May 21 - World Day for Cultural Diversity, for Dialogue and Development

​21 May 2018

Esther Mühlethaler, Academic Intern, SDC GPMD, Bern

May 21st reminds us of the importance of cultural diversity as a driving force of development and change, not only in terms of economic growth and social cohesion, but also as a resource for fulfilling emotional, moral, spiritual and intellectual lives of individuals. The promotion of cultural diversity, the reinforcement of cultural rights and the safeguarding of free cultural expression constitute significant elements in the engagement for poverty reduction and the achievement of sustainable development. In this sense, cultural promotion is also considered important in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development where it is recognized as a key factor in various SDGs such as safe and sustainable cities, decent work, economic growth, reduced inequalities, gender equality and peaceful and inclusive societies. The awareness of cultural diversity is an important element for societies to adopt and to bring about change. Today we are also reminded of the four goals of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted on 20 October 2005:

  1. Support sustainable systems of governance for culture
  2. Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase mobility of artists and cultural professionals
  3. Integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks
  4. Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms


Cultural liberty and cultural diversity are of individual and of social importance. Both dimensions can be illustrated by the topic of migration in which cultural components play manifold roles. On an individual level, culture as a fundamental right and part of personal identities can be seen as an empowering factor and of particular significance for people living in contexts marked by uncertainty and upheaval far from home. The possibility for migrants to live their own culture can help to cope with the past and the new living context which is key for their participation and inclusion as strong and self-reliant individuals. Beyond this, promotion of culture and cultural diversity plays, at the overall macro-level of societies, a bridging role between migrants and host communities, strengthens groups of marginalised migrants and therefore has a positive impact on social cohesion. This corresponds to the Swiss position on a framework for sustainable development post-2015 that notes:

“Promoting cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue as well as leveraging the potential of cultural and artistic resources supports the inclusion of marginalised groups. It is also important for fostering peace and for sustainable development as a whole”.

The inclusive character of strengthened cultural identities and cultural diversity is also recognized in the first drafts of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) currently being elaborated. Objective 16 with action 16b and 16j proposed in the GCM DRAFT Rev 1, for example, highlights this link between cultural diversity and migrant’s inclusion:

OBJECTIVE 16: Empower migrants and societies to realize full inclusion and social cohesion

b) Exchange and implement best practices on integration policies, on ways to recognize, retain and promote migrants’ national, social and cultural identities, as well as on means for communities of destination to share local customs, cultures and traditions with migrants, promoting acceptance of diversity and thus facilitating social cohesion

j) Support multicultural activities through sports, music, arts, culinary festivals and other social events that will facilitate better understanding and appreciation of the migrant cultures and those of destination communities


While globalization and mobility has created the conditions for greater interaction between cultures, it has also given rise to the threat of a certain homogenisation, and with it an imbalance, where the economically wealthiest societies hold an advantage when it comes to the propagation of their cultures. It is important, all the more, to protect and foster cultural diversity as essential to humanity. This also applies to our work and our behaviors as actors of international cooperation. It is therefore key to steadily strengthen our own intercultural skills and to foster our ability to reflect upon one’s own identity and to observe and analyse intercultural issues.

If you are interested in more details about the principles of the promotion of cultural diversity, we recommend to read the SDC Culture and Development Policy.

We would be happy if you share with us your own thoughts about the relevance of cultural diversity, so that we can deepen our understanding of existing links between cultural diversity and sustainable development. Contact