UNESCO aims to safeguard and promote cultural diversity on a global scale, in order to preserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage as well as to foster intercultural dialogue.
Safeguarding and promoting cultural diversity
Article 1 of the UNESCO Constitution of 1945 indicates the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity as one of the Agency’s purposes and functions. In 2001, UNESCO Member States passed the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity; in 2005 they adopted the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
This Convention, often referred to as the magna carta of cultural policy, is a major step towards countering the challenges and threats posed by globalisation and international trade policies in the cultural field.
Preserving our tangible global heritage
UNESCO has launched multiple programmes and activities to preserve and safeguard tangible human heritage. In times of war, cultural property is often intentionally destroyed because it is seen as a symbol of national or religious identity, but in times of peace such a heritage may well serve as a mediator for reconciliation. It is, however, not just war that endangers the tangible heritage of humanity – environmental pollution, urban sprawl, natural disasters, ecological damage, urban construction and major private building projects will also take their toll. The international community has therefore created several conventions designed to protect and preserve our tangible heritage on a world-wide basis: the World Heritage Convention concerning the protection of the world’s cultural and natural heritage, the Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, and the UNIDROIT Convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects.
Protecting our intangible cultural heritage
Intangible Cultural Heritage is an indispensable part of our cultural heritage. Faced with progressing globalisation, traditional forms of expression need special protection and encouragement because they are considerably more fragile than their tangible counterparts. In response to this challenge, UNESCO Member States passed the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003.