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Building Shared and Inclusive Societies for Prosperity

5 December 2012 06:30 pm - 4     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


                                 Unity in Diversity                                 

Poverty and conflict are two issues that have caused many setbacks for developing Nations.

Poverty is considered to be the greatest challenge facing all countries.  Governments have formulated and implemented thousands of programmes to alleviate or end poverty and deprivation.

However, rarely do governments recognise the importance of searching out the causes of conflict and resolving them.  Unresolved conflict invariably leads to violence and civil war.  This in turn compounds the problems of poverty.

Traditional societies are composed of diverse groups of peoples of different ethnicities, religions, castes, etc.  In ancient, pre-colonial societies, diversity did not inevitably generate conflict.  Ancient philosophies recognised and accepted the existence of separate social groups with different beliefs and social structures.  Yet, they were all believed to be knit together by a common humanity, in search of an ultimate reality.  

The colonial rulers transformed diversity into sources of friction, employing diversities “to divide and rule”.  From being a cultural strength, diversity was transformed into a political and social weakness.   With the advent of colonialism, diversity was no more celebrated and accepted as part of an existential necessity, but was seen as something to be opposed.  Of course it was greatly advantageous to the invading rulers to divide us in order to rule and dominate us better.

Hence ethnic and tribal differences, religious differences and so on were exacerbated causing division and conflict.

Studies have amply demonstrated that exclusion and inequality between different groups has been the major cause of intra-national conflicts.  When inequality occurs among groups which have similar economic and social status – that is, horizontal inequalities, the disadvantaged group feels the discrimination more sharply.

Perceived injustice as well as frustration and despair caused by continued social marginalisation, economic deprivation and political defeat has been known to result in violence.  It has been said that “young hope betrayed, transforms itself into bombs”. The continued existence of inequality gives rise to violence and even terrorism – that most dehumanising phenomenon of our times.  Economic regression and political instability follows.

Economic development is no doubt the priority requirement for addressing the challenges of poverty and deprivation.

Most developing economies have attained accelerated growth and development in the past few decades.

However, hundreds of millions of our citizens have been left behind, continuing to live under conditions of extreme poverty and are even becoming poorer than before.  They remain marginalised, while the benefits of economic growth are enjoyed by a relatively small number of the privileged classes.  

Economic Development happens to be only one part of the solution.  We need to adopt a holistic plan of action which will encompass the socio-political aspects of the problem.  All those communities which have been excluded historically or even in modern times must be included as equal partners, having equal rights in the economic, social and political spheres.  In formulating policies for development, an inclusive approach is required so that the benefits of growth reach the disadvantaged and they are included in the implementation of the programmes.

Studies have ascertained that when all communities living within a State are guaranteed equal opportunities – economically, socially, politically– and their separate identities are respected and given free expression, they will become a productive, vibrant part of the State, celebrating the richness of its diversity, while building an united, strong and stable country.

Such a society is called a Cohesive or Shared or Inclusive Society.

It is a society where the political, governmental and societal structures are designed to allow the equitable distribution of and equal access to the benefits of development and prosperity for All, irrespective of the community to which they belong.  The Constitution of the State, its political structures such as Parliament and other elected bodies, its Government and administrative structures will all have to be constructed in such a manner as to accommodate free and active participation of All, in political and governmental processes, as well as the guarantee of equal rights to all.

The contrary instance is where differences among diverse communities living within a country have been exacerbated by rulers, to their advantage. They tend to conjure up “an enemy” from peoples who belong to different ethnic, religious, caste or political groups. History is replete with examples of States and Governments employing the concept of the “other”, represented as the “enemy”, as a tool of Government management.  

Sustainable development, prosperity and peace necessarily imply that the “other” be brought in and included fully and honestly into the processes of economic development, as full and equal partners of the process of government – to power sharing, for instance.

To end poverty and hunger in a durable manner, we need inclusive and sustainable development.

As for Sri Lanka, the constant economic, social and cultural deprivation of the Northern and Eastern regions is clearly related to the violent conflict we have witnessed.  Low levels of development of infrastructure, relatively little opportunity to access quality education and employment, political marginalisation with minimal opportunity to participate in decision-making processes in the political and administrative superstructure, are undoubtedly the root causes that gave rise to the terribly violent conflict in my country.

The consistent rejection by the State of the demand of the Tamil movements for language parity, led to increased demands for power sharing through Federalism, and finally the demand for a separate State.

The challenge of the 21st Century for many Nations remains the enterprise of erecting pluralist, multi-ethnic, multi cultural States.  This requires that we manage the existing diversity within our Nations, directing the richness of this diversity towards positive change in order to build Free, Democratic and Prosperous Societies.  We need to accept and celebrate diversity, not reject it.  The combined efforts and skills of peoples of different communities can only enrich our Societies, not damage them.

  Comments - 4

  • richardson Thursday, 06 December 2012 08:54 AM

    Douch bag

    Ben Hurling Thursday, 06 December 2012 12:03 PM

    What a load of crap. From a person who abused the office of Presidency of SL to the max. Please stay away in the UK. Enjoy retirement at SL tax-payers expense. Don't even think of making a comeback. That's all we ask. Thnx.

    Andrew Pitugala Thursday, 06 December 2012 12:42 PM

    She can talk and impress people BUT what did she do for the Srilankan people during her stay as President. She left it in a much worse condition than before.

    Upul Thursday, 06 December 2012 02:12 PM

    Poverty and inequality are exacerbated when the Rulers flaunt their wealth and prosperity in the faces of the disadvantaged

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