20.10.2009 -

It is urgent to invest in cultural diversity and dialogue, according to a new UNESCO report

Companies which invest in cultural diversity, whether at the management, human resources or marketing level, can benefit economically from it. This is one of the conclusions in the UNESCO World Report Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue, presented at the Organization’s Headquarters.

This World Report aims to become a reference tool for cultural diversity. Cultural diversity, which is too often reduced to the protection of heritage in danger, is also the development of intercultural skills, the search for an antidote to expressions of cultural isolationism, the road towards new forms of governance, the lever of the effective exercise of universally recognized human rights and a means to reduce imbalances in the world trade in creative products.

Media and cultural industries represent more than 7 % of global GDP and represent approximately US$1.3 trillion, i.e. approximately twice the level of receipts from international tourism, estimated at US$680 billion. Africa’s share in the global trade in creative products remains marginal – at less than 1 % of worldwide exports – despite its abundance of creative talent. In order to improve this situation, it is urgent to invest in cultural diversity and dialogue, the Report insists.

“Culture was the great forgotten issue among the Millennium Development Goals’, deplored Koïchiro Matsuura, UNESCO’s Director-General, adding that ‘it has become urgent in our world, which is confronted to cultural changes of all sorts, to learn how to manage change and ensure that it does not becomes a source of greater vulnerability for those who are badly prepared to face it.”

This is clearly the meaning of the ten recommendations drawn by the Report about ways to invest in cultural diversity. The Report especially suggests creating a ‘World Observatory on Cultural Diversity, to monitor the impacts of globalization’, setting up a “national mechanism for monitoring public policies as they relate to cultural diversity,” and implementing “national language policies with a view to both safeguarding linguistic diversity and promoting multilingual competencies.”

The Report also puts forward new strategies to facilitate intercultural dialogue, improve the relevance of educational contents, overcome stereotypes in the media and facilitate the exchange of artistic productions and the circulation of artists.

Aimed at the academic world as well as the general public, this Report develops a new vision of cultural diversity, which stresses its dynamic nature and the need to combat the development of cultural illiteracy, which is promoted by the acceleration of social transformations.

Key figures:

Estimates set at 6,000 to 8,000 the number of languages in the world today, which – although one language does not necessarily correspond to one culture (several cultures can speak the same language, and in one culture different languages may be spoken) – gives an idea of cultural diversity.

There are many imbalances in the global trade of creative products: Africa’s share remains marginal (at less than 1% of exports), despite its abundance of creative talent.

Most of the 75 million children who did not go to school in 2006 (55% of whom were girls) were from cultural ‘minorities’, indigenous populations or nomads.

Half of the languages in the world are spoken by linguistic communities of less than 10,000 people.

While in 2000 53% of Internet users were English-speaking their number fell to 29% in 2009.

Developing countries’ exports of cultural and media equipment increased rapidly between 1996 and 2005, growing from US$51 billion to US$274 billion, which showed the emergence of so-called “counter-flows”, which are countering the extreme concentration of media ownership.

Crafts and tourism are a major source of revenue for developing countries: crafts production and tourism represent more than 25 % of the GDP of Morocco, for example.

Fair trade has grown rapidly, by an average of 40% over the last five years.




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