UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity

The General Conference

2 November 2001

Reaffirming ts commitment to the full realisation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other universally recognised legal instruments, such as the two International Covenants of 1966 concerning civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.

Remembering that the Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO states "that the wide diffusion of culture, and the education of humanity for justice, liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of man and constitute a sacred duty which all the nations must fulfil in a spirit of mutual assistance and responsibility".

Remembering also its first article, which assigns to UNESCO, among other objectives, that of recommending "such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image".

Referring to to the provisions relating to cultural diversity and the exercise of cultural rights contained in the international instruments promulgated by UNESCO (1).

Reaffirming that culture is to be considered as the set of distinctive spiritual and material, intellectual and emotional features that characterise a society or social group and that it encompasses, in addition to the arts and literature, ways of life, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs (2).

Checking that culture is at the heart of contemporary debates on identity, social cohesion and the development of a knowledge-based economy.

Affirming that respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding, are among the best guarantors of international peace and security.

Aspirating to greater solidarity based on the recognition of cultural diversity, awareness of the unity of humankind and the development of intercultural exchanges.

Considering that the process of globalisation, facilitated by the rapid development of new information and communication technologies, while challenging cultural diversity, creates the conditions for a renewed dialogue between cultures and civilisations.

Conscious of the specific mandate given to UNESCO within the United Nations system to ensure the preservation and promotion of the rich diversity of cultures.

Proclaims the following principles and adopts this Declaration:


Article 1 - Cultural diversity, a common heritage of humanity

Culture takes on diverse forms across time and space. This diversity is manifested in the originality and plurality of the identities that characterise the groups and societies that make up humanity. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biological diversity is for living organisms. As such, it constitutes the common heritage of humanity and must be recognised and consolidated for the benefit of present and future generations.

Article 2 - From cultural diversity to cultural pluralism

In our increasingly diversified societies, it is essential to ensure harmonious interaction and a willingness to live together of people and groups with cultural identities that are at once plural, varied and dynamic. 

Policies that favour the integration and participation of all citizens guarantee social cohesion, the vitality of civil society and peace. Defined in this way, cultural pluralism is the political response to the fact of cultural diversity. Inseparable from a democratic context, cultural pluralism is conducive to cultural exchanges and the development of the creative capacities that nourish public life.

Article 3 - Cultural diversity as a factor for development

Cultural diversity broadens the choices open to all; it is one of the sources of development, understood not only in terms of economic growth, but also as a means of access to a satisfying intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence.



Article 4 - Human rights, guarantors of cultural diversity

The defence of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for the dignity of the human person. It implies a commitment to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights of
persons belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples. No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope.

Article 5 - Cultural rights, an enabling framework for cultural diversity

Cultural rights are an integral part of human rights, which are universal, indivisible and interdependent. The development of creative diversity requires the full realisation of cultural rights, as defined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 and 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Everyone should be able to express themselves, create and disseminate their work in the language of their choice, particularly in their mother tongue; everyone has the right to quality education and training that fully respect their cultural identity; everyone should be able to participate in the cultural life of their choice and to conform to the practices of their own culture, within the limits of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Article 6 - Towards cultural diversity accessible to all

While ensuring the free flow of ideas by word and image, care must be taken to ensure that all cultures can express themselves and make themselves known. Freedom of expression, media pluralism, multilingualism, equal access to artistic expression, scientific and technological knowledge - including its presentation in electronic form - and the possibility for all cultures to be present in the means of expression and dissemination are the guarantors of cultural diversity.



Article 7 - Cultural heritage, source of creativity

All creation has its origins in cultural traditions, but is fully developed in contact with other cultures. This is why heritage, in all its forms, must be preserved, enhanced and passed on to future generations as a testimony of human experience and aspirations, in order to nurture creativity in all its diversity and inspire genuine dialogue between cultures.

Article 8 - Cultural goods and services, goods other than other cultural goods and services, other than other

In the face of current economic and technological changes, which open up vast prospects for creation and innovation, particular attention must be paid to the diversity of the creative offer, to the fair recognition of the rights of authors and artists, and to the specific nature of cultural goods and services which, as bearers of identity, values and meaning, should not be considered as commodities or consumer goods like other goods.

Article 9 - Cultural policies as catalysts of creativity

Cultural policies, while ensuring the free circulation of ideas and works, must create conditions conducive to the production and dissemination of diversified cultural goods and services, thanks to cultural industries that have the means to develop locally and globally; while respecting its international obligations, each State must define its cultural policy and implement it using the means of action it deems most appropriate, be they practical forms of support or appropriate regulatory frameworks.




Article 10 - Strengthening creative and dissemination capacities worldwide

Given the current imbalances in flows and exchanges of cultural goods at global level, there is a need to strengthen international cooperation and solidarity to enable all countries, especially developing countries and countries in transition, to create viable and competitive cultural industries at national and international level.

Article 11 - Forging partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and civil society.

Market forces alone cannot guarantee the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity, the key to sustainable human development. From this point of view, the pre-eminence of public policies, in partnership with the private sector and civil society, must be reaffirmed.

Article 12 - The role of UNESCO

By its mandate and functions, it is the responsibility of UNESCO:

a) Promote the integration of the principles set out in this Declaration into the development strategies elaborated in the various intergovernmental entities.

(b) To provide a reference point and forum for consultation between States, international governmental and non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector for the joint elaboration of concepts, objectives and policies in favour of cultural diversity.

(c) Pursue their standard-setting, awareness-raising and capacity-building activities in areas related to this Declaration within their fields of competence.

(d) Facilitate the implementation of the Action Plan, the main orientations of which follow this Declaration.

(1) Among which are, in particular, the Florence Agreement of 1950 and its Nairobi Protocol of 1976, the Universal Copyright Convention of 1952, the Declaration of the Principles of International Cultural Cooperation of 1966, the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970, the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage of 1972, the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1978, the Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist of 1980, the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970, the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the 1978 UNESCO General Conference Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, the 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist and the 1989 Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore.

(2) Definition according to the conclusions of the World Conference on Cultural Policies (MONDIACULT, Mexico, 1982), the World Commission on Culture and Development (Our Creative Diversity, 1995) and the Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development (Stockholm, 1998).

Date of adoption 2001