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Discussion Paper Series - No. 12 - Public Policy and ethnic conflict
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  • How to manage ethnic conflicts in multicultural societies ?


  • For our purposes, it is important to underscore that in a single case history, various modes of ethnic conflict resolution including a wide range of contradictory and inconsistent modalities on the continuum from left to right can be discovered.

    The importance of this point consists of the proposition that very often a multi-ethnic state which searches for a solution to its communal crisis may discover insights from its own experience and history rather than in alien imports. What I am also saying is that in the end whatever policy proposals are recommended to regulate and resolve an inter-ethnic crisis they should not be treated as the transfer of mere technical devices that can be conveniently and neutrally inserted in an ethnic conflict to provide a temporary solution.

    In migrant-minority contexts, the options of multiculturalism and liberal democracy on the positive side of the continuum of ethnic conflict resolution modalities are pertinent although assimilation and legal hegemonic domination are often openly practiced and even population transfers through incentives are sometimes applied. Whether situated in multiculturalism or territorial decentralization or practically any other mode, ethnic conflict resolution is not only culture specific to a substantial extent but it tends to embody a contest over cultural claims and the distribution of symbolic and material values. This is the fulcrum on which turns issues of equity in claims and counter claims among ethnic communities in conflict.

    In the end, the issues and the mode of resolution are political, cultural and ethical (23).

    This should point towards a critical process of formulating policy options that are at once cognizant of and sensitive to cultural contexts (24).

    Solutions must also be cognizant of and constructed on our understanding of the nature of ethnicity and identity processes derived from available empirical evidence. We turn to this next.

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