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“Sustainable development through cultural diversity”

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Today is designated World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, themed “Sustainable development through cultural diversity”.
In our “Land of Six Peoples”, we should appreciate the following United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) statement on cultural diversity: “Human beings have forever invented and exchanged cultural elements; hence cultural diversity has ever been a part of human experience. Such exchanges come in the wake of historical contacts with other local or regional groups, bringing some of them closer or causing conflicts of domination between them. Thus, the world does not consist of a mosaic of cultures but of a constantly-changing river of cultures, with its different currents forever mingling.”
In its message for the day, Guyana’s Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) said: “This World Day brings to the fore the importance of dialogue and proactive measures to foster a greater understanding of the acceptance and promulgation of cultural diversity and harmonious relations. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), eighty-nine percent (89%) of all of the current world conflicts happen in countries with “low intercultural dialogue.”
ERC also stated: “Guyana, a multicultural nation, is blessed in that we have a tolerant society that openly promotes the values of intercultural dialogue, exchange, and acceptance…The Commission firmly believes in education and awareness as critical tools to better inform the public of the diversity of cultures, with respect and tolerance for difference. Ensuring our population is better informed would promote the value and strength that is embodied in how diverse we are culturally.”
All human beings share the capacity to create cultures, which means they have a common creative potential.
This is not to say that they all have, or will have, the same culture, and this is so for the very reason that they are creative. The huge growth of new communication technologies over the past two decades has brought many parts of the world into close communication, and may well fulfil the promise of a ‘global village’. Many people feel this would lead to forced cultural homogenization. However, no limit can be placed on people’s creativity and capacity to alter their ways of being; therefore, we can expect a continuing vitality of human cultural diversity. Fears of cultural uniformity are groundless because it is impossible to stem the flow of a river.
The persistence and renewal of diversity present new challenges in the contemporary international context. However, at the same time that globalisation is creating new opportunities for cultural exchange, new forms of intolerance and aggression are appearing. Xenophobia and racism, ethnic wars, prejudice, stigmas, and segregation and discrimination based mainly on ethnicity and gender are generating violence and suffering almost everywhere.
All these phenomena amount to a refusal to recognise others as full human beings entitled to the same rights as one’s self. Those responsible use ‘difference’ as an excuse for intolerance, hatred, and the annihilation of others. Many also use ‘difference’ as an excuse for violent political struggles without realising that a barrier that protects from the outside may well imprison from the inside.
The faster pace and huge volume of global interaction have prompted a greater awareness of cultural diversity. While it has given wider scope to the expression of such diversity, it has also permitted the representation of differences such as hierarchy, domination and conflict. In fact, one could look at the human trajectory as the history of different answers to the same questions. How do people behave towards those of a different community? How should they behave?
On this World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, we join with ERC when it said, “Let us celebrate the beauty of cultural diversity and recognize its power to unite us in our shared humanity. Let us commit to promoting intercultural dialogue, understanding, and cooperation in our communities, workplaces, and institutions. By working together, we can harness the full potential of cultural diversity to build a more peaceful, respectful, and sustainable world for present and future generations.”

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