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Culture Makes Cities Safer and More Sustainable, UNESCO Report Shows

Image source: Huffington Post
Jasmine Crittenden
| November 8, 2016

Placing culture at the centre of urban planning makes cities more inclusive, more sustainable and more creative, according to UNESCO’s Global Report on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development. The report was launched on 18 October at the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development in Quito, Ecuador.

“From the ancient cities of Mesopotamia to the city-states of the Italian Renaissance and the vibrant metropolises of today, urban areas have been among the most powerful engines of human development. Today, we must once again place our hope in cities,” wrote Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, in the Foreword.

The report presents case studies in 111 cities all over the world, from Accra, Ghana, where a “self-organised street festival changes the image of the city’s slums” to Lima, Peru, where migrant communities are engaging in live music performance.

Twelve recommendations, divided into three categories, are proposed, as follows:

  1. ‘People-centred cities are culture-centred spaces’
  • cities’ identities should be respected
  • proactive policies should recognise and promote cultural diversity
  • creativity and innovation, including digital technologies, should be fostered
  • culture should be used to facilitate cohesion, counter violence and contribute to peace building


  1. ‘Quality urban environments are shaped by culture’
  • urban development strategies should include human scale and mixed-use facilities, which integrate cultural and natural resources, and are based on established practices
  • urban cultural and natural heritage should be safeguarded, allowing people to connect with their environment
  • the planning, design and use of public spaces should integrate heritage, cultural and creative activities, to foster inclusion
  • heritage and traditional knowledge should be used in addressing environmental concerns


  1. ‘Sustainable cities need integrated policy making that builds on culture’
  • culture should be at the core of urban development, from planning to implementation
  • culture should contribute to local economic and social development, and provide “equitable benefits for communities and individuals”
  • stakeholders at all levels should participate and cities should form partnerships
  • local authorities should provide financial support and help develop sustainable financial models


The Global Report on Culture for Sustainable Urban Development supports the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to promote the development of “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable human settlements and cities”. The UN expects that, by 2030, there will 41 mega cities around the world, each with a population of at least 10 million people.

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