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A new cultural policy agenda for development and mutual understanding: key arguments for a strong commitment to cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue

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Today’s world is marked by multiple crises and increased human mobility accelerated by open market policies, climate change and new, faster forms of communication. Cultural and social transformation are taking place at an increasingly rapid pace, and can result in profound social ramifications for societies as they try to adapt.

Growing awareness about humanity’s vulnerability as well as uncertainty and fear about the future provide a fruitful ground for racism, xenophobia and intolerance, human rights violations and, sometimes, outright conflict. At the same time people continue to hope and strive for dignity and a better future, as demonstrated by the latest political developments in North Africa and the Middle East.

In this ever changing cultural and political landscape, where cultural diversity is present both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ every society, a new debate has emerged, challenging public policies. Indeed, the power of culture – in all its diversity – as a prerequisite for peace, a source for intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being and as a resource for socio-economic development and environmental sustainability is more important than ever (see box). The recent Millennium Summit of Heads of States (New York, September 2010) recognized the value of cultural diversity for the enrichment of humankind and the importance of culture for development, and mentioned in particular its contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals