United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Wah! look what I got
(Three young girls in the Rajasthan Desert, India, share a tablet device.)
According to the UNESCO Gender and EFA 2000-2015, providing free textbooks for girls and recruiting female teachers have helped improve the accessibility and quality of girls’ education at primary and lower secondary levels in India.
Building Peace in the Minds of Men and Women
This commitment is at the very foundation of the United Nations, established after the “great and terrible” Second World War to create and maintain peace through economic, social or political agreements. But this is no longer enough today. The foundations of peace still need to be laid, with the help of the specialized agencies which make up the United Nations system such as UNESCO. For over 60 years, UNESCO took over that mission in conformity with its Constitution which asserts that, “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”. In this regard, the same Constitution highlights that “a peace based exclusively upon the political and economic arrangements of governments would not be a peace which could secure the unanimous, lasting and sincere support of the peoples of the world, and that the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind”.
“Culture is essential to create a more sustainable development, both economic and social, through resilient infrastructures that are embedded in local situations and are based on the history and knowledge of the people”
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO (2009-2017)
Culture in the Millennium Development Goals
Today, fifteen years after the approval of the Millennium Development Goals, we know it has not been possible to achieve all those goals because, to a great extent, the development programmes, strategies and policies adopted were insufficient, or were not adequately defined.
Surprisingly, culture was not incorporated into the Millennium Development Goals or their indicators, alleging numerous difficulties to measure its impact on development.
However, one of the reasons why the goals set in the year 2000 were not met is probably the failure to explicitly recognize the role of culture in economic growth, resource management, conflict resolution, the approach to social inequities, or the reaffirmation of identities.
Nor was it understood at the time that culture is an extremely effective vector for the transmission of knowledge and the basis for innovation and creation, including scientific breakthroughs.
It was ignored, perhaps, that there is no one single development recipe, as cultures need to determine their development models, and not the other way around.
In short, it was forgotten that recognizing, appreciating and sharing culture, the cultures of each of us and of our diverse groups, is the essential step to reducing social inequality and achieving the full integration of society.
It is necessary to remember that the value of culture lies in the production and consumption of cultural goods, services and activities, and in the knowledge we pass on to each other through symbols that we first understand and internalize, and later transform and innovate. These shared symbols give a sense of collective belonging and identity, and help to strengthen the social cohesion needed to establish relations, whether commercial, professional or personal.
In addition, understanding the symbols used by other groups through cultural exchange makes it possible to establish relationships far beyond our own group and thus acquire new knowledge. It also makes it possible to resolve conflicts and engage in dialogue to broaden horizons.
Therefore, culture should be recognized as an essential pillar for development, which complements those of an economic, social and environmental nature. Culture is thus viewed as an economic sector, as a means for the transmission of knowledge and identities, and as the basis for an enhanced quality of life, social cohesion, conflict resolution and inequality reduction.
Cultural diversity is as necessary for sustainable development as biodiversity. If cultural diversity is reduced or the capacity for cultural exchange between societies is restricted, cultural resources would be destroyed. These resources, unlike those occurring in nature, are unlimited if they are protected and promoted; they arise from people themselves and from the exchange between them.
That is right in theory. However, in practice, there is a systematic under-utilization of cultural resources, whether patrimonial or contemporary, terrestrial or marine, movable or immovable, and tangible or intangible, due to the lack of or, what is even worse, the failure to implement standards, measures and policies for their protection, management and promotion.
The destruction of, damage to, or illicit trafficking in cultural heritage does not only lead to economic loss but also violates the collective right to gain access to knowledge, hurts feelings of identity, undermines our collective development capacity, and impairs our quality of life.