Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
21 May 2021
This World Day is an opportunity to celebrate the strength and resilience of cultural diversity in particularly critical times.
For more than a year, the COVID-19 crisis has precipitated a cultural diversity crisis. The closure of museums and world heritage sites and the cancellation of festivals, concerts and ceremonies have plunged the world of culture into a distressing state of uncertainty, threatening in particular independent creators, who are the lifeblood of cultural diversity.
Internet might have seemed a necessary solution, but not a sufficient one, because digital technology reproduces, amplifies or creates new inequalities, running the risk of cultural homogenization. When online presence concerns only 5% of African museums, and by its very nature is incompatible with the ceremonies of our intangible heritage, the diversity of our world suffers.
Moreover, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to be structural, not merely cyclical. With one museum in eight that may never reopen and 12% of artists considering leaving the cultural sector, for example, cultural diversity in its entirety is under long-term threat.
Yet we need cultural diversity more than ever; we need to look at the world from different perspectives. The pandemic has also reminded us of the extent to which culture is a common good, opening up horizons and providing our societies with connection and meaning, making them less solitary and more inclusive.
That is why we must help it to recover, in all its strength and diversity.
This implies the need for a cultural “New Deal” based on the views of professionals. UNESCO has made this possible through its ResiliArt debates: more than 270 discussions have taken place in 110 countries, including 25 in Africa.
They have put forward shared recommendations to create a more protective status for artists, reduce gender and geographical inequalities and ensure a fair distribution of income between platforms and creators. The ideas are abundant, and this International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development provides an ideal opportunity to implement them.
As Claude Lévi-Strauss said, “the diversity of cultures is behind us, around us and in front of us”. We must therefore stay the course and forge ahead.