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Statement on High-level Event on Culture and Sustainable Development

High-level Event on Culture and Sustainable Development

United Nations General Assembly

21 May 2021

Statement delivered by

H.E. Mr. Jörundur Valtýsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland


Mr President,


Culture and art are of high importance to every society, and Iceland is pleased to be able to participate in this event highlighting the importance of re-building the cultural sector focusing on sustainable practices. Now, more than ever, the power of culture can be a source of resilience, creativity, and social cohesion.


Iceland is firmly committed to protecting the world’s heritage – natural and cultural, tangible and intangible heritage, and underscores the importance of how it can play a significant role in peacebuilding and reconciliation processes, and contribute to inclusion and participation in society. UNESCO’s flagship initiative “Revive of the Spirit of Mosul” is a great example of that.


Cultural heritage can also contribute to COVID-19 relief and recovery, whereas it has been affected in different ways by the pandemic, at the same time as people are turning to culture for support. 


Climate change is one of the greatest threats to culture today. Culture can raise awareness to the complex challenges of climate change and be a resource for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The contribution of culture can also be important in areas of local development and sustainable post-pandemic urban design.


Creativity is essential in identifying new solutions to the climate crisis, and artists and cultural institutions play an important role in inspiring climate actions. It is therefore of great importance that we include environmental concerns into cultural policies as we build back better for a sustainable future.


Mr President,


The COVID-19 crisis has sharply exposed the structural fragility of the cultural sector, often operating on the margins of financial sustainability, and the importance of recovery strategies that focus on long-term viability.


The cultural sector has innovated rapidly in the recent years, especially when it comes to digital innovation. Many institutions have moved content online while facing lockdowns, and there is a need to address the digital skills shortages and improve digital access, widen innovation strategies and invest in digital infrastructure globally.


Iceland contributed to the Li Beirut project at UNESCO, supporting artists and cultural associations, with a shared training programme culminating with a public on-line cultural event today. The support also covers the restoration of endangered artworks by Lebanese artists, who will exhibit them again to the public as a message of hope.


We hope that Iceland’s contribution to UNESCO’s important work on the restoration and exhibitions in Beirut will stimulate further development in the city’s art and creative sphere and inject hope during reconstruction.


Contributing to the cultural sector is of utmost importance now as together, as a global community, we navigate our way through the global pandemic, and build back better, stronger, and sustainably.


I thank you Mr President.


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