Tuesday, May 21, 2019
On 21 May, cultural diversity is celebrated as a means of providing new perspectives for sustainable development and promoting creative industry resources for millions of jobs worldwide — particularly for youth and women. In the picture: A view of participants in the General Assembly Hall during the opening ceremony of the Fifteenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Intercultural Dialogue

Equitable exchange and dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based on mutual understanding and respect and the equal dignity of all cultures is the essential prerequisite for constructing social cohesion, reconciliation among peoples and peace among nations.

This action is part of the global framework of an Alliance of Civilizations launched by the United Nations. More specifically, within the larger framework of intercultural dialogue, which also encompasses interreligious dialogue, special focus is placed on a series of good practices to encourage cultural pluralism at the local, regional and national level as well as regional and sub-regional initiatives aimed at discouraging all expressions of extremism and fanaticism and highlighting values and principles that bring people together.

Interreligious Dialogue

UNESCO’s Interreligious Dialogue programme, an essential component of Intercultural Dialogue, aims to promote dialogue among different religions, spiritual and humanistic traditions in a world where conflicts are increasingly associated with religious belonging.

It stresses the reciprocal interactions and influences between, on the one hand, religions, spiritual and humanistic traditions, and on the other, the need to promote understanding between them in order to challenge ignorance and prejudices and foster mutual respect.

Learning the art of dialogue is both a personal and social process. Developing one’s skills and capacity for dialogue implies a willingness to be open while retaining one’s critical judgment. Dialogue concerns us all: from decision-makers and leaders to individuals within each community. Alongside relevant international conferences to raise awareness, UNESCO strives to promote grass-root activities, particularly in sensitive geo-strategical areas that reach target-populations such as women, youth and marginalized populations.

Culture and Development

Placing culture at the heart of development policy constitutes an essential investment in the world's future and a pre-condition to successful globalization processes that take into account the principles of cultural diversity.

Development is inseparable from culture. In this regard, the major challenge is to convince political decision-makers and local, national and international social actors to integrating the principles of cultural diversity and the values of cultural pluralism into all public policies, mechanisms and practices, particularly through public/private partnerships.

The aim is, on the one hand, to incorporate culture into all development policies, be they related to education, science, communication, health, environment or cultural tourism and, on the other hand, to support the development of the cultural sector through creative industries. By contributing in this way to poverty alleviation, culture offers important benefits in terms of social cohesion.

Why does cultural diversity matter?

Members of Mongolia’s National Academic Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance perform at the 2011 UN Day Concert,
under the theme “Celebrating Cultural Diversity.” UN Photo/Ryan Brown.

Three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability and development.

Cultural diversity is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life. This is captured in the seven culture conventions, which provide a solid basis for the promotion of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is thus an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development.

At the same time, acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity – in particular through innovative use of media and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) – are conducive to dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding.

In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and in December 2002, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution 57/249, declared May 21 to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to advance the four goals of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted on 20 October 2005:

  1. Support sustainable systems of governance for culture
  2. Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase mobility of artists and cultural professionals
  3. Integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks
  4. Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Picture: ONU/Devra Berkowitz.

Others International Days of observance in May

22 May: International Day for Biological Diversity stresses the theme “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health.” In so doing it recognizes that biodiversity is the foundation for life and for the essential services provided by ecosystems.

23 May: End Obstetric Fistula Day is meant to significantly raise awareness and intensify actions towards ending obstetric fistula. Sufferers often endure depression, social isolation and deepening poverty. 24 May—Fourth Anniversary of Laudato Sí and Global Student Strike to Protest Climate Change and Government Inaction.

29 May: International Day of UN Peacekeepers honors the more than one million men and women who have served under the UN flag with care and courage since 1948. More than 3,400 have lost their lives in service. Click here for a listing of the international days for the year.