Thriving Cities: Placing Culture(s) in Sustainable Urban Development

February 16, 2017, 4:22 pm


The conversation carried on in the Scenarios room, where participants tried to forecast developments that could impact the sustainable development of cities in the medium and long term. Starting by an analysis of current challenges, László Pintér Professor of Environmental Sciences and Policy at CEU (HU) admitted that the science of sustainability has forgotten about the importance of culture. Yet, qualitative and quantitative approaches are needed if we want to understand the world and our future. A possible way forward is the project he led in Winnipeg, where the community was brought together to define collaboratively what is relevant for the sustainability of their city. Culture was one of the dimensions that citizens selected and now features among the indicators to develop in their sustainable strategy. The process gave birth to a formal institution that monitors and implements the strategy of the city. The reason why institutions are important is because they last, they are more sustainable in nature that project-based approaches. Michaela Saisana from the Joint Research Centre, European Commission shared their ongoing work on the Cultural and Creative Cities (C3) indicator, and acknowledged CAE’s work in promoting the engagement of JRC with Culture for the first time. This composite indicator covers three dimensions, cultural vibrancy, economic contribution and enabling environment. How the multiple variables interact was analysed by Beatriz Garcia, Head of Research, Cultural Policy & Impact, Institute of Cultural Capital (UK). Not always an increase in one dimension, contributes positively to the whole. For example, an increase in cultural attractiveness might generate economic revenues via tourism but at also trigger processes of displacement of local populations. We need longitudinal studies and a better understanding of how the composite nature of culture at a local level promotes sustainable societies. For Jean-Philippe Gammel (JRC) the crucial element that will define this equilibrium in the mid term is fairness, resilience, equality of opportunities and solidarity with those left behind.  

CAE take away: Participation in the construction of institutional arrangements that can sustain themselves in time is needed, entering into conflict with the perceived risk of ‘institutionalisation’ voiced in the opening plenary. There is much to learn regarding how the composite nature of culture can promote sustainability at a local level. Institutions have started to develop this work, but it’s a mid-term, cumulative learning process. Fairness is the cornerstone of a sustainable future, alternatively more crises will arise.

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