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Common heritage, plural identities : Our creative diversity

Date : From 15 October to 3 November 2001 (delegates only) - Open to the public from 5 to 9 November 2001

Venue : Segur and Miro Halls

Contact : Ms Milagros Del Corral, ext. 8.4337, e-mail: M.del-Corral@unesco.org ; Ms Monique Couratier, ext. 8.4322, e-mail: m.couratier@unesco.org ; Ms Michele Garzon, ext. 8.4356, e-mail: m.garzon@unesco.org

"Culture is the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group; it includes not only the arts and letters, but also ways of life, ‘ways of living together’, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs."
World Conference on Cultural Politics MONDIACULT, Mexico, 1982

The multidisciplinary exhibition now on display in the Ségur and Miro Halls gives a cross-section of the activities of the Secretariat at Headquarters and in the field for the promotion of cultural diversity. These are brought to life with the aid of representative objects provided for the occasion by the Member States.

The exhibition is intended to bring out the strategic importance of the concept of cultural diversity at the dawn of the XXIst century as a source of creation for culture and human development as a whole, and of inspiration for peace.

The underlying principle is one of encouraging the visitor to consider the meaning and forms of cultural diversity in a manner that is both receptive to the plurality of human experiences and respectful of the element of universality attaching to all things human. It is apparent that the emphasis here is on the dialectical and fertile relationship between diversity and universality, and between forces that unite rather than those that separate. This event is accordingly organized around the theme of "meeting the Other", where "meeting" indicates a link and "Other" points to diversity.

Thus, in showing how we can live together despite what distinguishes us from one another, the exhibition strives to impart meaning to the celebration of the year 2001 as ‘International Year of Mobilization against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance’ and ‘United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations’.

A tri-modular EXHIBITION

This exhibition has been designed in three parts, allowing abundant space for intercultural and even intersectoral encounter and dialogue.

Common Heritage, Plural Identities

This first module of the exhibition shows the extent to which, at the time of globalization, cultural diversity is the kingpin of human identity and belongs to us all. As such it is a source of individual and collective wealth and should accordingly be acknowledged and advocated for the good of present and future generations. In the first place it stands for the recognition and promotion of the plurality of cultures in the broadest sense. Yet diversity exists only in contrast to unity, and the widespread recognition of cultural differences, with all that this implies, by its very nature points to the fundamental unity of the human factor, since all such differences are observed against a homogeneous background, in other words the genome that we all have in common.

This principle of unity underlying the very concept of diversity can be highlighted in other ways : firstly, through an approach via the universal which, far more than diversity, lies at the root of the aspirations, raison d’être and mandate of UNESCO. And, secondly, by considering diversity from the teleological viewpoint of positive and unifying values that we associate with it whenever we consider it as a way forward to a world of peace and tolerance.

The abundance of cultural diversity and its relationship to unity are shown under the following headings:

  • The Human Genome: Heritage of Humanity
  • Philosophy at the Service of Cultural Diversity, and Pathways into the Third Millenium
  • The Role of Education in Building Identity
  • Learning to Read and Write in Different Cultures
  • A Global Approach to Tangible and Intangible Heritage (Preserving Cultural Landscapes is to Preserve the Heritage of Humankind; International Legal Instruments for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage; Living Human Treasures; Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; Safeguarding the Documentary Heritage of Humanity; Inventaries of Intangible Cultural Heritage)
  • Creativity and Design 21
  • Education and Multilinguism


Diversity and Development: Tradition and Modernity

The purpose of this module is to present UNESCO’s activities for sustainable development, taking account of the cultural specificities of each people. Development means having access not only to goods and services but also an opportunity to choose a rich, satisfying, worthwhile and valued way of living together, the ultimate goal being the physical, mental and social well-being of every human being.

The following themes help to throw light on this question :

  • Diversity of Educational Environments (School Design in Different Cultural Contexts; Learning in the Community)
  • New Communication Technologies for Diversity and Freedom of Expression (Internet and Multilinguism: Public Domain Information and Portals; Community Multimedia Centres, and Women Make the News; Crea TV and Screens Without Frontiers ; World Press Freedom Day)
  • Cultural Industries (Trade in Cultural Goods ; Globalization and New Technologies ; Free Flow of Cultural Products ; the Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity; Books ; the Cinema Industry)

- Translating and Communicating

  • Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development (Culturelink ; Renewal of Inner Cities: Different Approaches to the Same End ; Small Coastal Historical Cities: For Sustainable Human Development ; Living with the City ; Migrants and Minorities in the Context of Globalization)
  • World Network of Biosphere Reserves
  • Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems
  • Tourism (Tourism in the Form of Questions; Helping Different Cultures to Develop)

- Ethics in the Service of Development: Sharing, Caring, Protecting, Preserving
- A Cultural and Human Rights Approach to Fight HIV/AIDS


Diversity and Peace: Tolerance as a Living Thing

The chief aim of this module is to show that acceptance of cultural diversity and promotion of pluralism do not necessarily lead to fragmentation and withdrawal inside the boundaries of identity and that the survival of the world’s multitude of cultures depends on their creative ability to maintain peaceful coexistence based on mutual respect, tolerance and dialogue.

To confront the problem of the refusal of the Other in society, UNESCO’s actions involve the following subjects :

  • Tolerance, Reaching Out Actively to Others
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • Democracy and Peace (Participation, Human Rights and Democracy ; Equality, Development and Peace ; For World Democratic Governance ; Cultures for Peace)
  • Intercultural Exchange, Pluralism and Dialogue (Cultural Itineraries ; The Slave Route ; Spiritual Convergence and Intercultural Dialogue ; The Mediterranean Programme)
  • Learning to Live Together (Removing Negative Stereotypes ; Education for a Culture of Peace ; Physical Education and Sport for a Culture of Peace ; Singing for Peace)
  • Virtual visit of Gorée's House of Slaves, Senegal
    View (in Real Media)

Practical information

In addition to the information panels on UNESCO’s programme of cultural diversity, a programme of continuous video films shows the three major themes of the Exhibition. It consists of cinematic documents produced or co-produced by UNESCO, and a number of documents kindly loaned by external partners.

Here too there is a pocket cinema presenting films from all over the world and a corner with music from far and near and music of every influence produced by UNESCO and RFI Musique.

A range of computers give personalized access to UNESCO’s Internet sites and to CD-ROMS on some of the subjects dealt with.

Fringe events

Performances of masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity proclaimed by UNESCO in 2001 will take place in Salle I on the following dates:

16 October 2001 (8 p.m.)
Kutiyatam Sanscrit Theatre (India)
Sosso-Bala Cultural Group (Guinea)

22 October 2001 (7.30 p.m.)
Nôgaku Theatre (Japan)
Place Jemaa El-Fnaa Cultural Group (Morocco)
Oruro Carnival (Bolivia)

29 October 2001 (8 p.m.)
Kunqu Opera (China)
Gèlèdé Oral Heritage (Benin)

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