MINELRES: New on the MRG website: 'Diversity is not a threat' confirms key UN development report

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Aug 30 17:19:03 2004

Original sender: Chris Chapman <CHRIS.CHAPMAN@mrgmail.org>

'Diversity is not a threat' confirms key UN development report

The annual Human Development Report of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) has confirmed that rather than a source of division and
‘clashes’ creating obstacles to development, diversity is at the core of
human development and should be encouraged and expanded. The influential
report strongly refutes a number of assumptions that have led cultural
diversity to be blamed as being a cause of violent conflict and
instability, when in fact the root causes of such problems lie in
discrimination, exclusion and suppression of cultural freedom.

The highly respected Human Development Report has taken as its theme in
2004, 'Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World' and the value of
accommodation of diverse ethnicities, religions, languages and values.
This, the report states, is an essential component of stability and
equitable development, and once in place, allows states to focus on
development for all amid conditions of peace, stability and democracy.
According to the report, such acceptance and accommodation provides an
essential bedrock of equality in diversity, upon which to build
sustainable futures and realistically address the challenges of the
Millennium Development Goals in economic growth and employment, health
and education. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) points out that
'cultural liberty' is a goal best achieved through respect for cultural
rights and that it is most often minorities within society whose
cultural rights are under threat.

Importantly, the report points out that unless those who are poor and
marginalized - often members of ethnic or religious minorities,
indigenous peoples and migrants - can participate in, and have influence
over political action and processes, they are unlikely to have equitable
access to services, justice or opportunities. It is this exclusion and
injustice, rather than diversity itself, which lies at the heart of
developmental failures and conflict. The report echoes calls by MRG to
address the economic, social and cultural rights of the most vulnerable
and marginalized communities, not only as obligations under
international human rights law, but as a means towards eradicating
poverty and building inclusive societies. MRG congratulates the use of
disaggregated data on ethnic, religious and linguistic groups within the
new report. This demonstrates clearly the potential for measurement of
cultural liberty, by gathering disaggregated data on issues including
diversity, discrimination and levels of participation, in line with the
existing HDR index on gender and development. Such data, MRG suggests,
is essential in revealing the full extent of discrimination facing
ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities, which too often remains

MRG has welcomed the report, which reflects many of its own concerns,
and ongoing calls for greater understanding and cooperation between
communities and policies to promote minority and indigenous rights and
participation. The UNDP report puts neglected cultural rights and
cultural identity firmly back on the rights and development agenda in
its call for expansion of ‘cultural freedoms’. According to MRG the
message is long overdue and has a strong foundation in international
human rights law, which ranks cultural rights as indivisible and equal
in status with all other economic, social and civil and political
rights. Importantly the report establishes that it is a mistake to
categorize individuals too simplistically, only as Muslim, for example,
when they may also belong to many other identity groups perhaps based on
ethnic origin, gender, age, political persuasion or profession, which
may be equally important to individuals, their identities and the
choices which they make.

'The UNDP has made a strong statement in support of diversity and those
who see it not as a threat, but rather its accommodation as a potential
solution to be welcomed and encouraged’, stated MRG spokesperson, Graham
Fox. ‘This is not simply a call for legislative and policy change, which
in themselves are not enough, it is a plea for much wider understanding,
tolerance and acceptance of those who are different from ourselves.
Inclusive values are eroded by discriminatory policies, and a growing
tide of ill-informed opinion amongst the media and the far right, that
equates cultural difference with threat and exploitation.'

MRG has been pleased to have the opportunity to consult with the UNDP on
issues of minority rights and development, and their importance in
achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. MRG encourages the
UNDP to take forward operationally the many key ideas expressed in the
Human Development Report 2004, drawing upon the existing policy note,
UNDP and Indigenous Peoples: A Policy of Engagement and in consideration
of its on-going interest in developing similar policy positions in
regard to minorities.  

Download the UNDP Human Development Report: Cultural Liberty in Today's
Diverse World