New York

12 June 2013

Secretary-General's remarks at General Assembly thematic debate on Culture and Sustainable Development

I am pleased to be with you for this important debate.

Less than 1,000 days of action remain before the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.

As we make a last big push, and as we define the contours of a post-2015 development agenda, we must answer two questions.

What have we learnt since 2000?

And what must we do better?

We already know many of the answers.

First, we know there is no “one-size-fits-all” development model.

It is not enough to set global targets for all – we need to adapt to each context.

Too many well-intended development programmes have failed, because they did not take cultural settings into account.

This must be an overarching principle for all development efforts.

Second, development has not always focused enough on people.

To mobilize people, we need to understand and embrace their culture.

This means encouraging dialogue, listening to individual voices, and ensuring that culture and human rights inform the new course for sustainable development.

The fundamental role of culture was not fully acknowledged within the MDGs -- as a goal, an overarching principle, or as an enabler.

But in the past decade, the power of culture has been increasingly recognized by Member States.

Culture is now widely recognized as an enabler of sustainability, especially when a people-centred approach is integrated into development and peace-building.

In 2006, culture was mentioned in less than 30 per cent of UN Development Assistance Frameworks.  This has risen to more than 70 per cent.

The General Assembly has adopted two resolutions on culture and development in 2010 and 2011.

Eighteen major joint programmes on culture and development, led by UNESCO as a part of the MDG Achievement Fund financed by Spain, have reached 10 million people.

New national laws are protecting heritage and promoting cultural diversity.

A new global creative economy is emerging.

It is generating millions of jobs in tourism, crafts, music, the cinema, and creative industries.

It is fostering social inclusion and changing mindsets.

We must build on these achievements.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last month, some 500 participants from 82 countries came together in Hangzhou, China, for the International Congress on “Culture: a Key to Sustainable Development.”

They had a clear message.

They want to see culture integrated into the post-2015 Development Agenda through clear goals, targets and indicators.

This is why today’s debate is so important to the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and the MDG review in September, during a special event of the General Assembly.

The debate is also an opportunity to take stock of the changes taking place in the world.

Emerging countries are looking for ways to sustain and accelerate their growth and write the next chapter of their development.

We must identify new models of participation.

Culture is at the top of this agenda.

Full ownership of development strategies demands the full integration of culture.

We must also work harder to ensure that culture, heritage and religion are no longer used to divide, sow conflict or perpetuate injustice. 

That means ending practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriage and keeping girls out of school.

It means saying no to discrimination and intimidation based on what you believe, how you look or who you love.

More than ever, we need societies built on inclusion, understanding and mutual respect.

This is the message and aim of the UN Alliance of Civilizations.

It is also the message of UNESCO’s universal declaration on cultural diversity, adopted in 2001.

“No-one may invoke cultural diversity as an excuse to infringe upon human rights, nor to limit their scope.”

Achieving our shared development goals means working across lines of identity and embracing our common humanity.

In this globalized world let us defend with the same intensity the diversity that enriches us, and the universal human rights that bind us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you a productive debate.

Thank you.