Culture at the G20: Lights on a global cultural stage

April 12, 2021, 2:18 pm

Culture is getting a seat at the global political table in rather non-traditional settings. The commitment to mainstream culture across the policy fields and to include it in the recovery strategies may be further reinforced by this year’s G20. 

The G20 (Group of Twenty) is the main forum for international cooperation on the most important issues of global governance, which has extended in recent years its initial focus on the global economy and the financial agenda. The membership consists of 19 individual countries plus the European Union, which work on policy coordination. Each G20 Presidency includes the organization of ministerial meetings and the main working areas of the forum.

The G20 this year is chaired by Italy, with an agenda focused on three broad, interconnected pillars of action: People, Planet, Prosperity. Within these pillars, the G20 aims to take the lead in ensuring a swift international response to the COVID-19 pandemic while building up resilience to future health-related shocks.

In November 2020, Ministers of Culture of the G20  put culture for the first time at the centre of the discussion as a key component of the post-pandemic economic and social recovery. These issues are expected to be at the core of the this-year G20 Summit under the Presidency of Italy, especially during the Culture Ministerial planned in Rome on 29 and 30 July. 

The decision to organise a dedicated Culture Ministerial meeting in the framework of the G20 confirms the path opened in 2017, with the first meeting of the Culture Ministers of the G7 countries held in Florence, reaffirming the commitment of the States to foresee meetings of Ministers of Culture in high-level international contests such as G7 and G20. These past days, a cycle of three international multi-stakeholders’ online webinars, attended by experts, researchers, and operators from all over the world addressed emerging reflections and proposals concerning various themes concerning the cultural ecosystem. 

The Protecting Cultural Heritage and Fighting Illicit trafficking of cultural property – the opening webinar of 9 April – addressed policies and actions for the safeguarding and protection of cultural heritage in crisis zones and in case of disasters, with a focus on the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural goods.

The following webinar, Addressing the Climate crisis through culture analyses the impacts of climate change on cultural heritage, the measures to be taken for its protection and conservation and emphasise the key role of culture for a successful green transition of our society, also in view of the PreCOP 26 in Milan and COP 26 in Glasgow. During the debate, culture has been depicted as a tool to address lifestyle transformation and the adoption of sustainable consumption and production approaches by the general public. Moreover, significant knowledge is embedded in cultural sectors, with a potential to support just transitions by communities towards low carbon and climate-resilient development pathways, as also recalled in Culture Action Europe’s  “Culture contribution to the European Green Deal” position paper. The last webinar, Building capacity through training and education, focuses on the need to promote education and training, reaching out to communities and the young generation to improve their awareness of the values of culture. 

Culture has a transformative power for the regeneration of our economies and our societies, heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic: this is the main takeaway from the kickoff of the works of the G20 Culture these days. Culture can guide us through the green and the digital transition and help us promote the change that is essential to tackle climate change, reaching out to communities and being a cornerstone for a true recovery.

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