Key Players for Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity is in direct connection to other fundamental notions: identity, the social connection we have to others and living together, relationships with others and the world, as well as with the public sphere, the relationship between equality and difference, etc.

As a cornerstone issue of our society, cultural diversity is now a main focus of a variety of institutional actors or civil society issues. Below is a non-exhaustive list of different notions related to cultural diversity.

1. Institutional actors

International organisations such as UNESCO have incorporated cultural diversity into their missions,  via the publication of The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity  (2002).

Under this drive as well as the motivation of Aurélie Filipetti (French Minister of culture from 2012 to 2014), in the context of the marketization of culture, the European Union affirmed the value of the concept of the « European cultural exception », become « cultural diversity » so that culture would escape the commercial negociations of the TTIP

The State, essentially by proxy of the Minister of culture, should, according to historian Laurent Gervereau, exercise 3 essential cultural tasks : “assure the defense of diversity, the development of cultural industry and the promotion of the country’s image”.

Local communities should also attempt to address the theme of diversity through local mandates and implementing equality-related services, as well as diversity and cultural cooperation.

One initiative that could serve as an example of the initiatives possible : The mayors’ offices of Porto Alegre and Barcelona in 2001, l’Agenda 21 de la culture, in which the signers, local governments from all over the world, engage in cultural diversity practices for the promotion of peace.


DRI Team at the French-German Forum (2017)

Research centers and universities also act in this domain to promote the integration of intercultural practices in research projects, university curricula, and in services offered to students.  The International Relations Department (DRI) in our own university, Université Lumière Lyon 2, promotes international exchanges and manages student and professor mobility.

In addition, many worldwide universities cooperate in their own programmes and partnerships, such as that of the UNESCO Chairs at the UNiTWIN network. Many of these projects fall under the them of “Intercultural Dialogue”.

2. Actors in civil society

By « civil society », we consider every organisation independent of the state in its organisation and its activities.

Non-profit organisations (established in France by the law of 1901) which exist in social, cultural, and humanitarian domains, fonction thanks to the efforts of volunteers and employees working in collaboration with struggling populations, often those of minorities.  They are actors in response to the question of cultural diversity. The Cultural Diversity Observatory, founded in the city of Les Lilas in France in 2000, is an example. Its main objective is to “promote expression in cultural diversity as a tool for dialogue, social inclusion and citizenship.”

Private companies, when they choose not to reduce cultural diversity to a means to obtain better productivity or for their image,  can also act in concrete ways to integrate cultural diversity into their activities. Let’s talk about Qwant, the French search engine, considers « the application of the defense of identities and regional cultures  in its ethical business plan.» Beyond these initiatives, through their respect for the private life of internet users, they encourage access to a more diversified cultural approach in their offering of neutral results

Professionals in the cultural domain, through their collective work, sometimes comment on the subject of cultural diversity. The French Coalition for Cultural Diversity, founded in 1997, brings together « professional cultural organisations … and defends cultural diversity in the face of international commercial negociations. » Another example : at the time we are writing this article, the actress Aïssa Maïga is promoting her book Black is not my profession (Noire n’est pas mon métier) (Seuil, 2018), written with 15 other actrices. They denounce stereotypes, racism, and sexism in the film industry, calling for better representations of society in culture.

Academics, integral to helping society step back and reflect, count among them many intellectuals in the realm of cultural diversity. Jacques Derrida, Édouard Glissant, Alain Renaut, Emmanuel Levinas… we have chosen to specifically note the sentiment of intellectual Paul Ricœur (1913-2005). The French philosopher published many works including Oneself as Another (Seuil, 1990), where he studies identity, self, the Other, the Same, and their interactions. “The Other is not only the counterpart of the same, but belongs to the intimate constitution of its sense”  (1992 : 329).

Citizens. We can certainly count individuals as key players in cultural diversity, since they live and act in the reality.

Pixabay, licence CC0

If we consider strictly origins, just in France alone, 12 million French people or residents in France are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants according to Insee in 2012. According to another study from the same institute from 2015, 14% of French marriages are mixed.


These identities are not fixed but fluid with undefined borders, open to influences, and extremely diverse.

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