Culture 21 Actions – Commitments on the role of culture in sustainable cities.

                                                              

Culture 21 Actions – Commitments on the role of culture in sustainable cities.

United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)
Solution proposed by: 
United Cities and Local Governments – Committee on Culture, in partnership with several local governments, civil society organisations, networks and individual experts in all world regions, which were involved in the drafting and consultation process
In a Nutshell: 
An international toolkit to enable cities to fully integrate culture in their approaches to sustainable development, through self-assessment, public discussion, policy design and peer-learning. City partnerships involving local government, civil society organisations, private actors and citizens are able to implement it locally and take part in international learning exchanges.
Where and When: 
Culture 21 Actions was adopted at the UCLG Culture Summit in Bilbao, March 2015. Nowadays, over 25 cities are using it as a self-evaluation and peer-learning tool. This builds on the work undertaken by over 500 local governments through the Agenda 21 for culture since 2004.
Challenges: 
Culture 21 Actions responds to the need to provide cities with practical tools to fully integrate culture in their approaches to sustainable development. Whereas cultural aspects, including creativity, diversity and heritage, have increasingly been recognised as a fundamental dimension in sustainable cities, specific instruments for policy design, implementation and evaluation were missing. This also limited the potential identification and transfer of effective policies and measures. Culture 21 Actions builds on the principles and undertakings of the Agenda 21 for culture, updates them and provides them with a more operational character.
Innovation: 
Culture 21 Actions provides a universal framework for integrating culture and sustainable development in cities. Stressing that culture is a core component of sustainable cities, it presents 100 specific actions, grouped under 9 commitments – including some that directly address cultural aspects (e.g. cultural rights; governance of culture) and others that connect them with other areas (e.g. culture and education; culture and environment; culture and economy; culture, equality and social inclusion). Each specific action allows local governments, civil society organisations and citizens to evaluate their cities, design solutions where needed, identify good practices and foster learning and knowledge-transfer.
Concept: 
Culture 21 Actions is based on the understanding of culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development – that is, a fundamental aspect in sustainable cities, and one which is interrelated with the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Among the other values which inspire this toolkit is the recognition of cultural rights as key to citizenship development, as well as the need for partnerships involving local governments, civil society organisations, the private sector and citizens to foster sustainable cities. Culture 21 Actions is also underpinned by the aim to foster international cooperation. In this respect, the document provides the basis for practical developments at two levels: locally, cities are able to self-assess their policies (an online questionnaire and a self-assessment guide for workshops have been produced), identify needs and good practices, obtain external advice and design pilot measures; internationally, a global panel has produced an assessment on cities, culture and sustainable development (which serves as a benchmark for other cities), peer-learning exchanges are being promoted and good practices and other policy documents are being disseminated.
Description: 
In 2013, the UCLG Committee on Culture decided to update the Agenda 21 for culture, the document on cultural policy and sustainable development which had guided its work since 2004. A broad consultation process ensued, involving workshops in all world regions, an online questionnaire, expert articles, city statements and the setting-up of a ‘Pilot Cities’ programme which allowed to test and discuss the early drafts of Culture 21 Actions. The final text was adopted at the UCLG Culture Summit held in Bilbao, March 2015. The document includes a general introduction; a presentation of the values which guide it; 9 thematic commitments listing 100 specific actions; and a final section providing guidelines for applying Culture 21 Actions in practice. The 9 commitments are as follows: Cultural Rights; Heritage, Diversity and Creativity; Culture and Education; Culture and Environment; Culture and Economy; Culture, Equality and Social Inclusion; Culture, Urban Planning and Public Space; Culture, Information and Knowledge; and Governance of Culture. Each commitment includes an introduction to the relevant thematic area and a set of 10-12 specific actions which cities can take in order to fully integrate culture in local sustainable development. These actions are phrased to enable self-assessment and are meant to foster public debate on the city’s current status and potential. Following the adoption of Culture 21 Actions, the UCLG Committee on Culture is working with over 25 cities in different world regions to implement the toolkit and plans further awareness-raising, peer-learning and advisory work in the coming years. Culture 21 Actions is currently available in 7 languages and more translations are being planned.
Impacts: 
Over 60 good practices derived from the implementation of the Agenda 21 for culture and Culture 21 Actions have been identified and disseminated on the website of the Agenda 21 for culture. The implementation of Culture 21 Actions is leading to the setting-up of local groups of key stakeholders as well as an international community of practice, involving cities and experts. Through their self-assessment, cities can compare themselves with the average observation provided by the global panel on culture and sustainable cities, thus identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and design new policies and measures accordingly.

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photo credits - UCLG
photo credits - UCLG
photo credits - UCLG
photo credits - UCLG
photo credits - UCLG