Cultural diversity is the quality of diversity within a specific geographical location. In the global context, cultural diversity may refer to the variety of societies and cultures within the world. All these cultures have their own histories and have emerged separately, while being shaped by different factors in the process. Not only are there cultural differences, such as tradition, language, morals but there are also societal differences, such as the way they organize themselves. Thus, culture and diversity are two important concepts in the study of international development.
What is culture?
Culture is understood as a group or community which shares common experiences that shape the way its members understand the world. This includes groups that we are born into, such as race, national origin, gender, class, or religon. It is also possible to include a group we join or become a part of.¹ It is, thus, possible to acquire a new culture by moving to a new country or region, by changing your economic status, or by becoming disables. One can belong to many cultures at once.¹
Culture influences peoples' views, values, humor, hopes, loyalties, worries, and fears. When working with other people and building relationships with them, it is important to consider and understand their cultures. It is also vital to acknowledge how our cultures not only differ us, but connect us as human beings.¹
In building communities, it is important to understand culture¹:
- To build communities that are powerful enough to attain significant change, large numbers of people working together is necessary. Cultural groups joining forces will lead to more effective goal reaching, as all perspectives will be taken into consideration;
- Each cultural group has unique strengths and perspectives that the larger community can benefit from;
- Understanding cultures will help us overcome and prevent racial and ethnic division;
- People from different cultures have to be included in decision-making processes in order for programs or policies to be effective;
- An appreciation of culture leads to equity within society.
What is diversity?
Some people understand diversity as the four employment equity groups: people who are visible minorities, women in non-traditional or management roles, persons with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples.² Diversity is also defined by the following categories: race or color, religion or creed, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, national or ethnic origin, ancestry or place of birth, age, depdendence on drugs or alcohol, and source of income.²
With the rise of globalization over the past few decades, the issue of cultural diversity has been of great focus, as the process of globalization is serving somewhat as a destructive agent towards cultural diversity. With the improvements in telecommunications, transportation as well as accessibility to the internet, there has been an increase in the process of international integration, where cultures are interchanging views to make a “global culture.” At the same time, past cultures are slowly fading – this can be seen by the disappearances of many languages. To respond to such a phenomenon, there are movements to defend cultural diversity, such as the promotion of actions in favor of cultural minorities.
Thus, it can be seen that studying culture and diversity is extremely important in the context of international development, as it can help in global issues such as human rights.
1. Community Tool Box. Understanding Culture and Diversity in Building Communities. Retrieved May 6, 2014, from http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/culture/cultural-competence/culture-and-diversity/main
2. Martinson, Jeanne. Diversity Dialogue. What is diversity? Retrieved May 6, 2014, from http://diversitydialogue.sharevision.ca/Lists/Announcements/Attachments/6/WHAT%20%20IS%20DIVERSITY.pdf