Museums have no borders,
they have a network



Museums are perfectly positioned to address and enhance sustainability as they are able to work with communities to raise public awareness, support research and knowledge creation to contribute to the well-being of the planet and societies for future generations.

The term sustainability also applies to the health of museums themselves in order to be able to carry out their core missions and position themselves as vital societal agents. 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. ICOM strives to ensure that sustainability –through all its forms: social, economic and environmental- is included in its mission and values, as well as in specific activities.



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. In this context, and to contribute constructively to the discussions on Sustainability, ICOM has established a Working Group on Sustainability (WGS) in September 2018. Their mission is to help ICOM consider how to mainstream sustainability, both within ICOM and for its individual and institutional members. They are also examining the role of a possible International Committee on Sustainability.

WGS Press Release

Plenary Video ICOM Kyoto 2019 

President’s statement

On September 7, 2019 the 34th General Assembly of ICOM held in Kyoto, Japan, adopted the following two resolutions on sustainability :

  1. On sustainability and the implementation of Agenda 2030, Transforming our World
  2. Museums, Communities and Sustainability

You can find the full text of the Resolutions below:

34th General Assemby Resolutions


In December 2018, ICOM and OECD joined forces to launch Culture and Local Development: Maximising the Impact – Guide for Local Governments, Communities and Museums, introduced in Venice by ICOM’s Director General Peter Keller and OECD’s Secretary General Angel Gurria.

This joint instrument aims at supporting and inspiring local government representatives, museums and civil society organisations to find innovative ways and jointly define a local development agenda that promotes a more sustainable future.

After further improvements to the content, ICOM and the OECD have completed the final version of the Guide and it was presented at the ICOM-OECD panel session on Local Development and Museums during ICOM’s 25th General Conference in Kyoto.

Download the Guide (English version)

Please download the flyer for more information and to discover how you can contribute to this initiative: Hyperlink to the flyer.



Launched in October 2016, “EU-LAC-MUSEUMS: Museums and Community: Concepts, Experiences, and Sustainability in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean” is a research project aiming at providing a better understanding of the cultural, scientific and social dimension of the relationship between the EU and LAC, approached from the perspective of community museology.

To address this challenge, EU-LAC-MUSEUMS assembles a team of leading academics, museum professionals and policy makers working in Scotland, Portugal, Spain, France, Peru, Chile, Costa Rica and the West Indies, coordinated by the University of St Andrews in Scotland. The project, which runs until 2020, was conceived under the auspices of ICOM and funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme under the Call INT12 (2015) “The cultural, scientific and social dimension of EU-LAC relations.”

“Societal challenges can lead to opportunities if approached in the right way. Europe is currently undergoing a crisis of identity, seeking to define its past, present, and future position in relation to the wider world, and to consolidate regional cohesion across generations within a wider, global knowledge economy. EU-LAC-MUSEUMS, ICOM Europe and ICOM LAC are committed to the idea that fostering inter-cultural dialogue and creativity through their regional and community museums is fundamental to this process.” (Dr Karen Brown, EU-LAC-MUSEUMS Project Coordinator).



Sustainability is a transversal topic which imbues many activities developed by the ICOM network, while National and International Committees have led actions which are specifically dedicated to sustainable development.

In 2018, ICOM-ASPAC’s annual meeting was on the theme of ‘Cultural Heritage for a Sustainable Future—Natural Disasters and Museums’ while ICOM Georgia, in partnership with ICOM Europe, organised an International Forum and Regional Workshop on ‘Museums for the Sustainable Development of the Society’. ICOM Switzerland centred its annual conference, co-organised with the Swiss Museums Association in Lausanne, around the theme of ‘Sustainable Development’, and devoted issue no. 13 of its journal,, to the same topic.

As another example, among other activities, ICOM-NATHIST has created the “Working Groupon the Anthropocene” in 2018 and has developed “Platform 2022”, a partnership between NATHIST, The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums and Botanic Gardens International. Created in response to the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, the initiative encourages the world’s governments to use the sound science provided by collecting institutions when making decisions around sustainable development.