Speaking at a Centre seminar on October 28, Nicholas Haysom, Director for Political Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the UN, said that while elections can sometimes trigger conflict and resurrect group tensions in societies deeply-divided by ethno-cultural cleavages, this is not a reason to avoid democracy. Heterogeneity itself is not a problem in these societies, he said. The mobilization of these cleavages occurs when political parties organize around them rather than wider “interest-based” differences. Haysom said stability and social solidarity are best promoted in these societies when there is a shared commitment to institutions based on liberal-democratic values and governing arrangements recognize diversity and entrench protections for the rights of minorities.
Dr. Haysom, was at Queens to accept an honorary degree on behalf of former South African President Nelson Mandela, for whom he served as principal legal advisor.