The FINANCIAL — Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and Sameh Wahba, Director of the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice of the World Bank, signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at UNESCO Headquarters today to reinvigorate the two institutions’ joint commitment to advance sustainable development by investing in culture, urban development, and resilience in an integrated manner.
“Culture and a people-centered approach are central to building the urban future we want and ensuring sustainable development. This renewed commitment by a long-standing UNESCO-World Bank partnership brings to the forefront of the global discussion the critical role that culture plays in supporting countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda,” declared Irina Bokova.
In a context where two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050, the signing of this MoU takes on board the urban dimension of sustainable development, providing a framework for joint action to further the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It also expresses the commitment of both institutions to maximize the benefits of safeguarding cultural heritage and promoting creativity for sustainable development through three strategic areas of action: Historic urban landscapes and urban regeneration, cultural and creative industries, resilience and disaster risk management, according to the World Bank.
While recalling that cultural heritage and sustainable tourism have become key economic drivers for poverty reduction and job creation, especially for women and youth, Sameh Wahba stressed that “culture matters for sustainable urban development. It’s essential for building inclusive, resilient, productive, and sustainable cities and communities for all.”
Over the next six years, UNESCO and the World Bank will engage in developing global knowledge, common policy guidance, country-level operations and emergency responses to enhance sustainable urban development and address post-disaster and post-conflict situations building on cultural heritage and creativity as resources and assets.
Such renewed collaboration takes place in a world where 26 million people fall into poverty each year as a result of natural disasters, while conflicts wreak havoc with cultural heritage and communities.
The agreement coincides with the United Nations Year of Sustainable Tourism and the need to ensure that the $1.8 billion revenue the sector is expected to generate by 2030 contributes to sustainability and the preservation of tangible and intangible heritage. The MoU also foresees work to support cultural diversity and the creative industries, which generate $2.25 billion in revenues and create 29.5 million jobs worldwide. Promoting cultural diversity has a direct impact on socio-economic development and supports the competitiveness of cities, notably in developing countries.