[NEW RESOURCE] The Missing Pillar – Culture’s Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

September 17, 2020

What kind of world do we want to live in? How can we nurture and preserve it, whilst ensuring social and economic progress? What is needed in our ecosystem to ensure lasting peace? And how do we work individually and collectively towards making the world a better place?

These are some of the questions that the United Nations Agenda 2030 attempts to answer and are even more pressing in the context of Covid-19. The Agenda provides a universal and global framework that aims to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, focused on People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership (the five Ps).

Culture is the glue that binds humanity together: from our traditions and practices passed down to us over generations; to our creative expression of the world around us; and our innovative imagination of the future, culture is all around us. And yet, in the UN Agenda 2030 there is no specific goal on Culture. It is not formally recognised alongside the three pillars of development — social, economic and environmental.

The Missing Pillar, by the British Council, explores the place of culture in the SDGs through research, policy and practice. It analyses where arts and culture as a sector and as a creative process can fit within a number of goals, including their targets and indicators. 11 British Council programmes provide examples of cultural initiatives around the world, tackling a variety of issues and cutting across sectors, such as sustainable fashion, creative inclusion, and cultural heritage protection. 

The recommendations from the report advocate for the SDGs to be more accessible to the cultural sector, for them to be embedded in the delivery of cultural initiatives based on local needs, and for their impact to be measured accordingly. The report recommends taking an inclusive approach, involving communities and local actors to understand cross-cutting needs and ecosystems to ensure sustainability. It also calls for a focus on digital technologies to raise awareness and a clearer response to the climate emergency from the cultural sector.

This report is a tool to increase understanding of the link between arts and culture and sustainable development. It is a first step at framing the impact of our British Council programmes alongside the SDGs.  We will continue to advocate for the value of culture as a fourth pillar of sustainable development and a key part of cultural relations.