“Pluralism implies a readiness to listen to many voices – whether we agree with them or not – and a readiness to embrace a rich diversity of cultures.” His Highness the Aga Khan, May 22, 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya

Diversity typically refers to something comprised of differing elements.  Diversity, when it refers to people, may refer to the range of human differences arising from a variety of sources including birth, experience, and cultural exposure.  It may also refer to the practice and/or quality of including people from all backgrounds at a micro and macro level.

Cultural diversity has become a driving force of development, be it economic, intellectual, emotional, moral, or spiritual. Each year, 21 May marks the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, through which we celebrate the richness of cultures and the essential role of intercultural dialogue to achieve peace and sustainable development.

As the horizons of humankind broaden, mainly due to travel and the internet, we are able to experience a myriad of cultures, offering us opportunities for growth and maturity as individuals, communities and the global network.  As a result, it becomes more important to understand and protect the diversity of cultural expressions.

This day serves as a reminder to reflect upon and deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to advance the four goals of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted on 20 October 2005:

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

Cultural diversity serves as "an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction." (UN.org, 15 May 2022). The urgency to bridge the gap between cultures to further peace, stability and development, has been evidenced in recent times. The significance of tolerance and acceptance is essential in establishing respect and mutual understanding among civilisations and cultures to further stimulate innovation in today's world.

"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." stated Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (en.unesco.org, 19 May 2022).

The United Nations (UN) strives to ensure that cultural diversity remains prevalent through the innovative use of media and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). This ensures that the citizens of our world stay connected and conscious of the value of the multifariousness of cultural expressions.

His Highness the Aga Khan often emphasises the importance of pluralism and building bridges within our own community, as well as with other communities. At the opening ceremony of the International Press Institute World Congress and 54th General Assembly, on 22 May 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya, His Highness the Aga Khan explained that "Pluralism implies a readiness to listen to many voices – whether we agree with them or not – and a readiness to embrace a rich diversity of cultures."

Let us reflect upon the actions we take in our everyday lives to ensure that we are conscious of our surroundings, and that we are continually improving our approach to tolerance and acceptance within and beyond our community.