Ethnicity and Democratic Governance

Ethnicity and Democratic Governance

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Three Differences of Approach

1. EDG studies models of ethnic accommodation for their ability to stabilize societies and reduce conflict but also for human rights, economic and social inclusiveness

EDG acknowledges that ethnicity and ethnic conflicts have generated an immense amount of scholarly research and that we are not the first research project to tackle this field of study. Yet, much of the current research has, understandably, focused on ethnicity and ethnic relations in the light of their capacity to destabilize societies. Studies may be undertaken only when ethnic interaction does threaten to dramatically destabilize a society. Research has therefore focused on issues of peace, stability and, conflict resolution. While these are crucial concerns as the horrors of Rwanda/ Yugoslavia and the current conflict in the Middle East confirm, EDG hopes to examine approaches to ethnicity through a wider lens.

EDG examines responses to ethnicity and cultural difference under the microscope of social stability, rights and economic well-being. Models for responding to ethnic and cultural difference will be scrutinized for their ability to ensure peace and stability, but also for capacity to encourage such things as effective participation and public deliberation (the democratic character of a society). Does a model promote the fairness of society, including its ability to maintain a robust welfare state and to reduce socio-economic exclusion? Does it enhance justice and human rights? And, in turn, is long-term stability itself in fact dependent on the very integration of such elements within a society?

2. EDG examines governance of ethnic diversity through an interdisciplinary approach

Much of the work on ethnicity and ethnic conflict has involved separate communities of scholars and policy makers studying the issues in independent disciplinary, theoretical, and geographical compartments with limited interaction between them. There has been little development of common conceptual language or method. The intention of this project is to break down these compartments; and to promote interdisciplinary development of theory and method, across types of difference, across regions of the world, and among academics, policy-makers, and citizens.

EDG has brought specialists on the different thematic issues, different regions and countries, and different state strategies and policies together to address our four major research themes. The work of many individual team members already involves more than one of these themes and bridges more than one academic discipline. This will ensure a fruitful interaction of experts who normally consider their own questions in isolation from the others.

3. EDG engages policy makers, independent research groups, politicians and citizens

Research has also been focused on the academy, with too little cross-fertilization between it and governmental agencies, and even less with non-governmental agencies from civil society who bring their own ethnically immersed grass-roots experience and approaches. EDG academic team members already bridge the world of scholarship and practice with a record of contributing to public and policy debates as members of government commissions and as contributors to international agencies such as the United Nations. In addition, they have extensive experience and expertise in working with international agencies, rights groups and non-governmental organizations in a wide variety of settings of ethno-cultural conflict. Partners and stakeholders with the project have deep roots in civil society and governments and their own research resources. They will feed information, ideas, experience and expertise into the project and through them, we will communicate our results and ideas to the academy and a wider community.

Representatives from many of our partner/stakeholder groups attended our first team meeting (June 17-20, 2006) making a substantial contribution to establishing further direction for research and debate in our first spoke workshops and beyond. Partners and stakeholders will continue to influence research directions and to disperse our work through their own extensive policy and citizen’s networks