Globalization and culture

A market stall in Mysore selling 'Gulal' powders, which are used during traditional festivals. Photographer: Philip Howard © UNESCO

Culture is a dynamic force for change rather than a rigid set of forms or parameters that must be strictly adhered to. As the World Commission on Culture and Development (WCCD) noted, a society’s culture is neither static nor unchanging but rather is in a constant state of flux, influencing and being influenced by other world-views and expressive forms.

The current era of globalization, with its unprecedented acceleration and intensification in the global flows of capital, labour, and information, is having a homogenizing influence on local culture. While this phenomenon promotes the integration of societies and has provided millions of people with new opportunities, it may also bring with it a loss of uniqueness of local culture, which in turn can lead to loss of identity, exclusion and even conflict. This is especially true for traditional societies and communities, which are exposed to rapid ‘modernisation’ based on models imported from outside and not adapted to their context.

Balancing the benefits of integrating into a globalized world against protecting the uniqueness of local culture requires a careful approach. Placing culture at the heart of development policies does not mean to confine and fix it in a conservative way, but on the contrary to invest in the potential of local resources, knowledge, skills and materials to foster creativity and sustainable progress. Recognition and respect for the diversity of cultures also creates the conditions for mutual understanding, dialogue and peace.

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