World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development: May 21

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Friday, May 21, 2021
The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development celebrates cultural diversity as a means of providing new perspectives for sustainable development acknowledging further the natural and cultural diversity of the world and promoting dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding.
[United Nations]

Illustration of hands (left): ©UNESCO Almaty. Photo (right): ©UNESCO/Venuca Evanan, Violeta Quispe and Gaudencia Yupari.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Cultural Sector

Cultural events cancelled, cultural institutions closed, community cultural practices suspended, empty UNESCO World Heritage sites, heightened risk of looting of cultural sites and poaching at natural sites, artists unable to make ends meet and the cultural tourism sector greatly affected… The impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector is being felt around the world. This impact is social, economic and political – it affects the fundamental right of access to culture, the social rights of artists and creative professionals, and the protection of a diversity of cultural expressions.

The unfolding crisis risks deepening inequalities and rendering communities vulnerable. In addition, the creative and cultural industries (CCI) contribute US$2,250bn to the global economy (3% of GDP) and account for 29.5 million jobs worldwide. The economic fall-out of not addressing the cultural sector - and all auxiliary services, particularly in the tourism sector - could also be disastrous.

Protecting the diversity of cultural expressions is more important than ever

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and magnified the creative industries’ pre-existing volatility. Due to the complex nature of their work, cultural professionals are particularly affected and lockdown measures around the world directly impact the entire creative value chain.

UNESCO has launched a page that aims to serve as a reference for those seeking to draw inspiration from best practices in the development of appropriate responses adapted to national contexts. UNESCO has also launched a weekly "Culture & COVID-19: Impact and Response Tracker" to provide an overview of the rapidly evolving situation.

Why does cultural diversity matter?

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 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.

Origin and purpose

In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. and in 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, and in 2015, the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development A/C.2/70/L.59, affirming culture’s contribution to the three dimensions of sustainable development, acknowledging further the natural and cultural diversity of the world, and recognizing that cultures and civilizations can contribute to, and are crucial enablers of, sustainable 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:

  • Support sustainable systems of governance for culture
  • Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase mobility of artists and cultural professionals
  • Integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks
  • Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms

[United Nations]