UNESCO gathers more than 120 Ministers of Culture in historic conference

Paris, France

It was a gathering of historical dimensions: “Twenty years separate us from this intergovernmental conference of culture ministers. Since then, the world has changed. Culture has a fundamental role to play in rising to the challenges of our century. In the face of global fractures, and the paralysis of some institutional platforms, it is a common language that breaks down barriers”, declared UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in the opening of the Forum of Ministers of Culture 2019 during the UNESCO General Conference. The first of its kind since more than two decades.

Culture has a fundamental role to play in rising to the challenges of our century. In the face of global fractures, and the paralysis of some institutional platforms, it is a common language that breaks down barriers

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

With the Forum, UNESCO brought together more than 120 Ministers and high-level representatives of Culture of its Member States under the theme “Culture and Public Policy for Sustainable Development” to underline the importance of multilateral dialogue in discussing the central role of culture in society for building a more just and sustainable world, in particular in the context of the Agenda 2030.

Over the past twenty years, the world has witnessed the emergence of new challenges which have a direct impact on the cultural field and profoundly question the role of culture in societies and the extent to which it is embedded in public policies. While the nature and scope of these changes is still hard to grasp, they all call for a reinvestment in culture as a founding element of the vision for society. In a world confronted with increasing economic and social inequalities, an upsurge of conflict and migratory flows, the urgent need to combat climate change and the accelerating urbanisation and digitalisation, culture is asserting itself as the essential link for social cohesion, fostering models of human-centred development and the development of inclusive, supportive and innovative responses.


EU Resolution on the Cultural Dimension of Sustainable Development

The imperative role of culture in building pluralistic, democratic and inclusive societies, notably in the context of reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 has not only been underlined in this landmark gathering of high-level representatives of culture, but is also enshrined in the Resolution on the Cultural Dimension of Sustainable Development adopted during the meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council on 21st November 2019. The resolution notes that despite of policy developments in Member States and several concrete actions that contributed to the achievement of the Agenda 2030, work specifically dedicated to delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals would be beneficial. Therefore, the resolution agrees to step up efforts to promote the cultural dimension in sustainable development and to pursue work to integrate cultural policies and perspectives into national sustainable development strategies.

The 2030 Agenda offers a major opportunity to reactivate inter-ministerial dialogue on culture in public policy. During the UNESCO Forum, the ministers reaffirmed the crucial policies in addressing the challenges of sustainable development and reiterated their deep commitment to cultural diversity as a common good and an essential resource for the future of their societies.

In conclusion, the Forum of Ministers of Culture of UNESCO responded to the growing need expressed by Member States for a more cross-cutting approach to culture in public policy, in line with contemporary challenges. Ministers underlined the relevance of UNESCO's normative action in the field of culture, stressing the need to strengthen or adapt these mechanisms to the challenges of sustainable development. Public policies and cultural policies in particular, now involve a diversity of stakeholders. Alongside States, local authorities, civil society and the private sector contribute to making public policies more cross-cutting and accessible to a greater number of people.

Finally, the ministers reaffirmed the importance of the multilateral approach in the field of culture and their commitment to the universal values promoted by UNESCO, which place people at the heart of the sustainable development of societies. They highlighted the responsibility of cultural policies in building fairer and more inclusive societies, and in supporting cultural citizenship for peace.