United Nations, special summit. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Promoters of the campaign “The Future We Want Includes Culture” highlight shortcomings of the document that will be adopted in New York in September

In the lead-up to the Special Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held within the UN's 70th General Assembly in New York on 25-27 September, the leaders of the global campaign 'The Future We Want includes Culture' have released a joint communique.

The Communique identifies achievements and shortcomings of the UN processes that led to the Outcome Document, 'Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development' with regard to the recognition of culture's role in sustainable development. It also identifies six steps that the campaign hopes to take in the future, based on the experiences gained to date.

According to the promoters of the campaign “The Future We Want Includes Culture” there are several shortcomings in the document that will be adopted in New York:

Firstly, the Outcome Document falls short of a full understanding and affirmation of the importance of culture to sustainable development. As the campaign has consistently underlined in several documents, culture is a driver and an enabler of sustainable development. Culture is one of the four dimensions of sustainable development, and is as essential as its economic, social and environmental dimensions. Holistic and integrated development will only be achieved when the values of creativity, heritage, knowledge and diversity are factored into all approaches to sustainable development. This means guaranteeing the availability and accessibility of cultural infrastructure (such as, but not limited to, libraries, museums, theatres, community centres, arts education centres) and the implementation of long-term cultural programmes and projects.

Secondly, whilst “Transforming Our World” integrates some references to cultural aspects, it fails to fully take into account the evidence gathered by the international community over the past two decades, of the positive role of culture in development. In this respect, culture is referenced explicitly in only four of the 169 targets which will make up the SDGs.

Finally, there are no assurances that the Post-2015 Development Agenda will be fully funded. According to UN estimates, for the new goals to be met will require as much as $11.5 trillion per year. UNCTAD has also estimated that the total investment needs in developing countries amounts to $3.3-4.5 trillion annually, which when compared to current investment shows a gap of $1.9-3.1 trillion per year.

The promoters of the campaign proposed 6 practical recommendations:

A) We will encourage the inclusion of cultural aspects in National Development Plans, international cooperation mechanisms and other strategies and policies resulting from Transforming Our World. We believe that references to culture should be made both with regard to the specific targets where culture is mentioned in the SDG Outcome Document and elsewhere, in 3 other targets that have an implicit cultural dimension. We strongly believe that participatory exercises established to implement Transforming Our World should systematically include agents active in the cultural field.

B) We call for the inclusion of truly operational references to culture in the major international conferences where the implications of the SDG framework will be discussed, including the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21, Paris, December 2015) and the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III, Quito, October 2016).

C) We believe that the narrative on culture and sustainable development must be strengthened with evidence-based research and indicators. There is a need for reliable and inclusive indicators to measure the implementation of the culture related targets. We aim to contribute to the design of cultural indicators and a suitable information infrastructure which allows for a better quantitative and qualitative understanding and measurement of the place of culture in sustainable development.

D) We will seek opportunities to convincingly and inspiringly present evidence of culture’s role in development at international fora across a range of disciplines outside the culture sector in order to raise awareness, create understanding, build bridges and develop partnerships.

E) We believe that new partnerships with civil society organizations, public authorities, UN agencies, regional intergovernmental organizations, international networks, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders are needed, more than ever, in order to broaden society’s awareness of the essential role that culture plays in sustainable development.

F) We will seek to develop a strategy that builds on the actions to date, strive to build resources and relationships that could contribute to continuation of the global campaign, and communicate effectively with all stakeholders.

The networks leading the campaign were: IFACCA, IFCCD, Agenda 21 for culture (UCLG), Culture Action Europe, Arterial Network, IMC - International Music Council, ICOMOS, IFLA and Red Latinoamericana de Arte para la Transformación Social.

The campaign was launched on 1 May 2014 with the "Declaration on the Inclusion of Culture in the Sustainable Development Goals" which has been signed by 900 organisations and more than 2500 individuals in 120 countries. Campaign leaders thank these signatories and other supporters for the important role they played in creating – for the first time ever – a global voice for the cultural sector.

September 25, 2015
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