Since ancient times, the encounters—and sometimes collisions—of various cultures have shaped the identities of cities and contributed to their uniqueness, while generating creativity and driving development in them.
Today, respecting and managing cultural diversity is one of the most important tasks that globalization imposes on the entire world—nations that neglect it do so at their own risk. If left unattended to, conflicts between ethnic groups may lead to the destabilization of a nation that can hinder progress in other domains.
“Cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence.”
UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, 2001
As international migration continues to rapidly increase in pace, the task of cultural diversity management is no longer a concern solely for a select number of traditionally multiethnic states. The task is one that is now faced by nations around the world: at the time of the UNDP Human Development Report of 2004, the world counted nearly 200 countries, containing some 5000 ethnic groups, with two-thirds of them having at least one substantial (at least 10% of the population) ethnic or religious minority group.
As these numbers show, the issue of cultural diversity concerns today the majority of the world community. And as home to more than half of the world’s population, cities have the greatest interest in managing cultural diversity well.
Cultural Diversity: Against the Tides of Globalization
While the effective management of cultural diversity is a priority for the peace and prosperity of our globalized contemporary world, globalization has also rendered it increasingly difficult: the breakdown of traditional borders and an unprecedented free flow of information and people have intensified the frequency and nature of cross-cultural interactions, bringing with them seeds of conflict and tension.
The standardization of urban cultures imposed by globalization is also posing a threat to cultural diversity. But it is now, more than ever, that cultural diversity is needed the most for a development that is sustainable:
“Cultural diversity is here to stay—and to grow… The world, ever more interdependent economically, cannot function unless people respect diversity and build unity through common bonds of humanity.
UNDP Human Development Report 2004
Cultural Blending: For a Harmonious City in the 21st Century
In this perspective, EXPO Shanghai 2010, with the sub-theme, Blending of Diverse Cultures in the City, will explore the role of cultural encounters and merging as a key ingredient to a thriving, harmonious city.
EXPO Shanghai 2010 also incorporates in its conception of cultural diversity the harmony between the past and the future— the coexistence of tradition and modernity, in order to maintain the city’s heritage and competitiveness.
A city that can formulate a cultural strategy for sustainable development integrating the past and the needs of the future, respectful of cultural diversity and stressing cultural identification – this is the vision of EXPO Shanghai 2010 for the city of tomorrow.