UNESCO aims to safeguard and promote cultural diversity on a global scale, in order to protect tangible and intangible cultural heritage, encourage cultural pluralism and foster cultural diversity.
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.
Protecting 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 as 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 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, the 1970 Convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property and the UNIDROIT Convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects.
Safeguarding 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 safeguarding and encouragement, as they are considerably fragile compared to their tangible counterparts. In response to this challenge, UNESCO Member States passed the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003.