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It is still a conceptual and practical challenge to fully incorporate culture in the sustainable development actions in Spain. A document that reflects on the different approaches is “Culture in, for, and as Sustainable Development”, the Final Report with the Conclusions of the COST Action IS1007 – “Investigating Cultural Sustainability”.
Cultural sustainability as a goal itself or a strategy to progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals is not fully incorporated in the cultural policy of the Spanish central government and the regional governments. However, there have been several initiatives at the national and local levels that have considered that culture is a pillar for any strategy of sustainable development. In this sense, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Agenda 2030: Towards the Spanish strategy for sustainable development in June 2018. The sustainable management of cultural and natural resources is seen as a suitable approach as to fight depopulation of rural areas that are facing the problems associated with ageing populations.
In the analysis of the current situation, the Ministry of Culture and Sport appears to be one of the less engaged with any action or programme leading to the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Actually, a single action is identified for Goal 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) in the area of cultural heritage. The Action Plan designs some transformative actions to advance in the achievement of SDGs in Spain and proposes the promotion of culture as a key transformative element as one of those transversal actions (p. 119). Culture is seen as a powerful means to transmit values and change attitudes, so SDGs could be easily assumed by the population. As the local administrations are closest to the citizens, the Plan proposes that they should take a leading role (also because they spend most of the public expenditure on cultural activities in Spain). The coordination among all the Spanish Ministries is to be done by the Ministry of Culture and Sport, though no specific plans have been designed.
At the national level, the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sport has promoted several forums where strategies related to cultural sustainability are regularly discussed. For example, there is an annual meeting on culture and citizenship and regular meetings to discuss the role of culture in the development of rural communities, Foro Cultura y Medio Rural [Culture and Rural Environment Forum]. In addition, the 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage established the promotion of sustainable cultural tourism as one of its 10 priority actions.
According to Museos más sociales [Museums More Social] the “sustainable museum” is the one that is engaged with the environment, preserves cultural heritage for future generations and disseminates sustainable habits.
Most of the progress in Spain can be found at the local level, with local action groups and agencies incorporating the sustainable management of heritage resources to their strategies of economic and social development. Some interesting initiatives are the programs by the following private institutions: Fundación Cerezales, Fundación Santa María de Albarracín and Fundación Santa María la Real.
The Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces has created working groups to raise awareness about cultural sustainability as a pillar to reach all the SDGs. This Federation calls to all local governments in Spain to contribute to SDGs by making sure that local public spaces, cultural policies and actions should be environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive (for more details see here).
At the international level, much of the activity for the promotion of cultural relations with developing countries is channelled through the Spanish Agency for International Co-operation and Development (AECID), created in 1988 to manage Spanish policy on international cooperation and development. The AECID is an autonomous body under the aegis of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation through the State Secretariat for International Development Cooperation and for Ibero-America and the Caribbean.
The agency is responsible for the design, execution and management of projects and programmes of cooperation for development, either directly, using its own resources, or via cooperation with other domestic or international bodies and non-governmental development organisations. To this end, the Agency follows the guidelines of the Fifth Master Plan for Spanish Cooperation (2018-2021), focusing on three cross-cutting elements: gender perspective, environmental quality, and respect for cultural diversity, in accordance with the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that was adopted in 2015.