Human Development Report 2004

Cultural Liberty in Today's Diverse World

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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.



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.


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