UCLG Culture Summit: Cultural Rights at the centre of development


Coverage of the second day of the 2023 Culture Summit in Dublin

Wednesday 29th November: The world’s largest Summit on local cultural policies continued in Dublin today. Co-hosted by Dublin City Council (DCC) and United Cities Local Government (UCLG), the summit is titled “Culture. Future. Goal. We Act to Bring Local Visions to Global Tables” and sees culture policy makers representing over 150 cities gather to discuss how culture can, and must, be recognised as an integral part of sustainable cities and call for the inclusion of culture as a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in future global agendas for sustainable development.

One of the key focuses of the day was the need to embark in partnerships between stakeholders to ensure peoples’ cultural rights. The key session dedicated to this, aptly named ‘High-impact partnerships for Cultural Rights’, saw Interim Dublin City Council Chief Executive Richard Shakespeare discuss the Dublin City Development Plan (2022-2028) and how the council is committed to leading and supporting the development of a shared vision for culture in the city through collaboration. He added “there are clear connections between the Strategic Principles of the City Development Plan and the transformations required by cities outlined in UCLG’s Pact for the Future and its three pillars of People, Planet and Government. The role of culture can be seen clearly across all three pillars but most significantly through People.” The session highlighted initiatives Isabel Macie, Councilor for Culture and Tourism of Maputo, Ramiro Pallarés, Chief Advisor, Department for Culture, City of Montevideo, Kristin Danielsen, Director of Arts and Culture Norway; Chair, International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA), Hanna Sandberg, Vice-chair of the Culture Board, City of Malmö, Iñaki López de Aguileta, Director for Culture, Bilbao and Byung Hoon Jeong, Professor at Gyeongsang National University, and UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, Jinju

The session launched the 6th edition of the International Award UCLG-Mexico City- Culture 21, which recognises cities and personalities who have excelled in the promotion of cultural rights in local sustainable development. Dublin and Buenos Aires are the latest winners of the award in 2022, winning the award for their projects “AWE – Cultural Engagement through Accessibility, Wellbeing and Evidence’, and “Abasto, Cultural Neighbourhood”.

Among other sessions of the day we could see the ‘Keys to Gender Equality in Cultural Policies’ session, Dr. Beatriz Garcia, University of Liverpool, was asked about gender gaps existing in cultural fields in the world and across the EU, responding: “There is high female representation of women in the culture industry, as participants and in the audience. Where it has become an expectation to see women take to the stage, one of the primary gaps lies in the opportunity for career progression. Women often feel the need for permission, and do not feel entitled to participate in culture. It is still far from a level playing field today. Mentoring and education schemes might help to change this which is still deeply embedded.”

At the same session, Yarri Kamara, cultural policy researcher and writer, and member of the UNESCO 2005 Convention Expert Facility, spoke about gender equality in the cultural field in Africa: “Gender gaps exist because of societal norms. There is an under representation of women at the policy decision making level. Additionally, the problem of sexual harassment is a strong barrier for women participating and remaining in the arts.” When asked about gender quotas, Dr. Mary McAuliffe, historian, lecturer and Director of Gender Studies, University College Dublin, said she believes that “they have worked successfully in Ireland, especially in politics. But we have to be aware that it isn’t just about gender quotas though. There has to be diversity of experience as well. Our cultural institutions can lead the way in how we respond positively to these changes. It makes for a more interesting story of course.”

Elsewhere, during the ‘Culture, Climate and Eco Transitions’ session, Dr. William Megarry, Focal Point for Climate Action, International Federation on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Ireland discussed how “culture is a critical asset for climate action. Culture is important to people because it’s about who we are and where we’re from. It puts a face on climate change. Culture has been essential and central to all our transitions in the past and we need to embrace its dynamism. We cannot eco-transition without culture; it allows us to do it in a fair way.” Catalina Valencia, Secretary for Culture of Bogotá, added that “Culture is not just about events, but a process of personal and collective transformation. The conversation has to be broadened and involve decision-makers in terms of economy, environment, etc. Cultural and social agendas cannot be marginalised.”

The ‘Public Spaces, Communities, Trust, Artists’ session heard from Linda Devlin, Director of Creative Engagement at Dublin City Council Culture Company, who spoke about how the Council works effectively for artists and the people of Dublin: “We listen and respond. Learn what’s important to people, and then respond. It’s a way of sharing power with people in the city.” The session was chaired by Secretary General of UCLG MEWA Mehmet Duman, who commended the potential of culture in bringing people together, and highlighted the role of public spaces in sharing common meanings. Local and regional representatives such as John McEwen, the Mayor of Anmore and Vice Chair of the Metro Vancouver Board, highlighted local initiatives that protected natural heritage and facilitated access to public spaces for communities. While artist and civic practitioner Katy Rubin of Legislative Theatre, a participatory democracy process that brings constituents, policymakers and advocates together to impact policies and practices commented “I think that there are three key ingredients to building trust – a shared understanding of the problem, a shared experience of problem solving, and a shared risk or a shared sense of vulnerability. Opening ourselves up to critique of what’s not working, that’s vulnerable”.