Stockholm Conference

Congress in China: ‘Culture: Key to Sustainable Development’

This post comes to you from Culture|Futures


An international congress entitled ‘Culture: Key to Sustainable Development’, organised by UNESCO with the support of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, will be held in Hangzhou, China, on 15-17 May 2013.

This is the first international congress specifically focusing on the linkages between culture and sustainable development organised by UNESCO since the Stockholm Conference in 1998. As such, the congress will provide the very first global forum to discuss the role of culture in sustainable development in view of the post-2015 development framework, with participation of the global community and the major international stakeholders.

The congress will examine the multifaceted role of culture in achieving sustainable development goals. It aims at informing the global sustainable development stakeholders’ decisions, at engaging the international community in an open debate on the contribution of culture to sustainable development, and at providing state-of-the-art knowledge, research and best practices on the contribution of culture to sustainable development at the policy and operational levels.

Input for post-2015 sustainable development agenda
The results of this Congress will also serve as a substantial input to the discussion on the framework for the United Nations post-2015 sustainable development agenda. While culture was absent from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), integrating the cultural dimension into actions and goals in achieving sustainable development is an approach that is making its way on the international level. The outcome document of the MDG Summit, Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals (2010), emphasized the importance of culture for development and its contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Despite the progress made, the most recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 held in June 2012, accorded a very modest weight to culture. The Rio+20 experience shows that unless a broad and in depth examination of the nexus between culture and sustainable development is done within the global community, the post-2015 development framework and decision makers will not be fully informed on the effective contribution of culture to sustainable development.

For further information on the Congress, please consult its website,

What future and what missions for UNESCO by 2020

The contribution of culture to sustainable development was also the central theme of the lecture recently organised by the French non-profit association Group for Studies and Research on Globalisations, GERM, and held by Biserka Cvjeticanin (Culturelink/IRMO) under the title Quel avenir et quelles missions pour l’UNESCO à horizon 2020? in Toulouse, France, on 27 March 2013.

The specific role of culture in development processes is that culture transcends the sectorial divisions and the very sectorial approach, facilitating communication between various realms/categories of human creativity, as well as between different societies, countries, groups and individuals. The interdependence of cultures as developmental interdependence represents a pluralism of values and relations between cultures.

The lectures may be downloaded from the website of Group for Studies and Research on Globalisations:
Source: Culturelink Newsletter No. 078 / March 2013

Culture|Futures is an international collaboration of organizations and individuals who are concerned with shaping and delivering a proactive cultural agenda to support the necessary transition towards an Ecological Age by 2050.

The Cultural sector that we refer to is an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral, inter-genre collaboration, which encompasses policy-making, intercultural dialogue/cultural relations, creative cities/cultural planning, creative industries and research and development. It is those decision-makers and practitioners who can reach people in a direct way, through diverse messages and mediums.

Affecting the thinking and behaviour of people and communities is about the dissemination of stories which will profoundly impact cultural values, beliefs and thereby actions. The stories can open people’s eyes to a way of thinking that has not been considered before, challenge a preconceived notion of the past, or a vision of the future that had not been envisioned as possible. As a sector which is viewed as imbued with creativity and cultural values, rather than purely financial motivations, the cultural sector’s stories maintain the trust of people and society.
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This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

The increasing use of financial values for ecological things (trees, bees, etc.) is deeply problematic.

In Canada for instance PeterBorough’s Green Up and Urban Forest Stewardship Programme (as reported in the Peterborough Examiner) has been literally tying price tags to trees to highlight their importance to members of the public.  The value attributed is over 50 years and it does identify the different aspects of the value of trees,

“The tags list oxygen generation ($31,250), air pollution control ($62,000), water recycling ($37,500) and soil erosion control ($31,250) as a tree’s top contributions to a community.”

Whilst this at least acknowledges some of the complexity, English Nature reported that “Bees are worth £200 million”.  This was originally reported on the BBC at about the same time that Lehman Brothers collapsed with a reported figure in the region of $613 billion.

Dave Pritchard recently commented on the ecoartnetwork dialogue (9 April 2011),

“For a time, in the 1970s-80s, there was some of the kind of “reconsideration” you describe, with the “deep ecology” of Naess, Bateson, Berry et al. But if you analyse the evolution of the actual policy and advocacy discourse at 10-yearly intervals, for example from the 1972 Stockholm Conference to the 1982 World Conservation Strategy to the 1992 Rio Conference to the 2002 Johannesburg Summit (and then maybe in advance of the Rio+20 summit in 2012 look at the Aichi targets adopted last year), it has swung completely away from any ethics of “existence value” for the non-human component, to a forced justification (in adversarial arenas) in terms of “sustainable development”, “wise use”, “evidence-based conservation”, “ecosystem services” and (largely monetary) valuation of those services. The environmental movement (of which I am a part) congratulates itself on having found better ways of expressing the critical nature of ecosystems within broader mainstream audiences and processes, in this way. But this has all been done by becoming MORE anthropocentric and utilitarian; not less.”

Could the same narrative be written about both education and the arts (a.k.a the creative industries)? 

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.

It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge Research, Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.

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