UCLG Culture Summit closes with the launch of the ‘Culture. Future. Goal. Dublin Statement’


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

The official closing ceremony of the Culture Summit took place on Thursday, November 30. Officially closing the Culture Summit, Richard Shakespeare, Acting Chief Executive, Dublin City Council, commented “over the past three days the Culture Summit has been a space for discussion and dialogue. Dublin has listened and learned from the examples shared by the many cities which participated.” Carola Gunnarsson, Councillor of Sala, Vice-President of UCLG for Europe and UCLG Special Envoy for Freedom, Solidarity and Fighting Violence against Local Political Leaders spoke about the importance of continued support for vulnerable groups around the world and how freedom of speech and freedom to express yourself is the foundation of democracy, adding “culture is a force that can’t be stopped and is one that is essential for inclusive societies and sustainable democracies.” Ernesto Ottone, Assistant Director General for Culture, UNESCO celebrated the pioneering work carried out by local governments in promoting a standalone Goal for culture and explained the next steps that all actors should agree upon to be successful in bringing meaningful messages to the UN Summit of the Future in September 2024.  While Councillor Cat O’Driscoll, Chair of Dublin City Council’s Arts, Culture, Leisure and Recreation Strategic Policy Committee described culture as having no boundaries, being local, is a public good, and a human right.

The closing of the Culture Summit saw the adoption of the Dublin Statement, available here. The Statement acknowledges Culture as an element that makes us human, and builds on both the Rome Charter and the 2021 Izmir Declaration as foundations. It acknowledges that “Development is only sustainable and human if the cultural dimension is explicit: heritage in all forms, diversity, creativity, education, transmission of knowledge and intercultural dialogue ” and closes with the statement that “Global challenges can only be addressed by dealing with local challenges, and we, local and regional governments, are the holders of this change.”

As 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, the Summit has been a place of learning and new capacity-building to improve local action and boost international connectivity in areas such as culture, climate and eco transitions; gender equality in cultural policies, culture, health and wellbeing, public spaces and communities, tourism and cultural sustainability, the cultural localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), heritage, and the impact of cultural policies.

Dublin City Council launched the new Dublin Tourism Strategy 2023 to 2028 at the first session of the day, ‘Tourism, Creative Industries and Cultural Sustainability’. Barry Rogers, Head of Dublin City Tourism Unit brought the audience through six new strategic tourism pillars, including culture, commenting “we recognise that for the Dublin visitor, culture can mean anything. We see enormous opportunities in all of Dublin’s culture, of our cultural spaces and places, artists and makers, sports and cultural people, both emerging and internationally renowned. We want to share with visitors the many local stories and diverse voices of the city, ensuring we protect and capitalise on our cultural heritage, as well as local potential, creativity and connection, to generate unexpected and emotional responses from visitors that differentiates us from other destinations.”

At the ‘Culture, Health and Wellbeing’ session, Daisy Fancourt, author of the World Health Organisation report ‘What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?’, the largest evidence report ever published on arts and health, explored the correlation between wellbeing, good health, and active cultural activities. Key findings included lower levels of mental distress and higher levels of mental functioning amongst those who participate in culture, cognitive stimulation and memory was better in those participating in culture, and depression incidence rates reduced, as did the chance of developing dementia. When it comes to physical health, those who engaged in culture once a week, saw 27% reduced odds of developing chronic pain.

The Summit also saw two very important outcomes which are key milestones for cities and local decision-making in the coming years. First, the presentation of the work-in-progress UCLG new global toolkit “21 PLUS” on Cultural Rights and Sustainable Development, based on the analysis of needs and challenges of cities on the implementation of cultural rights. This guide will be tested by cities around the world in 2024, with a view to its adoption in 2025. Second, the Summit has also been the theatre of pioneer discussions on the unanimous claim for a dedicated Culture Goal in the UN post-2030 Agenda, with a closing session that discussed how to shape the Culture Goal we need in future development agendas. On the occasion, John Crowley, author of the Cultural Goal proposal for the #Culture2030Goal campaign in 2022, highlighted “The global sustainable development agenda is under pressure in ways that make its revision desirable and possible, and this revision must include culture, although the Culture Goal needs to respect SDG [UN Sustainable Development Goals] architecture. It should also unite cultural stakeholders, extend the space to new actors and be transversal, connecting culture to all aspects of the SDGs.”

Discussing cultural policies, local challenges and why a Culture Goal in development agendas is so essential if we want local sustainable development of territories and communities to become a reality, officials from cities from across the world included Carine Rolland, Deputy Mayor for Culture, Paris; Ceren Umay, Director, Culture Department, Izmir Metropolitan Municipality; Catalina Valencia, Secretary for Culture of Bogotá; Anne Mistler, Deputy Mayor for Culture, Strasbourg; Issa Kassis, Mayor of Ramallah, Palestine; and Enrique Avogadro, Minister for Culture, Buenos Aires.

All of the members of the Culture 2030 Goal campaign, which has been advocating for the inclusion of a  Culture Goal in global agendas since 2013, were also represented with interventions from Marie-Laure Lavenir, Director-General, International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS); Sharon Memis, Secretary General, International Federation of Libraries and Library Associations (IFLA); Guillaume Prieur, President, International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity (IFCCD); Silja Fischer, Secretary General, International Music Council (IMC); Lars Ebert, Secretary General, Culture Action Europe (CAE); and Kane Limam Monza, President of Arterial Network; as well as Jordi Pascual, coordinator of the UCLG Committee on Culture, who moderated the session.

While UCLG partners supporting the call for a Culture Goal and who shared their thoughts this afternoon were Magdalena Moreno, Secretary General, International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA); Robeliza Halip, United Nations’ Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development; Catherine Magnant, Directorate-General Education and Culture, European Union; Lily Pandeya, Head of International Cooperation, Ministry for Culture, India, and Leader of the G20 Working Group on Culture in 2023; Rainer Kern, Executive Director, Global Parliament of Mayors (GPM), Mannheim; and Márcio Tavares, Vice-Minister for Culture, Brazil; Alejandra Frausto, Minister for Culture, Mexico and Emmanuelle Robert, Programme Specialist for Culture, Cultural Policies and Development with UNESCO.