Culture for national sustainable growth: EU-wide perspectives

Contemporary findings have shown that culture in all its forms, expressions and meanings, must be at the heart of any transformational path for human development. Specifically, it is time to think of culture as a vital “instrument” in reaching for optimal SDG’s implementation. No doubt, culture will become a key to building inclusive and cohesive societies and to sustaining Europe’s competitiveness. 

Supported by the Commission, invited EU-wide experts formulated a set of recommendations to rethink the relationship between society and culture, economics and art, individuals and nature, etc. to activate human’s cultural imagination for sustainable future and wellbeing. Experts report (more on that below) focused on important role that cultural sector can play as a driver for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. The work of the experts group provides concrete insight on the European path to a brighter and more sustainable future.

UNESCO’s lead on “culture for SDGs”
The UN organisation for education, science and culture, has been during last decades at the frontline of national efforts to the optimal SDGs implementation.
Hence, the UNESCO’s World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development, the so-called MONDIACULT-2022 (to take place in Mexico at the end of September 2022) is one of the latest efforts in this direction.
First MONDIACULT conference took place 40 years ago to assist the states in “expanding the horizons of culture” by embracing a broader concept to include such aspects of culture as value systems, traditions and beliefs, as well as expressions of living heritage, based on an fundamental beliefs in basic cultural rights as human endeavor.
As the global community has entered the last seven years of SDGs implementation (so-called Decade of Action) for the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agreed by the UN-family states as a common inspirational roadmap, the UNESCO comes with and initiative to embark jointly on a reflection on cultural policies to tackle global challenges and outline immediate and future actions.
The aim of the initiative is to shape a more robust and resilient national cultural sector, which would be fully connected for the goals of sustainable development (as well as promotion of solidarity, peace and security), in line with the UN Secretary-General’s report Our Common Agenda in September, 2021; the report specifically referred to culture resources as societies’ “global commons”.
The conference’s goal is to pave the way for the full integration of culture into proper realisation of the post-2030 UN Agenda for an inclusive and sustainable development.
In 2022, the MONDIACULT 2022 is going to visionary as well: thus, one of the conference’s special series presents a visual content of main events during the Conference.
More in: https://www.unesco.org/en/mondiacult2022

EU proposals
= Some proposals include, for instance, embracing the Earth Overshoot Day, the date when, each year, humanity’s demand for natural resources surpasses the Earth’s ability to renew them. Earth Overshoot Day is computed by dividing the planet’s bio-capacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year), by humanity’s Ecological Footprint (humanity’s demand for that year), and multiplying by 365, the number of days in a year. For example during last decade the “overshooting day” was around August…
There are numerous solutions to deal with the “overshooting” for improving sustainability, e.g. in five major areas: the planet, cities, energy, food and population. The following areas can be mentioned:
= Planet: how the nations help nature thrive; = Cities: how governments design and manage cities’ infrastructure; = Energy: how states “power” themselves; = Food: how food is produced, distributed and consumed; and = Population: how many of people “survive” on the earth presently.
Reference to: https://www.overshootday.org/

= Culture can also be a powerful tool to better communicate the available scientific knowledge on issues such as loss of biodiversity, lack of food security, climate change and other SDGs challenges. Thus, in Europe, artists and cultural organisations should play a full part in ensuring that objectives of the European Green Deal and the sustainable development goals are met.
= National cultural and creative sectors should become greener and fairer. Also, the sustainability readiness and intentions for change in the “next generation of change-makers” can be fully mobilised to this goal, while putting democracy, human rights and artistic freedom at its core.
= Ongoing work towards the preparation of the future “Working Plan for Culture 2023-2026”, in particular, with a view to further strengthening the interplay between culture and sustainable development in EU policies and actions shall proceed.
Additional info in: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_22_5726

European path to “sustainable culture”
The Council of the EU took an important step in May 2020, adding “culture as a driver of sustainable development” into the priority list during its 2019–2022 working plan for the cultural sector. As mentioned before, the group of 50 experts from 25 EU states, working under the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), examined the role of culture for sustainable development and for the attainment of the SDGs and collected good examples.
According to the Commission’s present “Working Plan for Culture 2019-2022”, it is working on effective EU-wide initiatives to make the cultural sector an important part of implementing sustainable development goals across several European and national economic policy areas.
The expert group produced the report “Stormy Times. Nature and humans: Cultural courage for change” in which they formulate a set of key recommendations for policy makers and national governance; the report underlines a recognized role of cultural sector as driver to successfully achieve the Agenda 2030.
The EU institutions have already selected the following priorities in view of their contribution to cultural diversity, to the European added value with the need for joint EU-states’ actions: a) sustainability in cultural heritage, b) cohesion and well-being, c) the system to support artists, cultural and creative professionals within the European content, d) gender equality and e) international cultural relations.
Source: Council conclusions on the “Working Plan for Culture 2019-2022” in: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52018XG1221%2801%29

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