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24 May 2011
Cultural diversity may be buzz words among the socially politically correct but Deakin University's Chair in Migration and Intercultural Research Professor Fethi Mansouri hopes they may create a buzz of their own right where it matters - across the world's economies.
Professor Mansouri, who is an expert in migration, social inclusion, integration and youth, has just returned from Doha where he was an expert speaker at the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) forum on civil society.
The visit followed a trip to New York where Professor Mansouri was part of a six member expert panel advising the UNAOC on extending Millennium Development Goals to the inter-related areas of migration, youth and education.
The UNAOC forum was held to gain input from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) ie NGOs, trade unions, faith-based organisations, indigenous peoples movements, on ways to connect the Alliance's core mission of improving cross-cultural relations to the Millennium Development Goals.
"What the Forum was seeking was input on the development of an index to measure the impact cultural diversity has on a country's economy and human development," Professor Mansouri said.
"It was very exciting because culture has never been used as a key variable before for development agendas and we know that cultural diversity and intercultural harmony can have a significant impact on a country's overall economic development.
"Take for example Congo and Rwanda, in both countries there has been conflict driven by ethnic tension which has had an impact on their development and their ability to achieve their development goals.
"Until such conflicts are addressed these countries are not going to be able to meet their development goals."
Professor Mansouri, said even in a stable country like Australia which had a high level of cultural diversity the contribution of such diversity and intercultural harmony to its GDP had never been measured.
"Ultimately you can take culture and look at its impacts in different contexts, for instance as a dimension for poverty eradication, for health improvements, for improved educational attainment and for combating gender bias," he said.
"Cultural diversity and multiculturalism are more than buzz words, and if the work of UNAOC is successful globally then they will become key economic factors in development programs."
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