Cultural diversity

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37th General Assembly of UNESCO in 2013, Paris.

Cultural diversity is the quality of diverse or different cultures, as opposed to monoculture, the global monoculture, or a homogenization of cultures, akin to cultural evolution. The term cultural diversity can also refer to having different cultures respect each other's differences. Moreover, it is often used to mention the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. It refers to the inclusion of different cultural perspectives in an organization or society.


Countries ranked by ethnic and cultural diversity level (James Fearon, 2003).

At the international level, the notion of cultural diversity has been defended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization since its founding in 1945 by various countries.[1]

The World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development was established in November 2001 by the United Nations General Assembly following the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity of UNESCO.[2] Its objective is to promote cultural diversity, dialogue and development. It is being held on May 21.

In September 2002, the city of Porto Alegre in Brazil organized a world meeting for culture, bringing together mayors and technical directors of culture from different cities of the world, with the participation of observers from civil society.[3] The cities of Porto Alegre and Barcelona have proposed the drafting of a reference document for the development of local cultural policies, inspired by "Agenda 21", created in 1992 for the environment. The Culture 21 was thus designed with the aim of including cultural diversity at the local level. The document was approved on May 8, 2004 during the first edition of the Universal Forum of Cultures in Barcelona (Spain).

In 2003, James Fearon, an American professor at Stanford University published "Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country" in the "Journal of Economic Growth", a list of countries based on the diversity of ethnicities, languages and religions.[4]

In 2005, the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions was adopted in October 2005 by UNESCO in order to protect cultural diversity in the face of cultural homogenization by globalization, free trade and international trade.[5] The convention defines cultural diversity as referring to the manifold ways in which the cultures of groups and societies find expression. These expressions are passed on within and among groups and societies.[6]


Cultural diversity can take several meanings:[7]

  • A balance to be achieved: thus, the idea of defense of cultural diversity through the promotion of actions in favor of "cultural minorities" said to be disadvantaged
  • Preservation of "cultural minorities" thought to be endangered
  • "Cultural protection" or "cultural exception" defends the social vision of culture against its commercialization. The cultural exception highlights the specificity of cultural products and services, including special recognition by the European Union in its Declaration on Cultural Diversity. In this context, the objective is to defend against what is seen as a "commodification"—considered harmful to a "disadvantaged" culture—supporting its development through grants, promotion operations, etc., also known as "cultural protectionism"
  • This defense may also refer to incorporating "cultural rights" provisions, conducted unsuccessfully in the early 1990s in Europe, into a layer of the human rig.

Diversity refers to the attributes that people use to confirm themselves with respect to others, “that person is different from me.” These attributes include demographic factors (such as race, gender, and age) as well as values and cultural norms.[8] The many separate societies that emerged around the globe differ markedly from each other, and many of these differences persist to this day. The more obvious cultural differences that exist between people are language, dress, and traditions. There are also significant variations in the way societies organize themselves, such as in their shared conception of morality, religious belief, and in the ways, they interact with their environment. Cultural diversity can be seen as analogous to biodiversity.[9]

Harmony Day is dedicated to celebrating Australia's cultural diversity.

By analogy with biodiversity, which is thought to be essential to the long-term survival of life on earth, it can be argued that cultural diversity may be vital for the long-term survival of humanity; and that the conservation of indigenous cultures may be as important to humankind as the conservation of species and ecosystems is to life in general. The General Conference of UNESCO took this position in 2001, asserting in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity that "...cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature."[10]


Cultural diversity is difficult to quantify, but a good indication is thought to be a count of the number of languages spoken in a region or in the world as a whole.[11] By this measure, we may be going through a period of the precipitous decline in the world's cultural diversity. Research carried out in the 1990s by David Crystal (Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor) suggested that at that time, on average, one language was falling into disuse every two weeks. He calculated that if that rate of the language death were to continue, then by the year 2100, more than 90% of the languages currently spoken in the world will have gone extinct.

Overpopulation, immigration, and imperialism (of both the militaristic and cultural kind) are reasons that have been suggested to explain any such decline. However, it could also be argued that with the advent of globalism, a decline in cultural diversity is inevitable because information sharing often promotes homogeneity and in a society where many people from different cultural backgrounds are living, mutual understanding is essential to promote a future with appreciative cultural diversity.[12]

In a recent literature review on quantitative approaches to cultural diversity, scholars have proposed models for weighted diversity indices that assign differential values to key parameters, including not only of language but also belief templates and ethnic profiles or associated cultural backgrounds.[13]


In the same manner that the promotion of poverty in underdeveloped nations as "cultural diversity" is unethical.[14] It is unethical to promote all religious practices simply because they are seen to contribute to cultural diversity. Particular religious practices are recognized by the WHO and UN as unethical, including female genital mutilation, polygamy, child brides, and human sacrifice.

With the onset of globalization, traditional nation-states have been placed under enormous pressure.[15] With the development of technology, information and capital are transcending geographical boundaries and reshaping the relationships between the marketplace, states, and citizens. In particular, the growth of the mass media industry has largely impacted individuals and societies across the globe. Although beneficial in some ways, this increased accessibility has the capacity to negatively affect a society's individuality. With information being so easily distributed throughout the world, cultural meanings, values, and tastes run the risk of becoming homogenized. As a result, the strength of the identity of individuals and societies may begin to weaken.

The controversial implication of cultural relativism includes the idea that social norms are infallible and no individual can challenge them on moral grounds, that every moral code held by a culture is just as acceptable as any other even if it contains prejudices such as racism or sexism, and the impossibility of moral progress due to the lack of universal standards according to which a society's norms may be judged.[16] Due to its logical flaws and controversial implications, cultural relativism failed to attract widespread acceptance among ethical philosophers.

Cultural Diversity on Western Balkan countries[edit]

In 2005 the relations of EU and Western Balkan countries were passed from “External Relations” to “Enlargement” policy.[17] As WB countries make steps forward in the future membership of the EU, the diversity in society within the WB is expected to increase further. It is important to see the relationship between cultural diversity and ethnic fractionalization from one side and governance, competitiveness, and human development from the other side. Even though the literature argues that cultural diversity has a negative impact on countries’ performance, the study of Hysa (2020) finds out that highly homogenous societies in WB are no more prone to good governance, global competitiveness and human development than highly heterogeneous societies within the region. In other words, countries with lower fractionalization index (such as Kosovo and Serbia) do not show a significantly higher performance than countries with higher fractionalization indexes (such as Macedonia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina). Thus, the influence of regional geographic distance seems to be much more significant compared to cultural diversity because the economic capacity and performance of WB countries are found to be positive but still modest. The Western Balkan countries are having a considerable mixture of ethnicities, languages, and religions. These varieties can push this group of countries to have a consensus among them in the economic aspects or to increase the gap among each other.

See also[edit]

Cultural diversity in Wikimedia Foundation


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  1. ^ Richard T. Schaefer, Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society, Volume 1, SAGE Publications, USA, 2008, p. 558
  2. ^ Roberto Blancarte Pimentel, Robert Charles Elliot, Robert Holton, Religion, culture and sustainable development -volume II, EOLSS Publications, USA, 2010, p. 340
  3. ^ Helmut K Anheier, Yudhishthir Raj Isar, Cultures and Globalization: Cities, Cultural Policy and Governance, SAGE Publications, USA, 2012, p. 80
  4. ^ James Fearon (2003). "Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country". Journal of Economic Growth. 8: 195–222. doi:10.1023/A:1024419522867.
  5. ^ Charlotte Waelde, Catherine Cummings, Mathilde Pavis, Research Handbook on Contemporary Intangible Cultural Heritage: Law and Heritage, Edward Elgar Publishing, UK, 2018, p. 109
  6. ^ "The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions". Diversity of Cultural Expressions. 2018-02-15. Retrieved 2021-08-27.
  7. ^ Stephen Tierney, Accommodating Cultural Diversity, Ashgate Publishing, USA, 2013, p. 126
  8. ^ Ferris, G.; Frink, D.; Galang, M.C. (1993). "Diversity in the Workplace: The Human Resources Management Challenges". Human Resource Planning. 16 (1): 42.
  9. ^ Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, Article 1
  10. ^ UNESCO (2002). "UNESCO Universal Declaration On Cultural Diversity" (PDF). UNESCO Universal Declaration On the Cultural Diversity (in French, English, Spanish, Russian, and Japanese). UNESCO. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  11. ^ David Crystal Language Death Cambridge University Press, 2000
  12. ^ "Philosophy - Sayed Sayedy". (in German). 2021-05-11. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  13. ^ Moieni, Rezza; Mousaferiadis, Peter (December 2017). "A Practical Approach to Measuring Cultural Diversity on Australian Organizations and Schools" (PDF). International Journal of Social Science and Humanity. 7: 735–738.
  14. ^ Starr, Amory; Jason Adams (2003). "Anti-globalization: The Global Fight for Local Autonomy". New Political Science. 25 (1): 19–42. doi:10.1080/0739314032000071217. S2CID 144496048.
  15. ^ Cavanagh, John; Mander, Jerry (10 October 2004). Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World Is Possible. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. ISBN 9781605094090 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Shafer-Landau, Russ (2018). The Fundamentals of Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 295–305. ISBN 9780190631390.
  17. ^ Hysa, E. (2020). "Impact of Cultural Diversity on Western Balkan Countries' Performance". Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies. 7 (1): 20–40. doi:10.29333/ejecs/292.

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