Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, 21 May 2013

20 May 2013
Carpet of the country © Payusova Arina

Less than one thousand days from the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals, we must do everything to accelerate progress. Culture and cultural diversity are not part of the internationally-recognized development goals – but they are key accelerators for meeting them. In this new age of limits, human ingenuity and innovation is one of our most powerful and renewable energies. This is why cultural diversity is so important – as a wellspring of creativity, dynamism and sustainability. We must recognize, support and share this power, on the basis of human rights and universal values. This is the thrust of UNESCO’s 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, and it has never been as salient as it is today - at a time when governments are rethinking strategies for sustainable growth and seeking new sources of dynamism. As we advance towards 2015 and shape a new global development agenda to follow, we must make the most of the power of culture and cultural diversity.

UNESCO’s position is clear. Culture is a driver of development, led by the growth of the cultural sector and creative industries and the benefits arising from safeguarding tangible and intangible cultural heritage. It is also an enabler for sustainable development - the context in which development policies can move forward, through local ownership, with efficiency and impact. In this context, intercultural dialogue is essential to make the most of diversity, to deepen the roots of development and share its benefits.

2013 is an important year to make this case.

We must build on the two resolutions on culture and development adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 and 2011 and move the debate forward - during the Hangzhou International Congress in China this month, the Thematic Debate on Culture for Sustainable Development convened by the President of the UN General Assembly in June, the ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review on “Science, Technology and Innovation, and the Potential of Culture, for Promoting Sustainable Development and Achieving the Millennium Development Goals” in July, on the occasion of the launch of the 3rd edition of the Creative Economy Report, co-authored by UNESCO and UNDP (July), during the World Culture in Development Forum, organized by Indonesia in partnership with UNESCO next November, and through a possible third UN General Assembly Resolution on Culture and Development in the autumn.

At a time of change, we must broaden the debate about development to harness culture’s transformative power. Recognizing and supporting cultural diversity can help to address both the economic and human rights dimensions of poverty and provide creative, cross-cutting solutions to complex issues - from health and the environment to advancing gender equality and education for all.

Culture, in all its diversity, can foster a sense of identity and cohesion for societies at a time of uncertainty. It is also a powerful source of creativity and innovation. No development can be sustainable without it. This is UNESCO’s message on this World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

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