Developing diversity

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· 110 out of 182 countries are culturally diverse with at least 25 per cent of their populations belonging to an ethnic or a religious minority. In 42 countries their population ranges between 10-25 per cent

· Yet, 900 million of them belong to groups subject to some form of cultural exclusion where they either lack the opportunity to participate in social, political and economic activities, or their choice of lifestyle is not recognised and they are coerced into living like others in society

· Evidently, such exclusion has socio-economic implications
• The occupational castes in Nepal have under-five mortality rates of more than 17 per cent compared with around 7 per cent in the majority Newars (mostly merchants and traders) and Brahmins

• In Mexico, 81 per cent of indigenous people are reckoned to have incomes below the poverty line compared with 18 per cent for the general population.

• And the Romas, a gypsy tribe in Eastern Europe, have unemployment rates averaging 45 per cent, going up as high as 60 per cent in some areas

Justifying acceptance
It is cheaper and more effective
Indicator Bilingual
Success rate in obtaining a primary education certificate (in per cent) 72 14
Average duration to gain a diploma (in pupil years) 6 37
Internal output rate (in per cent) 68 16
Annual recurrent costs per student (in US $)* 143.74 194.81
*US $1 = 538.46 CFA francs
· Cultural liberty, therefore, is necessary for human development not just as a means to an end, but a development end in itself. However, it needs to be fostered through government policies
• Political participation: In New Zealand, introduction of proportional representation in the elections raised the Maori presence from 3 to 16 per cent from 1993 to 2002

• Access to socio economic opportunities: Affirmative action has reduced the ratio of average income between Chinese and Malay populations in Malaysia from 2.3 in 1970 to 1.7 in 1990. And in Peru, government and corporations have been involving indigenous communities in decision-making in the Antamina zinc and copper mine since 2001

• Acceptance of their language: India has practised a three-language formula where children are taught in the official language of their state, and the two official languages of the country

Source: Anon 2004, Human Development Report 2004