taken to prohibit and prevent the import, export and transfer of cultural property.

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Protecting Underwater Cultural Heritage

The 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage enables States to better identify, research and protect their underwater cultural heritage, assuring its preservation and sustainability for present and future generations.

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Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage

The 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage protects traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

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Protecting and Promoting the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

The cultural and creative industries are among the fastest growing sectors in the world. The cultural and creative industries have become essential for inclusive economic growth, reducing inequalities and achieving the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda. The adoption of the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was a milestone in international cultural policy.

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UNESCO's Cities Programmes

Culture for Sustainable Urban Development

Creative Cities Network

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The 246 cities which currently make up this network work together towards a common objective: placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level.


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World Heritage Cities Programme

The World Heritage Cities Programme aims to assist States Parties in the challenges of protecting and managing their urban heritage. The programme is structured along a two-way process, with 1) the development of a theoretical framework for urban heritage conservation, and 2) the provision of technical assistance to States Parties for the implementation of new approaches and schemes.


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