Launch of HDR 2004
Your Highnesses, Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Excellency, Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt, Excellency, Louis Michel, Vice Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Excellency, Marc Verwilghen, Minister of Development Cooperation, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Friends,
From the challenges of nation-building in a multi-ethnic Afghanistan, Iraq or Bosnia-Herzegovina, to the record number of people migrating to other lands, managing cultural diversity in a globalized world is one of the central challenges of our time. Indeed, in a world where the spread of goods, ideas and people have raised fears that national identity and values are being lost, and at a time when the concept of an inevitable “clash of civilizations” abounds, finding answers to the questions of how best to manage and mitigate conflict over differences of language, culture, religion or ethnicity, has taken on renewed importance.
This year’s Human Development Report seeks to analyse how we can grapple with these age-old questions, which in today’s culturally diverse and inter-connected world, have become more pressing than ever.
And as we do so, I can think of now more fitting place than Belgium, which, lying at the crossroads of Europe and having experienced some 2,000 years of the ebb and flow of numerous ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups from across this continent and beyond, is a vibrant example of a working multicultural society in an increasingly inter-cultural and interdependent world.
As the Report details, in a world where more than two-thirds of countries have minority groups that make up more than 10 per cent of their population and where 100 countries have cultural minorities of over 25 per cent, some 900 million people - about one in seven of the world population - belong to groups that are discriminated against or disadvantaged because of their cultural identities. The only sustainable solution to managing diversity and promoting stability, democracy and sustainable development in diverse countries – rich and poor – in a globlized world is by embracing diversity within countries and across the globe. Rather than accept the myth that countries can only succumb to an “inevitable” conflict of cultures, the example of our hosts Belgium, as well as countries such as Canada, India, Spain, South Africa, amongst many others, demonstrates, that not only is it possible to have unity with diversity, and stability with cultural freedom, but multicultural societies in themselves offer positive opportunities to build culturally richer, more vibrant communities.
As UNDP has long argued, at its core human development is all about allowing people to lead the kind of life they choose and providing the tools and opportunities that enable them to make those choices. Building on that framework, the key message of this year’s Human Development Report is that cultural liberty is a vital part of human development because being able to choose one’s identity, without fear of discrimination or diminished life opportunities, is important to leading a full and free life. Indeed, if the world is to achieve the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals to halve poverty and hunger by 2015, and ultimately eradicate extreme poverty in our world, it needs to address the critical issue of how to build culturally inclusive societies, not only because healthy, stable inclusive societies are essential factors to successful human development allowing countries to focus on delivering the education, healthcare, jobs and economic growth their citizens need, but because fundamentally, societies where all citizens are free to express their cultures, is an important development end in itself.
Clearly, there are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions. This independent report is intended to stimulate debate and discussion in developed and developing countries alike, as public forums and discussion events around the world today, in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Copenhagen, Dublin, Madrid, Rome, Stockholm, Sydney and Washington, to name but a few locations, as well as events scheduled for later this month for the multicultural nations of Asia which will take place in Kuala Lumpur, and the public discussions in Nigeria which President Obasanjo will participate in.
This year’s report also features the Human Development Index, our annual comprehensive ranking of countries according to their human development level, which reveals dramatic setbacks in income and life expectancy as a result of the impact of HIV/AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Following this week’s international conference on AIDS in Bangkok, it is yet another reminder of the urgency the world faces in tackling the spread of this disease which threatens to undermine global efforts to achieve the other seven Millennium Development Goals.
Critical to human development, and to achieving the historic Millennium Development Goals to tackle extreme poverty, hunger and disease in our world, is the too often ignored dimension of cultural liberty in human development. This report seeks to address one of the most fundamental challenges of our time: how to build a world where, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu has put it, we find ways to “delight in our differences.” In today’s culturally diverse world where the challenge of building societies where cultural liberty and social and economic progress not only co-exist, but re-enforce each other, this has never been a more important task for peoples everywhere.
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