Wed. Nov 20th, 2019

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development: What you need to know

Cultural diversity south africaBridging the gap between cultures – along with acceptance and recognition for cultural diversity – is vital for peace, stability and development in South Africa, now more than ever before.

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World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is celebrated in South Africa annually on 21 May. The day is observed to promote diversity, as well as to highlight the importance of intercultural dialogue.

UNESCO declared it as an International day of observance in 2002, after adopting the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity’s resolution 57/249.

The day was created to bridge the gap between cultures as cohesion is vital for peace, development and stability. On an individual level, observance of the day can help deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity.

The goal of World Day for Cultural Diversity

According to UNESCO’s Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the four goals of the commemorative event are as follows:

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

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, explains the mission behind the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development:

“Diversity takes many forms, but the language is perhaps one of the first we encounter as social beings. Language is what defines our internal world just as much as it defines the way we communicate in the outside world. It is what connects us to our roots, our culture and history, but also to our communities and our families.”

Sharing a common heritage

In addition, Ambassador Idriss Jazairy drew attention to the common heritage we all share. He said exclusion and marginalisation of people only fuel xenophobia, bigotry and racism.

Furthermore, a lack of perspective for the future – and a lack of accountability and transparency – leads to intolerance and extremism. He adds:

“Tolerance needs to be considered as an act of liberation, in which the differences of others are accepted as the same as our own. Although all cultures have some specificities, which is precisely part of their richness, humanity in the 21st century is bound even closer together.”

South Africa’s rich and diverse culture

South Africa is known for its cultural and linguistic heritage. Let’s celebrate these – not only on World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development but throughout the year.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa protects freedom of cultural expression. And our country’s cultural diversity is embodied in its arts and culture.

Use the opportunity to promote culture and highlight the significance of its diversity as an agent of inclusion and positive change. There are various ways to do this, such as organising community events or leading discussions around the topic.

Suggestions for observing our cultural diversity

Work towards bridging the gap between cultures by valuing the experiences and perspectives of others. It’s hard to do, especially in our South African climate, but let’s all try not to be tone deaf and try to respect each other.

If you are short on ideas of how to partake, consider the following:

  • Invite people from different cultures, communities and religions to share your customs.
  • Undertake to visit a place of cultural importance, such as a museum or place of worship different than yours, and participate in the celebration and activities.
  • Also learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures.

We have one of the most diverse collections of cultures in the world. If you still feel a bit lost, start here:

Also read – Celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity on International Mother Language Day

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