Act now for the inclusion of culture in the future Millenium Development Goals

June 21, 2013, 12:35 pm

The United Nations is currently reviewing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set up in 2000 with a 15-year horizon, in order to set new goals for aid and development. In this framework, a series of key events that will influence the UN decision-making will take place in the coming months. This represents a unique opportunity to advocate for the role of culture in development.

The information below will help you understand the context, identify the right targets and give you several suggestions on how to advocate for culture to be integrated in the new development goals.

Why is this such an important opportunity?


The Millennium Development Goals – MDGs[1] act as guidelines for countries and international agencies, influence their choice in terms of development strategies and financial aid. They also have a strong impact on how development is evaluated.

There has been wide international concern that CULTURE is not recognized in the current MDGs – neither as a means to achieve sustainable development, nor as an issue that should be considered in the evaluation of development programs or as goal in its own right.

Now that the MDGs revision is underway, it is crucial to ensure that culture is acknowledged as an ‘enabler and driver of sustainable development’, strengthening the awareness of the value of culture to societies, stimulating a deeper engagement between future development programs and the local cultures in which they operate, and last but not least, enabling governments and international aid agencies to allocate greater resources to cultural programs.

Where to find arguments in favour of the role of Culture in Development?

You can find material in the ‘advanced unedited version’ report of the UN Economic and Social Council – ECOSOC’s Annual Ministerial Review that provides arguments for why culture is important to development. Download it here

Materials from the UNESCO Culture congress that took place in Hangzou, China, on 14-45 May 2013, notably the Hangzhou Declaration, also provide information and solid arguments. You can read the declaration and find out more about the Congress here.

Other organisations and international agencies (both intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations) are currently developing advocacy actions for the integration of culture in the MDGs and the global development agenda in the future. You can find valuable resources, arguments and inspirational examples of action on their websites (for example the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies IFACCA, United Cities and Local Governments – UCLG – Culture Committee and the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity IFCCD).  You can also find reflections on the topic developed by other agencies concerned about the post-2015 Development Agenda like the UNESCO reflection paper on Culture in the post-2015 development agenda, the Human Development Report of the UNDP and the reflections of the OECD)


Recent and upcoming key events in the process of reviewing the MDGs linked to Culture and Development:

  • 12 June, New York – A thematic debate on culture and development convened by the President of the UN General Assembly. See the agenda and Concept Note here.
  • 1-4 July, Geneva – A session of the high-level segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) entitled ‘Science, technology and innovation, and the potential of culture, for promoting sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals’. More info here.
  • 25 September – The UN General Assembly where the MDGs will be formally reviewed.
  • 6-9 October, Cape Town – Arterial Network third Creative Economy Conference. More info here.

Key Agencies involved in developing the post-2015 agenda

  • The United Nations and the Millennium Development Goals – MDGs. For information on previous UN debates on culture and development see here and here.
  • ECOSOC – see details regarding the MDG review process here
  • High-level Panel of Eminent Persons – established by the UN Secretary General to provide guidance and recommendations on the post-2015 development agenda. The panel is chaired by the Presidents of Indonesia and Liberia and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Its 27 members include representatives from the private sector, academia, civil society and local authorities. The Panel just published its report on 30 May 2013.

Suggestions of actions (as put forward by IFACCA in their briefing note on the subject)

  • Familiarise yourself with the issues, and in particular the arguments provided in the Hangzhou Declaration and the materials provided above.
  • If appropriate, urgently communicate your concerns about Culture being included in the post-2015 MDGs to relevant government agencies such as your Minister for Culture, your Minister for Foreign Affairs, and your delegation to the UN.  Ultimately it is the member states that will influence and vote on the new development goals.
  • Find out if there are UNDP national consultations taking place in your country and seek to include culture into those debates.
  • Circulate information about this issue to your own networks and civil society organisations in your country via email or social media (on Twitter you can use the hashtag #culture2015goal )


[1] The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight international development goals that were officially established in 2000. All 189 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve these goals by the year 2015. The goals are:

  1. Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
  2. Achieving universal primary education,
  3. Promoting gender equality and empowering women,
  4. Reducing child mortality rates,
  5. Improving maternal health,
  6. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases,
  7. Ensuring environmental sustainability, and
  8. Developing a global partnership for development
Image for: Act now for the inclusion of culture in the future Millenium Development Goals