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There are intrinsic links between the capacities of individuals to develop their own identities and give meaning to their lives, and the broader development processes of society. Both require individuals to have access to, enjoy and meaningfully participate in cultural resources, knowledge and decision-making processes that have an impact on their way of life. There is a continuum between the development of each person’s identity and the development of communities, societies and, ultimately, entire nations.

Since it began its work, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur has advocated for more recognition of the importance of cultural resources and of cultural rights for any development to be appropriate and sustainable. As an integral part of human rights, cultural rights should be part of the consideration that guide development strategies and projects and these should contribute to the exercise of cultural rights by all and refrain from having a negative impact on them.

You will find below the thematic work conducted by the mandate over the years, as well as developments in other parts of the UN system and important links.


Development and cultural rights: the principles (2022)

In her 2022 thematic report, submitted to the General Assembly (A/77/290), the Special Rapporteur addresses the role of culture in sustainable development, including the cultures of development, with a view to

  • assessing how cultural diversity and cultural rights have been mainstreamed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development so far;
  • taking stock of the experiences in leveraging cultural resources and cultural rights in the pursuit of a more sustainable development, as well as the weaknesses encountered in doing so; and
  • highlighting areas where increased cultural awareness may contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals during the second half of the implementation timeline of the 2030 Agenda.

Against the fact that cultural rights and cultural development have been sidelined in sustainable development strategies, she stresses that culture is more than just an “enabler” of sustainable development, but an indispensable part of it. The Special Rapporteur warns against the reduction of culture to an income generating sector, and highlights that development will only be sustainable if it is shaped by the values of the people that it involves and the meaning that they ascribe to it, protects diversity and uses their cultural resources and heritage in all its dimensions – tangible, living and natural.

Two persons standing on gray tile paving. Photo by Ian Schneider, @goian, from 19 February 2016 on Unsplash

As set out in this report, sustainable development must 1) include cultural development, 2) reverse inequalities, 3) be self-determined and community led, 4) resist the one-size-fits-all model and 5) be forward looking. As cultural rights are essential for the development of each person and community, their empowerment, and the construction of their respective identities in a sustainable cultural ecosystem, they are at the core of the definition of development itself, and indispensable to leave no one behind.

People and peoples must be the primary beneficiaries of sustainable development processes. A human rights approach with a strong consideration for cultural rights, including the right of all to take part in the decision-making processes that have an impact on cultural life, is both a framework for and a guarantee of success for any development agenda.

The report encourages States, international organizations and other stakeholders to consider alternative development visions, and provides examples of national and international commendable practices, but also of challenges and violations of cultural rights resulting from development projects. Recommendations on how to ensure respect for and implementation of cultural rights conclude the report.

To inform her report, and to start a constructive dialogue with States, National Human Rights Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, human rights and cultural institutions and other stakeholders, the Special Rapporteur conducted two expert consultations and invited relevant stakeholders to submit their views via a questionnaire. View the report page for full details.

Development and cultural rights: the international governance (2023)

Building on the report mentioned above, the Special Rapporteur presented in 2023 a second report to the General Assembly (A/78/213), focusing on the international governance of development.

The Special Rapporteur emphasizes that international development and trade organizations are currently failing to respect cultural rights. The reasons she analyses include

  • the rejection by some organizations of their responsibility to respect cultural rights,
  • the lack of understanding of their scope and their linkage with the work of the organizations, and
  • the predominance given to economic development or other interests.

Although the Special Rapporteur acknowledges some progress and positive measures taken by some of the main international agencies, she stresses that full implementation of these rights is still lacking. The report provides examples of a series of persistent challenges and highlights ways to move forward.

A rickshaw puller waits for passengers, on a rainy night on wet street. Photo by Syed Foyez Uddin on Unsplash (@genetx)

She calls for all entities need to work in a comprehensive and inclusive manner to ensure that cultural rights are not violated in development and trade frameworks, and that clear processes advance cultural rights in development, mitigate and prevent their violations, and guarantee effective participation and consultation according to international standards. She also reminds that States have an important role to play in ensuring that the organizations of which they are members endorse cultural development and respect cultural rights in all aspects of their work, so that truly no one is left behind.

To inform her report, the Special Rapporteur conducted several meetings with experts and development practitioners and invited relevant stakeholders to submit their views via a questionnaire. View the report page for full details.

Related events and materials

Other documents of the Special Rapporteur

Further developments in the UN system

  • The #Culture2030Goal campaign advocates to national governments and on the international stage for the formal inclusion of culture in sustainable development frameworks. As a member of the campaign, the Special Rapporteur joins the other organisations and calls on the UN to recognise culture as a driver of sustainable development during the SDG Summit in September 2023.
  • Joint Declaration on SDG Summit adopted by the 29th Annual Meeting of Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts, and Chairpersons of the Working Groups of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, 16 June 2023.
  • CESCR's day of general discussion on the upcoming General Comment on sustainable development, 24 February 2023
  • Unanimous adoption of the Mondiacult Declaration, at the end of the 3 days World conference on cultural policies and sustainable development, Mondiacult, organised by UNESCO, Mexico, 28 – 30 September 2022.
  • Report of the United Nations Development Group (lead by UNESCO, UNDP and UNFPA) of the “Post-2015 dialogues on culture and development”, 2015 
  • Report by the United Nations Development Group on “Delivering the post-205 development agenda: opportunities at the national and local levels”, 2014
  • The UN General Assembly
    • adopts resolutions 68/223 (February 2014), 69/230 (February 2015), 70/214 (February 2016), 72/229 (January 2018), 74/230 (January 2020) and 76/214 (January 2022), on “Culture and sustainable development”,
    • adopts resolution 66/288 (September 2012) on “The future we want”, which acknowledges the natural and cultural diversity of the world, and recognize that all cultures and civilizations can contribute to sustainable development (para. 41);
    • adopts resolutions 55/192 (January 2001), 57/249 (February 2003), 65/166 (February 2011) and 66/208 (March 2012) on “Culture and development”;
    • adopts resolutions 52/197 (February 1998) and 53/184 (February 1999) on “Cultural development”;
    • adopts resolutions 46/158 (December 1991) and 51/179 (February 1997), on the “World Commission on culture and development”;
    • adopts resolution 41/187 (December 1986) on the “World Decade for cultural development”.
    • Adopts resolution 41/128 (December 1986) on the “Declaration on the right to development

Useful links