World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

From the Editor

Today marks the launch of the GMA blog, which will provide a space for dialogue about the human rights issues facing communities across the world. And 21st May is very fitting for this, as to day is the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. As Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, explains:

“Our cultural diversity is a stimulator of creativity. Investing in this creativity can transform societies. It is our responsibility to develop education and intercultural skills in young people to sustain the diversity of our world and to learn to live together in the diversity of our languages, cultures and religions, to bring about change.”

According to the UN, three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension, which is why events to promote dialogue and understanding are essential to enable us to learn to live together in harmony.

In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, which led to 21st May becoming a World Day. Following this, a campaign was launched in 2011 called ‘Do One Thing For Diversity and Inclusion’, to encourage people and organisations around the world to take action to support diversity. According to its website the campaign aims:

  • to raise awareness worldwide about the importance of intercultural dialogue, diversity and inclusion;
  • to build a world community of individuals committed to support diversity with real and every day-life gestures; and
  • to combat polarization and stereotypes to improve understanding and cooperation among people from different cultures.

The campaign recommends ten simple steps that people can take to celebrate cultural diversity and improve dialogue between communities:

  • Visit an art exhibit or a museum dedicated to other cultures
  • Learn about another religion
  • Plan an international film night
  • Listen to a musical tradition from a different culture
  • Play a sport related to a different culture
  • Invite a friend over and cook traditional food
  • Learn about traditional celebrations from other cultures
  • Volunteer with an organisation working for diversity and inclusion
  • Learn another language
  • Spread the word around you, family, friends and invite people from a different culture to share your customs

These steps, although small, can help bring communities together, not only to share but to integrate too. This integration leads to understanding, and understanding is the opposite of conflict, thus creating a more peaceful world, one simple step at a time.

If one looks around, it is easy to find examples of where this happens on a day to day basis. For example, GMA’s headquarters are based in Scotland, a country which has undergone massive changes in terms of population since the turn of the millennium; the number of ethnic minorities in doubled between 2001 and 2011, with roughly 200,000 people identifying as belonging to an ethnic minority now.

Glasgow is the most diverse city in Scotland, and although there have been many problems along the way – the murder of Turkish asylum seeker Firsat Dag in 2000 being a notable horror which the city had to come to terms with – Glasgow has, for the most part, embraced cultural diversity, with all newcomers taking on a bit of Glasgow and Glasgow taking on a bit of the newcomers.

This can be seen in many small examples of where two cultures have mixed – refugee cricket teams, haggis pakora, African tartan, kilt-wearing samba bands – to create something brand new. It can also be seen in the many groups and events which are organised across the city to promote a culutre of understanding; for instance, GMA is marking the upcoming Commonwealth Games by arranging an interfaith tribute where children from many different communities come together to create art with ‘Welcome’ as a theme.

‘Welcome’ is a word which sums up how dialogue and development for cultural diversity begins; and it is with this topic that we also begin this blog. If any articles on this blog inspire a reader to ‘do one thing for diversity and inclusion’, then we can count it as a success.

For more details about the upcoming GMA ‘Welcome’ Art Workshop, please see GMA’s Facebook page.



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