Blending Our Past, Cultivating Our Future
Culture and food stand at the crossroads of tradition and innovation. Organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the Government of the Italian Republic, with the support of the Emilia Romagna Region and the Municipality of Parma, the World Forum will analyse the linkages between food, culture and society, as well as the evolving landscape of food security and food systems, and their pivotal role for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Food has always shaped our relationship to our environment, from the first agricultural communities to the fully-fledged industrial societies of the twenty-first century. Transmitted from generation to generation, the long-established processes of food collection, preparation and service are part of our cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, and are a source of cultural identity and pride, where each cuisine reflects a unique history, lifestyle, values and beliefs. Yet culinary practices have not remained static. Instead, they have crossed continents and acted as gateways to cross-cultural dialogue.
Nowadays, food culture continues to spark encounters, communication and exchange, adapting and innovating. Cities today are living environments, where traditions, cultures and behaviours influence one another, where intangible cultural heritage and creativity blend to give birth to new social practices around food. Popular media also sparks new ideas around food, healthy lifestyles and local produce through a multitude of food blogs, culinary festivals and celebrity TV chefs.
Food culture can provide solutions for the overlapping challenges of population growth, climate change, and offer a platform for dialogue in increasingly diverse societies. It provides inspiration to tackle challenges related to sustainable agricultural and fishery practices; education for behavioural changes and food security. Promoting food diversity, behavioural change to ensure sustainable consumption and waste practices and lifestyles are key components of the global strategy to achieve the SDGs.
Video of Culture and Food: Innovative Strategies for Sustainable Development
Culture and Food: Innovative Strategies for Sustainable Development© UNESCO
The forum will bring together over 150 participants – including practitioners, international experts, government representatives, IGOs and NGOs – to explore innovative pathways to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through panel discussions on the following themes:
Panel 1: "Cultural Heritage and Food: the foundations of cultural identity"
Culture and food are a source of identity and cultural and natural heritage carried by traditional knowledge and practices. Eating habits are a product of the codes of conduct and social relations structure of the society in which they occur and represent a nonverbal way of sharing meanings with others. Yet food practices do not remain static: with increasing diverse populations, ingredients and dishes; they have crossed borders, blending and transforming. As such, food is a unique vector for intercultural dialogue and exchange. It has given rise to new creativity in the form of fusion food. In this panel, participants are invited to explore the linkages between food, cultural heritage and identity, and adaptation. The discussion will focus on the challenges and opportunities to reinvent traditions in a creative and innovative way while preserving local identity.
Panel 2: "Culture for the socio-economic development of urban and rural areas: new cultural policies"
The world is increasingly urbanised – over 50% now live in cities – which has an impact on socio-economic development both for cities and for the surrounding territories. Food culture has become an integral part of cultural policies and cultural diplomacy worldwide. The food sector is an engine for the social and economic development. It provides new impetus for agricultural production and exports, as well as generating a whole new industries from audiovisual and printed media, to new types of jobs and cultural tourism. In this context, increased cultural tourism and food-related tourism is creating new opportunities and challenges. The food related industies, whilst posing issues with regard to food consumption habits and food waste, are a vector for poverty reduction and improved well-being. New social habits related to food generate new modes of communication and social engagement, inclusion and integration through enhanced forms of cultural diversity and creativity. Economic investment in food strengthens agriculture and industries, and improves territorial integration by intensifying the links between urban and rural areas and populations, knowledge of territories and cooperation. For the past 30 years, civil society groups have advocated to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, and educate on how our food choices affect the world around us. As such, they play an important role in designing new socio-economic strategies. This Panel will examine the socio-economic strategies that combine food and culture to stimulate development within rural areas, as well as in cities.
Panel 3: "Education and sustainability: vocational training and new jobs"
The food we eat and the ways we consume can exacerbate unsustainable and unhealthy lifestyles. Notably, one third of all food produced globally is wasted and single-use plastics often end up in the ocean. Education for sustainable development can encourage individuals to make more responsible choices. Learning sustainable behaviour can take place in diverse contexts from the classroom to cookery school, the hospitality sector, or even to a wider public through the media, via celebrities and chefs. Ensuring awareness of the wider public to these dimensions is crucial. Trends suggest that the food and beverage industry is growing worldwide, offering more employment opportunities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training. This training should be flexible to take into account local knowledge systems that can lead to more sustainable food production and consumption, as well as the latest trends in culinary creativity such as fusion food or street food. This panel will explore the opportunities for new employment in the food industries; strategies for education for sustainable development; investment in informed communication and awareness building on ways in which local cultures can influence social transformations for more sustainable food practices.
Panel 4: "Science and research: biodiversity, food security and innovation for the planet"
By 2050, there will be 9.8 billion people on Earth. In addition, to population growth, climate change is threatening food security – according to the latest UN figures, it is estimated that over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. The expansion of agricultural land is also the largest factor for deforestation. These trends threaten biodiversity, which is decreasing at an unprecedented rate. Investment in research and innovation makes it possible to combine work that reinforces agricultural biodiversity and resilient ecosystems, as well as cultural identity. New technology and knowledge development can address the global issues and urgent challenges facing the world today, such as climate change, disaster risk reduction, water management and growing competition for natural resources. Culture can play a pivotal role in promoting a sustainable approach to food that places at the heart of its concerns respect for the health of the consumer and the environment, as well as the protection of producers. Innovative methodologies for preserving sustainable agriculture and healthy diets, ensuring sustainable management of natural resources while meeting food demand are necessary. This panel will examine how local knowledge and traditional practices can contribute to enhancing the knowledge base building on the latest science and innovation.
Panel 5: "The example of UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy"
The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), set up in 2004, is a platform to promote cooperation between cities that have placed creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level. They share this common vision for local sustainable development and actively cooperate at the international level. The 180 Cities that currently make up this Network have opted to pursue cultural policies based on seven different areas of creativity, one of which is gastronomy gathering 26 cities. Most of these cities have joined the network since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Agenda in 2015, reflecting a growing interest on the part of Member States in harnessing gastronomic creativity, as well as food related intangible cultural heritage, as a driver for local development, creativity and innovation. The UNESCO Creative Cities of Gastronomy are committed to promoting gastronomy and food practices to stir global action and youth engagement in support of values of global citizenship, respect for human rights, cultural diversity, intercultural and intergenerational dialogue towards peaceful coexistence around food.