JAYECAN and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Culture is who we are, and what shapes our identity. Placing culture at the heart of development policies is the only way to ensure a human-centred, inclusive and equitable development.

By Jyoti Hosagrahar

Within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015 by the United Nations, the international development agenda refers to culture for the first time. This has been lauded by UNESCO as “an unparalleled recognition”. The safeguarding and promotion of culture is an end in itself, and at the same time it contributes directly to many of the SDGs — safe and sustainable cities, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, the environment, promoting gender equality and peaceful and inclusive societies. The indirect benefits of culture are accrued through the culturally-informed and effective implementations of the development goals.

The SDGs enshrine a conceptual shift in thinking about development beyond economic growth — envisioning a desirable future that is equitable, inclusive, peaceful, and environmentally sustainable. This bold vision demands creative approaches, beyond the typical linear and sectoral ones that most countries have been used to in recent decades.

If the SDGs are grouped around the economic, social, and environmental objectives as the three pillars of sustainable development, then culture and creativity contribute to each of these pillars transversally. The economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development, in turn, contribute to the safeguarding of cultural heritage and nurturing creativity.

Cultural heritage — both tangible and intangible — and creativity are resources that need to be protected and carefully managed. They can serve both as drivers for achieving the SDGs as well as enablers, when culture-forward solutions can ensure the success of interventions to achieve the SDGs.

Education for sustainable development and global citizenship SDG 5 Gender equality | Open Development MekongSDG 10 Reduce inequality | Open Development Mekong