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World Day for Cultural Diversity
for Dialogue and Development
21 May

Message from the Director-General of UNESCO

Our cultural diversity is the common heritage of humanity. It is a source of renewal of ideas and societies, through which we open up to others and craft new ways of thinking. This diversity provides opportunities for peace and sustainable development.

In the final push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, UNESCO is continuing to strengthen its advocacy and action in favour of the link between culture and sustainable development. The resolution adopted in December 2013 by the United Nations General Assembly, recognizing the role of culture as a driver and enabler of sustainable development, is an invitation to further mobilize the potential of cultural diversity. This diversity is a valuable resource for attaining development goals, including fighting poverty and promoting gender equality, quality education and human rights, and we must fully integrate it into the global strategies for sustainable development.

The United Nations Creative Economy Report 2013, co-published by UNESCO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), confirms that the creative economy is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the world. Figures show that world trade in creative goods and services totalled a record $624 billion in 2011 and that it more than doubled from 2002 to 2011. From audio-visual design to production, performing arts to new media, publishing to the visual arts, our cultural diversity is a creative diversity. It is a source of employment and income, conveying identities and collective benchmarks, contributing to social cohesion and self-esteem in our globalized world.

The greatest strength of cultural goods and services lies in their dual, economic and cultural nature. This specificity offers a response to the growing demands for more integrated policies, capable of addressing the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. Culture is not a commodity like any other, and this principle, which is internationally recognized by the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted in 2005, is a guiding principle for forging more innovative and sustainable development strategies.

We have entered a new age of limits – in terms of resources, in terms of the planet – and our response must be to unleash our most powerful renewable resource, human intelligence and creativity. Our cultural diversity is a stimulator of creativity. Investing in this creativity can transform societies. It is our responsibility to develop education and intercultural skills in young people to sustain the diversity of our world and to learn to live together in the diversity of our languages, cultures and religions, to bring about change.

Today, I call on Member States of UNESCO to carry this message to the highest level, to include culture and cultural diversity in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. We must make culture a priority now.

Irina Bokova

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