By Rabbhi Yahiya

21 May 2013 - 16:53

Making tasty food from a different culture is one of the many things you can do to celebrate diversity. Photo (c) VisitBritain / Ingrid Rasmussen
Making tasty food from a different culture is one of the many things you can do to celebrate diversity. Photo ©

VisitBritain / Ingrid Rasmussen

UNESCO declared 21 May a day to celebrate diversity and encourage people around the world to learn about other cultures. The British Council is taking part in UNESCO’s campaign to ‘do one thing for diversity’, and our Rabbhi Yahiya suggests five ways you can participate.

In 2001 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared 21 May ‘World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development’, an ‘opportunity to deepen our understanding of the value of cultural diversity and learn to live together better.’

Arguably, we already have daily opportunities to do this – but that doesn’t mean we make the best use of these opportunities. UNESCO’s campaign today encourages everyone to ‘do one thing for diversity’. As someone who is excited by diversity, I like the fact that this day contributes to raising awareness worldwide about the importance of intercultural dialogue.

Last year, when South Korean pop star Psy’s video ‘Gangnam Style’ went viral, it made me reflect on how what we used to perceive as distant cultures and traditions can so vividly be showcased on television or even smart phones. It was a catalyst for me to learn more about another culture that was unfamiliar to me at the time and to remember that the wonders of current technology can help us embark on our own adventures and make our own small discoveries.

This simple video inspired me to learn more about Korean pop culture by reading about it, listening to some more K-pop and generally looking for the next Korean film to watch. I’m really enjoying this self-education in Korean culture, and on 21 May I am going to share what I’ve learned by watching my favourite Korean film with some of my friends.

At the British Council, we are in our second year of marking the UNESCO World Day for Cultural Diversity. Recognising that it is the small but sustained gestures that make a difference to promoting diversity, we are encouraging even the most modest ways of celebrating the spirit of the day.

This year, we are strengthening our ‘living library’ of ‘living books’ – that is, British Council staff. This allows staff to search for colleagues to talk to about specific interests. On 21 May I will be borrowing a ‘living book’: someone in my office who is willing to share aspects of his or her life, background and culture with me. It is a great way to connect with colleagues in an organisation that has offices and staff all over the world.

You don’t need any kind of formal ‘living library’ to celebrate diversity, though. Here are a few simple things you can do for diversity today:

  1. Watch a movie with friends about a culture that’s unfamiliar to you.
  2. Set out to learn one thing in particular about another culture. For example, you could cook an international dish.
  3. Ask someone you know about his or her cultural background.
  4. Listen to music from another culture. The British Council’s Selector radio programme showcases a diverse offering of music from the UK, often with international influences.
  5. Visit an exhibition or museum dedicated to other cultures.

What one thing will you do today to celebrate diversity in your life?

View a short presentation by the British Council Diversity Unit and join the official campaign page on Facebook or take part in the conversation on Twitter.

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