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August 29, 2023

FocusG20 India: ICOM advocates for the role of museums in preserving cultural heritage and shaping sustainable futures

ICOM was present at the 2023 G20 Culture Ministers Meeting on 26 August in Varanasi, India, to advocate for the contributions of museums in the protection and preservation of cultural heritage and in encouraging sustainable development.

ICOM’s advocacy work within the G20 Culture Working Group builds on its participation in the 2021 G20 Summit in Italy and the Rome Declaration, which both highlighted the power of culture and museums in addressing climate change and the generative importance of the digital transformation of the cultural sector.

Participants of the G20 Culture Ministerial Meeting adopted the Varanasi Declaration, which reaffirms the role of culture as a driver for sustainable development and as a common good of humanity,fostering resilience and the regeneration of economies and societies. The Declaration also highlights the importance of specialised international organisations, such as ICOM and ICOMOS, in the implementation of international standards for the protection of heritage and in reinforcing dialogue, solidarity and international cooperation.

ICOM President Emma Nardi, interim ICOM Director General Medea Ekner and ICOM Head of Heritage Protection Sophie Delepierre at the G20 Culture Working Group alongside Navin Piplani from  ICOMOS India, Nupur Prothi from ICOMOS and Joseph King from ICCROM.

As part of the preparatory work, the final meeting of the G20 Culture Working Group under the Indian presidency (24-25 August) included discussions regarding the protection and restitution of cultural property, the leveraging digital technologies for the protection and promotion of culture, and the safeguarding of living heritage for sustainable development. In particular, the Culture Working Group underscored the need to advance dialogue on the impact of digital transformation in the cultural sector and to strengthen international cooperation and awareness around protecting cultural heritage against looting and illicit trafficking.

© G20 Culture Working Group

“Improving the use of technology to protect and widen accessibility to cultural heritage is one of ICOM’s priorities, thereby ensuring the continuous use and interpretation of cultural heritage by present and future generations.”

Medea Ekner, ICOM Director General (interim)

Echoing the theme “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, or “One Earth, One Family, One Future”, chosen by the Indian Presidency, the Varanasi Declaration represents the strong commitment of the G20 Summit to harness culture as an enabler of mutual understanding, social cohesion, multilateral cooperation and sustainable development.

In her speech, ICOM President Emma Nardi reaffirmed the power of museums to support sustainable development and climate action across the globe and recalled the strong links between heritage protection and cultural rights. In particular, she called on all governments support their cultural institutions, including museums, as key players in the face of global challenges.

“Museums are drivers of sustainable development in practice. In the context of the G20 countries, which are focused on reducing carbon emissions, museums can play a significant role.”

Emma NARDI, ICOM President


About G20 Culture 

The G20 Culture Ministers met for the first time in 2020 and highlighted culture’s crosscutting contribution to advancing G20 agenda. Recognizing the synergies between culture and other policy areas, and considering the impact of culture, cultural heritage and the creative economy on the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development, culture was integrated into the G20 agenda as a Culture Working Group (CWG) in 2021” (see UNESCO page). The group aims to strengthen international cooperation and collaboration to support cultural and creative industries.

About G20 India (2023)

Under India’s G20 Presidency, the priority areas of focus for the Culture Working Group (CWG) are the following: (1) Protection and Restitution of Cultural Property; (2) Harnessing Living Heritage for a Sustainable Future; (3) Promotion of Cultural and Creative Industries and Creative Economy; (4) Leveraging Digital Technologies for the Protection and Promotion of Culture.