The Pacific Asia Observatory for Cultural Diversity in Human Development (PAO) is a direct response to the strategic directions of the UNESCO Stockholm Action Plan (1998), which is the intergovernmental response to the final report of the World Commission for Culture and Development entitled Our Creative Diversity (1996). It further builds on the outcomes of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002); and the review forum of the Stockholm Action Plan entitled Stockholm+5 (2003).
The PAO is currently hosted on by the International Institute for the Inclusive Museum. It was established at the request of UNESCO, Paris and the regional UNESCO offices in the Pacific and Asia. The PAO is a project acknowledged by the Australian National Commission for UNESCO. The PAO is an integral part of the Action Plan of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2 November 2001)
The PAO aims to facilitate the promotion of Cultural Diversity in all aspects of Human Development – scientific, educational, social, environmental, economic and cultural – in the Pacific Asia region through:
- Interdisciplinary approaches to promoting the Charter of UNESCO within the frameworks of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity and the UNDP Human Development Reports;
- Support for the implementation of UNESCO’s standard setting instruments – Declarations, Recommendations and Conventions;
- Cooperative projects that deal with cross cultural communications using web based tools as well as conventional means;
- Regular thematic conferences, symposia, workshops and seminars;
- Publications including case study volumes and e-journals which will be available free of cost on request in developing countries; and
- Capacity building programs that locate culture in poverty alleviation within the total framework of human development addressing Millennium Development Goals.
It is envisaged that given the challenges of locating culture in development, the PAO will essentially work as a facilitator for bringing together all the stakeholder agencies through select projects and activities. In doing so, the PAO will adhere to the broader guidance of the Stockholm Action Plan, Local Agenda 21 and UNESCO as follows:
Focussing on holistic community development, the advancement of the main goals and operational framework of the PAO will deal with policies for development with reference to culture and creativity as stimuli or catalysts for other spheres of development such as education, conservation, health and well-being through effective integrated local area planning.
In advocating the building of culturally grounded governance, the PAO will promote regional and tri-sector partnerships; advocate inclusive governance structures; be accountable to stakeholders; ensure ethical practices and protocols for community engagement; advocate social mobilisation through consultation and participation; and foster creativity and innovations.
Embedding cultural inclusion, the PAO will work on encouraging local identities and a sense of place. In fostering holistic policy frameworks, the PAO will advocate transformation planning and change in cultural, educational, scientific and environmental agencies focussing on cultural diversity. PAO covers the policy and practice of inclusive management examining the construction of cultural discourse; access and equity plans; cultural and environmental interpretation and presentation in cross cultural contexts; community engagement programs; legislative and government policy frameworks; cultural pluralism and corporate processes; community grounded development and advocacy; and networking in cultural and environmental management. These themes are integrated into local area planning throughout the work of the PAO and depart from the conventional approaches to top-down development.
The PAO is a major initiative operating from the Pacific and Asia Regions. It maximises on the expertise of the various educational institutions, governments and NGOs and forms strategic alliances with other agencies to fulfil its mission. The PAO provides critical leadership for relevant periodic think tanks. It was launched at the Transformations Conference in Canberra in 2005 focussing on the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity. It brings together – the Planning Institute of Australia, Australian Local Government Association, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, UNESCO and the Australian National Commission for UNESCO, SBS radio and TV, The Australia Council for the Arts and various higher education institutions, along with a number of both public and private sector organisations.