Culture and Sustainabiltiy

How do culture and sustainability fit together with the policy and decision-making of the European Commission (EC)? A group of selected participants from a range of cultural organisations, including the Hybrid Plattform, tried to answer this question through a structured dialogue process known as “Voices of Culture”.

These dialogues are intended to strengthen the advocacy capacity of the cultural sector in policy debates on culture at a European level, whilst encouraging the sector and the EC to work in a way as collaborative as possible. Knowledge from those who work in the cultural sector in Europe is gathered, discussed and finally turned into a report of recommendations that is presented to the Commission. All of this with the specific focus on how culture can underpin and find its way into the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are intended as framework to eradicate poverty and achieve a sustainable world by 2030 and beyond, with human well-being and a healthy planet at its core. However, within these goals culture is not to be found and many cultural actors have been promoting culture as the fourth dimension of sustainable development which is closely interconnected with the other three pillars (social, economic and environmental) and is also a pre-condition to successfully achieve the various SDGs.  Saying that, the push to make culture a SDG in itself continues.

In four working groups the areas of education (SDG 4), economic growth and employment (SDG 8), sustainable communities (SDG 11) and climate action (SDG 13) were tackled with the aim to ensure that culture is considered within the respective policies and programmes. The Brainstorming Report "Culture and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Challenges and Opportunities" was carefully crafted as collaborative work through an intense process of discussions, workshops, several weeks writing and editing. The report highlights challenges and comes up with ideas as to solutions that can be supported through the EC and their policy work and funding programmes.

In particular the best practice examples as highlighted in the report are of interest as they showcase brilliant projects all across Europe and beyond. Some are described in more detail throughout the report but then there is an extensive list of even more projects at the end of the report (look out for page 104 and the following ones).  And of course we are flattered that the Hybrid Plattform is mentioned as one of the projects that provides a model to bring culture to education, thereby giving students, educators, researchers and artists alike the opportunity to rethink and adapt their practice in a wider context.

It will be interesting to see which of the ideas and proposals might make it into future programmes and policies of the Commission and other governmental bodies. I think the report makes a strong case for culture and its potential to drive a sustainable development. Actually, to my mind it is already driving it but the recognition of its role and the need for funding still seems to be legging behind. Fingers crossed this report provides yet another building block to push culture up on the agenda.