Agenda 21 for culture

The Agenda 21 for culture is the reference document of the local governments to draw up their cultural policies. It’s based on the principles of cultural diversity, human rights, intercultural dialogue, participatory democracy, sustainability and peace.

The role of culture in local policies

The Agenda 21 for culture is a tool to promote the role of culture in local policies. The present canonical triangle of sustainable development - environment, social inclusion and economics - either doesn’t include culture or it is considered an instrumental element. Therefore, the Agenda 21 for culture is a tool to turn culture into a fourth pillar of sustainable development. This confirms the importance of having solid and autonomous cultural policies as well as the establishment of bridges to other dominions of the governance.

The base of the Agenda 21 for culture

In September 2002, during the first World Public Meeting on Culture, held in Porto Alegre, it came up the idea to draw up a document guidelines for local cultural policies, a document comparable to what the Agenda 21 meant in 1992 for the environment.

After nearly two years of work (of discussion of previous drafts in conferences organized by the international cultural networks that encouraged its creation), the final document was approved on 8 May 2004 in Barcelona, and on 15 September it was submitted to the UN-HABITAT and UNESCO. From October of this same year, the world organization United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) (the UN of the cities) assumed the coordination of the Agenda 21 for culture. UCLG is the world’s biggest association of local governments, founded on May 2004 to defend democracy and local autonomy and to give voice to the cities in international forums.

In the UCLG, the Agenda 21 for culture is managed by the Committee on culture, which is chaired by the Lille-Métropole and co-chaired by Buenos Aires, México DF and Montreal. The cities of Angers, Barcelona and Milán Vice-presidents. It was also agreed to invite three other cities (one from Africa, one from Middle East/Asia and one from Asia/Pacific) to join the Board as Vice-Presidents.[1] Before 2012, the Committee on culture was chaired by Barcelona city council, and Stockholm, Lille, Buenos Aires and Montreal councils are its vice presidents.

In 2009, the Spanish Agency of International Development Cooperation AECID and the Barcelona City Council created a Fund for the implementation of the Agenda 21 for culture in African, Mediterranean and Latin American cities.

The contents

The Agenda 21 for culture starts from the idea that culture makes a great contribution to human development, because it promotes values like creativity, diversity, memory or rituality, all of them increasingly necessary for any human being to widen his or her freedoms (Amartya Sen). The Agenda 21 for culture has 67 articles, focused on five main subjects:

  1. Culture and human rights
  2. Culture and governance
  3. Culture, sustainability and territory
  4. Culture and social inclusion
  5. Culture and economy

The articles are divided into three large sections:

The document is available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Galician, German, Italian, Japanese, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian (Serbo-Croatian), Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian. All translations, articles and information about seminars and publications can be found in pdf format on the Agenda 21 for culture website.

Around 350 cities, local governments and organizations from all over the world are linked to Agenda 21 for culture.[2]

The reports

Since 2006, in the framework of its research tasks, the Agenda 21 for culture has published several reports:[3]

Culture and development

The Agenda 21 for culture is a tool to enhance the role of culture in urban policies and also a tool to make cultural issues the fourth pillar of sustainable development; in effect, the current canonical triangle of sustainable development (environment, social inclusion and economics) either does not include culture or considers it an instrumental element. Therefore, the Agenda 21 for culture proposes, on the one hand, strengthening local policies, asserting the importance of solid and autonomous cultural policies, and establishing bridges with other areas of local governance. On the other hand, the Agenda 21 advocates the integration of culture as a fundamental element of our development model and adopting as its own the idea proposed by the Australian researcher and activist Jon Hawkes ( in his book The Fourth Pillar of Sustainability. Culture’s Essential Role in Public Planning.

The extensive work and activism undertaken by the Agenda 100 for culture led the UCLG Executive Bureau to head the preparation of the policy statement document "Culture: the Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development", approved on 17 November 2010 in the framework of the World Summit of Local and Regional Leaders – 3rd UCLG World Congress, held in Mexico City. This document opens a new perspective and points to the relationship between culture and sustainable development through a dual approach: developing a solid cultural policy and advocating a cultural dimension in all public policies.

Moreover, the UCLG Committee on Culture has worked to ensure that culture is explicitly integrated into the development programmes of the United Nations which aim to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. After some awareness-raising actions during the Millennium Development Goals Summit, the UN General Assembly approved the final document of the Summit that mentions culture as an important dimension of development.


  1. See the report of the 8th meeting of the Committee (Barcelona, September 2012) in Circular 62
  2. United Cities and Local Governments, Committee on Culture, List of Cities, Local Governments and Organizations. 1 February 2012.
  3. See reports: here

External links

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