The AER conference “Territorial Approaches to Regional Development” focusing on the ways in which regions address differences between urban and rural areas aimed to look in detail at the role of culture to create inclusive and welcoming rural areas. In the below article, Eugenijus Kaminskis from Xwhy / Agency of Understanding in Lithuania, and a lead partner in the CUBES project, shares his experience on why and how culture is the fourth pillar of sustainable development, as stated by UNESCO.
Cultural identity’s role for sustainable development
There is a new positive direction of involving cultural sector and communities while developing strategies for regional development.
Culture in relation to sustainable regional development is a horizontal priority and it plays an important role not only in promoting, but also enabling sustainable development. Therefore, creativity, creative society, and creative economy are the essential drivers of regional prosperity.
Cultural interventions aim to address not only the problems of the cultural sector, but also the problems of economic competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainable development of regions. Cultural policy and cultural initiatives are becoming much more than a specific area of public policy, but also as a strategic direction of regional development, cooperating with other sectors of public policy.
Together with economic prosperity, social justice, environmental sustainability, culture is recognized as the fourth pillar of sustainable regional development. Sustainable regional development requires to ascertain a region’s identity, values, and forces shaping its future. Identity enables values, and values define the direction of actions. This direction is only effective when applied in accordance with trends and the broader strategic framework.
Culture in this context helps to define regional identity, express its core values, and communicate the desired change. Each region is a unique territory not only as a geographic area but also as a specific historical and cultural domain.
Culture as a tool for localising the Sustainable Development Goals
Regional planning needs to encompass the identity arising from the place and has often contradictory value logics. Taking cultural dimension into account invites regional stakeholders to decide, which values to prioritize what is important and move away from crisis management towards sustainable development.
Cultural values exercised locally by stakeholders in combination with the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework by the United Nations, can be put into practice at the organizational, local, regional, national and international levels, and become a great planning tool.
Without seeking synergies between the local cultural context, the complex past, and an uncertain future of the region, development goals can remain simply declarative slogans that mean nothing to places and people. Regions now have a unique opportunity to take advantage and localize the principles of sustainable development according to their local cultural context.
Culture is also at the heart of the CUBES project, where AER is a partner. Partners are creating a bridge between cultural heritage, administrative bodies, and digitalization. Adjacent to raising awareness and emphasizing the importance of culture, one of the project’s main externalities is that of increasing competitiveness and economic growth. The actions to be implemented are targeted at local communities, public authorities, NGOs, and CSOs.
Photo credits: Remis Scerbauskas, Cultural initiative “Cabbagge field” revitalising neighbourhood in Kaunas city, Lithuania.