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Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

© UN Photo/John Isaac
A Heiltsuk girl holding one of the paddles of the "Glwa", the Heiltsuk canoe, during the official opening of the Qatuwas Festival, an international gathering of maritime indigenous nations of the Pacific Rim.

UNESCO promotes the "fruitful diversity of cultures" since the creation of its Constitution in 1945. Its mandate was reaffirmed in the 2002 Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Cultural diversity is stated “as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature” (Article 1). This principle should be understood not only in terms of economic growth but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence (Article 3). It also implies a commitment to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom, in particular those of Indigenous Peoples. (Article 4). To favor cultural diversity UNESCO has developed various standards that offer spaces to promote indigenous peoples’ cultural rights and foster direct engagement with them:

Another domain that is of strategic importance is linguistic diversity and multilingualism that UNESCO promotes in all fields of its mandate, through an interdisciplinary approach involving all programme sectors: education, culture, science, communication and information and social and human sciences.

Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development, are of strategic importance for people and the planet. There is growing awareness that languages play a vital role in development, not only in ensuring cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue, but also in attaining quality education for all and strengthening cooperation, in building inclusive knowledge societies and preserving cultural heritage, and in mobilizing political will for applying the benefits of science and technology to sustainable development.

UNESCO is thus taking urgent action to encourage broad and international commitment to promoting multilingualism and linguistic diversity, including the safeguarding of endangered languages.

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