Sustainable Development at the Heart of UNESCO Creative Cities Network Mayors’ Forum

More than half of the world's population now lives in cities – cities that generate the bulk of economic activity. This trend is expected to continue; estimates indicate that by 2030, the urban population will represent 70 percent of the 9.5 billion global inhabitants.  To be inclusive, successful and sustainable, cities are tapping into creativity, innovation, and each other. 

Mayors and representatives from the 116 cities in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (“UCCN”) came together around the theme “Creativity towards sustainable cities: designing inclusive public spaces in the digital age” for the UCCN Annual Meeting, hosted by Enghien-les-Bains, France, from 30 June to 2 July 2017.  “The UCCN tackles our societies’ challenges and builds more people-centred cities” highlighted Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Culture. “Being a Creative City is not a trend, it is a reality; it is the way to foster sustainable development, which starts with social inclusion. To achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we need culture and creativity.”

The UCCN Mayors adopted a Declaration calling on Creative Cities to further integrate culture into their overall political agenda and facilitate crossed experimentation and innovation between them, in line with the adoption of a strategic framework for the Network. This strategic framework lays the foundations of a future vision enhancing UNESCO’s work towards sustainable cities.

© Enghien-les-Bains, UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts

Covering seven creative fields (Crafts and Folk Arts, Media Arts, Film, Design, Gastronomy, Literature and Music), the UCCN employs peer-to-peer learning of ideas and experiences,  aiming to stimulate and strengthen cooperation and exchange of good practices between cities that recognize culture and the creative industries as enablers for development.   “We should further our creative potential to build our future cities. We should also look forward to modernity” said Philippe Sueur, Mayor of Enghien-les-Bains, a Creative City of Media Arts since 2013. He notably highlighted the impact of digital technologies for sustainable development, and explained how they can positively impact the ecosystem of cities, especially their public spaces.

The mayors and Creative Cities participating exchanged on their successful models and shared challenges, joining forces towards achieving sustainable urban development, especially in the context of the international development agenda.  The representative from Bandung, Indonesia, a Creative City of Design, discussed how civic engagement and design improved public spaces in more inclusive ways, targeting SDG 11 by providing “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities.”  The Creative City of Literature representative from Reykjavík, Iceland, presented multilingual writing workshop aimed to empower migrant women and serve as a professional springboard. Works of the authors are then published in various formats and disseminated at literary events.  This fosters intercultural dialogue and targets SDG 5 to “end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls.”

“The UCCN has concrete, evidenced-based examples of how cities are driving global change through bottom up approaches, anchoring the UN 2030 Agenda. Local and sub-national stakeholders are not to be considered as mere implementers of this international agenda; they have a key part to play in this long-term endeavour” stressed Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director of UNESCO’s Division for Creativity.

This was the eleventh Annual Meeting of the UCCN, a privileged partner of UNESCO whose member cities collectively form both a platform for reflection on the role of culture and creativity as enablers for sustainable development, and a breeding ground for action and innovation. 

Opening Ceremony of the XIth Meeting of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network