Every year on May 21, the world celebrates World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. Since its inception in 2005, the United Nations, through its Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has kept culture, diversity, and conversation at the forefront of civilization’s sustainable development.
The day itself is an international observance day that was first declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 and in practice became a “world day” in 2005. While organizations had been working on creating cultural diversity programs, the announcement of World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development was largely due to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA—many felt the need for global intercultural dialogue.
Not only does this day highlight the importance of global cultural celebration and acceptance, but it calls attention to the fact that culture and diversity are critical to sustainable development, the creation of positive change, and the essentiality of intercultural dialogue for achieving global peace and prosperity. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals listed by the United Nations asks the world to harness the power of creativity in diverse cultures to engage in a dialogue that promotes sustainable development, which in turn benefits all members of society.
Equally as vital to World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is the work of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. These initiatives are promoting long-term peaceful change through cultural celebration and acknowledgment.
UNESCO’s program aims to advance cultural diversity by:
- Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- Unifying culture and sustainable development.
- Supporting sustainable governmental culture initiatives.
- Achieving a balanced cultural economy: creating a solid flow of goods and services plus increasing the mobility of artists and cultural professionals.
The Impact of Cultural Diversity
The global impact of cultural diversity is seen on both the micro and macro-levels. Culture influences our direct families and communities by celebrating our differences and creating intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually fulfilling lives. Culture also effects the economy, sustainable development, and poverty reduction. The United Nations states that creative and cultural industries (CCI) contribute to 3% of the GDP to the global economy, which is roughly USD 2,250 billion and accounts for 29.5 million jobs worldwide.
COVID-19, Culture, and #stopasianhate
Just like the rest of the world, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected culture, diversity, and acceptance. Events have been canceled, museums and cultural institutions have been closed, and community celebratory occasions have been postponed. Artists have been unable to find work, and UNESCO World Heritage sites have also been completely shut or empty. Indeed, the pandemic’s global impact is social, economic, and political.
With the long-term ramifications of COVID-19 still widely unknown, there is a growing fear about the lack of cultural tourism. Without proper cash flow, these communities and cultures have been placed at risk of permanent closure as they have become inaccessible and underrepresented.
Also of significance is the #StopAsianHate movement, which is receiving widespread recognition in America and around the world. Since the start of the pandemic, Asian and Pacific Island Americans have been increasingly regarded by some as the source, cause, and problem for the COVID-19 outbreak and spread, which has been fueling hysteria as well as racist threats and attacks. Within the first three months of the virus outbreak, there were over 1,800 reported threats against Asians in America. Therefore, the #StopAsianHate movement is an excellent example of sustainable global development for the betterment of society. By working against biases, stereotypes, and misunderstandings, the movement is setting out to create a more positive environment based on respect, education, prosperity, and alliance.
What You Can Do: Join the Discussion
The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development invites everyone to join the discussion to promote and celebrate cultural diversity. You can do so by:
- Attending local community events: meeting new people within your community and learning about new cultures.
- Visiting and exploring exhibitions of various cultural groups and the formation of their identity.
- Checking out UNESCO’s digital World Heritage interactive exhibit.
- Understanding what it takes to manage a World Heritage site.
- Following seminars and programs for professionals, adults, teenagers, and children.