The 17th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held at Island of Margarita, Venezuela on September 2016 noted that the diversity of political, economic, social and cultural systems and religions across countries, which were determined by their history, traditions, values and cultural diversity. In this context, NAM emphasized that respect for the diversity of such systems and approach is a core value and called for cooperation among States in an increasingly globalising world which should be based on establishing a peaceful and prosperous world, a just and equitable world order, and an environment conducive to exchanging human experiences. NAM’s vision is consistent with the vision of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO remarks that “celebrating cultural diversity means opening up new perspectives for sustainable development and promoting creative industries and cultural entrepreneurship as sources of millions of jobs worldwide – particularly for young people and especially for women. Culture is a sustainable development accelerator whose potential has been recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations.”
NAM has consistently called for the promotion of dialogue among civilizations and its inception, NAM has given great emphasis on disseminating mutual exchange of art and culture, and has associated the same with NAM’s principles of anti-imperialism. Amilcar Cabral, anti-colonial thinker and political leader from Guinea-Bissau famously wrote: “people are only able to create and develop the liberation movement because they keep their culture alive despite the continual and organized repression of their cultural life and because they continue to resist by means of culture, even when their political and military resistance is destroyed”. A major initiative by the NAM towards promoting cultural dialogue among Member States was the launch of the “South-South Dialogue” in 1974 between thinkers from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The inauguration of Josip Broz Tito Gallery for the Art of the Non-Aligned Countries in the then Titograd, Yugoslavia in 1984, with the aim to collect, preserve and present the arts and cultures of the non-aligned and developing countries, was another significant step by NAM towards promoting a deepening of cultural knowledge. The collection still exists today and includes over 1000 works, mostly donations from all over the world.
In present times, the Centre for Human Rights and Cultural Diversity of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) located in Tehran plays an important role towards promoting inter-cultural dialogue and deepening mutual cultural knowledge. The Centre was envisaged in the declaration of the NAM Ministerial Meeting on “Human Rights and Cultural Diversity” held on 3rd and 4th September 2007. The Declaration stressed the necessity of respecting cultural diversity and maximizing its benefit, through working together to build a harmonious and productive future by putting into practice and promoting values and principles such as justice, equality and non-discrimination, democracy, fairness and friendship, tolerance and respect within and among communities and nations. The Declaration also recognised that the respect for cultural diversity and the cultural rights of all contributes to a wider exchange of knowledge and understanding of cultural background, advancing the application and enjoyment of universally accepted human rights throughout the world and fostering stable and friendly relations among peoples and nations worldwide, and called for the enhancement of international cooperation and global communications for the promotion of understanding and respect for cultural diversity.
In February 2017, the Centre for Human Rights and Cultural Diversity of the Non-Aligned Movement marked the 10th anniversary of the Declaration and the Plan of Action that had led to its establishment. On the occasion, the centre’s director Dr. Seyed Mohammad Hassani acknowledged the contribution of NAM member countries to enhance the understanding of the diverse historical traditions and values present in the cultures and civilizations of the member countries. At the same event, Cuban Ambassador Vladimir Gonzalez Quesada called NAM Member States to deepen their knowledge of the richness and diversity of cultures and coordinate more closely to disseminate cultural knowledge among them.
NAM thus strives to promote dialogue and understanding among different culture in order to promoting a new paradigm of cultural diversity and promote tolerance.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor