Three women wearing masks made of traditional cloth designs pose for a photo as one of them displays artwork in her hand.
Photo: Illustration of hands (left): ©UNESCO Almaty. Photo (right): ©UNESCO/Venuca Evanan, Violeta Quispe and Gaudencia Yupari.

Protecting the diversity of cultural expressions is more important than ever

Held every year on 21 May, UNESCO leads the celebration of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development highlighting not only the richness of the world’s cultures, but also the essential role of intercultural dialogue for achieving peace and sustainable development.

The pandemic has proven the intrinsic value of the cultural and creative sector at generating social cohesion, educational resource or personal well-being in times of crisis. It has also undermined the sector’s potential to generate economic growth, something which is too often underestimated. The cultural sector accounts for 3.1% of global GDP and 6.2% of all employment.

Culture and Sustainable Development

With the adoption in September 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations, and the resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 , the message of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is more important than ever. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can best be achieved by drawing upon the creative potential of the world’s diverse cultures and engaging in continuous dialogue to ensure that all members of society benefit from sustainable development.

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. Next, 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

 

28 to 30 September 2022
Mexico City

Through the World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development – MONDIACULT 2022, UNESCO is reinvesting in the global policy dialogue in the field of culture, building on its mandate and expertise to foster multilateral cooperation and policy dialogue as a follow-up to its landmark conferences on cultural policies.

Development assistance devoted to culture and recreation is on the decline and although the flow of cultural goods and services globally continues to rise, there has been very little progress in addressing the vast disparity between developed and developing countries. Very strong inequalities also persist in the cultural and creative sectors, like those faced by many women.

people of all backgrounds in grid formation against a white background

2022 marks the end of the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures, which seeks to promote mutual understanding and reciprocal knowledge of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity.

illustration of people with clock, calendar, to-do list and decorations

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.