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Cultural Diversity and Conflict Resolution Cultural Diversity and Conflict Resolution
by Rene Wadlow
2019-05-21 09:03:43
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21 May, the U.N.-designated World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development recognizes the need to "enhance the potential of culture as a mens of achieving prosperity, sustainable development and global peaceful coexistence."  The year 2002 was the UN. Year for Cultural Heritage.  In order to prolong the impact of the Year, the U.N. General Assembly declared 21 May as a yearly reminder that bridging the gap between cultures is urgent and necessary for peace, stability, and development.  Many of the world's current armed conflicts have a cultural aspect. Cultural understanding is an important factor in the resolution of armed conflicts, but it can also be a means of living a more intellectual and spiritual life.

confli01_400However, some of today's armed conflicts are within States with only small cultural gaps, what Sigmund Freud called "the pathology of small differences".  It is true  that if we look at current tensions between the U.S.A. and Iran or the U.S.A. and China, there are major cultural differences in history, in values, and in styles of diplomacy. However, hopefully, there is no armed conflict, and with luck or skill, armed conflict will be avoided.

Yet, if we look at five on-going armed conflicts, there is a less wide cultural gap among the protagonists.  The Association of World Citizens has proposed negotiations in good faith to halt the fighting, followed by the creation of appropriate structures of government, possibly on a con-federal model. Four armed conflicts are in Africa: Cameroon, Mali, South Sudan and Libya as well as the dramatic Middle East conflict in Yemen. ( See links to Ovi articles)

The armed conflict in the Cameroon, basically between what is considered the French-speaking area and the English-speaking area has received less international attention than the other four.  English-speaking and French-speaking are very relative terms since most people speak their tribal-ethnic language in daily life.  Schooling and administration is in French or English.  The administrative division is real but it is not a deep cultural divide.  A certain amount of good will and administrative decentralization along con-federal structures should return the country to relative calm.

In the case of Mali and South Sudan, the cultural divide is deeper as it is often between people with settled agriculture and pastoralists. (See the Peul-Dogon  article as a key example for Mali).  In earlier times, there were conflict resolution patterns to settle such conflicts.  However, these techniques are no longer operative due in part to climate change and in part due to the breakdown of the overall government structures.  Reweaving the fabric of a peaceful society will not be easy.  However a sensitivity to cultural differences and styles will be a necessary skill.

In the case of Libya and Yemen, the issue is less one of the cultural style among the protagonists than a need to create a decentralized form of government to fill the void of governmental structures which have never been operative.  In addition Yemen faces aggression from foreign States which must come to an end before any new governmental structures can be put into place.

Thus 21 May can be a time of planning for renewed conflict resolution efforts keeping the cultural aspects of the conflicts well in mind.


Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens


On the subject you can also read from the same author:
1. Cameroon: Window of Opportunity for Con-federal Conflict Resolution?
2. Libya: Will the U.N. Appeal for a halt to the March on Tripoli be heard?
3. Dogon-Peul Conflict in Mali Draws U.N. Attention to Broader Settled Agriculturalist-Pastoralists Tensions in Africa
4. Yemen: Humanitarian Relief: Necessary First Steps on a Long Road of Reconciliation
5. Yemen: Two Assassinations and Potential Changes


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