Common Heritage Plural Identities
Published in 2002 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 7, place de Fontenoy - 75700 Paris Coordination and revision: Michèle Garzon Graphic design, composition and printing: Jed Graphic & Multimédia © UNESCO 2002
• CULTURAL DIVERSITY •
n these troubled times with the world insearch of its bearings, and wayward minds using the terms “culture” and “civilization” in an attempt to turn human beings against one another, there is an urgent need to remember how fundamental cultural diversity is to humanity itself.
ever-increasing gains in diversity – had opened it up to still living forms of that creative genius, to embrace what we call the “intangible” heritage. So thegoal of achieving universality that governed the notion of the common heritage of humanity is now accompanied by cultural pluralism. Indeed, the latter to a large extent sustains the former and helps avoid the pitfall of particularism. Since the Mexico City Declaration in 1982, the World Commission on Culture and Development and the Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development(Stockholm, 1998), culture has come to be regarded as “the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, materiel, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only the arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs”. Cultural diversity is a prime constituent of human identity.By that token, it is humanity’s common property. Far from seeing it as a concession to variety on the part of some imaginary singular identity, we must bear in mind the thought that diversity is the very essence of our identity. One strand cannot be set against the other, for they are intertwined. Cultural diversity basically means having to recognize and promote cultural pluralism in thebroadest sense of the term.Yet equating human identity with cultural diversity equally means having to recognize that the very concept of
As early as 1945, the Commission responsible for preparing UNESCO’s programme placed special emphasis on “Cultural studies”, and by 1953 the Organization was already demonstrating its commitment to the recognition of diversity with the launch of a series ofpublications entitled Unity and Diversity of Cultures. But UNESCO’s reputation, as we all know, rests mainly on the success of its promotion of humanity’s most outstanding items of cultural property. Taken together, these monuments – which provide individual peoples with a source of pride and sense of identity, involving something essential – represent the notion of the common heritage of humanity in themost direct terms possible. As the work of identification, safeguarding and enhancement, originally conceived in universal terms, has gained ground, it has inevitably made of pluralism an ever plainer reality. Each additional human masterpiece incorporated into the World Heritage has further enriched what could be described as a common fund of universal humanism, expanding the spectrum ofvariations illustrated by diverse civilizations down the ages. Such an expansion could hardly remain confined to a catalogue of monuments: its underlying nature – geared to progressing from an abstract inclusive concept to a pleiad of tangible examples of human creative genius and, hence,
• CULTURAL DIVERSITY • PREFACE
diversity itself involves the presence of unity, without which diversityitself would merely amount to multiplicity. Diversity can only exist against a backdrop of unity, and widespread recognition of cultural differences, with all that it entails,is by nature an affirmation of the deep-seated unity of human action – all those differences being observed against a uniform backdrop. Diversity and culture are fundamentally interrelated: culture is diversity, an infinite...
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