On 21 May, the world celebrates World Cultural Diversity Day for Dialogue and Development, launched by UNESCO in 2001. In 2002, the UN General Assembly proclaimed a resolution on World Cultural Diversity Day for dialogue and development.
This year marks this momentous day for the 19th time. This holiday date has taken on special significance in promoting and preserving culture, intercultural dialogue, and sustainable development. The events on this day aim to promote the importance and value of cultural diversity and the rich civilizational heritage of mankind.
It is quite symbolic that in the year of UNESCO’s adoption of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in 2001, the SCO was established, one of the most important activities of which is cultural and humanitarian cooperation. Recognizing the need to strengthen the potential of culture, our Organization makes a significant contribution every year to support cultural diversity through prosperity, sustainable development, and global peaceful coexistence.
Today, the SCO unites 18 states, the number of which reaches more than 44% of the world’s population. The SCO family, which includes various peoples, with its original culture, is a colorful palette of ethnic groups, nations, religions, and civilizations, ready for further rapprochement and fruitful cultural and humanitarian cooperation.
Speaking of this cooperation, it is important to keep in mind that the peoples of the “SCO family” are united by several objective factors that form a solid basis for the successful development of mutually beneficial relations. We are connected by many historical, cultural points of contact, common cultural heritage, common traditions, the similarity of languages and cultures, ethnocultural proximity, good-neighborly relations, and much more.
The humanitarian space of the SCO is connected with the names of the greatest thinkers and scientists who have made an invaluable contribution to world culture.
In the Ancient and Middle Ages, the geographical area of Eurasia was one of the most developed in the world. Thanks to the Great Silk Road, one of the most advanced models of economic development has been developed in the region, and the most advanced cultural policy has been created. Revenues from the operation of the Great Silk Road allowed the countries of the region to invest in cultural construction.
Today, every ninth UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed in the World Heritage Fund, is located in the SCO space.
Currently, in the SCO states, along with the important work to preserve the historical cultural heritage, active activities are being carried out to revive the past intensive cultural contacts between the peoples of the region, on the model of humanitarian communications of the Great Silk Road, to promote the popularization of the traditions and customs of the peoples living in the SCO space. One of the main missions in the SCO’s activities is consistently and purposefully implemented – strengthening mutual understanding between peoples, cognition and convergence of their cultures and civilizations.
The basis for building such multifaceted cooperation is the SCO Charter, a fundamental document that defines the main areas of cultural and humanitarian cooperation of our Organization. Practical work on this area of cooperation is entrusted to the Meeting of Ministers of Culture of SCO Member States, a coordinating and advisory mechanism for cooperation, the functioning of which is in line with the provisions of the SCO Charter and other documents adopted within the Organization.
The results of practical cooperation are reflected in the documents adopted at the annual SCO summits. At the summit of Heads of Statein 2007 in Bishkek, the Agreement on Cultural Cooperation was signed, and at the summit of Heads of Government in 2016in Tashkent, further outlines of improving multifaceted cooperation within the SCO, including in the field of cultural and humanitarian cooperation, were identified.
United by the “Shanghai spirit”, SCO Member States, based on the principles of mutual respect and equal dialogue, from year to year intensify practical work in the fields of culture, education, science and technology, health, sports, tourism, and youth contacts. These aspects of cooperation will continue to be an essential part of the Organization’s activities and will continue to serve the goals of cultural construction in the SCO space.
The SCO’s expanding cultural and humanitarian cooperation from year to year contributes to the further deepening of interstate cultural dialogue, in order to bring the SCO countries and peoples closer together. A striking example of this is the comprehensive SCO-our Common Home program, which includes the days of SCO culture, the cycle of piano concerts “Nine Magic Notes”, the annual “SCO Marathons” and the “Eight Wonders of the SCO” project aimed at creating a single tourist space.
The world community is now facing serious challenges related to a sudden attack called COVID-19. The consequences of the pandemic for further favourable world development are unpredictable and may cause dramatic changes in the modern world order. All this further actualizes the value of a single human civilization with the diversity of its forms of existence, the self-identification of the peoples and ethnicities of the world and their responsibility for its future.
We need to raise our many voices in defence of the importance of a day of cultural diversity in the name of dialogue and development. This is the best response and moral support in the fight against humanity’s most dangerous enemies, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am convinced that, based on the rich cultural traditions of our peoples, we will be able to overcome all difficulties and trials together and in close cooperation.
The writer is the SCO Secretary General