The international community first addressed the concept of sustainability in the Brundtland Report Our Common Future, commissioned by the UN and published in 1987.
In 2015, both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement were adopted. Even with these measures, the world’s population is currently consuming the equivalent of 1.6 planets a year – a state of affairs that cannot continue. The nature of this global challenge requires a collective response across all sectors and scales.
As representative of the global museum community, the vision of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) is a world where the importance of natural and cultural heritage is universally valued. Today, more than ever, museums face unique challenges related to social, economic, and ecological issues. While serving as witnesses of the past and guardians of humanity’s treasures for future generations, museums play a key role in development through education and democratisation.
In this context, ICOM has established a Working Group on Sustainability. The Working Group’s mission is to help ICOM consider how to mainstream Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement across its range of activities, and to support its members and member museums to contribute constructively in upholding the Sustainable Development Goals and towards climate change adaptation and mitigations.
Museums offer an existing global infrastructure. They are uniquely placed to facilitate collective action by building networks, raising public awareness, and supporting research and knowledge creation. They can enhance sustainability and climate change education by working with and empowering communities to bring about change to ensure an habitable planet, social justice and equitable economic exchanges for the long term.
“The Working Group’s mission is to help ICOM consider how to mainstream Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement and to support its members to contribute constructively in upholding the SDGs”
Chaired by Morien Rees (Varanger Museum, Oslo, Norway), the working group is composed of members from various regions of the world who have been actively committed to addressing these issues in the museum and cultural heritage sectors. They will be guided by the principles of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, both adopted in 2015, and the three related moral imperatives: satisfying human needs, ensuring social justice and respecting environmental limits.
The ICOM Working Group on Sustainability will consider different approaches to aspects of sustainability. It will consider the museums’ potential roles in cross-sectorial sustainability initiatives: through their collections, as information resources, as communicators, as educators, as facilitators, as activists and advocates, and as users of natural resources.
The Working Group is expected to deliver its recommendations in 2019, at the 25th ICOM Triennial Conference which will take place in Kyoto, Japan.