Tag Archives: culture for development

Brazil G20 – Looking ahead to opportunities for library engagement

What opportunities does Brazil’s G20 Presidency offer for libraries and the issues that matter to us? We’re happy to share an overview of the priorities already set out, and what they mean for our institutions.

G20 Brazil logo - text: G20 Brazil 2024, Building a just world and a sustainable planet. design with wavy lines in green, yellow, red and blue, hinting at the shape of Brazil as a countryAlready on 1 December 2023, Brazil took over the presidency of the G20, the group of 20 of the largest economies in the world, providing a space for discussing, coordinating and launching joint initiatives.

G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union, plus others invited on an ad hoc basis.

The G20 works though two high-level tracks. One brings together the ‘sherpas’ or representatives of heads of state and government, ahead of a summit in November, and oversees a group of 15 working groups, two task forces and an Initiative. The other is the finance track, with Finance Ministers and central bank governors, who discuss key economic issues.

In his speech at the G20 Summit in India, President Lula underlined a strong focus on equality, and in particular combatting hunger worldwide, as well as accelerating sustainable development in general. He was also strong in calling for reform of international financial institutions.

But what can libraries expect in different areas of activity over the course of 2024, and how could we get involved as part of wider efforts to secure recognition, and so support? This article looks at some key areas.

Digital Economy: the Digital Economy Working Group is in its fourth year, and focuses on how to harness the potential of digital to deliver wider policy goals. The Brazilian Presidency has set out four themes – connectivity (in particular in rural and remote areas), digital government (including through high-equality eGovernment services and Digital Public Infrastructure), information integrity (focused on the action of platforms), and artificial intelligence (looking at how to take a truly global approach to AI, not just one based on the situation of a limited number of countries and actors).

There is lots for libraries in here, in particular around the role of public access in libraries as part of the wider inclusive connectivity infrastructure, and how libraries can support information integrity by building both skills to navigate the information environment, and appreciation of quality information. Libraries also have much to contribute to making eGovernment work, and to the Digital Public Infrastructure debate (see our briefing). The Ministerial meeting will be on 14 September.

Culture: this is also the fourth year of operation of the Culture Working Group, which brings together culture ministers and equivalents. The existence of the working group in itself is helpful, showing that culture has its place as an area of action in the context of efforts to deliver on a wider policy agenda. Work under the Indian Presidency led to a powerful endorsement of culture as a development goal.

Broad themes for work this year, building on the work of the Indian Presidency, include cultural diversity and inclusion; culture, digital environment and copyright; culture and sustainable economic development; and preservation, safeguarding and promotion of cultural heritage.

For libraries, it will be valuable to push for further affirmation of the role of culture in development, as well as cultural rights (including rights of access to culture), in line with the overall emphasis on inclusion in President Lula’s speech. A particular goal will be to see a broader definition of culture, including of course libraries, and not just the narrow museum and heritage sector. The Ministerial meeting will be on 18 October.

Education: work here overall is strongly focused on education professionals and how to help students realise their potential. Priorities here seem to focus on addressing the shortage of personnel, as well as their training, diversity and representation in the sector, and opportunities for cross-border exchange and learning. The Presidency also notes questions around connectivity, digital tools in the classroom and school management, online training, and adapting curricula to technology are on the agenda.

For libraries, a key priority will be to underline the fact that librarians should be considered as education professionals, with a key role in supporting literacy (and literacies), and more broadly helping students to succeed. Our field would also, doubtless, benefit from inclusion in wider discussions about ongoing learning, and can offer much on making digital education work effectively, while respecting privacy. The Ministerial meeting will be on 30-31 October.

Research and innovation: this is a new working group, set up by the Brazilian Presidency, with ‘Innovation Open to Fair and Sustainable Development’ as the key theme. This is admittedly more about technology access and transfer to developing countries, based on concerns that technology is too often linked to competition between countries, rather than collaboration to find solutions. In addition, the working group is also looking to support student and researcher mobility, and enable inter-institutional collaboration.

For libraries, it will be helpful not only to ensure understanding of the place of libraries at the heart of universities and research institutions, but also to underline that key to promoting the exchange of ideas, collaboration and capacity is the spread of open science. The lessons of the Japanese G7 work on the topic in 2023 could be a good basis. The Ministerial meeting will be on 17-18 September.

An interesting element of this work is the Bioeconomy Initiative, with a strong focus on how to bring together and disseminate relevant knowledge in order to allow for more sustainable use of biodiversity and to understand and maximise its role in promoting sustainable development.

Development: issues on the agenda for the Development Working Group are social inclusion and reduction of inequalities, and in particular ensuring that everyone has access to basic sanitation. There is also a call for cooperation between groups focused on development and finance in order to boost spending on sustainable development.

The G20 agenda on development is likely to be very broad, but there is potential, in underlining the importance of information equity, and how action on this can help to combat wider inequalities. There are also possibilities, in demonstrating how libraries can help spread knowledge and change behaviours around sanitation, to make a case for including us in any plans and programming. There should, in the context of the Global Alliance against Hunger and Poverty, be scope to underline the need to build community institutions with the connections and understanding to help communities in the most effective way possible. The Ministerial meeting will be on 23 August.


There are potential openings in other areas. The Employment Working Group’s focus on keeping skills updated (especially for women and others at risk of marginalisation) at a time of technological change relates well to much library work in communities to build digital skills and inclusion.  While the new Task Force for the Global Mobilisation against Climate Change is more focused on economics and wider action, it will be valuable to highlight libraires’ support for climate empowerment in communities.

Similarly, the Task Force for a Global Alliance Against Hunger and Poverty is extensively about improving financial support and incentives, but the role of libraries in sharing innovation in rural communities is relevant. Meanwhile, initial proposals on health, focused on unified and resilient systems, currently focus on coordination and collaboration, but realistically could and should include a universal right of access to health information.

Furthermore, there are other areas – tourism, women’s empowerment and disaster risk where little information on plans is available, but where there is scope for libraries to engage.


Finally, we will be following work as it emerges around the different engagement groups focusing on specific topics of communities, and which for the first time will come together in a ‘Social Summit’ just before the Leaders’ Summit in November. The list of such groups includes areas relevant to libraries, not least the Urban20 meeting of mayors, and the Civil20 (for civil society) and P20 (for parliaments).


The UN General Assembly Resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development: What’s Changed?

In the first part of this two-part series looking at the UN General Assembly’s Resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development, passed on 19 December, we looked at key overall takeaways from the text that could help libraries and others in our efforts to get culture recognised fully recognised and integrated into planning.

The second part looks back to the previous such Resolution, from 2021, in order to get a clearer idea of what has changed between the two. While many elements are simply copy and pasted from one text to the next, each revision does offer an opportunity to reflect new thinking and approaches. Through this, we can get an idea of how the discourse on culture is evolving over time.

Of course, many of the changes are primarily simply about updating references, for example adding in Resolutions or events that have taken place, or started to be planned, in the intervening time. This covers, for example, the September 2022 MONDIACULT conference, the International Year of Creative Industries for Sustainable Development, and the upcoming World Forum on Cultural Policies.

However, there are some substantive changes, highlighted below.

  1. Culture is not just as an enabler, but as a driver of sustainable development: perhaps the most meaningful change is an upgrade in the way that the relationship between culture and sustainable development is described. Rather than just being an ‘enabler’, culture is seen as a (more active) driver. Social inclusion, growth, addressing different dimensions of poverty, education, health and equity are all name-checked. These represent much more specific references than before, indicating perhaps a greater readiness to think through the place of culture in general in achieving change.
  2. A stronger focus on (equitable) access to culture: the Resolution includes new texts in a few places underlining the need to ensure fair access to culture. This is new, with the previous edition being more about cultural production, but this is strongly in line with the work on cultural rights promoted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the subject, Alexandra Xanthaki. With libraries’ focus on access, this is certainly good news.
  3. More consideration of artists’ rights: in parallel, the idea of artists’ rights is given more space, including references to artistic freedom, as well as to social and economic rights. This is more detail than before, and perhaps reflects concern about threats to creators’ ability to express themselves. Similarly, there are a number of new references to the cultural sector’s role in generating quality jobs, and ensuring equitable access to these.
  4. Culture should be part of a Voluntary National Reviews: a very helpful new paragraph talks explicitly about the value of incorporating culture into Voluntary National Reviews of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Given the work of the Culture2030Goal campaign on the subject, including our checklist for countries undertaking VNRs, this is certainly a welcome step.
  5. Greater consideration of the role of digital (in both directions): the Resolution includes more references to digital than before. While the previous edition just talked in general terms of making the most of the digital environment, this one stresses the need to consider how digital information flows work, and ensure that markets work for creators and consumers.
  6. The role of the local recognised: Another area of strengthening are the new references to the local level. The report highlights SDG11 (sustainable cities and communities) as an area where it will pay off to include culture, but also promotes learning at the local and regional levels. This comes on top of a number of existing references to drawing on local knowledge.
  7. New highlighting of multilingualism and indigenous communities: the new resolution includes additional references to the needs of minority language communities, as well as of indigenous communities, confirming the importance of these in the context of cultural and development policies if they are to be effective and inclusive.
  8. Additional references to UNESCO tools and materials: while less substantive, there are now more references to UNESCO documents, both in terms of the indicator framework or culture, and key texts. In particular, this confirms the core role and responsibility of UNESCO in this space. Interesting, the Resolution also tackles the question of restitution with reference to UNESCO instruments on trafficking.
  9. Stronger recognition of the role of arts and culture education (including TVET): perhaps with a look ahead to the UNESCO conference and arts education in February, the resolution gives space to underlining how culture and arts education can support not only wellbeing, but also creative and innovative thinking among children and young people.
  10. Recognition the risks posed by climate change: finally, while references to climate change are not new in these resolutions, what is is the clear indication that governments should pay attention to the threats posed by climate change to heritage. This is a helpful step as we work to get libraries incorporated into wider disaster risk management plans.

10 Takeaways from the UN General Assembly’s Resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development

On 19 December, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution looking at the relationship between culture and sustainable development. Such resolutions are prepared every two years, but nonetheless this represents a useful high-level reference point for work on the place of culture in delivering the 2030 Agenda.

In the first of two blogs (see the second here), we take a look at eight key aspects of this text that are helpful for libraries, and all those looking to ensure a stronger recognition of culture in development agendas, as a means of ensuring better support and integration into policymaking. In the second, we will look back at how the UN’s language around culture and sustainable development has evolved over time.

1) Culture is recognised both as an enabler of other goals, and as having intrinsic value: there is a legitimate discussion both about the responsibility of the cultural sector to contribute to wider development goals, while not instrumentalising it to achieve other goals (something that could be harmful for artistic freedoms). The Resolution therefore underlines these two aspects – that culture is an enabler and driver, but is also a value in itself.

2) There is still work to be done about how we define culture: linked to the first point, the Resolution doesn’t attempt to offer clarification about the ‘boundaries’ of culture, and in particular the relationship between the traditional cultural sector (artists and other creators and institutions, including libraries) and wider cultural concerns (traditions, practices and beliefs). While we would argue that the two are linked – writers and artists do have a role in shaping wider culture – it would help if this were made clearer.

3) Realising the potential of culture to support sustainable development matters for success elsewhere: the Resolution contains a range of reference to work in other areas – not least environment and equality – as well as explicit references to how culture impacts on biodiversity, education and consumption patterns. This underlines the argument that we cannot achieve our goals in these other areas without engaging and action on culture.

4) There are strong precedents for recognising the place of culture in development: the Resolution includes a long list of United Nations texts that underline the importance of culture in the context of wider development strategies. This makes it helpfully clear that there is precedent for taking culture seriously, and so a basis for asking for a stronger place for culture in future.

5) We need to continue to build the evidence framework: the Resolution notes the different targets in the current 2030 Agenda that reference culture, and the need not only to deliver on these, but to improve measurement. It is certainly the case that there is always need for more evidence, not just in order to strengthen the case for the role of culture, but also to help those in the culture sector maximise their positive impacts on wider development outcomes. A particular role is given to UNESCO in this space.

6) A clear call to give consideration to the rule of culture in 2030 Agenda implementation: while the text is not new, it is welcome that Member States decide to ‘give consideration, as appropriate, to the contribution of culture to sustainable development in the follow-up and review framework of the 2030 Agenda’, as well as recognising the potential to work through Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to achieve this. The Culture2030Goal campaign report underlines this potential, and our VNR Culture Checklist offers a practical tool for achieving this.

 7) The particular role of local and regional governments: in referring to the need to give consideration to the role of culture, the Resolution highlights in particular how this can help achieve SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities.  This is perhaps not a surprise, given the strong place of culture in the report on SDG11 in 2023 produced by UN Habitat, but also makes sense given that the role and potential of culture is perhaps clearest at the local level. Local and regional governments have certainly been leaders in working with and mobilising culture for development.

8) Specific calls on Member States: the Resolution makes a number of requests to governments, including to promote cultural diversity, to mainstream culture into policy making, to protect cultural rights (especially for women), to support intercultural dialogue, to build capacity in the sector, to preserve local knowledge, to safeguard institutions and collection, to find ways of funding culture, and to explore issues of repatriation and access.

9) Relevance to the Culture2030Goal campaign zero draft: linked to the previous point, it is worth noting that all of the sub-themes highlighted in the Culture2030Goal campaign’s zero draft of a culture goal also feature in the Resolution, ranging from specific support to creators, cultural rights, strengthening institutions, and integrating culture into wider policy-making. This is a welcome indication of the relevance of the suggested targets.

10) A call to integrate culture into the work of UN country teams: even outside of countries undertaking Voluntary National Reviews next year, the Resolution makes clear that there is scope for mobilisation everywhere where the UN is active. It calls for UN country teams to ‘further integrate and mainstream culture into their programming exercises, in particular United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks’. This is a useful reference for library associations and other organisations and institutions involved in Culture2030Goal work to reach out, and explore how to deliver, already, on the potential of culture to support development through better integration into wider development activities.

Too brief a brief? A comprehensive approach to a more effective multilateral system needs a stronger focus on culture

The Summit of the Future, planned for 2024, looks set to be a key moment not just in the evolution of the United Nations’ work on its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but also in what comes next.

It will bring together many of the key workstreams launched in the context of Our Common Agenda, itself a response to the declaration of the UN’s Member States for the organisation’s 75th anniversary. A common thread throughout this the focus on how to enhance the capacity of the UN and wider multilateral system to deliver, correcting some of the weaknesses and blind spots of current structures and agendas.

The Culture2030Goal campaign is built around the understanding that for the sustainable development agenda to realise its goals, it needs to give a stronger and deeper role to culture. As underlined in our statement on the SDG Summit – due in September this year – we cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of 2015, leaving culture out of comprehensive policy agendas. 

While our statement is focused on what is coming up later this year, the same logic applies – perhaps even more intensively – to the Summit of the Future. As a campaign, we cannot conceive of an effort to boost the UN’s ability to achieve its goals that doesn’t include an effort to include culture. 

So how is it going so far? This blog explores the eight Policy Briefs which have already been published by the UN Secretary General as part of the process of preparing for the Summit of the Future. In each case, there’s a short description of the brief, and then an assessment of whether it contributes to a stronger consideration of culture in the UN’s action. 

Beyond GDP (link)

This paper looks to advance work to complement Gross Domestic Product with other indicators that provide a fuller, and more forward-looking idea of where we stand, and where we are going. It proposes to launch work to identify a basket of 10-20 indicators, as well as to boost statistical capacity.

What does it say about culture?: unfortunately, nothing. Despite the well-acknowledged positive impact of culture on wellbeing as well as a wide variety of other goals, there is no mention of it in this paper, risking meaning that future policy-decisions will be made based on highly incomplete data.

Future Generations (link)

This paper aims to advance efforts to integrate considerations about the future more firmly into decision-making. It proposes doing this through more investment in foresight, an envoy or the future, and a Forum to pool expertise and ideas. 

What does it say about culture?: the brief provides welcome recognition that the practice of integrating the interests of future generations is a long-standing practice in the cultural field, and that these have inspired many efforts to do so today. It also notes that work to preserve heritage also, by definition, is about safeguarding the possibility for future generations to access it. The brief could be improved by a more explicit reference to the need to reflect cultural considerations in future efforts in this space, in particular through any forum on foresight work.  

Youth engagement (link)

This brief focuses on the desire to ensure a more consistent and meaningful level of engagement of young people in processes across the United Nations, both as a means of ensuring better decision-making, but also to build a sense of involvement and confidence. 

What does it say about culture?: very little unfortunately. While the brief mentions the need to adapt institutional culture, there is little thought about what role the cultural field could play in developing new forms of engagement, or indeed in building wider cultures of engagement. 

Global Digital Compact (link)

This brief refers to the drive to bring together the various different processes underway around the governance of the internet and the wider digital world, based on a number of shared principles. There is a strong focus on tackling divides, both at the level of individuals, and that of governments when it comes to the ability to regulate the digital world. 

What does it say about culture?: there is a welcome focus on the need to connect cultural institutions to the internet and enable them to engage fully online. More broadly, the brief also recognises the importance of cultures and behaviours in a digital world that will need to evolve. Nonetheless, the cultural sector remains viewed simply as a provider of content. 

Information Integrity (link)

This policy brief builds on parallel concerns about misinformation, disinformation and hate speech spread by private and governmental actors. Complementing work going on in parallel at UNESCO, it suggests a code of practice on information for governments and private actors, aimed both at tackling lies and building skills and resilience

What does it say about culture?: once again, culture tends to be seen in a relatively passive light, with it noted that digital platforms have transformed cultural interactions. There certainly is reflection on the role of behaviours and attitudes among internet users, but the response is mainly to regulate and provide training, rather than to mobilise cultural actors to build possibilities to deepen understanding. 

Outer Space (link)

With major increases in numbers of satellites launched, more private sector engagement and new ambitions to visit deep space, this policy brief sets out a way of ensuring that there are the right governance mechanisms in place. 

What does it say about culture?Again, very little, although it does underline the potential for ambitious programmes to trigger the imagination and get other people thinking about the future. There is also a reference to the chance, some of the references to the need to manage shared resources effectively could build on lessons about traditional cultural approaches to this. 

Financial Architecture (link)

At the heart of this policy brief is the sense that responses to financial crises are all too often inadequate, especially for poorer countries, while the resources available to support development are too scarce. It calls for reforms within financial institutions, better coordination, and a big increase in development spending.

What does it say about culture?: there are no references to culture in here, although it may be possible to interpret calls to give a greater weight to achieving the SDGs and wider sustainability in funding by the IMG and development banks as potentially, in future, allowing for greater investment in culture. 

Emergency Platform (link)

This policy brief looks to learn the lessons from the most recent crises – in particular the pandemic and the cost of living crisis – and proposes a set of protocols that could be activated the next time the world faces a complex crisis. Through this, it should be possible to ensure stronger coordination, and more of a focus on the needs of the most vulnerable.

What does it say about culture?: there is no reference to culture in the paper, despite the key role it  can play both in ensuring resilience upstream of crises and enabling recovery subsequently. Of course, the brief is focused on governance, but this too needs to be based on better information and insights (something that culture can offer), as well as the mobilisation of relevant stakeholders, which should of course include the culture sector. 

Transforming Education (link)

This brief follows on from the 2022 Transforming Education Summit, and calls both for a re-emphasis on the importance of education and lifelong learning as a global public good, and efforts to address the parallel crises of equity (everyone should be able to benefit from education), relevance (people need to learn how to cope with a changing world), and the financing of education.

What does it say about culture?: references are again limited, although there is recognition both of the role of education in addressing more harmful cultural beliefs and practices, and in the value of creative education. The paper also notes the value of ensuring that education adapts to the needs of communities. However, in its thin references to cultural education, and none at all to the need to work with and through culture to ensure effectiveness, there is much that could be improved.

A New Agenda for Peace (link)

This brief addresses the concern that just as polarisation and conflict appear to be on the rise again, the infrastructures in place for addressing them are weakened. The brief calls for a reaffirmation of the values of trust, solidarity and universality, and promotes a more holistic, preventative approach to peace-building, as well as referring to the value of potential UN reform.

What does it say about culture?: sadly, very little at all. There is recognition that conflict within societies can easily be reflected in conflicts between countries, as well as the harmful effects of a lack of understanding or sense of togetherness between peoples. It talks also about ‘cultures’ of peace, but again, does not go into enough depth on questions of peace-building and prevention and how cultural initiatives can help in this respect. A particular concern is that there is no reference to the role of protecting heritage and ensuring its survival as a basis for recovery.

UN 2.0 (link)

This brief looks at the changes the Secretary General believes are necessary in the United Nations itself in order to be a more impactful and sustainable organisation. It sets out a ‘quintet of change’ – actions around data, innovation, digital, foresight and behavioural science, within the context of wider efforts to promote forward thinking and bring about cultural change within the organisation. With a combination of efforts by the UN system and Member States, this should leave the UN better able to achieve its goals, with a plan proposed for 2024-26.

What does it say about culture: a lot in fact – there are more references to culture in this brief than in all of the others put together. The emphasis, however, is on culture understood broadly as a set of attitudes and beliefs which condition the way we work. This is applied both to the UN as a whole (calling for culture change in the organisation) and in policy implementation (where the value of investing in behavioural science is highlighted). However, there is relatively little exploration of how this change can happen, and no reference to culture as the set of cultural institutions and actors, and how their insights and work can help.


Across the briefs, there is certainly space for culture to play a role, and in particular in the final one. However, this approach remains piecemeal, and leaves plenty of gaps, and so is likely to offer an insufficiently strong drive to realise the potential of culture. Based on the MONDIACULT Declaration of 2022, there is both the scope and substance for a policy brief focused on culture, starting the process of correcting the mistakes of 2015.