United Nations High-level Event “Culture and Sustainable Development“ (englisch) 🎥

Mister President,


distinguished colleagues,

honorable guests,

The countdown is on. The international community has given a promise: to change course for a sustainable world until 2030. We’re now in 2021. It’s high time.

Sustainability means: to improve the living conditions worldwide and to protect the environment for future generations. This is plainly and simply a matter of justice and solidarity: for people around the world today and for our children and grandchildren tomorrow.

In order to implement the SDGs, culture and international exchange are essential: Be it academic exchange, education, or simply gaming such as a Game Jam on the SDGs we’ve put up during the Europan Sustainable Development Week.

The pandemic has shown once again: We’re all living in a global village. And if one part of the village is burning, it doesn’t make sense to pull up the drawbridge. Better join forces and put up a fire brigade.

Therefore, during the crisis we have initiated an International Relief Fund. It targets cultural and creative industries actors around the world. It helps maintain cultural structures. And it strengthens social diversity and local cultural life. After the first round in 2020 with 141 projects from 75 countries, Germany  has now doubled the funds to around 6 million euros in 2021.

Another best-practice example is the international response following the explosion at the port of Beirut in August 2020. Germany supported the culture-centred Lebanon Solidarity Fund and helped 24 cultural organizations and 206 cultural workers affected by the explosion. And we also supported UNESCO’s LiBeirut Fund with 500,000 EUR to preserve historic buildings in Beirut’s old town.

These examples show: with international cultural cooperation we can really make a change. But for this to happen, it’s important that we put equality and inclusiveness at the heart of our efforts. If culture is to have an impact, we must make sure everyone has a chance to contribute his or her perspective.

We must make sure culture is open and accessible to everyone, not only to an urban elite; we need to be more open to the input and the perspective of people from different backgrounds; and we have to understand gender equality as a fundamental pillarstone of a sustainable cultural policy.

The lesson of the pandemic is clear: We must not rebuild the status quo. We must build back better. If we draw the right lessons, I’m hundred percent sure we will succeed on our shared path towards the full achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The countdown is on.

The video of this speech can be watched here: