The Challenge of Diversity in a Global Environment
In recent years the term “diversity,” as it applies to people and culture, has grown in prominence and appears to have taken on a life of its own, it is used with the assumption that everyone knows what it means, and that it resonates with every culture. The reality however, may be very different. In some countries, the term does not exist in the language. In others, the focus of diversity on respect for difference and individualism may be at odds with more homogeneous cultural bases and attitudes. In other countries, diversity may just not feature at all. We can only achieve an integrated and holistic approach to diversity when we are clear about what it means and are sure that our understanding takes cognisance of local cultures and environments.
If we look first at the United States and Europe, we can already see some clear differences in how diversity is understood and put into practice. In the United States and Britain we have come to view diversity from a strictly representative basis, namely equal opportunities and compliance with relevant laws. This approach means that diversity is viewed in terms of the rights of minority groups, for example the rights of women, of people from specific ethnic minority groups, disabled people, different religious groups, or people who have suffered some other kind of discrimination. Consequently, many people would take the view that if you don’t belong to one of those minority groups, then diversity is irrelevant to them.
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Monday Developments, 14 November 2005, published by InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based international development and humanitarian non-governmental organizations
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