The sustainable City of Lyon and the fourth Charter of Cultural Cooperation


Comprising 59 municipalities with almost 1.4 million people, the Metropolis of Lyon has 510,000 habitants and is located at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône rivers.

It is a meeting point of populations, with several historical and contemporary migration waves, as well as a good quality of life, a notable university presence and economically dynamic.

A city full of history and heritage, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site and an area of innovation, it has a dense and diversified cultural landscape.

Committed to the territorial rearrangement with respect to the French capital, it is faced with major urban, social and environmental challenges related to its development and the new budgetary constraints of the communities.

There are still strong social, economic, cultural, urban and environmental disparities between areas, which are potential sources of tensions and weaknesses.

For 40 years, Lyon and its metropolitan area have been involved in urban and social cohesion policies aimed at overcoming these territorial disparities and for 15 years in sustainable development strategies to confront the different contemporary challenges.

The main goal of the Charter is to deeply engage the public cultural service in building Lyon sustainable city.

Lyon and culture

"For an urban, human and sustainable culture"

Along with the conservation of heritage, citizen access to it has long been at the core of a so-called "cultural democratisation" policy framed within a context of notable intervention by the state.

The cultural landscape of Lyon has also been shaped by its local history linked to industry and trade: from printing to dissemination of knowledge, from silk to the fine arts, from the chemical industry to cinema.

It is characterised by:

  • a dense and diversified network: structured fields ranging from training to dissemination in the fields of dance, theatre, the visual arts, music, books and knowledge,
  • a firm commitment from the City Council: over €110 million, 20% of the municipal budget,
  • unifying events: Fête des Lumières (Light Festival), Nuits Sonores (Sound Night),...
  • meetings: European Lab, Heritage Workshops

In this context, the network of the "grands établissements culturels" (major cultural institutions) has a prevailing role and accounts for 95% of the public cultural budget.

This heritage is a shared asset but it must have its own revolution and contribute to the different challenges of the City.

An initiative born in the framework of the urban and social cohesion policies and undertaken with sustainable development policies

Moreover, Lyon has built a Sustainable Development Strategy, led politically and technically by all its units and departments. This strategy is organised along the following lines: 1. Solidarity, Social Cohesion, 2. Health, Environment. 3. Quietness, Prevention 4. Citizen participation, 5. Biodiversity, Green Areas, 6. Sustainable Economy, Sustainable Commissions, 7. Energy Control, 8. Mobility, 9. Childhood Education, 10. Personal Development, 11. Equality, Diversity, 12. People's Education, Training, 13. Employment, Insertion.

The Cultural Cooperation Charter is based on a programme of 8 issues that make the sustainable city quite in keeping with the approaches proposed by Culture 21: Actions, approved as one of the frames of reference for the local work of cultural cooperation by the Municipal Board in July 2017.

It is possible to establish a correspondence between the Culture 21 and the Cultural Cooperation Charter approaches.

Culture 21 Actions Cultural Cooperation Charter
Lyon Sustainable City
Culture, Urban Planning and Public Space The Balanced City
Culture, Equity and Social Inclusion The City of Equality
  The Socially-Spirited and Inclusive City
Cultural Governance The Participatory City
Heritage, Diversity and Creativity The City of Heritages
Culture and Education The Learning City
Culture, Information and Knowledge  
Culture and Environment The Gentle City
Culture and Economy The Creative City

The reference to cultural rights does not appear explicitly in the Cultural Cooperation text adopted by the City Council. However, it appears in the framework of the City Council Policy. It is widely disseminated, particularly with the visits of Patrice Meyer-Bisch to the area for different reasons.

The 8 work lines of the Cultural Cooperation Charter are a reinterpretation and operational adaptation for the cultural agents of the municipal global strategy concerning sustainable development.

The contributions of the Cultural Cooperation Charter are presented according to these 13 Objectives in the framework of a City Council's annual report on its sustainable development.

The global approach of the City of Lyon, as a large European centre city, is in keeping with most of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The Charter is based on a programme of 8 issues that make the Sustainable City quite in keeping with the approaches proposed by Culture 21 Actions.

Goals and implementation of the project

Main objective and specific goals

Deeply engaging the public cultural service in building Lyon Sustainable City is the general objective of this 4th Cultural Cooperation Charter.

27 institutions, events or services of Lyon, municipally run or supported to a large extent by the City Council but also other institutions and the state will contribute, without additional public resources, to building the Sustainable City.

This policy and operation brings together all the commitments of all the cross-over policies: urban balance and solidarity, citizen participation, policies of equality and fight against discrimination, memory and diversity, education and sharing of knowledge, energy control and eco-responsibility, innovation.

Development of the project

Main actions carried out

The 4th Cultural Cooperation Charter is the result of more than 20 years of work within the framework of the "city policy", a public device of social and urban development aimed at the areas of in difficulties.

The approach by areas was rapidly complemented with thematic approaches: memory and identity, particularly issued from migrations, the recognition of hip hop cultures, and social and economic insertion through culture.

In 2004, the 1st Cultural Cooperation Charter aimed at engaging the major cultural institutions in urban and social issues.

19 signatories joined the movement and there are now 27, accounting for 99% of the public cultural budget in Lyon.

In 2010 the cultural cooperation community organised a conference to reflect on sustainable development issues. Since 2011, cultural actors have formed part of the municipal spaces of reflection based on the sustainable development of the area. A global strategy and indicators and, later, from 2012, a first annual report on the situation of the city in terms of sustainable development were produced.

The 4th Cultural Cooperation Charter enables the convergence of the different sustainable development expectations of the area.

Eight work themes structure the approach. Proposed by the cultural cooperation community, they often match local or national programmes.

27 organisations linked to the City Council are committed to 300 points in these 8 working lines.

This approach makes explicit reference to the programme "Culture 21: Actions" in the framework of a declaration approved by the Municipal Board in July 2017.

Building the Sustainable City means building:

  • The Balanced City (mandatory): by committing to the priority areas that account for 17% of Lyon's population, and those in urban renewal.
    Sub-programme/Actions: Preparation of Local Cultural Projects, Arts Residency Programmes of support to urban renewal, Territorialisation of the projects and services…
  • The Socially-Spirited and Inclusive City: by committing to vulnerable people, in process of socioeconomic insertion, both youths and senior citizens.
    Sub-programme/Actions: City Policy, section on Culture signed by the City Council, the Metropolitan area, the Region and the State; Culture Insertion Mission.
  • The Participatory City: by encouraging collaborative spaces of debate, decision-making and assessment: territorial and thematic arts boards, community days; by providing information. By supporting citizen initiatives, proposing projects in which everyone can find their place if so they wish.
    Sub-programme/Actions: Arts Board by area, Themed Boards (gender equality, accessibility...), Conference "Nos Cultures de la Ville", Calls for projects, Neighbourhood Boards, Participatory projects: "Défilé", "Veduta", "Babel 8.3", "Variations citoyennes"…
  • The City of Equality (mandatory): of gender equality, accessible to disabled people, committedd to taking into account diversity, the fight against discrimination, intercultural dialogue.
    Sub-programme/Actions: "Journées du Matrimoine" (Heritage days from a female perspective); Production of gendered data; Human resources applied to target groups management and programming by arts facilities; Public communication without discrimination; Technical equipment – soundtracks, subtitling,… – and specific mediations,… Training days on cultural rights, secularity, history of religions, understanding of indoctrination processes…
  • The City of Heritages: which recognises, promotes and puts into dialogue the heritages and memories, and creates the conditions to understand the contemporary challenges.
    Sub-programme/Actions: Focus by areas of the European Heritage Days, Work on heritage from a female perspective, Sound atlases of music and sung practices, Work on the mother tongs…
  • The Learning City: in and outside school, committed to artistic education, in partnership with the people's education actors, which recognises and shares information and knowledge with everyone.
    Sub-programme/Actions: Space of joint work between cultural mediators and socio-education leaders. Cultural actions in the framework of the curricular and extracurricular times…
  • The Gentle City: green and eco-responsible, sober, of creative mobility and health.
    Sub-programme/Actions: Smartphone app Enforme@lyon, Route of fresh sites in the City, Thematic urban walks, Art/vegetal intervention, eco-conception of sceneries.
  • The Creative and Innovative City: involved in the digital world and the new media, and weaving links between culture and sport.
    Sub-programme/Actions: Digital public spaces, Closer analysis of the contents of the social networks, FabLab, European Lab, Arts residency programmes in the football clubs …

This policy and operation brings together all the commitments of all the cross-over policies of the city.

An annual qualitative and quantitative monitoring, ensured by the Unit of Cultural Cooperation, Directorate of Cultural Affairs at Lyon City Council, enables measuring and accounting for initiatives and progress, and contributes to the drafting of reports on sustainable development, gender equality and accessibility of the city.


Direct impacts

Impacts on the local government

  • Shared feeling of public action for a harmonious development of the city
  • Better capacity for reaction and resilience faced with extreme situations
  • Greater internal culture of gender equality and diversity
  • Cross-over approach to the technical and policy levels
  • Evolution of the assessment programmes and tools
  • Territorialisation and closeness of public action
  • Greater joint construction of the action
  • Better knowledge of the area and the needs of the citizens
  • Better accountability of diversity
  • Development of participatory democracy
  • Development of the approach at a metropolitan level
  • Extension of the scope of work of the sustainable development policies 
  • To serve as an example at a national level 

Impact on culture and local cultural stakeholders

  • Questioning of the internal practices in terms of gender equality and portrayal of diversity
  • Better knowledge of the area and of the needs and cultural practices of its residents
  • Engagement of cultural agents in cooperation approaches to the projects
  • Development of cultural services in relation to cultural provision
  • Strengthening of the assessment practices of the cultural policy 
  • Better link between cultural institutions and the other cultural agents
  • Development of "hybridised" cultural projects with the urban, social, educational and economic fields

Extended impact on the city or on territory, and its population

For the city:

  • Joint professional culture under construction with the other municipalities in the metropolitan area
  • Prevention of urban, social, environmental and security risks
  • New approach to cultural policies
  • Reduction of disparities
  • Greater social cohesion
  • More participatory

For the residents:

  • Greater participation
  • Mobility
  • Recognition and promotion of the practices, particularly for people with immigrant backgrounds
  • Increase and adaptation of the cultural services to their needs

For the priority areas:

  • Strengthened presence of the public services and arts teams
  • Greater integration of the neighbourhoods into the rest of the city
  • Better quality of life framework (art, green spaces)
  • Promotion of the image
  • Implementation of service activities
  • Increase and diversification of the cultural provision within the areas

The 4th Cultural Cooperation Charter is a multiannual commitment between the State, Lyon City Council and the 27 signatory institutions and is expected to last beyond 2020.


The monitoring aEvnd assessment process was defined between the signatory parties of the Charter:

  • Indicators of the "full-time equivalents" devoted to mediation in each signatory institution. It is explained every three years.
  • Indicator of the effort made in terms of schools and social centres of the priority areas.
    A geolocalisation is produced every three years.
  • Indicator of the financial means allocated to the programme by each institution using its own budget. It is explained every three years.
  • The actions implemented and results are presented and debated: on the arts boards of the neighbourhoods concerned, with all the signatory parties and with all the stakeholders within the framework of the annual reflection days.
  • External audits on the issues of Equality, Diversity and Energy in the framework of the labels "Diversité" and "Cit’ergie" granted to the City.

Key factors

The main key factors for the success of the programme could be the following:

  • Time: the process lasted for 15 years.
  • A local culture of commitment and alliance.
  • A pragmatic approach, with some balance between technique and policy, and based on experienced and identified situations.
  • Project approach: shared diagnosis, preparation of common priority lines of action, collective mobilisation of resources and know-how.
  • Shared expertise and cross-over approaches.
  • Diversity of the actors at play in the process.
  • Important place attached to sharing information and training.
  • Multiannual contractual work frameworks linking the different levels of the administration and the state.
  • Confrontation of the local approach to those from other French, European or world cities through participation in these networks.


The 4th Cultural Cooperation Charter is a multiannual commitment between the state, Lyon City Council and the 27 signatory institutions. This programme is expected to last until the year 2020.

The actions developed in the framework of this programme are based on the budgets of ordinary law of the signatory parties, on behalf of the missions of public services.

The Cultural Cooperation Unit, within the Directorate of Cultural Affairs of Lyon City Council, drives the whole of the programme. It was created in 2016 and it is a permanent unit within the organisational chart of the City Council beyond 2020.

This dynamic is implemented at the level of the metropolitan area Lyon with a first work framework that will also continue until 2020. The trend is towards a strengthening of this policy and this programme beyond 2020.

Additional information

Lyon was a candidate for the third "UCLG Mexico City – Culture 21 International Award" (November 2017 – May 2018). The jury for the award drew up its final report in June of 2018, and requested that the Committee on Culture promote this project as one of the good practices to be implemented through Agenda 21 for culture.

This article was written by Marc Villarubias, Director of the Mission on Cultural Cooperation, Lyon, France.

Contact: marc.villarubias (at)


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