Culture is conspicuous by its absence in Agenda 2030 and the global goals. Several actors in the cultural sector have therefore started the #culture2030goal campaign, to include an eighteenth culture-focused goal in Agenda 2030. "Culture has the ability to change our way of thinking," says Natalie Giorgadze at Culture Action Europe. Photo: Natalie Giorgadze/UN Women. Source: Flickr.


Several actors draw attention to the role of culture for sustainable development

Agenda 2030 is the international community's joint action plan to lead and lift the transition towards a more sustainable future. All UN members signed the agenda in 2015 and thereby established that the work for sustainable development requires efforts in several sectors. But one sector seems to be missing: culture.

The UN and its 193 member states adopted the action plan in 2015 Agenda 2030 to drive work towards a more sustainable future. The agenda contains 17 global sustainability goals that focus on various areas, including industry, fishing, consumption and gender equality. The 17 goals are divided into 169 sub-goals to make the work easier to measure and evaluate. The agenda as a whole should act as a template for the world's countries to follow in order to achieve above all long-term peace and prosperity.

But according to several actors in the cultural sector, culture's role in sustainable development is conspicuous by its absence. Therefore, they began a collaboration in 2013 that resulted in the global #culture2030goal- the campaign. The campaign aims precisely to highlight the untapped value of culture for sustainable development by including an eighteenth culture-focused goal in Agenda 2030. In the same year, four international networks and organizations produced a manifest which justified the importance of culture for the global transition. 

- Culture is noticeably missing from the global sustainability goals. Nevertheless, no one would argue that culture is irrelevant to Agenda 2030. Culture has the ability to change our way of thinking and to achieve the sustainability goals it is necessary to change our lifestyle and our way of thinking, says Natalie Giorgadze, communications and community manager at Culture Action Europe (CAE ) in Brussels.

CAE is Europe's largest network of organisations, artists, activists, decision-makers and smaller networks in the cultural sector, and one of the organizations that has been driving the campaign.

In addition to adding an eighteenth Sustainable Development Goal, the Culture2030Goal campaign also proposes possible sub-goals. These include, among other things, the promotion of local cultures and products as well as support for indigenous peoples to strengthen their institutions, culture and language.

- World leaders should not overlook the opportunity to explicitly recognize culture as an accelerator of development today and as a pillar of future development models, says Natalie Giorgadze.

Even the EU has recently drawn attention to the lack of culture in Agenda 2030 and its potential impact on sustainable development. The commission writes that culture can be a powerful tool for conveying knowledge regarding, among other things, social justice, gender equality and climate change. It also says that artists and cultural organizations must be fully involved in achieving the goals set out in the EU's Green Deal - which is the Commission's set of proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Varied commitment to culture

Article 6 in Agenda 2030 states that the global goals are universal and involve all countries regardless of income level. But the countries have shown varying interest in including culture in the work for sustainability. Belgium, Croatia, Italy, Madagascar, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates are some of the countries that have expressed appreciation and support for the Culture2030Goal campaign.

- We continue to work with them to further develop our call to include culture in the post-2030 framework for development, says Natalie Giorgadze.

Works to secure culture's part in sustainability work

More than half of the time to implement Agenda 2030 has passed and in seven years the goals must be reached. Time is short. But there is also a time after the agenda's time frame – and the work must continue even after 2030.

- We are hopeful that world leaders will not miss the opportunity again, as they did in 2015, to clearly recognize the role of culture as an accelerator for development, states Natalie Giorgadze.

She explains how the work for the period after Agenda 2030 has begun and that the further development of the content and form of a culture-focused goal will pay dividends - for both the preparatory work for post-2030 and for the role of culture in sustainability work.

- We stand ready to work with the Secretariat and the members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for the common goal of ensuring that culture is at the heart – and not at the edge – of decision-making regarding sustainable development.

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