European inventory of
societal values of culture


According to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005), "cultural diversity is a defining characteristic of humanity". It forms a common heritage of humanity that should be "cherished and preserved for the benefit of all". Cultural diversity "creates a rich and varied world, which increases the range of choices and nurtures human capacities and values, and therefore is a mainspring for sustainable development for communities, peoples, and nations".

Article 1 of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001) states that as "a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature". Another important document, Agenda 21 for Culture (2004), defines cultural diversity as "the main heritage of humanity". From all these statements, it is clear that diversity is considered to be one of the key values of the contemporary world.

Diversity refers to the social representation and inclusion of individuals from diverse backgrounds in various social realms. Diverse backgrounds typically refer to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, class position, geographic location, age, and abilities. Historically, the push for diversity in the cultural sector can be traced back to various social movements that sought to challenge and dismantle discriminatory practices and exclusionary systems. Thus, the civil rights movement, feminist movements, LGBTQ+ rights advocacy, disability rights movements, and indigenous rights movements have all played crucial roles in advocating for equal representation and recognition in cultural spaces. Their efforts have laid the groundwork for promoting inclusivity and diversity in the cultural sector.

Today, diversity is considered an important aspect of cultural policymaking by various local, national, and supranational institutions. These policies embrace diversity for a variety of reasons. Diversity is crucial in ensuring everyone has a voice, and their stories are heard. When diverse perspectives are included, marginalised communities are empowered, and their cultural heritage is preserved and celebrated. It's essential to recognise the contributions of all individuals and acknowledge the value diversity brings to society. Also, embracing diverse voices promotes creativity and innovation. Unique perspectives inspire original ideas, challenge norms, and yield innovative cultural expressions.

Furthermore, a diverse cultural sector allows for increased audience engagement and relevance. Engaging with diverse communities makes cultural institutions more accessible and inclusive, attracting wider audiences and nurturing meaningful connections. Cultural diversity fosters dialogue, empathy, and understanding, promoting mutual respect, tolerance, and social cohesion. Being exposed to different cultures and ways of life can help us develop a greater understanding and empathy for others. It can also promote mutual respect and tolerance, leading to a more cohesive society.

Despite its importance for cultural policymaking, diversity is also criticised by scholars and politicians. One stream of criticism is related to the shortcomings of identity politics. According to critics, instead of identifying similarities as a basis for social solidarity, identity politics celebrates differences, which is fully in line with the tendencies of social atomisation inherent to neoliberal politics. The second one revolves around whether the goal of diversity policy should be to achieve equal opportunities or equal outcomes. There is also a disagreement regarding conceptualising diversity and determining which dimensions should be prioritized in different context. (TKG, NY, SW)


See also:  Globalization and cultural policy; Inclusion; Tolerance; Cultural citizenship