May 21 is designated by the United Nations as World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. It is an international day that promotes diversity and the issues surrounding it. The day celebrates not only the richness of the world’s cultures but also the essential role of intercultural dialogue in achieving peace and sustainable development.
What is cultural diversity?
When I came here to live in Brussels, I experienced a whole new world of nations in a municipality. I could hear so many languages, try different food and meet international people who would share their stories. I must admit it changed my point of view, it enriched my life.
Cultural diversity is the quality or presence of different cultures or ethnic groups within a society or a group. It can also refer to having different cultures respect each other’s differences. It involves the variety of social structures, belief systems, languages, religions, races, genders, and other aspects that shape the identity and experience of people.
Differences in culture
In about 75% of the conflicts happening around the world, cultural differences are the major factors. Thus the United Nations deemed it very urgent to bridge the divide existing between cultures because it is essential for peace, development, and stability.
Differences in culture can escalate into conflicts. At the same time, they can also be used to resolve the conflict. Culture gives people the directions that shape their judgments, perceptions, and ideas about themselves and others. Cultures are powerful forces that are often unconscious influencers.
Culture is not only about language, food, dress, traditions, and customs. It is about nationality, ethnicity, and race. On a deeper level, it is about generational beliefs, sexual orientations, socioeconomic class, ability, language, gender, religious and political affiliation, and disability.
It is vital to remember that culture changes and is related to life’s symbolic dimension – the place where people often define the meaning and enact their identities. No matter the culture you belong to, you receive cultural messages that provide information on whether something is meaningful or useless, on who you are in the world and to other people. This information constitutes your identity.
Cultural diversity in Brussels
Brussels is the second most cosmopolitan city in the world and home to 180 nationalities. Almost 40 percent of its residents are foreign nationals. Values of openness and respect for diversity are strongly embedded in Brussels’ DNA, which is reflected in many of the Brussels Capital Region’s cultural venues and institutions.
According to statistics, diversity in Brussels has increased enormously over the past two decades. In 2020, 19 percent of inhabitants were of Belgian origin, compared to 44 percent in 2000.
On 01/01/2021, 67.3% of the Belgian population was Belgian with Belgian background, 20.1% was Belgian with foreign background and 12.6% was non-Belgian. The share of Belgians with Belgian background has decreased from 81.8% in 2001 to 74.3% in 2011 and 67.3% in 2021. The share of Belgians with a foreign background increased by 5.7% between 2001 and 2011 and by 4.6% in the last decade.
The importance of the World Day For Cultural Diversity
World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development presents an occasion to deepen our understanding of cultural diversity, promote it and highlight its significance as an agent of inclusion and positive change. It should be celebrated around the world as accepting each other’s differences. It is one of the most important ways to bring peace between people, countries, and the world at large.
by Marija Lišanin