21 May 2020 (United Nations)* – Cultural events cancelled, cultural institutions closed, community cultural practices suspended, empty UNESCO World Heritage sites, heightened risk of looting of cultural sites and poaching at natural sites, artists unable to make ends meet and the cultural tourism sector greatly affected… The impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector is being felt around the world.
By dint of coordinated action, original initiatives and creativity, this imposed downtime has made it possible to see what is one of humanity’s riches: our diversity.
This impact is social, economic and political – it affects the fundamental right of access to culture, the social rights of artists and creative professionals, and the protection of a diversity of cultural expressions.
The unfolding crisis risks deepening inequalities and rendering communities vulnerable. In addition, the creative and cultural industries (CCI) contribute US$2,250bn to the global economy (3% of GDP) and account for 29.5 million jobs worldwide.
The economic fall-out of not addressing the cultural sector – and all auxiliary services, particularly in the tourism sector – could also be disastrous. (source “Culture & COVID-19: Impact and Response Tracker – Issue 2“)
Culture: A Source of Resilience
During this time of mass confinement, billions of people are turning to culture as a source of comfort, well-being and connection. There has been a surge in the creation of, and access to, cultural content online – from virtual visits to museums and galleries, streaming of films and even community choirs via social media – showing its fundamental role as a source of resilience for communities.
Major crises throughout history have often given rise to a renaissance of culture and an explosion of new forms of creativity, so vital for human progress.
#StayatHome #ShareOurHeritage #ShareCulture
As part of its #ShareOurHeritage campaign, UNESCO is working to promote access to culture – from World Heritage properties to living heritage practices. With the support of Google Arts & Culture, UNESCO launched an interactive online exhibition featuring World Heritage properties from across the globe.
UNESCO is sharing first-hand accounts from World Heritage site managers offering a unique glimpse into the impact of COVID-19 on the sites, as well as the intangible cultural heritage of surrounding communities. Here, Dr Freddy Manongi, site manager of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, describes the impact of COVID-19 on the World Heritage site.
Why does cultural diversity matter?
Three-quarters of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension. Bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability and development.
Cultural diversity is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life. This is captured in the culture conventions, which provide a solid basis for the promotion of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is thus an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development.
At the same time, acceptance and recognition of cultural diversity – in particular through innovative use of media and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) – are conducive to dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding.
Origin and Purpose of the Day
In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. and in In December 2002, the UN General Assembly, in its resolution 57/249, declared May 21 to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, and in 2015, the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development A/C.2/70/L.59, affirming culture’s contribution to the three dimensions of sustainable development, acknowledging further the natural and cultural diversity of the world, and recognizing that cultures and civilizations can contribute to, and are crucial enablers of, sustainable development.
The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to advance the four goals of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted on 20 October 2005:
- Support sustainable systems of governance for culture
- Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase mobility of artists and cultural professionals
- Integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks
- Promote human rights and fundamental freedo
- International Mother Language Day (21 February)
- International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March)
- International Day of Nowruz (21 March)
- International Jazz Day (30 April)
- Day of Vesak (first full moon in May)
- International Day of Friendship (30 July)
- World Day for Audiovisual Heritage (27 October)
- International Day for Tolerance (16 November)
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