UNESCO food and culture forum dishes up fresh serving of SDGs

FAO/Ryanwil Baldovino A farmer transplants rice in a paddy field in the Philippines.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Strengthening cultural heritage and culture-related food practices boosts social inclusion, economic development and well-being, the UN’s deputy culture chief told participants at the UNESCO agency’s World Forum on the matter, on Friday.

“Cultural policies today provide innovative responses in areas such as inclusion, technical and vocational education, employment, the preservation of cultural heritage and biodiversity,” Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO, Ernesto Otonne, said.

Speaking to some 200 international participants gathered in Italy’s Parma for the gathering, entitled, “Culture and Food: Innovative Strategies for Sustainable Development,” Mr. Otonne stressed that cultural practices rooted in traditional and local knowledge systems related to food, are important markers of environmental sustainability.

He stressed that food, in addition to nourishing us, forms communities’ socioeconomic identities, in the way it’s cultivated, processed, and prepared—as summed up in the event’s promotional video: “Tell me what you eat, I will tell you who you are”.

The forum, organized by UNESCO in collaboration with Italian authorities, hosted five panels focusing on food in relation to cultural identity, socio-economic development, education and sustainability, biodiversity and food security, and also highlighted UNESCO’s Creative Cities of Gastronomy—a network of cities promoting cultural industries at the heart of development.

One of the ways some 26 “Creative Cities”, Parma included, are striving to be more sustainable, is through cuisine. Each has adopted innovative, locally-adapted strategies and projects, such as cultivating indigenous crops, supporting urban farming, organizing food festivals and training programmed to showcase the linkages between culture, community and environment.

In the Italian city of Parma, pasta is being created using processes dating back centuries. There are more industrialized ways of producing the Italian food staple, Mr. Otonne told UN News, but the city’s people are committed to old ways as a means of preserving tradition.

The Creative Cities of Gastronomy make up part of the larger “Creative Cities Network,” totaling 180, which integrate different creative approaches from architecture to literature, and beyond, in their development plans. View the complete list of participating cities  here.

The Forum concluded on Friday with the adoption of the Parma Declaration, which reaffirms the necessity of reinforcing culture and food links to biodiversity and heritage preservation, supports healthy nutrition, and improves food production and consumption.         

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