Human Development Report

2412-3129 (online)
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Human Development Reports (HDRs) have been released most years since 1990 and have explored different themes through the human development approach. They have had an extensive influence on development debate worldwide. The reports, produced by the Human Development Report Office for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), are ensured of editorial independence by the United Nation’s General Assembly
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Human Development Report 2004

Human Development Report 2004

Cultural Liberty in Today's Diverse World You do not have access to this content

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31 Dec 2004
9789210576932 (PDF)

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Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World argues that states must actively devise multicultural policies to prevent discrimination on cultural grounds – religious, ethnic and linguistic. The Report states that the expansion of cultural freedoms, not suppression, is the only sustainable option to promote stability, democracy and human development within and across societies. Its overarching message is to highlight the vast potential of building a more peaceful, prosperous world by brining issues of culture to the mainstream of development thinking and practice. In delivering it’s message, the Report debunks the myths that have been used to deny expansions of cultural freedoms, showing that diversity is not a threat to state unity, not the source of inevitable clashes and not an obstacle to development.
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  • Foreword
    At a time when the notion of a global “clash of cultures” is resonating so powerfully—and worryingly—around the world, finding answers to the old questions of how best to manage and mitigate conflict over language, religion, culture and ethnicity has taken on renewed importance. For development practitioners this is not an abstract question. If the world is to reach the Millennium Development Goals and ultimately eradicate poverty, it must first successfully confront the challenge of how to build inclusive, culturally diverse societies. Not just because doing so successfully is a precondition for countries to focus properly on other priorities of economic growth, health and education for all citizens. But because allowing people full cultural expression is an important development end in itself.
  • Acknowledgements
    This Report could not have been prepared without the generous contributions of many individuals and organizations.
  • Overview: Cultural liberty in today’s diverse world
    How will the new constitution of Iraq satisfy demands for fair representation for Shiites and Kurds? Which—and how many—of the languages spoken in Afghanistan should the new constitution recognize as the official language of the state? How will the Nigerian federal court deal with a Sharia law ruling to punish adultery by death? Will the French legislature approve the proposal to ban headscarves and other religious symbols in public schools? Do Hispanics in the United States resist assimilation into the mainstream American culture? Will there be a peace accord to end fighting in Côte d’Ivoire? Will the President of Bolivia resign after mounting protests by indigenous people? Will the peace talks to end the Tamil-Sinhala conflict in Sri Lanka ever conclude? These are just some headlines from the past few months. Managing cultural diversity is one of the central challenges of our time.
  • Cultural liberty and human development
    Human deprivation can occur in many ways, some more remediable than others. The human development approach has been extensively used in the development literature (including earlier Human Development Reports) to analyze several prominent sources of affliction, ranging from illiteracy and a lack of health care to unemployment and indigence. In this year’s Report there is a substantial expansion of coverage and reach focusing in particular on the importance of cultural liberty and on the personal and social loss that can result from its dearth.
  • Challenges for cultural liberty
    Some of the most socially divisive debates today are on cultural identity and diversity—in vastly different contexts, in many different ways. The debates can be about the choice of official language (Afghanistan’s new Constitution), political representation of ethnic or religious groups (Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq), relations between the state and religion (Muslims in France), claims of indigenous people against mining by multinational corporations (Amazon region of Brazil), immigration policies (United Kingdom) or naturalization procedures (Germany). Such tensions can also be at the heart of violent conflicts (Rwanda, Yugoslavia). Globalization adds yet another dimension, as ethnic groups, indigenous people and nation-states challenge international agreements on trade and investment on the grounds that they diminish cultural diversity.
  • Building multicultural democracies
    Chapter 2 chronicles the widespread suppression of cultural liberty and the discrimination based on cultural identity—ethnic, religious and linguistic. How can states be more inclusive? Democracy, equitable development and state cohesion are essential. But also needed are multicultural policies that explicitly recognize cultural differences. But such policies are resisted because ruling elites want to keep their power, and so they play on the flawed assumptions of the “myths” detailed in chapter 2. And these policies are challenged for being undemocratic and inequitable. This chapter argues that multicultural policies are not only desirable but also feasible and necessary. That individuals can have multiple and complementary identities. That cultures, far from fixed, are constantly evolving. And that equitable outcomes can be achieved by recognizing cultural differences.
  • Confronting movements for cultural domination
    This Report argues that people should be free to be who they are, to choose their identities and to live accordingly. It further argues that the recognition of multiple and complementary identities—with individuals identifying themselves as citizens of a state as well as members of ethnic, religious and other cultural groups—is the cornerstone of cultural liberty. But movements hostile to these principles seek to eliminate diversity in the name of cultural superiority. Such movements, and their underlying sources of support, must be confronted. The question is: How?
  • Globalization and cultural choice
    When historians write of the world’s recent history, they are likely to reflect on two trends: the advance of globalization and the spread of democracy. Globalization has been the more contentious, because it has effects both good and bad, and democracy has opened space for people to protest the bad effects. So, controversies rage over the environmental, economic and social consequences of globalization. But there is another domain of globalization, that of culture and identity, which is just as controversial and even more divisive because it engages ordinary people, not just economists, government officials and political activists.
  • Notes
  • Bibliographic note
  • Bibliography
  • Human development indicators
  • Definitions of statistical terms
  • Statistical references
  • Classification of countries
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