The cultural sector itself has evolved considerably over the past decades covering a wide range of areas of development but also influenced by societal change and the digital transformation. The global landscape has also profoundly evolved, marked by overarching transnational challenges, leading countries to adapt their public. While cultural policies have tended to remain relatively isolated from other policy areas, their scope has expanded to encompass more comprehensive approaches to culture – including cultural diversity, intangible cultural heritage (ICH) and the creative economy.
From December 2021 to February 2022, five regional consultations were organized in the run-up to MONDIACULT 2022. They helped to identify specific priorities of each region that require stronger policy investment, to better harness the contribution of culture across the public policy spectrum, as well as to address the most pressing challenges of sustainable development.
As emphasized during the regional consultations, the 2003 Convention is one of the foundations of cultural policies, and an essential asset to tackle global challenges. The regional consultations recognized that living heritage constitutes the mainspring of cultural diversity and contributes to anchoring culture in the development in many domains, including digitalization, climate change, education, and cultural diversity.
Several participants of the Regional Consultations pointed to the fact that cultural heritage has been affected by climate change, including threats to World Heritage sites and the disruption of living cultural heritage practices. Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable and often the most directly exposed to the consequences of climate change that threaten the traditional way of life. An ongoing project ‘Capacity building for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in emergencies in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific and the Caribbean’, generously funded by the Japanese Funds-in-Trust, provides a timely support for communities so that they can mobilize their living heritage to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters.
For participants of some regions, the prioritization of the safeguarding of ICH is a key entry point to accessing the past and building a sense of identity and social cohesion. Some participants identified the intergenerational transmission of knowledge and practices as a priority, particularly related to health and the environment. The provision of decent jobs through intangible cultural heritage was also identified. For some countries, this is in the context of traditional know-how for preserving built heritage, for other countries the importance of promoting of traditional handicrafts for local economic development was underscored. Several countries pointed to the development of sustainable cultural tourism strategies based on living heritage such as performing arts.
Some Member States also flagged up that their intangible cultural heritage provides a source of inspiration for creativity, and that the transmission of such knowledge and know-how should be reinforced. However, there were concerns that these living heritage practices could be commercially exploited without the prior and informed consent of the communities who are the bearers.
Those challenges and thematic areas will be discussed throughout the conference, and many side-events are organized by UNESCO partners, some of them discussing living heritage:
- 20 and 27 September: ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage and Inclusion: Contributions to the sustainable development agenda.
- 26 and 27 September 2022: ‘Actions Today: Innovating Culture and Heritage Policies and Practices for Sustainable Development’