Cultural Diversity and Global Sustainability

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day;  Teach a man to fish and he will feed his whole village!”


UNESCO and the world’s foundations have come to understand that current measures provide short term fixes, generally, and a more long term approach to solving the world’s various problems is required. UNESCO in their latest annual report dedicated all 454 pages to the importance of Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Intangible World Heritages.  Why is UNESCO seeing these initiatives as the only viable strategies for protecting our communal, global future?

“The financial crisis and its consequences for the economy, labour markets, social policies and international cooperation risk to show that culture often remains the first adjustment variable to be sacrificed when the drying up of financial resources imposes a drastic choice between a number of competing priorities. Yet this is a very short-term view. For at this crossroad, where some are urging us to think in terms of a new world in which human disasters of this kind would no longer be possible, greater acknowledgment of cultural diversity is proving a particularly promising avenue of approach.

For culture is not simply another sector of activity, a mass consumption product or an asset to be preserved. Culture is the very substratum of all human activities, which derive their meaning and value from it. This is why the recognition of cultural diversity can help to ensure that ownership of development and peace initiatives is vested in the populations concerned.

With regard to development initiatives, it has long been known that their success depends significantly on the extent to which they incorporate the cultural factor. But the message of sustainable development is that the planet is essentially finite, and that the resources humanity hoped to discover in its environment must now be found within itself, in its very diversity.

Diversity must henceforth be considered a starting point rather than an obstacle to be overcome. Cultural diversity invites us to think in terms of a plural humanity, embodying a creative potential that precludes any prescribed model of development.

With regard to peace, we are convinced that its sustainability depends upon universally proclaimed human rights, which are the main token of our common humanity. The acknowledgment of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue help to defuse the tensions that can arise in multicultural societies when a majority and minorities confront each other over recognition of their rights. What favours cultural diversity, which is in no way opposed to the universality of human rights, is a governance of reconciliation, which is the surest guarantee of peace.”

Francoise Rivière, UNESCO World Report, October 2009

If man continues to seek short term solutions based upon western roadmaps than we will only succeed in worsening the North South economic slavery and humanitarian dependence.  Moreover, we risk greater disasters of economic, human and environmental resources to the point that there are insufficient funds to ‘Feed the Poor’.