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Culturelink review, Special Issue 2002/2003 - imprint - archive

Towards a New Paradigm - The Three Ds: Diversity, Dialogue, Development

The purpose of this Special Issue is to welcome dialogue and action-oriented ideas from all sectors of society in order to:

  • clarify current understanding of cultural diversity, based not only on top-down processes (politicians, academics, policy-makers and policy influences) that are supposed to have a trickle-down effect into wider society, but also on awareness-raising among the non-learned public;
  • explore the existing and countless other links between cultural diversity, dialogue and development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means of achieving a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence (Art. 3 of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity). To achieve this aim, a methodology for development policy-makers is needed to take into account cultural resources and their impact within the development process;
  • deliver better policies targeted at the most appropriate level with creative partnerships. To be effective, this policy needs not only to build the relationship between cultural diversity and development, but also to prove the added value that the inclusion of cultural diversity offers to development, i.e., to bring cultural policy and development policy closer together and to strengthen capacities, opportunities and frameworks for collaboration.

Cultural diversity is obviously, by definition, an enduring and central feature of the United Nations system in general and, more particularly of UNESCO, which is entrusted with the mandate to ensure the preservation and “promotion of the fruitful diversity of cultures”. Nevertheless, the way in which cultural diversity has been conceived at a theoretical level and then implemented at practical levels has varied substantially over the Organization's history.

That mandate has become all the more crucial in this early twenty-first century era of globalization. The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg will provide UNESCO with an opportunity to draw on the wealth of experience accumulated and enhanced in the course of a long process marked by the World Conference on Cultural Policies (MONDIACULT, Mexico City, 1982), the World Decade for Cultural Development (1988-1997), the report of the World Commission on Culture and Development (Our Creative Diversity, 1996), the Stockholm Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development (1998), and the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001).

Development models produced since the 1970s have clearly failed, despite constant revision, to live up to the expectations they raised. The new challenges arising from globalization are making it increasingly important to redefine the relationship between culture and development or, to be more precise, between diversity, dialogue and development - the "Three Ds".

Cultural diversity does not constitute an inert reserve of curios in need of preservation alone. It is a site that induces a continuously flowing and unifying dialogue open to each and every expression of identity. Acknowledgement of that daily dialogue as a founding principle is what needs to be asserted and preserved. Diversity and dialogue are mutually interrelated. The causal link that binds them cannot be severed without undermining sustainability. Nurturing their interrelationship makes a common language of cultural diversity that the whole of humanity can speak and understand. Diversity defined in this way illuminates the elements of otherness that exist in the self, since cultures embodied in human beings encounter an invaluable part of their own humanity in others. Cultural diversity, far from being divisive, unites individuals, societies and peoples, enabling them to share in a fund made up of the heritage of bygone ages, the experience of the present, and the promise of the future. This shared fund, with all parties being both contributors and beneficiaries, is what underpins the sustainability of development for all.

Katérina Stenou
Division of Cultural Policies and Intercultural Dialogue