Culture 21

Culture 21

The mission of the world association of United Cities and Local Governments – UCLG is to be the united voice and world advocate of democratic local self-government, promoting its values, objectives and interests, through cooperation between local governments, and within the wider international community.

UCLG has played an important role since 2004 in promoting the role of culture in sustainable cities:

  • In 2004, UCLG adopted the Agenda 21 for culture, a declaration with 67 articles that describes the relationship between local cultural policies and human rights, governance, sustainable development, participatory democracy and peace. The Agenda 21 for culture was the first worldwide document establishing principles and commitments by cities and local governments for cultural development. More than 650 cities, local governments and organizations from all over the world are linked to Agenda 21 for culture. The Agenda 21 for culture as complemented in 2015 with Culture 21 Actions, a practical toolkit that updates key aspects of the relation between culture and sustainable development in cities and aims to enable self-evaluation, policy innovation and peer-learning.

  • In 2010, the Executive Bureau of UCLG approved the document “Culture: Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development” in its World Congress held in Mexico City. This document engages local governments to explicitly include culture in a development model that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. Operationally, the document points to the relationship between culture and sustainable development through a dual approach: developing a solid cultural policy (culture as a driver of development), and advocating a cultural dimension in all public policies (culture as an enabler of development).

  • Since March 2013, UCLG’s role as facilitator of the Global Taskforce has included Culture in local and regional governments’ inputs to the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda. The Statement of the 2nd World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments resulting from this work, adopted in Quito in October 2016, establishes a commitment to ‘Integrate culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development and take action to foster heritage, creativity, diversity and peaceful co-existence’.

  • The 5th UCLG World Congress, held in Bogotá in October 2016, adopted the Bogotá Commitment and Action Agenda, which includes one area of Action entitled “Promote Local Heritage, Creativity and Diversity through People-Centred Cultural Policies”, as well as other references to culture.

  • In recent years, the Committee on Culture of UCLG has cooperated with other global networks in order to promote the inclusion of culture in sustainable development agendas, particularly through the #culture2030goal campaign, also known as ‘The Future We Want Includes Culture’.

  • The document "Culture in the Sustainable Development Goals. A Guide for Local Action", recently published by UCLG. The document provides a practical guide to all those interested in consolidating alliances, policies, projects and practices around the place of culture in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The structure of this document is based on the 17 SDG: it presents information on each one of the Objectives, helps to understand why cultural issues are important and how an effective connection can be made with each Objective, and provides examples of cities and local governments that have implemented projects, programmes or policies directly related to the theme of the SDG.

  • The OBS. The Committee has developed a new tool containing more than 130 good practices on culture and sustainable development. This tool includes, among others, the possibility to search according to 3 criteria: the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development; the 9 Commitments of the toolkit "Culture 21: Actions", and the 75 keywords of our thesaurus in the field of cultural policies.

The UCLG Committee on Culture is a unique platform, which gathers cities, associations and networks that foster the relationship between local cultural policies, and sustainable development. The Committee is co-chaired by Buenos Aires, Lisbon and Mexico City, and is vice-chaired by Barcelona, Bilbao, Bogotá, Jeju, Paris, Porto Alegre and Rome. It has members and partners across all continents.



Following the adoption of Culture 21 Actions in 2015, the UCLG Committee on Culture has established a set of capacity-building and peer-learning programmes. In particular, a wide range of cities in different world regions are currently participating in the following programmes:

  • Pilot Cities is a learning programme based on the 9 commitments and 100 actions included in Culture 21 Actions. Lasting for approximately 30 months, it includes local awareness-raising, international peer-review, capacity-building, pilot local projects, public seminars and elaboration of good practices. As of December 2018, the Pilot Cities programme involves Baie Mahault, Chignahuapan, Córdoba, Cuenca, Elefsina, Escazú, Esch-sur-Alzette, Gabrovo, Galway, Izmir, Konya, La Paz, Leeds, Mérida, Muriaé, Namur, Nova Gorica, Santa Fe, Sinaloa, Swansea, the island of Tenerife, Terrassa and Timisoara.

  • The Leading Cities programme gives support to cities that have experience in the implementation of culture and sustainability, through measures in the areas of Cooperation and Learning (technical assistance, capacity-building, good practices), Leadership and Advocacy (participation in international events and processes) and Communication (website, social media). As of December 2018, the Leading Cities programme involves Abitibi-Temiscaminge, Barcelona, Bilbao, Belo Horizonte, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Jeju, Lisboa, Malmö, México City, París, Porto Alegre, Vaudreuil-Dorion and Washington DC.

  • Culture 21 Lab is a short workshop on “Culture in Sustainable Cities”. It enables cities to self-evaluate their work in this field. It provides key basic information on the place of culture in sustainable development, and it is a useful way to raise awareness of this field among local stakeholders. 

The Committee on Culture of UCLG also works with other cities, local and regional governments and the UCLG regional sections in order to tailor specific capacity-building and peer-learning programmes to their needs.