CULTURE 2030 I Rural-Urban Development: The Future of Historic Towns and Villages
10-12 June 2019 Meishan, People’s Republic of China
We, the participants, including ministers, national and local government representatives, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, academia, development banks and civil society, gathered in Meishan on the occasion of the International Conference on “Culture 2030 I Rural-Urban Development: The Future of Historic Villages and Towns” (10-12 June 2019), wish to express our gratitude to the national, provincial and local Chinese authorities and, in particular, the City of Meishan, for providing an effective platform for the exchange of knowledge, good practices and strengthening cooperation with a view to shaping culture-centred policies towards “making human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
We acknowledge the key milestones achieved by the international community to consolidate and strengthen the role of culture in the global development agenda, particularly through its integration in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the New Urban Agenda and Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. We recall the most relevant tools, mechanisms, programmes and approaches that have fostered a paradigm shift towards a nature-culture balance and the integration of the people, places and policies in development processes, including the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape Approach (2011), the Global Report “Culture: Urban Future” (2016), the Creative Cities Network, the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities - ICCAR, the Learning Cities Network, the Man and the Biosphere, Global Geoparks and the Managing of Social Transformation Programmes.
The safeguarding of cultural and natural heritage and the promotion of creativity for sustainable development is particularly embodied in the Meishan experience, which has provided a baseline and good practices and approaches for the investment in cultural assets and resources, promoting a more balanced regional development, fostering effective partnerships between rural and urban areas and building on local creativity.
Considering that in the face of rising challenges such as persisting poverty, environmental degradation, climate change, disasters, increasing inequalities, food insecurity and urban bias in policies and investments, there is a need for an integrative approach to the development of human settlements that places people at its core, emphasising inclusion, connectivity and resilience, building on the transversal power of culture to embrace the social, economic and environmental spheres of sustainable development.
We are convinced that smaller settlements are an integral part of a portfolio of places with a critical role to play in rural-urban linkages and the safeguarding and promotion of culture, while recognising the specificity of their cultural contexts. Settlements require site-specific approaches based on community values and local aspirations to ensure a sense of ownership, enhance people’s wellbeing and promote long-term sustainability. Consideration must therefore be given to the following outcomes to enhance rural-urban linkages towards sustainability:
1. ‘Leave no one behind’ through rural revitalization and spatial equity.
Placing culture at the heart of rural revitalization policies is essential to improve rural livelihood and alleviate poverty. Fostering people-centred and place-based approaches to creative economies for rural areas, promoting among other traditional products and services, as well as new sources of wealth, sustainable cultural tourism, and exploring the potentials of digital technologies, including Artificial Intelligence and big data, can achieve spatial justice and social inclusion;
2. Inspiring communities through culture, quality education and citizens’ engagement.
Acknowledging that the cultural diversity of rural communities and their values and aspirations is key to breaking their isolation and marginalization, providing social and economic resilience. Culture and creativity can stimulate effective community engagement processes, supporting local initiatives and cooperation for growth. Building on quality education and the enhancement of local capacities and empowerment ensures equal access to opportunities and participation in the cultural life.
3. The safeguarding of cultural heritage and innovation for environmental sustainability and resilience. Understanding the symbiotic nature of the rural-urban relationship, as the basis of holistic and integrated territorial management approaches. Achieving environmental sustainability by embracing the strong link between culture and nature, manifested in cultural, agricultural and sacred landscapes. Recognizing change as inherent in our societies and smaller settlements, adaptability is key, along with the safeguarding and promotion of identities, diversity, cultural and natural values, including through innovation. Harnessing traditional knowledge and local solutions to global challenges, such as climate adaptation, mitigation, sustainability and resilience.
4. Integrated policies to strengthen rural-urban linkages towards sustainable rural revitalisation. Elaborating policies as an ecosystem that acknowledges the interdependence between rural and urban areas, to forge partnerships between them and promote new scales of management that enhance both the diffusion and scaling up of good practices. Considering settlements beyond their size, looking at their function in extended networks and systems, understanding their rural-urban linkages is crucial to ensuring good planning and effective territorial governance, including through decentralisation that increases the voice of smaller places in decision-making and their share of public resources.
Looking forward, we must harness the convening power of UNESCO to bring together national and local governments, international and non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies, development banks, the private sector, rural communities and civil society to pursue a shared vision based on common values for rural revitalization built on culture. In this regard, the mapping of trends, the development of indicators and digital data sets, as well as fostering international cooperation and investment in rural-urban initiatives, and promoting inter-cultural dialogue is fundamental.