UN calls on governments to embrace multiculturalism

A report by the United Nations says governments need multicultural policies in order to achieve peace and stability within their countries.

The 2004 Human Development Report launched in Sydney found one in seven people worldwide face discrimination because of their cultural identity.

Co-author of the report David Stewart says many governments exclude minority groups because of myths that cultural diversity is an obstacle to development.

“Another of these myths is cultures are bound to clash because there are fundamental value differences between cultures, and again we found this wasn’t the case. What you find is very rarely a fundamental clash of values, what you find is one group being treated badly and fighting back. I think there’s a perception that diverse countries are less likely to be able to develop and grow economically and we found that wasn’t the case at all, another myth is that some cultures are more likely to be democratic, again that clearly isn’t the case”.

In a ranking of national income, life expectancy and education levels of 177 countries, the report placed Australia third behind Sweden and Norway.

However in a poverty index, Australia came 14th out of 17 countries, with one in seven Australians still living below the poverty line.

Former Federal Senator, and President of the United Nation Association, Margaret Reynolds, says Australia has special cause to consider the report.

“We have 25 percent of our population being of migrant background and we have boasted that we are a very successful multicultural nation. But it is not true in terms of respect and reconciliation for indigenous peoples in this country and of course we have seen enormous controversy and hardship for asylum seekers”.

Ms Reynolds also says Australia’s political representation in terms of ethnic minorities is poor.

There are at least five ethnic representatives out of 150 in the House of Representatives.

She says she hopes to see a greater respect for diversity at the ballot box in the upcoming elections.

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