Dialogue and cultural diversity

According to the United Nations, three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Given this reality, the bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability and development.
Every year, UNESCO celebrates World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
That day provides all Nations and all peoples with an opportunity to deepen 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; these point specifically to the Support of sustainable systems of governance for culture, achieving a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase mobility of artists and cultural professionals, integration culture in sustainable development frameworks and the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
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 seven 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.
Governments in plural societies much like Guyana have been making strides in keeping with the goals of the UNESCO Convention. In Brazil, for example, they have initiated a move to unite against religious intolerance. Launched in January 2017, the report ‘Religious Intolerance in Brazil’ will be used to monitor and tackle discrimination. “Worldwide, there is a growing wave of intolerance and restrictions imposed on the exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief,” said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed.
In her message to mark the occasion, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, emphasised on the need to protect the different forms of cultural expression –languages, arts, crafts, lifestyles – especially those of minority peoples, so that they are not swept away by the movement of standardisation that accompanies globalization. These she said, are essential elements for defining individual and collective identities and, as such, their protection falls under the respect for human dignity, and invites Governments and citizens to go beyond the acknowledgement of diversity and to recognize the benefits of cultural pluralism, regarded as an ethical and political principle of equal respect for cultural identities and traditions.
“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the culture of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible.” With this imagery, Mahatma Gandhi was suggesting that culture is not a heritage set in stone, but one that is living and breathing, open to influences and dialogue, allowing us to adapt more peacefully to the changes in the world,” she stated.
Placing culture at the heart of development policy constitutes an essential investment in the world’s future and a pre-condition to successful globalization processes that take into account the principles of cultural diversity. Development is inseparable from culture. In this regard, the major challenge is to convince political decision-makers and local, national and international social actors to integrate the principles of cultural diversity and the values of cultural pluralism into all public policies, mechanisms and practices, particularly through public/private partnerships. The aim is, on the one hand, to incorporate culture into all development policies, be they related to education, science, communication, health, environment or cultural tourism and, on the other hand, to support the development of the cultural sector through creative industries. By contributing in this way to poverty alleviation, culture offers important benefits in terms of social cohesion.
Each county, including Guyana, must accept that equitable exchange and dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based on mutual understanding and respect and the equal dignity of all cultures is the essential prerequisite for constructing cohesion, reconciliation among peoples and peace among nations.