Culture, development effectiveness and the post-2015 sustainable development policy


Dr Aderemi Oladele

Dr Aderemi Oladele

By Aderemi Oladele Ph.D


The imminence of the 2015 deadline to the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has produced a series of international consultations to determine what form the post-2015 development agenda should take. In pursuit of the overarching objective of a proposed framework for the future development goals, the issue of an absence of cultural elements in the year 2000-adopted MDGs and the need to reflect it in the new agenda has remained one of the major preoccupations. Beginning from the landmark United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), held in June, 2012, different proposals with reference to culture as a catalyst and enabler of effective development policy has remained vivid in the discussions and the consciousness that it must constitute a fundamental element in the future Agenda has been very high.

In view of the fact that the concluding rounds of political negotiations, which will produce a fresh set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, are presently in motion, this study attempts to analyze the hypothesis around the cultural approach to international development policy and makes case for its wide clamour as an important pillar in the Post-2015 Agenda.


According to a UN report, the intrinsic linkages between culture and development have been recognized since the 1960s, but not until recently did the need to integrate consideration for it in international development policy documents was taken seriously[i]. In the early 1980s, mainstream development thinking, not only in the multilateral and bilateral international development agencies, but also in many national development ministries, did not leave adequate room for the consideration of culture. Then, economics was seen as reality while culture an abstraction; economics was tangible, and culture, intangible – and the idea that culture could make an input to development strategies was far-fetched[ii]. This is perhaps why, for example in the United Nations System, until recently, issues on culture were only considered vital by UNESCO, the Specialized Agency specifically charged with this mandate. Even then it seemed to have been treated in isolation of other development issues prior to the current dispensation. In that regard, it also took some time for UNESCO to draw general attention to its campaign for culture as a cross-cutting issue in international development, which, to a large extent, determines success or failure in programmes implementation.

However, the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document adopted by the UN General Assembly recognized that cultural diversity contribute to the enrichment of humankind. The Outcome Document of the Millennium Development Goals Summit (2010) and two Resolutions by the UN General Assembly also specifically recognized the role that culture plays in development[iii] and numerous regional and international recommendations have called for culture to be mainstreamed into sustainable development policies and have also underlined culture’s contribution to the achievement of the MDGs.   Most important in the series was the outcome document of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), entitled the Future We Want for All”, which shed the initial lights on what the Post-2015 development framework could resemble. The document recommended that “business as usual is no longer an option” and made significant references to culture as a motor for sustainable development within the context of inclusive social development, inclusive economic development, environmental sustainability and peace and security[iv].

What lies behind this is the fact that culture has progressively been recognized as a crucial factor in setting and administering international development policies. While its neglect in the past has hampered desired results and efforts are being made to harness the positive side of culture to achieve greater development effectiveness, more insights appear to still be needed to create the perfect formula for excellent integration of cultural into mainstream international development planning and management. The progressive change in perception, evolving of the worldview on development and a shift from stereotypes linked to “myths” in economic development and civilization as well as their perceived influence on the human community has contributed to the necessity to now consider culture as a core factor in advancing development, as against its representation as an abstract phenomenon, linked to obsolete, outdated and uncivilized objects and practices, only best for study and admiration in museums and classified sites or places. It results that the international community is determined not to repeat its past errors and is presently preoccupied with how best to harness this essential development factor in future development actions.


 One surest lead to the nature of the Post-2015 Development Agenda is that it will consolidate on lessons learnt from the promulgation and application of the MDGs in the past fourteen years to plan better for greater future achievements, while a synthesis of the bits and pieces of international consensus and agreements on development since the MDGs will form a comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals that will, policy-wise, anchor international development activities for another 15 years’ timeline, beginning from September, 2015. The resolve to the proposed “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” to replace the MDGs speaks of the conclusion that a holistic view in treating development issues is a “cine-qua-non” for results.

It should be recalled that the journey to the now “imposing” Sustainable Development Policy as tag for the next timeline global development action, started in the early 70s, when the book titled “The Limits to Growth: a Report of the Club of Rome on the Predicament of Mankind” was published as an outcome of a series of early meetings by the Club of Rome in 1968[v]. This book essentially awakened the environmental dimension of development and culminated in the 1972 World Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm. By 1992, the UN Conference on the Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, assumed a new name and the vision of threefold development pillars of “economic development”, “social cohesion “and “environmental sanity” entered the realm of international development discourse. In the meantime, a 1987 report of the World Commission on the Environment and Development, Our Common Future, coined the term sustainable development as the ability to meet human needs today without jeopardizing the ability of the future generations to meet their needs. The format as well as the recommendations of the report presented development endeavours as an intertwining and complex process and an all-encompassing phenomenon, whereby intervention in one issue would have effects on all other factors in providing solutions. Just as the issue of the environment cannot be separated from economic exploration, social development holds the keys to economic and environmental success. At the Rio Conference in 1992, the “Agenda 21”, the “UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)” and the “Convention on Biodiversity” were adopted and, since then, many more consensus, declaration and agreements have come to expand the scope of sustainable development issues, resulting in series of fragmented resolves, either binding on States or not, towards improving human development.

Issues ranging from poverty reduction and the environment, the role of the private sector, partnership for development, corporate social responsibilities (CSR) that are now found in established international texts became proliferated. The application of the different conventions by national governments then went beyond environmental and social concerns to include human rights, labour issues, corruption etc.

It is within this context that in the year 2000, the MDGs were adopted with a set of eight development objectives which articulates the composite elements of all the three pillars of sustainable development and introduced a timeline approach with a major theme of poverty eradication through concerted efforts in addressing environmental sanity, provision of health services, education for all and many others. The timeline approach as well as the political coordinating effect of the MDGs also particularly revolutionized progress in fostering development, especially in developing countries. The concern for aid effectiveness by donor countries, at the aftermath of the MDGs, also produced its effect on progress in results-based approach and development effectiveness to date.

The situation whereby fragmented development policies are continually applied, whilst a globally adopted political strategy and resolve to fortify their enforcement and effectiveness, in the atmosphere of active monitoring and fixed deadline for progress measurement, as revealed by the MDGs, has revealed to be a best practice. Therefore, although more international conventions and agreements are passed year in year out, intergovernmental agreement that will possess global strategies is necessary – and the most viable to replace the MDGs is that which emphasize holistic approach to development and brings in new required elements to foster progress for the next “time-line” of, perhaps, another fifteen years from 2015. The proposed Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), being a fusion of MDGs’ extension and a collation of implementation strategies and political commitments by Governments for sustainable development beyond 2015 reckons with the international progress in “delivery-as-one”, where coordinated approach reduces wasted efforts of multiple inputs, actors on same issues without guaranteeing expected results.


The central message of sustainable development could simply be interpreted as the reversal of narrow pursuit of economic development and industrial advancement, as well as other behaviors that have negative impacts on the environment and human development, while re-imbibing “old practices” that sustained human sane and harmonious relationship with nature among communities.

Culture, in the practical sense, is who we are and what shapes our identity Culture defined the characteristics of a particular group of people. Sometimes seen as the so-called “old practices”, as advocated for in sustainable development, it encompasses everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts that has been developed through many generations[vi]. It is the wellspring of innovation and creativity; and it provides answers to many of the challenges we face today[vii]. Studies and development management experience have shown that culture contributes to poverty reduction and paves the way for a human-centered, inclusive and equitable development. UNESCO, the world custodian of cultural policies, has repeatedly affirmed that no development can be sustainable without due consideration for proper human make-up[viii]. This “human makeup” is embedded in the culture which regulates the ways of life and, consequently, the physical, economic, social and environmental development in communities.

Empirical research findings also showed that culture is an important aspect of sustainable development in the context of indigenous cultures, developing countries and nature conservation, and in the context of primary production, tourism and regional development. As cultural sustainability requires the recognition of local cultural values, equal rights and cultural logic of the respective communities in policy planning and decision-making, providing support for community-based or participatory approaches, sustainable development which advocates for the need to meet the human need at present without jeopardizing the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs, requires the safeguarding of indigenous culture that emphasize conservation and promote environmental sanity, as well as those associated with the role of art, creativity and cultural activities for community vitality and community planning. The promotion of cultural diversity and the preservation and conservation of tangible and intangible (local) cultural heritage are therefore important for sustainable development.

Despite the rich intellectual and practical repertoire of knowledge and justification, there is still room to learn more on what constitutes sustainable or unsustainable cultures. Our understanding of “development” and “underdevelopment”, shaped by the human evolution in relation to economic wellbeing (on the micro scale) and growth (on the macro scale) vis-à-vis the normative socio-cultural, philosophical and religious beliefs, which, in their moderation, could create the desired balance between the narrow pursuit of “economic growth” and desired “equitable human development” remains a useful methodology in the case for a cultural approach to development. The succeeding chapters therefore expatiate further on the close linkage of “cultures” and “sustainable development”


A good normative and philosophical approach to understanding sustainable development dwells in a comparison of the “economic myth” with a so called “socio-cultural and religious myth”. In that context, it could be argued that one of the tangible reasons for the late embrace of culture as a crucial and integral factor in sustainable development has been the general understanding of what development connotes.

In effect, initial global views of what makes a nation developed and others underdeveloped have evolved in the face of changing realities. Up till the middle of the 20th century, the belief that economic and technological progress of in state constitute the main criteria for its development prevailed. But gradually, with the reality that extensive exploitation of the environment for economic gains and technological development has created many, sometimes irreversible, negative consequences on the environment, than any materially measurable gains, the term sustainable development, as earlier stated, made its appearance. This concept, from the first set of reports on the environment and development[ix], has taken a different dimension and the yardstick of measuring development progress assumed other approaches.

The Economic Myth: In the discussions on the restriction of development criteria to the economic model, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development [x] described the narrow economic model as a myth, which for many years has affected the way we think and operate globally by stating that: “The hidden infrastructure of the world is the economic myth. We live in it without thinking of it as a “myth” in the common sense of the word—something fabricated. We accept its truth uncritically. We see the history of the world as an economic history, not as the march of great men across a stage (hero myth), or as the working out of the plans of God (religious myth). Nor is society held together by a belief in the perfectibility of human systems based on reason, which arises from the democratic/scientific myth .Whatever form the economic myth takes, it displays three characteristics: its ideal is growth; it is a horizontal, not a vertical myth (that is, it counts rather than evaluates); and its medium is numbers and pictures—a medium which, lacking the barrier of language, may explain why it is the first truly global myth. While this myth has much strength, its dominance has threatened the values embodied in earlier myths….. This description emphasize the notion of self-interest, the driving force of the “economic myth” that is more complex and interconnected than any story we’ve ever told before”[xi]

The foregoing underscores the sole reliance on economic growth and technological development as sole criteria for measuring whether a community is developed or not, while emphasising the danger inherent in the continued acceptance of it without questioning the consequent of such narrow belief.

In pure economic terms, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country, whether high or low, determines its level of development, while advancement in technological innovation, say, the number of missions to space and other technologically innovations allow for the country’s recognition as industrialised and “developed”. In the classical definition of development, which emerged gradually after the 2nd World War, development was seen purely in terms of economic growth. The purpose of development was to gain access to increased productivity. It was supposed that all the other problems facing a nation would be solved as a more or less direct consequence of achieving this goal. The means of their solution did not have to be specified as part of the development strategy; it would arise automatically, once the society in question has reached a certain level of wealth creation[xii] . This definition began to be questioned from the 1970s onwards for two reasons.

Of a truth, economic growth and technological advancement in a nation determines to a large extent the level of its development. This is why nations from time immemorial have resolved to using different means to create wealth and advance on their technological know-how. However, as the statement emphasized, the economic myth has much strength but its dominance constitutes threats to other myths that governs the human society. The ideal of the economic myth is growth. Its norm and ethics is the maximisation of advantage and the major actors are the business and the consuming society. If we consider that the rules that governed colonisation have been purely economic, then the path of understanding what the economic myth connotes becomes clearer. In this context, economic growth, considered as the key to a society’s development is conditioned by and dependent upon other, independent, non-economic factors. As one project after another failed around the world, it soon became clear that the difference between success and failure, even in purely economic term, was not determined by purely economic criteria. This is why of recent, debates on development surpass the monopoly of economic criteria as failures in development endeavours of states over the years have paved the way for other deeper thinking.

According to E.E. Hagen (1968) development is not merely growth. It assumes a human dimension when in encompasses the enchantment of material well-being in low-income countries, be it food, health, education or the duration and dignity of life; in other words, components not inherent in development. It also assumes a human dimension [xiii] when, through vigorous human activities it seeks to establish for men and women the world over the conditions essential to the maintenance and blossoming of life. It is pluridimensional when it is a project; an historical progression; far from being restricted to countries which diplomacy by terminology defines as backward, least developed, underdeveloped or developing. It affects all people and all nations.[xiv]   Countries, both in the developing and the developed world, which did achieved some measure of economic growth, were often still saddled with serious problems in other areas which impeded their progress towards social harmony and stability. Economic growth in itself can no longer be presented as a panacea. Problems other than national productivity require other distinctive solutions. The concepts of Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index initiated in Bhutan and the Equitable and Sustainable Well-Being (BES) Index by Italy reflect the need to address development in ways that go beyond mere references to GDP for a more equitable and sustainable world and more fulfilled existence[xv].

Nevertheless, the so called economic myth, which enjoyed free importation from western cultures to the least developed countries, has brought perception on civilization (or westernization) into a certain kind of uniformity. Unfortunately, this myth also imported with it complementary behaviours that tend to modify cultures in the name of civilization. Globalization and perception of what civilization is, for example in Africa, has altered certain sustainable behaviours and there is prevalent uniformity of the consumer culture, rural-urban migration, and many more vices, which now constitute challenges that sustainable development policy seeks to correct, in the likes of sustainable consumption, as incorporated on the development agenda during the third series of the UN Conference on the Environment and Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002.

Socio-Cultural and Religious Myth: In a twist, the well-established religious and cultural myths as existed in different parts of the world constitute a different view of the world as far as sustainable development is concerned. In sustainable development, discussions and debates over biodiversity were hitherto the present consciousness generally marked by a narrow technical perspective. But it is not enough to simply classify and quantify the number of plant and animal species while overlooking the cultural, political and ecological contexts. We must grasp the links between how different cultures shape the environment and vice versa.[xvi] The report of a 2003 roundtable which examined the links between cultural and biological diversity and the common threats facing them stated, for example, that seven out of nine top countries facing threats to linguistic diversity are also among the top 17 countries for biological diversity. The report also recorded that 13 out of the 17 biological mega diversity countries – Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, India, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines, the United States, Malaysia, China, Peru and Colombia – also figure among the top 25 countries for endemic languages spoken exclusively within their respective borders, generally spoken by indigenous peoples and minorities with a wealth of information concerning the surrounding ecosystem[xvii]. However, these communities are increasingly impoverished by the very same market forces that threaten biodiversity.

Odumegwu Ojukwu, the late Nigerian leader of the Biafra, in an interview published by Frederick Forsyth, further buttressed the effect of man’s relationship to nature as an approach to understanding progress in economic, social and environmental development, when he narrated that “the road of evolution of the black man moved away from that taken by the white man has its diversion in man’s relations to God[xviii]. For him the black man’s God is a God of retribution; awesome; unapproachable and merciless, while the

Dr Aderemi Oladele

Dr Aderemi Oladele

white man’s God is God of love, mercy and forgiveness[xix]. He stressed further that it is not hard to see how the black became inhibited in his confrontation with natural phenomenon, while the white felt encouraged exploring and conquer the natural phenomenon that surrounded him[xx]. For example, the black man, faced with a strange mountain, quickly turns his back on the terrifying monster, seeks out a calf from his miserable herd and begins the regular sacrifice to the God of the mountain. As such, the mountain has become sacred and therefore impenetrable. His white counterpart would be fascinated by the spectacle of the mountain, but his reaction would be to climb it, on its summit to dominate the landscape, on its flanks to sow his crops and in its entrails to mine for minerals. The black man in history considering himself unworthy of God, has tended to leave creature as it stood, easily satisfied; while the white man, considering himself favourite of God, has, through the ages continually questioned Creation, and never hesitated to bend it to his advantage[xxi]

Despite its extremity tendency, the analogy raised the fundamental issue of difference in relations to nature on function of cultural and religious beliefs and how this diverges in the Western and African outlooks. The “black man’s relations to God and nature” explains the presence of ‘myths’ in the approach to nature’s preservation and management. One can easily conclude that, while the west has succeeded in building myths around economic and scientific theories, which allows for exploration of nature, black communities in history, perhaps believing in the need to not explore the environment for reason of foresight as to how the natural system reproduces and replaces itself, had devised the myth approach, under in the “fear of the Gods” to constrain its members to conserve nature.

In the final analysis, what do we make out of the two aforementioned scenarios? Knowing that the creation of myth around the management of nature’s resources, be it for the purpose of preservation or unrestrained exploitation, is the point where the notion of sustainability converges and then diverges, Sustainable Development results when is leveraged with normative wisdom and environmental moderation found in the socio-cultural and religious myths. The exodus of mythology in Africa, where, as people grow to understand that the myths surrounding certain cultural practices are not totally founded, have taken the liberty to use and abuse nature’s resources because they now size to believe in the potency of any god, like the god of the sea, and therefore, no sacrifice of fishes are necessary, even though some of the catches have not grown to maturity. Campaigns on the environmental aspect of sustainable development indeed recommend this as a means of ensuring continuous reproduction and sustainable fishing. The 1982 Mexico City’s declaration on Cultural Principles described development as a complex, holistic and multidimensional process, which goes beyond mere economic growth and integrates all the dimensions of life and all the energies of a community, all of whose members must share in the economic and social transformation effort and in the benefits that result therefrom.[xxii] The starting point of achieving results in this wise is moderation from all sides of the so-called “myths”.


It has been established that culture is clearly connected to the fundamental question of how to make development compatible with the physical limits of the environment. Therefore, if achieving sustainability is about making appropriate use of the planet’s resources, then culture must be at the centre of development strategies[xxiii]. In the background note to a UN High Level Discussion Segment on the Post 2015 Development Agenda in 2013, it was stated the “one size does not fit all” motto, which formed the major ground for the UN system-wide reform in the late 1990s to improve the effectiveness of development programmes in countries, places culture at the centre of context-based approaches to sustainable development and improved governance. Culture has indeed been discovered to be a major driving force for reforms in international development.

In reality, development has grown beyond the isolation of culture from the planning of programmes as the consideration or lack of consideration for it from the onset could determine success or failure. Many lofty development programmes failed for lack of acceptance from the people it is destined to help due to their perception of it and certain implications it has on their well cherished indigenous cultures. The on-going UN system-wide reform which privileges decentralization therefore has a strong linkage to the culture approach to ensure adequate knowledge of programme destinations for customized planning and implementation strategies. When it comes to the conformity of any programme with the culture of the natives in the host community, their wide consultation is also very necessary.[xxiv]

In the introduction to a UNESCO publication on culture and development, mention was made of the fact that development work has undergone changes not restricted to the arena of intellectual and academic debate, but are also reflected in the attitudes of those who are practically involved in such work at all levels – from decision makers in major international institutions to field workers in the small local NGOs[xxv]. In this regard, administrative reforms based on decentralization, which favours the posting of more experts into field offices [xxvi] reflects a readiness to conform with the millennium demand that development managers cannot continue to stay at headquarters and plan programmes for a community they do not even know – as, by so doing, many programmes that were developed to assist communities have ended in disorganizing pre-existing cultures and social cohesion upon which positive development could be built to achieve desired results.

It should be noted that the term in which the strategies of international agencies are defined have changed, and so has the language in which the populations concerned and their representatives voice their needs, their demands and their criticisms. These changes, as earlier said, mirror a growing disenchantment with the exclusively economic model of development that dominated the relationship of the rich countries to their poorer counterparts in the decades immediately following decolonisation. In the place of classic economic model of development there have been a number of successors, intended to remedy the inadequacies of the classical approach. Sensitivity to peoples’ real needs, rather than preconceived models, is essential for achieving development effectiveness. Understanding cultures and creating rooms for diversity to strive will go a long way in assuring that development programmes are effective and have real impacts on the beneficiaries.


At the beginning of the discussions on culture and the Post-2015 Development Agenda under the auspices of the United Nations, four fundamental questions were raised, namely: In what ways does culture act as an enabler and a driver throughout the sustainable development agenda?; How does culture contribute to building capabilities and agency and achieving transformative change?; How can culture strengthen the Post-2015 agenda and answer the most pressing challenges of the global community?; and What are the consequences of a Post-2015 agenda without culture?[xxvii]

Earlier analysis in this study has responded that culture contributes in more ways than one to enabling and driving sustainable development. Culture contributes to building capacities when development agencies and personnel are well equipped with adequate information on the cultural and social environment in which programmes are administered while stereotypes are completely absent. Culture can strengthen the Post-2015 Development Agenda as a catalyst for new models and approach to achieving results in the process of planning and implementing the policies on ground; and the consequences of a Post-2015 without cultures should bring back the question: how can we expect to achieve different results if we continue to do things the same way? Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, may have captured this when she stated that the new development agenda should be universal to be sustainable, engaging all countries equally and reflecting their cultural diversity[xxviii]. In the same vein, the Florence Declaration, adopted during the just-concluded UNESCO’s Third World Forum on Culture and Cultural Industries, which took place in Florence, Italy from 2nd to 4th October, 2014, emphasizes the role of culture in post-2015 development agenda, while contributors reaffirmed that cultural vitality is synonymous with innovation and diversity[xxix]. Culture creates jobs, generates revenues and stimulates creativity. It is a multifaceted vector of values and identity and a lever that promotes social inclusion and dialogue[xxx]. The results of national consultations in preparation for the Forum also revealed the extent to which culture has the power to draw and mobilize people, as it holds the key to more inclusive and therefore more sustainable policies. The Hangzhou Declaration on the role that culture plays as a driver for sustainable development, adopted in May 2013, and the Bali Promise, adopted at the World Culture Forum in November of the same year, on which the Florence Forum built, both underscored the fact that a Post-2015 development agenda without culture is, in advance, null and void.

            The only question that then remains unanswered is “how will culture be integrated in the Post-2015 Development Policy Framework?

At the preliminary high-level discussions on the future development framework, three hypotheses for culture integration were put forward as follows [xxxi]:


  • Culture as Fundamental: This is a situation whereby culture is inherently a cross-cutting issue and where a culture-sensitive approach could be considered to be an overarching concern for all development initiatives, on a par with human rights, equality and sustainability. References to culture should thus be included in appropriate places within the future architecture of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and clear guidance and monitoring mechanisms established to ensure the implementation of related principles.
  • Culture as a Transversal Theme: This is moving from the principles to the core dimensions of sustainable development. One possibility would be to incorporate culture within goals relating to social and economic inclusion, environmental sustainability, peace and reconciliation.
  • Culture as a self-standing pillar of sustainable development: By this it is suggested that Culture is envisaged as an independent sustainable development goal focusing on culture as a sector of activity, particularly with regard to inclusive social development. This would aim to enlarge people’s capabilities to “lead the lives they have reason to value” through participation in cultural life and access to culture in all its diversity. It would highlight in particular culture’s contributions to inclusive social development and human well-being.


From all indication, the hypothesis on “culture as fundamental” seems to be taking the lead in most deliberations since the High-Level discussions where the hypothesis on culture integration was presented. High-level debates in UNESCO, the UN Specialized Agency on Culture, particularly tend to this orientation[xxxii]. This is based on the premise that it is not feasible that culture could stand alone as a pillar in sustainable development, as in the case with economy, ecology and social cohesion; neither will it suffice to only incorporate culture within goals relating to limited focus areas or principles under the new agenda. This is fundamentally because of the fact that culture is relevant to even the already earmarked pillars and it has become very obvious that its integration into each of these themes will make a lot of difference in results delivery for the awaited SDGs.

Indeed, as culture is fundamental to achieving sustainable development and its importance cut across all aspects of development challenges as well as the focal pillars, it is wise to consider a culture-sensitive approach as an overarching concern for all development initiatives under the future Sustainable Development Agenda.

As we look forward to the unveiling of the Post-2015 Agenda, it is highly recommended that reference to culture should be included in appropriate places in the future goals while clear guidance and monitoring are established to ensure effective implementation of their related principles. The hypothesis of “culture as fundamental” should therefore carry the day.


The consideration for culture and cultural diversity in development policy planning and management is fundamental for ensuring effectiveness and desired results. This is why in recognition of its exclusion in the process that led to the adoption of the MDGs in 2000, and the resulting effects on results, efforts are presently being made to give it a prominence in the drawing of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which replaces the MDGs by the end of 2015.

In July 2013, the United Nations Secretary-General recommended the development of a universal, integrated and human rights-based Post-2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development, addressing economic growth, social justice and environmental stewardship and highlighting the link between peace, development and human rights – an agenda that leaves no one behind. Culture is definitely a missing factor in the MDGs and getting it on board will tremendously contribute to the objective of “leaving no one behind” in the future development policy. Therefore, the fact that culture will constitute an important element in the future agenda could no more be over emphasized.

Although the manner and form in which it will be incorporated in the goals or their corresponding principles is yet to be determined, it is expected that the role of “culture as fundamental” will influence political decisions to make the subject a cross-cutting theme in the much awaited Post 2015 Goals.

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