The World Day for Cultural Diversity (Diversity Day) was declared by UNESCO in 2002 to mark an essential but often unrealized truth: that the appreciation of cultural diversity is key to peace, equality, and economic development. In 2005 in conjunction with Diversity Day, UNESCO also adopted four goals for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions:
- 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
Diversity Day both celebrates the world’s cultures and issues a challenge; three-quarters of the world’s conflicts have a cultural dimension, and meaningful dialog among cultures, which Diversity Day promotes, will decrease these conflicts.
Since reducing world conflicts requires stepping outside one’s social location, on Diversity Day people across the globe participate in the traditions of other cultures and share their own cultural heritage with others. To promote these connections across difference, corporations, schools, churches, and government organizations the world over plan programs that encourage the exchange of stories and cuisine, the performance of art form and rituals, and the communication of values and faith/wisdom traditions.
UNESCO’s institution of the World Day for Cultural Diversity has helped to elevate the importance of intercultural dialogue, naming diversity as both urgent and necessary; diversity is a crucial factor in turning war into peace, poverty into development, isolationism into internationalism, and failure into success.
Diversity also has an impact on social and economic institutions. For example, in the U.S., corporations and schools have embraced the necessity of better reflecting the country’s various cultures and races. Despite initial worries about increased conflict, businesses in the U.S. have found that racially and ethnically diverse teams, linguistically diverse teams, and gender diverse teams have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line. In the education sector, diversity in the faculty and student body is recognized as a pre-condition to academic excellence.
To Name This Day…
Take One Step: The world campaign “Do One Thing for Diversity and Inclusion” provides this list of concrete steps to take on Diversity Day:
- Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures.
- Learn about another religion.
- Plan an international movie night.
- Listen to a musical tradition from a different culture.
- Play a sport related to a different culture (Karate, Criquet, Pétanque…)
- Invite a friend over and cook traditional food.
- Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures.
- Volunteer with an organization working for diversity and inclusion.
- Learn another language.
- Spread the word around you, family, friends and invite people from a different culture to share your customs.
Make a Commitment: What could you do today that you could also do every day? What habit could you add or change in your daily routine that would bring different cultures into deeper dialogue either directly or indirectly? This could be as simple as saying “hi” to a neighbor or a cashier who looks down or away as you cross paths, or inviting someone new to have lunch with you. It could involved researching one new cultural form a day on the Internet and sharing your interest with a friend or via social media.
Take an Inventory: What differences are represented around your table, at your meetings and social engagements, and in your clubs, volunteer organizations, and sacred spaces? How can you be a part of promoting greater diversity in these settings? Or, if your spaces are already diverse, how can you be a part of promoting deeper dialogue that will strengthen the personal ties that sustain diversity?