Edinburgh played host to the International Culture Summit 2014

Governments urged to put culture at the heart of public policy

Geraldine Kendall, 18.08.2014
Second international culture summit held in Edinburgh last week
Culture should be placed at the heart of future public policy, according to a report published to coincide with the second International Culture Summit held last week in Edinburgh.

The summit brought together culture ministers, policy-makers and cultural leaders from around the world to discuss global policies on arts, culture and the creative industries, taking “culture – a currency of trust” as its theme.

The Culture Matters report, produced by the British Council, was used to stimulate discussion during the summit.

In a foreword to the report, Irina Bokova, director-general of Unesco, said: “We must take our message across the world, to the highest levels of government and throughout the United Nations – to place culture at the heart of all public policies, underpinned by human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

The report said culture was "often marginal" to the political process. It called on ministers and cultural leaders to champion cultural investment by the public and private sector, use cultural wealth to build international trust and cooperation, and promote culture as a vehicle for economic and social progress.

The report also said political representatives should better recognise the contribution that cultural diversity makes to tolerance and community cohesion.

It report said: “Culture should be valued more highly for the role it can play in building stronger ties between nations – which will be vital in meeting some of the shared international challenges which lie ahead of us. It is also timely to consider culture’s contribution to improving economic growth, social cohesion and quality of life.”

The culture summit, which was hosted in the Scottish Parliament at a crucial time ahead of the independence referendum next month, heard presentations from figures such as US political theorist Benjamin Barber and Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, businesswoman Nandi Mandela.

Mandela urged people to look on culture as “the core of who we are, our sense of identity and how we can work together to create that interdependency between communities, between countries, and in our outreach to the global world”.

Barber emphasised the importance of culture in fostering tolerance, saying: “Bigotry and prejudice are nothing other than the absence of imagination... That’s why for me the most important feature of education in a democracy is arts education, because it is in the arts that we learn and understand the faculty of imagination.”

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