LJUBLJANA, 7 November 2012 – The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek presented guidelines on the integration of diverse societies at an event today in Ljubljana.
Speaking at the launch Vollebaek stressed that the question of how best to accommodate diversity is high on the agendas of many OSCE participating States. “All OSCE participating States are multi ethnic. Living together with people of different cultures, ethnicities and religions is not a matter of choice; it is a fact of life. It is up to us to make the best of it.”
The Ljubljana Guidelines on Integration of Diverse Societies contain a set of guiding principles and practical examples, to assist the States in formulating and implementing policies to facilitate the integration of diverse societies.
Vollebaek emphasized that respecting diversity while maintaining constructive interaction and a “common sense of belonging” in society by all persons, regardless of their ethnic, cultural linguistic or religious backgrounds, is a challenge. He emphasized that policies that facilitate such a balance can bring great advantages to all OSCE participating States, not least of which is the avoidance of ethnic tensions and potential conflict. “States in which the process of integration is tackled in a sustainable manner are more likely to experience long-term stability and prosperity,” the High Commissioner said.
One of the guiding principles of the work of the High Commissioner in addressing potential ethnic conflict is “integration with respect for diversity”. Providing recommendations to OSCE participating States on how to achieve this balance in different local contexts has been a key element of the institution’s approach throughout the 20 years of its existence.
“A badly managed integration process can cause tensions to rise and can easily be abused by individuals or groups who seek to promote their own short-term interests at the expense of society as a whole,” Vollebaek said. “Therefore, managing diversity through an integration policy is not selflessness; it is self-interest.”