Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Diversity and Dialogue – Humanity's Guarantee for a Mutually Enriching and Sustainable Future.

 In 2002, a jointly held UNESCO and UNEP high-level Roundtable report proclaimed cultural diversity

“as a source of innovation, creativity and exchange—is humanity's guarantee for a mutually enriching and sustainable future.” 

This proclamation was made against the backdrop of the then perceived environmental issue: cultural diversity is linked to biodiversity, in a defense against modern developments and indigenous acculturation, leading to rapid decline of knowledge and relationship with their natural environments.

“It is within this background that Indigenous communities have been described as, at one and the same time, victims of environmental degradation and protectors of vulnerable ecosystems (UN 1991: Para. 23).”

In the last decade, others have explored this proclamation in the two other categorical contexts of sustainability, seeing it as

(1) a social justice issue: culturally diverse populations, and often lower incomed, are often at the frontlines of environmental degradations absorbing the impacts, and

(2) an economic bottomline issue: corporate diversity initiatives leading to increased economic performance and profitability. 

But rarely do pundits and academics see the dialogue as a completed circular one. Most are set on seeing this linearly and discretely—contextually independent. Within these independent categorical contexts of sustainability and dialogue, professionals and mangers often take one of two different approaches to sustainability: (1) that organizations have an obligation to do something progressive to address the challenges, or (2) that organizations have the opportunity to change internally and improve to maximize value creation. Not surprisingly, most for-profit organizations take the second path and have developed a body of knowledge around what we refer to today as corporate social responsibility—in a dimensional limit of Me, Me, Me!

But if our Constitutional state is a permissive one, which implies a certain sense of social obligation from private entities, and if corporations are to be treated equally as individuals before the law under the protections of afforded rights, then, not only do the corporations have opportunities to make internal performance improvements within the context of sustainability, but they also have the obligation to facilitate a reciprocal relationship between diversity and dialogue in their communities, marketplaces, and the greater communities in which they thrive to foster sustainable developments for others.

Cultural diversity is a dynamic process and for the corporate sector, it is an entrepreneurial and innovative process. It is not a stagnate deposit of cultural relics to distil best practices. It is an emerging global economic identity still discovering adolescence in the age of We, of Us.

It is in a sense a “reciprocal” relationship (between diversity and dialogue in sustainability), and the “causal link that binds them cannot be severed without jeopardising development’s sustainability.” 

The key to this reciprocal relationship and dialogue is in the investigation of things and in the knowledge exchange—a “continuously flowing and unifying dialogue open to each and every expression of identity.” In the Us context, only in this act of learning and applying can we find cultural diversity really translates to value for sustainability.

“Cultural diversity is more than the fact of cultural difference. It is a value which recognizes that differences in human societies are parts of systems and relationships. Cultural diversity is the value through which differences are mutually related and reciprocally supportive.” 

But the end objective remains an active and communal transition towards positively empowered sustainability.

Something to sit on so to speak. 

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