The 2020 Rome Charter

Today, I am posting the central text of the 2020 Rome Charter, which has just two elements: a preamble and the cultural capabilities. It is deliberately simple, clear and direct, in the belief that cultural democracy begins when people can read and debate the basis of cultural policy. Over the next five days, I’ll post longer explanations about the five capabilities set out here, but you can find all the details of the Charter and the thinking behind it on the 2020 Rome Charter website.


We, the people, are the city. Through our beliefs, values and creative activities – our culture – we shape the city of stones and dreams. For better and for worse, it is the embodiment of our individual and shared imagination. Our city must support every inhabitant to develop their human potential and contribute to the communities of which all are part.

Culture is the expression of values, a common, renewable resource in which we meet one another, learn what can unite us and how to engage with differences in a shared space. Those differences exist within and between cultures. They must be acknowledged and engaged with. An inclusive, democratic, sustainable city enables that process, and is strengthened by it too. Culture is the creative workshop with which citizens can imagine responses to our common challenges. Sometimes it is a solution, sometimes it is how we discover other solutions.

The 2020 Rome Charter is published at a dark and uncertain time. The COVID-19 crisis shows that the current development models and their basic assumptions need to be rethought. It also shows that a real spirit of cultural democracy must shape the new models if they are to be inclusive and sustainable. The Charter is a promise to the people of Rome – and to all the world’s cities. Placing our common and living cultures at the centre of the definition of the new models will not be simple, but it is how we will recover and rebuild our lives, together.

Cultural capabilities

Public authorities, national and local governments, have legal duties in respect of participation in culture, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaties and conventions. Together with every player, they must put in place effective policies and adequate resources to meet those obligations, or their promises are mere rhetoric.

A city working towards cultural democracy fulfils its duty to support its inhabitants to:

  • DISCOVER cultural roots, so that they can recognise their heritage, identity and place in the city, as well as understand the contexts of others;
  • CREATE cultural expressions, so that they can be part of and enrich the life of the city;
  • SHARE cultures and creativity, so that social and democratic life is deepened by the exchange;
  • ENJOY the city’s cultural resources and spaces, so that all can be inspired, educated and refreshed;
  • PROTECT the city’s common cultural resources, so that all can benefit from them, today and in years to come.

The 2020 Rome Charter imagines a more inclusive, democratic and sustainable city. Its achievement is in the hands of all who live here.