Culture and Development:  A Bridge (culture) to the Future (development).

12 June 2013

The Office of the President of the 67th General Assembly hosted a High-Level Thematic Debate today, Wednesday, 12 June 2013 from 10 am to 6 pm EDT at UN Headquarters. The debate was entitled “Culture and Development”. The underlying current of the debate seemed to give rise to the question, “What is culture?" Among the responses, the following reflections seemed particularly enlightening.

Culture is a bridge which links and reconciles

Vuk jeremicThe President of the 67th General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, defined
culture symbolically as a bridge that maintains continuity between our roots, each other, and our sustainable development goals. Culture bridges the gap between means and ends.

He noted how the 1961 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Ivo Andric, wrote that nothing that man erected or built in his “urge for living” was more valuable than bridges, and he shared a passage from Andric’s “The Bridge on the Drina.”

 “Belonging to everyone and being equal for everyone, useful, always built with a sense [of purpose], on the spot where most human needs are crossing, […] bridges do not serve for anything secret and bad. [...] What we aim for,” he concluded, “will be granted its true meaning on the other side, for bridges represent the eternal unsatisfied human desire to link, to reconcile and join all that springs up before our spirit and our eyes, so that there should be no divisions, no confrontation, and no parting.”

Culture is an enabler

The Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, defined culture as an enabler, enabling us to achieve our development goals. Culture allows us to have a more people-centered approach. It is not “one size meets all.”

Culture is a delicate plant

Nassir_abdulazizThe UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, aligned his definition of culture with that of Albert Einstein’s, “Culture in its higher forms is a delicate plant which depends on a complicated set of conditions and is wont to flourish only in a few places at any given time.”

Irina_bokovaThe Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, also defined
culture as an enabler. She remarked, “We need to fully acknowledge the power of culture, as we shape a new global agenda to follow 2015. No society can flourish without culture and there can be no sustainable development without it.”

On the same day, Ms. Bokova was invited to interact with the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

H.E. Ms. Lisa Hanna, Minister of Youth and Culture of Jamaica, shared that culture is at the heart of Jamaica and “the word is love.”

H.E. Mr. Alassane Djimba Soumanou,Minister for Secondary Education, Technical and Vocational Training, Youth and Integration of Benin, remarked that culture lives through humans developing

H.E. Dr. Lincoln Douglas, Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism of Trinidad and Tobago, shared that culture takes social and spiritual values into account. Culture is our source of identity.

H.E. Mr. Paul Mashatile, Minister of Arts and Culture of South Africa, indicated that culture is a recognition that our destinies are linked.

H.E. Dr. Dipu Moni, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, remarked that a civilization has values that need to be nurtured and that culture unleashes the potential within a pluralistic fabric. Bangladesh is opening a center of all living languages of the world in support of pluralistic culture.

H.E. Ms. Ana Magdalena Granadino, Secretary of Culture of the Presidency of El Salvador, sent out an appeal of long live culture in the arts, allowing us to be more creative in crises.

Mr. Felipe M. De Leon, Jr. Chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of Philippines asserted that culture is a life support system that is threatened by the technology transfer of the west. Culture is a collection of human factors, values, and responsibilities having to do with the common good.

H.E. Mr. Americo Cordula, Secretary of Cultural Policies, Ministry of Culture of Brazil proposed that culture is linked to sustainability. Culture is the good life. 

And now, after all the discussion, the way the President of the General Assembly defined culture as a bridge, bridging the gap between means and ends in a continuity brings to mind how culture may have two aspects as we can each think globally and act locallyBy each of us doing so, we can build a bridge (culture) to the world we want (development).  


The link to the webcast of the statement made by the United Nations General Assembly President Vuk Jeremic is -


UN Live United Nations Web TV - Vuk Jeremić, Thematic debate on culture and development