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Home > Cultural Dimensions - Updated: 14-01-2003 3:07 pm
Ensuring Sustainable Development through Cultural Diversity  
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People’s attitudes and lifestyles, their responsiveness to educational programmes, their sense of ownership of the drive to preserve a decent future for ensuing generations, the reactions of national and local leaders to scientific and governance policy advice, are all intimately linked to their own cultural identities and values, and no worldwide commitment to sustainable development will get anywhere without that recognition.

Photo:© Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Earth from above/UNESCO

UNESCO has always emphasized the linkages between culture and the broaderaims of human endeavour, as reflected in a short history of UNESCO’s culture and development agenda.

Providing a new anchor and entry point for approaching the issue of sustainability from the viewpoint of cultural diversity is the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in late 2001.The declarationis predicated on the consideration of culture as a full-fledged resource for development. Explicit in the declaration is that cultural diversity is as important a factor for development as biological diversity. Cultural diversity presupposes the existence of a process of exchanges, open to renewal and innovation but also committed to tradition, and does not aim at the preservation of a static set of behaviours, values and expressions.

If creativity is essential in the search for sustainability, then memory is in turn vital to creativity. That holds true for individuals and for peoples, who find in their heritage – natural and cultural, tangible and intangible—the key to their identity and the source of their inspiration.

In the field of the tangible heritage, UNESCO’s actions focuses on the identification, protection and preservation of the cultural and natural heritage considered to be outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Adopted by UNESCO in 1972, the Convention now has 167 States parties. The World Heritage List, which was created under this convention, today includes 721 sites—544 cultural, 144 natural and 23 mixed—in 124 countries. It is completed by a list of endangered world heritage which includes 31 threatened sites. The convention’s thirtieth anniversary in 2002 will be marked by an international congress in Venice in November.


This year (2002) is also the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage. UNESCO has been designated lead agency for theYear by the United Nations and has chosen the themes of reconciliation and development as the focus of its activities. The biggest challenge facing UNESCO in this task is to make the public authorities, the private sector and civil society as a whole realize that the cultural heritage is not only an instrument for peace and reconciliation but also a factor of development.

In terms of intangible and oral heritage, the world is experiencing the rapid disappearance of local languages and of traditional cultures and their underlying spirituality, and of knowledge traded over generations, which is profoundly relevant for sustainability. Growing threats are particularly significant in relation to the world’s indigenous peoples, now numbering some 350 million individuals representing over 5,000 languages and cultures in more than 70 countries on every continent. Along with the rest of the United Nations system, UNESCO contributes to efforts to implement partnerships in action for the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (1995-2004). Among UNESCO’s recent publications is the Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing.


Websites
A short history of UNESCO's culture and development agenda
From early work on intercultural dialogue as a key strategy for peace building to the 2001 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and its emphasis on culture as a full-fledged resource for development.
>> More info   >> Go to website

Coastal Regions and Small Islands (CSI)
CSI serves as a platform for environmentally sound, socially equitable, culturally respectful and economically viable development in coastal regions and small islands.
>> More info   >> Go to website

Heritage - Natural and Cultural, Tangible and Intangible
If creativity is essential in the search for sustainability, then memory is in turn vital to creativity.
>> More info   >> Go to website

Intangible Heritage
Embracing all forms of traditional and popular or folk culture.
>> More info   >> Go to website

International Year for Cultural Heritage (2002)
Designated lead agency for the Year UNESCO has chosen the themes of reconciliation and development as the focus of its activities.
>> More info   >> Go to website

Tangible Heritage - World Heritage Convention
Focuses on the identification, protection and preservation of the cultural and natural heritage considered to be outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
>> More info   >> Go to website

Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity
Providing a new anchor and entry point for approaching the issue of sustainability from the viewpoint of cultural diversity.
>> More info   >> Go to website


Documents
sociocultural50.jpgSocio-Cultural Research on Information, Education & Communication and Advocacy - by UNESCO
This Practical Guide is a follow-up activity to a major UNESCO/UNFPA Project (Understanding Socio-cultural factors Affecting Demographic Behaviour and Implication for the Formation and Execution of Population Policies and Programmes), commissioned by UNESCO and undertaken by Aidcom in Malaysia. More

easy50.gifEasy Guide to Undertake Socio-Cultural Research - by UNESCO
The scope of this guide is limited to first time users in action-oriented participatory research. It provides the basic important concepts and tools for data collection and analysis for new and ongoing projects. More


Resources
All (11)
Websites (7)
Publications (4)

Features

Book
Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing
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Stephen A. Wurm


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