The UCLG Culture Summit opens in Dublin


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

Tuesday, 28th November: Delegates representing over 150 cities gathered in the Dublin Royal Convention Centre for the opening day of the 5th UCLG Culture Summit. Hosted by Dublin City Council (DCC) and United Cities Local Government (UCLG) the summit will hear from over 100 speakers who will discuss how culture is an integral part of sustainable cities and how we can understand the complexity of the world better through a cultural lens.

The Summit is the main meeting point at the global level of cities, local governments and organisations committed to the effective implementation of policies and programmes on culture and sustainability. Under the title “Culture. Future. Goal. We Act to Bring Local Visions to Global Tables”, the Summit aims to raise the voices of local and regional governments, as well as partners in culture, in line with the Pact for the Future of Humanity adopted by UCLG, and to call for a Culture Goal as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs).

Officially opening the Culture Summit, Lord Mayor of Dublin Daithí de Róiste gave a thought-provoking speech where he discussed the capital’s cultural traditions: “Dublin’s culture is deeply rooted in Gaelic traditions. Dublin is the Irish language, a symbol of our linguistic heritage. Dublin is Gaelic games, which serve as a unifying force, bringing people together to enjoy shared heritage. Dublin is literature, the birthplace of three Nobel Prize winners. Dublin is music, our thriving music scene is one of the defining aspects of Dublin’s culture. Dublin is the Arts and Humanities; our city is adorned with vibrant street art which serves as a canvas for local and international artists to showcase their creativity. Dublin is festivals, our cultural tapestry is not complete without mentioning them. Dublin is culture.” Before he reiterated Dublin’s support for the global campaign calling for a culture Sustainable Development Goal.

Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, highlighted the critical role of culture in achieving humanity’s goals by stating: “There is no better place to celebrate culture than Dublin. We are in an age of change where we need to rethink and challenge many of the understandings that we have. We need to challenge the way that we are giving shape to our own collective humanity. Culture is essential to challenge it, and critical to renew our values and shape transformation. The Summit for the Future in 2024 will give us an opportunity to harness this role, developing a new social contract based around people’s agency and capacities”

Heehyon Kim, Vice Governor of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, highlighted the importance of local solidarity to ensure the cultural rights of all by stating “We believe that the UCLG Pact is an excellent roadmap for our constituency, the local and regional governments of the world. We will play our part in creating a future vision by actively promoting solidarity projects with the cities participating in the summit”

Alexandra Xanthaki, UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, then gave the keynote speech and stressed “the multiple cultures each state has which must all be included, highlighted and nurtured. When we talk about cultural life, we talk about our ways of living, our understanding of the world. Culture has a transformative effect and it’s time to act. Local governments must be active supporters to ensure cultural rights for all beyond 2030. The Pact for the Future offers guidance on how to put peoples’ values into local culture. Local authorities, you have to shout your positive practices, engage with the national governments to link cultural rights to sustainable development.”

The official opening of the Summit came to an end with the projection of the short film “Home Truths”, an ongoing cultural engagement project led by the Dublin City Council.Fiona McAuley, participant in the project and Activities Coordinator at Hollybrook Lodge Residential Care Centre shared her experiences with the audience and highlighted the importance of access to creativity and culture in their daily lives, as a very concrete and grounded result of Dublin’s public cultural policy.

Elsewhere today, the ‘Capitals of Culture Working Together’ session heard about how the Capitals of Culture initiative is designed not only to highlight the richness and diversity of cultures from across the world, but also to increase citizens’ sense of belonging to common cultural areas and foster the contribution of culture to the development of cities. Emmanuelle Robert, Programme Specialist for Culture, Cultural Policies and Development, UNESCO spoke about the Capital of Cultures concept being used “to forge the citizens of tomorrow and build a global citizenship that is based on peace”, while Rahmatouca Sow, Advisor on Policy and International Relations with UCLG Africa, described “culture as what exists when there is nothing left, it shows us resilience and must be what we want it to be in this century; and how UCLG is working to leave nobody behind through its work to ensure that culture is at the heart of future sustainable development planning.”

The Culture Summit will continue over the next few days, culminating with a closing session that will discuss how to shape the Culture Goal we need in future development agendas. Tomorrow, Wednesday’s sessions, include ‘Culture, Climate and Eco Transitions’ which will hear from Dr. Sabrina Dekker, Climate Officer at Dublin City Council, about the Council’s Climate Action Plan; ‘Public Spaces, Communities, Trust, Artists’ where Linda Devlin, Director of Creative Engagement Dublin City Council Culture Company, will share Dublin’s experience of participative processes and engaging the community with culture; ‘Keys to Gender Equality in Cultural Policies’ at which Dr. Mary McAuliffe, Director of Gender Studies at UCD, will talk about the importance of studying and bringing to light the memory of Irish women, and a gender perspective in general, regarding the cultural, socio-political and public history of Dublin; and ‘High-Impact Partnerships for Cultural Rights’ chaired by DCC Acting Chief Executive Richard Shakespeare.