The 120 Member Non-Aligned Movement is no stranger to cultural diversity and the largest collective grouping of the developing world is a testament to the fact that the principle of unity in diversity can be achieved. In this context, a Political Declaration and Action Programme of the NAM on human rights and cultural diversity was adopted recently at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, where the Movement had organised an event: Solidarity, Dialogue and Tolerance in a Diverse World: Towards a Culture of Peace”.
NAM countries also vowed to foster a culture of peace in line with the UN Charter towards the realisation of human rights while encouraging the promotion of cultural diversity via dialogue and cooperation. The Movement backs a constructive dialogue and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and no interference in internal affairs of sovereign countries.
NAM believes that it is necessary to have a balanced and comprehensive approach to fostering and ensuring human rights and has reiterated that economic, cultural and social rights should be respected as political and civil rights, with regards to development level, history and specific features of each nation. NAM has recognized the ever-increasing significance and relevance of a culture of living in harmony with nature, which is inherent in nomadic civilization, in today’s world.
With the underlying objective of promoting cultural diversity, NAM has reaffirmed the importance of the Convention on the protection and promotion of Diversity of cultural expressions by UNESCO, which signed in 2005 and entered into force on 18 March 2007, as a major contribution to the international community in the definition of a framework of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and called upon United Nations Member States to consider becoming parties to this Convention. While calling for promotion of cultural diversity, NAM follows the guiding principles of the above referred UNESCO Conventions.
These guiding principles are enumerated as follows:
1) Cultural diversity can be protected and promoted only if human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of expression, information and communication, as well as the ability of individuals to choose cultural expressions, are guaranteed. No one may invoke the provisions of this Convention in order to infringe human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or guaranteed by international law, or to limit the scope thereof.
2) States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to adopt measures and policies to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions within their territory.
3) The protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions presuppose the recognition of equal dignity of and respect for all cultures, including the cultures of persons belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples.
4) International cooperation and solidarity should be aimed at enabling countries, especially developing countries, to create and strengthen their means of cultural expression, including their cultural industries, whether nascent or established, at the local, national and international levels.
5) Since culture is one of the mainsprings of development, the cultural aspects of development are as important as its economic aspects, which individuals and peoples have the fundamental right to participate in and enjoy.
6) Cultural diversity is a rich asset for individuals and societies. The protection, promotion and maintenance of cultural diversity are an essential requirement for sustainable development for the benefit of present and future generations.
7) Equitable access to a rich and diversified range of cultural expressions from all over the world and access of cultures to the means of expressions and dissemination constitute important elements for enhancing cultural diversity and encouraging mutual understanding.
8) When States adopt measures to support the diversity of cultural expressions; they should seek to promote, in an appropriate manner, openness to other cultures of the world.
NAM recognises the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world, of choosing negotiations over confrontation and of working together and not against each other. The Movement firmly believes that such values holds the key to almost all of multilateral objectives.
By Dr. Pawan Mathur