As cultural diversity is presently at the focus of international cultural discussions, this issue's Dossier is devoted to the same topic, more precisely to two conferences held on this topic in October 2003 in Opatija, Croatia: the Fourth Annual Conference of the International Network on Cultural Diversity entitled Advancing Cultural Diversity Globally: The Role of Civil Society Movements and the Sixth Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy. The 32nd session of UNESCO's General Conference, held between 29 September and 17 October 2003, was also guided by the theme of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity, which was discussed within the framework of the Major Programme IV - Culture, also found its way into other programmes, ranging from the Ministerial Round Table Meeting Towards Knowledge Societies to the speech of French President Jacques Chirac, delivered before the representatives of 190 UNESCO member states, testifying to the awareness of the international community that cultural diversity represents the leading challenge of our times. All member states agreed that cultural diversity is the most valuable cultural heritage of humanity, that it ought to be protected, safeguarded and further developed to contribute to stability and sustainable development. A general consensus was reached regarding the understanding of globalization as a chance for everyone, stressing its positive aspects in strengthening intercultural dialogue and in opening up towards other cultures. The linking of education and cultural diversity (in school programmes), the recognition of linguistic diversity, the interdependence between biodiversity and cultural diversity, the role of the youth in promoting cultural diversity, cultural diversity as a guarantee of dialogue - these were the themes common to many interventions.
The discussions especially centered around a future international convention on cultural diversity, more specifically around the desirability of a standard-setting instrument on cultural diversity, and the observations made by the Executive Board in that regard. The question of cultural diversity as regards the protection of the diversity of cultural contents and artistic expressions shall be the subject of an international convention: the first draft of this convention will be submitted to the General Conference at its 33rd session in 2005.
This decision was judged to be a historic act, which may also be the reason behind the fact that another important undertaking remained "in its shadow" - namely, the adoption of the International Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was preceded by a long work process, ranging back, one might say, even to UNESCO's General Conference held in Mexico in 1982, when the concept of intangible heritage was first introduced. This signifies that oral traditions and expressions, including language, social practices, practical knowledge and practices in traditional crafts, are now guarded by an international legal instrument for the protection of intangible heritage through international cooperation: the Convention states that "the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is of general interest to humanity" (see pp. 25-26 in this issue).
Simultaneously with the work of the Culture Programme, the Ministerial Round Table Meeting entitled Towards Knowledge Societies was held as preparation for the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, December 2003 and Tunis, 2005). In the Meeting's final declaration, all participants have agreed, that "the building of knowledge society is essential in the humanization of the globalization process". These principles are in line with the world Declaration of Principles entitled Building the Information Society: A Global Challenge in the New Millennium, to be published in 2004 after years-long preparations led in 2002 and 2003.