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SDGs and UNESCO for Cultural Development

Updated: Feb 8

The UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

As an international law, the 2005 Convention provides an important normative grounds for Canada (the first State that ratified the 2005 Convention) and a framework for UNESCO Creative Cities Network member cities like London. Hence, The London Arts Council's programs address the 2005 Convention through all aspects of programs as the Convention embodies the following important notions:

  • Cultural diversity is a defining characteristic of humanity.

  • The importance of cultural diversity for the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms is proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other universally recognized instruments.

  • Culture needs to be incorporated as a strategic element in national and international development policies, as well as in international development cooperation, considering that culture takes diverse forms across time and space and that this diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities and cultural expressions of the peoples and societies making up humanity.

  • Culture plays an important role in social cohesion, and cultural diversity is strengthened by the free flow of ideas and nurtured by constant exchanges and interactions between cultures.

  • The diversity of cultural expressions, including traditional cultural expressions, is an important factor that allows individuals and peoples to express and share with others their ideas and values.

  • Traditional knowledge as a source of intangible and material wealth is important, as are the knowledge systems of indigenous peoples and their positive contribution to sustainable development, as well as the need for adequate protection and promotion.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

UNESCO’s advocacy for the role of culture in sustainable development over the last decade has given rise to several UN General Assembly resolutions acknowledging culture as a transformative dimension that ensures sustainability in the development process.

Today, UNESCO continues to align its work in culture to better address sustainable development challenges and to advocate for the prioritization of culture in both the SDGs and in the documents emerging from the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

No development can be sustainable without taking culture into account.

Yet, compared to the international community’s initial ambition, the potential to engage culture for sustainable development remains largely untapped in national strategies to implement the SDGs.

Now, to succeed in a time of global concern, the SDGs need the involvement of the communities, leaders and cultural network members who are most engaged in culture and who best understand its potential impacts. This means we need to harness the power of cultural institutions and organizations to shape new ways to envision a more inclusive, just and equitable world.

Culture as a Human Right

A large part of this commitment involves respecting, protecting and promoting the cultural rights of all persons and aspiring to greater solidarity based on the recognition of cultural diversity.

The United Nations encourages cultural and heritage organizations to incorporate the principles set out in the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001) into their practices, objectives and policies—particularly those concerning the obligation to guarantee cultural rights, access to cultural goods and services, free participation in cultural life, and freedom of artistic expression to forge inclusive and equitable societies.

This could look like paying attention to the diversity of creative work, creating opportunities for artists to share their work in the language of their choice, and promoting equal access to art and to scientific and technological knowledge.

As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. UNESCO has long asserted that the achievement and implementation of the SDGs need to be people-centred so that cultural rights and diversity can be key drivers of people’s participation, ownership and creativity.

To view the Culture for SDGs Toolkit, see: ( "Culture: at the heart of SDGs" Article by Jyoti Hosagrahar


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