Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development World Day

21 May 2005

On 20 December 2002, the United Nations General Assembly decided, by resolution 57/249, to proclaim 21 May World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. In 2003, we accordingly celebrated for the first time the wealth of cultural diversity throughout the world

I should like to take the opportunity afforded by this second celebration once again to invite all Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and civil society as a whole to enhance public awareness of the value of cultural diversity and the ethical imperative to respect it. For it is through action of a very practical kind that cultural diversity will assume its full significance and become a reality experienced and appreciated by all.

The Day of 21 May encourages us to learn more about other cultures, to appreciate all that we owe to them and to take the measure of the diversity of their contributions, their uniqueness, their complementarity and their solidarity. Indeed, to be aware of and acknowledge our differences, to respect them as constituents of our own identity, is to afford an opportunity to the new century to flourish, away from identity-based conflicts of all kinds. We must now move forward, therefore, towards cultural pluralism as a political project, going beyond the mere acknowledgement of diversity in order to promote awareness of a history, a present and, also, a destiny forever entwined, for humanity.

This year also sees another major celebration, that of the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition. Over and above a duty to remember, this commemoration offers the prospect to study and make known the countless interactions which, on the basis of the dialogue enforced by slavery, has shaped a host of cultures throughout the world, thereby renewing its diversity. Since cultural diversity is a basic human right, to promote it is to counter stereotypes and cultural fundamentalism. This just cause must never be perverted. The UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, adopted in 2001, reminds us that No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope. Respect for cultural diversity therefore requires us to look at our own cultures with a critical eye and to have the humility not to set them above other cultures. The celebration of the Day of 21 May thus involves an active undertaking, as well as a moral commitment, by all Member States for a fairer and more harmonious world, in which respect for the dignity of each and everyone and dialogue with others are raised to the rank of principles.

I conclude this message with the wish that 21 May 2004 may be the occasion to bolster all the principles in the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, those that place cultural diversity among human rights and those that defend it on account of its capacity for cultural expression or innovation. Respecting the dignity of each culture, resisting any infringement of human rights and defending and promoting every form of creative activity are so many indissociable parts of the same struggle. This is a truth of which we are most particularly reminded by the celebration of the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

Kochiro Matsuura

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