The transformative power of culture for social inclusion, resilience and sustainable development is increasingly recognized as a key enabler for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development marked a major turning point in global efforts to address development challenges and opportunities, as the local authorities and communities take an increasingly important role in this global momentum alongside international and national actors and other relevant stakeholders. Culture is also an essential component of human development, representing a source of identity, innovation and creativity for all, it provides sustainable solutions to local and global challenges.
According to UNESCO, Culture bears an artistic and social value (identity, development, dialogue, connection, history), but also an economic value (creative industry, innovation, planning). The Sustainable Development Goals support the importance of culture as a driver of sustainable development, for example, the importance of non-violence and cultural diversity (SDG 4.7), safeguarding of natural and cultural heritage (SDG 11.4) and creative industry (SDG 8.3).
Non-Aligned Movement recognises that culture is an enabler of sustainable development. In this context, NAM attaches great significance to United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/70/214 of 26 February 2016. Res. 70/214 recognises that culture is an essential component of human development representing a source of identity, innovation and creativity for the individual and the community and that it is an important factor in social inclusion and poverty eradication, providing for sustainable economic growth and ownership of development processes.
In accordance with Res. 70/204, NAM recognises the importance of the promotion of national cultures, artistic creation in all its forms and international and regional cultural cooperation, and reaffirming in this regard the relevance of strengthening national efforts and regional and international cooperation mechanisms for cultural action and artistic creation and recognizing respect for cultural pluralism, as defined by the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, as policies for the inclusion and participation of all citizens that guarantee social cohesion and the vitality of civil society and peace, enhance cultural development and contribute to sustainable development. NAM recognises the potential of culture as a driver of sustainable development, which contributes to a strong and viable economic sector by generating income, creating decent jobs and addressing both the economic and social dimensions of poverty through cultural heritage and cultural and creative industries, while providing innovative and effective solutions to cross-cutting issues, such as education, health, gender equality and the environment.
In accordance with Res. 70/204, NAM has welcomed the conclusion in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of several targets reflecting the contribution of culture to sustainable development. NAM believes the Sustainable Development Goals and targets are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development.
NAM also attaches significance to UN General Assembly Resolution 72/229 of January 19, 2018 which encourages all countries, intergovernmental bodies, organizations of the United Nations system, relevant non-governmental organizations and all other relevant stakeholders to enhance international cooperation in supporting the efforts of developing countries towards the development, strengthening and consolidation of cultural industries, cultural tourism and culture-related microenterprises and to assist those countries in developing the necessary infrastructure and skills, as well as in mastering information and communications technologies and in gaining access to new technologies on mutually agreed terms.
On 21 May 2019, a High-level Event on Culture and Sustainable Development was held at United Nations Headquarters in New York in which Ernesto Ottone R., UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, highlighted the cross-cutting power of culture for sustainable development and stressed that “Placing culture at the heart of development is an investment in the future.” He also called on countries who engage in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) exercise to integrate and reflect culture as a critical dimension for the attainment of the SDGs. Many NAM Member States have incorporated culture in their VNRs. During the event, Ralph Regnant, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu, noted that culture will be reflected in the country’s VNR, saying “In Vanuatu, we have a pillar of sustainable development, which is culture. Culture is at the heart of the social and economic development systems. Philippines recognises culture of peace as one of the five areas where progress is most needed. In Morocco, “The United Nations country team with UNESCO, as lead agency, and the Ministry of Culture led, in 2014, a series of national consultations to gather the views of the Moroccan population on the link between culture and sustainable development, analysing expectations and making recommendations.
Thus, NAM recognises that cultures and civilizations can contribute to, and are crucial enablers of, sustainable development.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor