The metro-area municipality of Zapopan became the first in Mexico to sign a declaration with UNESCO (International Declaration UNESCO-Zapopan 2018) dedicated to “cultural policies for the sustainable construction and development of metropolitan communities.”
The manifesto is the culmination of four conferences held in 2017 between UNESCO officials and Zapopan academics, as well as various representatives from civil societies and the business community.
“Why not change the mentality of our politicians and society through investment in public policy, such as that which we just finished hammering out?” Zapopan Mayor Pablo Lemus asked at a recent ceremony. “Culture is the future of this city, of this state, and of this country.”
The selection of Zapopan by UNESCO is being seen, at least by Lemus, as a sign that the United Nations cultural organization sees the city as a beacon of hope in Mexico, a country perceived abroad as hopelessly mired in a quagmire of corruption and violence.
“‘Zapopan, City of Children’ isn’t a cheap publicity slogan; it’s policy for which we’ve budgeted many social programs,” continued Lemus. “Above all, it represents our intention to be a positive example not only here in Jalisco, but on a national level.”
The UNESCO-Zapopan declaration was divided into eight points of action, which are as follows:
1) Design municipal policy that encourages creativity and development.
2) Make municipal cultural institutions bridges of communication between supply and demand.
3) Map out and define common cultural patrimony.
4) Consider social equality and cultural diversity a civic priority.
5) Fortify and demonstrate the contributions of culture for the realization of the Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030 on a municipal level.
6) Analyze how cultural undertakings contribute to the well-being of the community.
7) Be able to foster innovation in urban culture and successfully deal with social challenges.
8) Socially assess and manage talent.
The eighth point of action refers to a U.N. initiative adopted in 2015, an ambitious program with roughly 17 “sustainable development goals” which theoretically cover over 169 different issues in the areas of economic and social development, and environmental protection. At the core of the Agenda is the eradication of poverty, which, as the full title of the initiative implies, the U.N. is hoping to achieve by 2030.
“For us it’s very much a privilege [signing the agreement], because in Mexico when you talk about UNESCO, culture and international cooperation you don’t really need to explain much,” said Nuria Sanz Gallego, director of UNESCO’s Mexico office. “This facilitates our job and makes possible that here in a place as amazing as Zapopan we can hear a collective voice – the voice of the international community.”
The declaration having been signed, it will now be put before Zapopan’s council, which will consider how to transform the document into meaningful, impactful policy, which in turn may inspire other municipalities around the country to follow their example.