The United Nations (UN) was formed in 1945 after the second world war as a political avenue for solving differences to avoid future conflicts. A year later, UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation – was set up. Its mission is to build peace through international cooperation in education, the sciences and culture, and to secure “the lasting and sincere support of the peoples” because UNESCO understand that “Peace must be founded upon dialogue and mutual understanding” and “built upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity.”
In 2001, UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and in December 2002, the UN General Assembly declared May 21st to be the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
The UNESCO website says:
“The day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to advance the four goals of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions:
- Support sustainable systems of governance for culture
- Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase mobility of artists and cultural professionals
- Integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks
- Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms”
We are all different – even people from the same cultures have differences – but that’s what makes life so interesting, and by introducing and celebrating cultural differences at an early age, we can promote tolerance and interests that will be sustainable in the future.
Cultural differences, if understood properly, can also be a driving force for development and change – think of how societies develop when we collaborate in science, art and education. We are currently in a global crisis that is affecting the whole world and only by coming together and sharing our knowledge, will we win.
This absolutely means celebrating our different scientific expertise and collaborating over Covid-19, but it also means sharing all the creativity and fun that have been created recently to keep our spirits up. Around the globe, ordinary people have been finding ways within their own culture to cope with the restrictions placed upon them. It might be an Italian entertaining their neighbours with opera, or a Spanish pianist playing jazz from their balcony, or millions of British people clapping on their doorsteps to show their support for the NHS. These are all examples of different cultures, yet we have all shared them and smiled.
Some things you might not know
- preserves 1073 World Heritage sites in 167 countries
- coordinates tsunami warning systems all over the globe
- has published General Histories of Humanity (Africa, Asia, Islamic Culture, the Caribbean)
- has 193 member states, 11 associate members, 11,000 associated schools
- builds youth networks across 9 Mediterranean countries
- leads global efforts to reach quality education for all
How can you celebrate cultural diversity in your setting?
You don’t need to be physically together to celebrate cultural diversity – in fact, one of the main things that UNESCO supports is the innovative use of information technology to share cultures across the globe, so even if you can’t physically be there, you can still get involved in sharing and celebrating different cultures.
A few ideas on how to get involved
- Visit the UN World Day for Cultural Diversity web pages
- Take a virtual museum tour from another country, many have been adapted for children: NASA, Google arts and culture page – lots of fun ideas here including dressing up and recreating your favourite work of art, Great Wall of China, Vatican museum and US Natural History Museum
- Learn a sport from a different culture – play pétanque/boules, learn the rhythms of Brazilian capoeira or the basics of Flamenco dancing
- Cook some different food – make an Indian curry, some Mexican fajitas, Chinese rice or Italian pasta, or try to be even more adventurous and have a go at some arepas (corn bread from Venezuela), some pierogi (Polish dumplings) or some rendang (stew from Indonesia)
- Watch a foreign animated film, many of which you can get with subtitles or British dubbing. Some suitable PG films for children include: “Ernest and Celestine” – a French animated film based on the children’s books by Belgian author, Gabrielle Vincent, “Nocturna” – about a boy who is scared of the dark (2007, France/Spain), “Spirited Away” – a magical fantasy film which won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature (2001, Japan)
- Run an online storytime – you can find a list of good books online here, ranging from “Tin Tin” to “The Little Prince” and you can either record it and upload it to a video website or read it in a live stream
- Set a ‘culture challenge’ for your students and ask them to draw something from a different culture and send you the picture – then upload them to your website or social media channels to share
- Send some music/nursery rhyme links from different cultures and ask your students to sing the songs: you could then run an online singing session that the children can tune in to. Think about: Frère Jacque, A song to learn “hello” in different languages or Counting to 10 in French, Spanish and Japanese
- Ask your children/parents to dress up as someone from a different culture using items they have at home
- Since we also live in a multi-cultural country, where there are diversities of culture in local communities, why not ask the children to send/bring in a photo of something that is relevant to their own culture or community. It could be a picture of some local food, a flag, a book, religious item or anything else that they relate to as part of their culture. You can then create a virtual/real ‘diverse community board’, post your pictures online or create a display in your setting when you get back there.
"Harmony doesn’t come merely through tolerance. You don’t need to tolerate people from other cultural backgrounds. It is time you start loving them. Toleration may make you a decent person, but it is love that makes you a true human being."
Abhijit Naskar (Author)