In 2005, 56 countries from all over the world convened by UNESCO agreed to recognise that the diversity of cultural expression that characterises our society is what defines an ecosystem of humanity that is clearly dependent on the natural ecosystems with which we interrelate. This was the Convention for the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expression (UNESCO 2005).

In 2018, 146 countries from all over the world plus the European Union already formed a part of this framework of international consensus. The link between culture and nature had been a cause for concern ever since the first conventions for the protection of the heritage of humanity [1]1 — The Convention on the Protection of the World Heritage, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972, is the most important normative instrument of the international community for the identification, protection and preservation of its cultural and natural heritage. exceptional universal value. and this is best defined through the concept of Cultural Scenery (UNESCO 1972).

Culture is on the one hand this interdisciplinary reality that establishes us and defines us in accordance with our regions and landscapes, and with our history. Yet it is also the body of languages and proposals that emerge from our constant reinterpretation of the past and creations based on the imagination of other presents and other futures.

Culture and participation in cultural life is a fundamental right, recognised in Article 27 of the Declaration of Human Rights

For this reason, culture, or more precisely participation in cultural life, is a fundamental right, recognised in Article 27 of the Declaration of Human Rights [2]2 — Adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, resolution 217 A (III), of 10 December 1948. . It is a right that countries are required to guarantee and which has been protected, since 2009, by the special Rapporteur of the United Nations for Cultural Rights. This is a fundamental right linked to freedoms, limitations and responsibilities and which is directly related to development in terms of sustainability.

Culture as a cross-disciplinary axis of sustainability?

For its part, however, the 2030 Agenda has not considered participation in cultural life as a fundamental right. The Objective Culture 2030 campaign launched by different international cultural networks and institutions did not succeed in establishing a specific SDG as a major challenge for sustainability. The only explicit reference to the sector is the preservation of the cultural and natural heritage in SDG 11.4 as a factor for the construction of the resilience of sustainable communities.

A recent report by the platform of institutions that are leading the campaign Culture 2030 Goal (2019) analyses the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) presented in the High Level Political Forums of recent years, together with the Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs) of cities and local governments, with a view to identifying the presence of cultural activity in the initiatives that are being implemented by governments and policies.

The report is based on a reading of the agenda from a cultural perspective and identifies that explicit references to this domain are made only in the preamble, which refers to protecting natural and cultural diversity and promoting intercultural dialogue.

CULTURE IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2030 AGENDA, CULTURE 2030 GOAL CAMPAIGN

In a more universalist way, however, culture appears in indicator 2.5 linked to ‘Zero hunger’, but the question of the intellectual protection of traditional and local knowledge refers to patents and the marketing of genetic resources related to food.

One of the most obvious connections is also with the educational world, and specifically indicator 4.7 concentrates on the question of educating in favour of non-violence, the appreciation of cultural diversity and education for sustainability.

Indicator 3 of SDG 8 alludes to the need to rely on creators and to encourage processes of cultural innovation, referring to the potential of the creative and cultural economy for the creation of jobs and the urgent need to dignify existing areas of activity. In the same SDG, in indicator 8.9 there is a clear reference to local cultural production.

The study also detects that, in a range established on the basis of the identification of linked concepts that appear in the reports, a close identification can be observed between culture and tourism. Among the best placed countries in accordance with this index appear three countries that are also at the top of the world tourism organisation index in terms of data for receiving visitors: Turkey, Italy and Spain.

Finally, the relationship with rights, duties and freedoms is made obvious in indicator 16.4, which calls for the return of stolen heritage items, or 16.10 which talks of the need to guarantee access to knowledge and information, and the need to protect artistic freedom of expression.

Agenda 2030 has not considered participation in cultural life as a fundamental right. However, important steps are being taken to position the cultural sector in relation to the sustainability agenda

In a second study, conducted by Voices of Culture and arising from a structured dialogue between civil society and the European Union, the cultural sector appears as obviously committed to SDG 4, SDG 8, SDG 11 and SDG 13, and in the final recommendations it can be observed that the reviews of countries do not include indicators and references concerning SDG 11.4 or that raising awareness and training concerning the connections between culture and the 2030 agenda are very limited and not very representative in general.

At a Spanish national level, the REDS network has set up a working group and has launched an initial publication on the subject in coordination with the secretariat general for the 2030 Agenda [3]3 — Spanish Network for Sustainable Development, REDS (2020). Culture and Sustainable Development. The cultural dimension of the 2030 Agenda. Available online. . Finally, in Catalonia, the Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS) is initiating its efforts in the cultural domain in the framework of the Catalonia 2030 Alliance.

Everything indicates then that important steps are being taken to position the cultural sector in relation to the sustainability agenda.

New perspectives of and towards culture

According to the study conducted by Voice of Culture (2020), recently SDG 13, which refers to the climate emergency, has been one of the links with the highest level of identification and commitment among culture professionals in Europe.

In 2019, the Carulla Foundation and the Museum of Rural Life, following in the tracks of the Anglo-Saxon initiative, declared an emergency and formally committed themselves to the 2030 Agenda and the work of the Advisory Council for the Sustainable Development of Catalonia (CADS) [4]4 — “El Museu de la Vida Rural declara l’emergència climàtica”. Article published on the Carulla Foundation website on September 7, 2019. Available online. . In this way there was a desire to make clearly visible the international trend for teams, institutions, entities and creators to become actors and forums for social transformation towards sustainable development.

As the declaration points out, the cultural sector needs to make a clear choice to become sustainable, and, at the same time, needs to make possible the change of narrative that this involves, with a definitive assumption of the idea of sustainability.

In this respect, the National Council of Arts and Culture of Catalonia (CoNCA 2020) recently published a study that showed a clear trend towards consideration of the environmental, economic and social viability of the artistic and cultural proposals on offer in Catalonia.

In the words of Laura Pando, the author of the CoNCA study:

“(…) the cultural and artistic community is in a privileged position to democratise this transition and push back the limits of our individual and collective ideas, in order to embody the transformation that we are now facing…doing so, however, also involves an internal change: “…Introducing models of artistic production to minimise environmental impacts and create mechanisms for social and ecological regeneration that can strengthen and validate our creative and cultural activities.” (CoNCA 2020).

The cultural space is claimed as the space that attracts everybody and, yet, it is the space where we need to be able to dialogue and understand one another, and to look for creative alternatives. It is this doubly vital nature of cultural activity that we will need to keep very much in mind and which, in Catalonia, represents an extremely important opportunity for innovation so as to mark out the routes to the future.

The study for the campaign #Culture2030Goal recommends in this respect that we start to work from this perspective, which implies the following:

  • Contextualising SDGs in each region and locality in accordance with the relevant social and cultural realities. Especially when we talk about good health and well-being (SDG 3), cities and communities (SDG 11), education (SDG 4) or peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16).
  • Considering knowledge, skills and cultural resources as assets for the transition to sustainability, especially when we talk about ‘Zero hunger’ (SDG 2), education for sustainability (SDG 4), sustainable use of resources (SDGs 6, 7, 13, 14, 15), promotion of sustainable tourism (SDG 8), the sustainable development of the rural-urban relationship (SDG 11), the adoption of sustainable consumption habits (SDG 12) or adapting to climate emergencies (SDG 13).
  • Seeing libraries, museums and cultural communities as essential services (SDG 1), as an opportunity to overcome gender differences (SDG 5) and to guarantee education that is inclusive of cultural diversity (SDG 4) or the reduction of inequalities (SDG 10).

Catalonia: a cultural laboratory for sustainability

The consideration of culture as an element of innovation, as a tool for the creation of a narrative and as a basis through which to facilitate the changes that sustainability requires should enable us here in Catalonia to identify good and bad practices present throughout the territory and to convert them into examples to be followed. We note below certain trends to be examined:

Where is culture already operating to promote sustainability in Catalonia? We have advanced towards the declaration of culture as an essential asset and a fundamental right. The task of the public administration, of the Catalan Parliament and of the institutions is significant because this declaration needs to be strengthened and reinforced so that it is not merely symbolic but is accompanied by resources and regulations for its application.

The cultural sector is defined in Catalonia by a historic instability that the 2020 pandemic has only accentuated. Despite the fact that it is a resilient sector that is used to difficulties, and that had enjoyed a period of growth and creation of employment between 2018 and 2020 [5]5 — According to the Department of Culture, in January 2020 cultural companies achieved a turnover of 45 million euros in a spectacular start to the year that exceeded the monthly average, which was between 37-40 million in turnover. , it is in reality characterised by a preponderance of small and micro-enterprises, individual work and dependence on the programming of the public sector. The impact of the lockdown and stoppage of professional activity between March 2020 and today can be seen in the statistics in the SOS Culture report of the Carulla Foundation [6]6 — Fundació Carulla, Plataforma d’Arts de Carrer & Street Arts Manifesto (2021). L’impacte de la COVID a les arts de carrer. Report on the state of the street arts. Available online. or in the CoNCA annual report.

At the start of the first lockdown, a total of 4,816 cultural firms had recourse to a furlough scheme with a total of 43,927 jobs affected. By early July, these figures had increased significantly, registering 5,888 firms and 52,997 jobs in furlough. These statistics indicate that once the lockdown had finished the cultural sector continues to have extreme difficulties for returning to normality. (CoNCA 2019 pp 60).

Despite it was precisely in the context of lockdown that we became aware of the central role that music, drawing, poetry, dance, cooking, the cinema and video-games have in our lives among other artistic and cultural expressions. The artistic world has placed itself more than ever before at the service of the citizens and has been recognised as an essential asset by the Government of Catalonia.

It is for this reason that the Catalan Government has agreed to declare culture as an asset that is essential for the full development of the individual and collective personality, and which, without prejudice to other rights, needs to be preserved and encouraged [7]7 — “El Govern declara la cultura bé essencial”. Article published on the gencat.cat website on September 22, 2020. Available online. .

The cultural sector is defined in Catalonia by a historic instability that the 2020 pandemic has only accentuated. Despite it was precisely in the context of lockdown that we became aware of its central role

This agreement was to serve as a starting point to prepare the regulatory framework and regulate access to culture and citizens’ cultural rights, so as to allow for the acceleration of the resumption of different cultural sectors and to respond to the needs of professionals working in the sectors referred to.

An important task was also achieved in defining policies in the local context following the recommendations of the practical guide for local action of the UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments association) [8]8 — United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) & Culture 21. La cultura en los objetivos de desarrollo sostenible: guía práctica para la acción local. Guide published in May 2018. Available online. and in participating in the definition of the rural cultural agenda. Entities such as the Museum of Rural Life have organised sessions for learning more about the cultural sector, discussing concepts related to rural life including the economic, social and environmental opportunities generated by cultural exercises and services.

One of the important lines of research is also that of education for sustainability, which has a long tradition behind it in terms of environmental education in Catalonia, but which must now also include the arts and the cultural heritage so as to humanise the scientific, technological and environmental challenges. The Heritage and Education project of the Lleida Institute of Studies [9]9 — “Otras miradas a la Agenda 2030: el patrimonio y sus valores educativos”. Informative lecture by Maider Maraña, director of the Baketik Foundation. Segrià Educational Service. Information available online. is a good example of work carried out in a network by different cultural and educational stakeholders who re-approach the experience in terms of the 2030 Agenda. This also represents a major commitment on the part of institutions, teams and stakeholders who are making a serious attempt to reduce their environmental impact, including the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), the Museum of Rural Life (MVR), the Cruïlla Festival, and other examples identified in the study of environmental leadership in the Catalan cultural sector. (CoNCA 2020)

With regard to the creation of narratives and contents, for example, the world of video games is of great importance in Catalonia. Herobeat Studios, with its proposal Endling, focuses on the potential impact that not changing our habits in the future may have. It is the story of a family in Guinea who find themselves with their natural environment destroyed due to deforestation provoked by the human race. The player identifies with the main characters in the game, which takes place in contexts that give rise to reflection.

Nor should we forget the innovation found in the world of design in Catalonia, which is also seeking to become more and more sustainable, on the basis that design is in fact the first essential step in the production chains of the future in domains such as fashion, stationery and packaging systems. Groundbreaking research in architecture in Catalonia is also looking into trends such as bioconstruction and the recovery of traditional skills and techniques that are becoming new factors for innovation.

The year 2021 will also be the year of sustainable food, with a clear relationship with intimate varieties of cuisine that recover local product and identities around the country on the basis of cultural initiatives for research into ethnic botanical elements.

In terms of literary and audiovisual production, a permanent determination to preserve linguistic diversity is a constant feature. In music and the transforming visual and scenic arts, more and more proposals reveal environmental, social and economic injustices to be resolved, providing the aesthetic tools for imagining new realities.

Sustainability consists of reconstituting the relationship between nature and culture, assuming the need to guarantee cultural and natural diversity, and being conscious of the vulnerable nature of our modern lifestyles

Finally, in the definition of models of local tourism that are cultural, sustainable and connected to communities and persons, which recover the essence of travel and intercultural dialogue, and/or support popular culture and the traditional festivities that promote the integration of cultural diversity, there is a final axis of very important work that is closely related to reflections on the rural world and the management of the cultural scenery to which we referred at the start of this article.

Sustainability consists of reconstituting the relationship between nature and culture, understanding the systemic link between the biological species of our planet, assuming the need to guarantee cultural and natural diversity, and being conscious of the vulnerable nature of our modern lifestyles. The recipe for overcoming the pandemic/syndemic that we are currently experiencing is memory, knowledge, imagination, the arts and creativity, but without forgetting science and technology.

  • Notes and references

    1 —

    The Convention on the Protection of the World Heritage, adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972, is the most important normative instrument of the international community for the identification, protection and preservation of its cultural and natural heritage. exceptional universal value.

    2 —

    Adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, resolution 217 A (III), of 10 December 1948.

    3 —

    Spanish Network for Sustainable Development, REDS (2020). Culture and Sustainable Development. The cultural dimension of the 2030 Agenda. Available online.

    4 —

    “El Museu de la Vida Rural declara l’emergència climàtica”. Article published on the Carulla Foundation website on September 7, 2019. Available online.

    5 —

    According to the Department of Culture, in January 2020 cultural companies achieved a turnover of 45 million euros in a spectacular start to the year that exceeded the monthly average, which was between 37-40 million in turnover.

    6 —

    Fundació Carulla, Plataforma d’Arts de Carrer & Street Arts Manifesto (2021). L’impacte de la COVID a les arts de carrer. Report on the state of the street arts. Available online.

    7 —

    “El Govern declara la cultura bé essencial”. Article published on the gencat.cat website on September 22, 2020. Available online.

    8 —

    United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) & Culture 21. La cultura en los objetivos de desarrollo sostenible: guía práctica para la acción local. Guide published in May 2018. Available online.

    9 —

    “Otras miradas a la Agenda 2030: el patrimonio y sus valores educativos”. Informative lecture by Maider Maraña, director of the Baketik Foundation. Segrià Educational Service. Information available online.

  • Bibliography

    CoNCA (2019). Informe anual sobre l’estat de la cultura i les arts 2019. Barcelona, October 21, 2020. Available online.

     

    CoNCA (2020). Lideratge mediambiental en el sector cultural i creatiu català. Barcelona, 2020. Available online.

     

    Culture2030Goal (2019). Culture in the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Barcelona, Paris, Harare, Sydney, Montreal, The Hague and Brussels: culture2030goal campaign. Published as part of the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24 and 25 September 2019. Available online.

     

    UNESCO (2005). Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. Paris, October 20, 2005. Available online.

     

    UNESCO (1972). Convention on the Protection of the World Heritage. Paris, October 17, 1972. Available online.

     

    VOICES OF CULTURE (2020). Brainstorming Report. Culture and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Challlenges and Opportunities. Brussels, European Commission. February 2001. Available online.

Gemma Carbó

Gemma Carbó Ribugent

Gemma Carbó Ribugent is the Director of the Carulla Foundation's Museum of Rural Life. She works as a cultural manager and holds a PhD in Educational Sciences, specialized in the field of cultural and educational policies. She has always been interested in the connections between the cultural world, education and sustainable development. She is the Chair of the Interarts Foundation, which is involved in international cultural cooperation, and Chair of the ConArte Internacional Association for art in education.