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Minority Rights in Culturally Diverse Societies

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Minority Rights in Culturally Diverse Societies

Countries that are seeking to establish constitutional democracy after a history of dictatorial or oppressive government confront large challenges in creating stable structures of government and protecting the rights of their citizens. Many countries have the added challenge of considering how their culturally diverse character—which may be linguistic, religious, tribal, ethnic, or even “national” (if the more than one group within the country calls itself a nation)— should be reflected in their constitution and governmental arrangements. Minority groups may seek special arrangements to protect their basic human rights as well as constitutional provisions providing specific rights to protect their cultural identities, to ensure their symbolic recognition, to protect them against economic marginalization, and to ensure their effective role in government. How to pursue these objectives while also creating a common citizenship, social harmony and effective government is a central challenge in framing a constitution. This Working Paper discusses the nature of different minorities that may be politically important, and then considers different approaches to dealing with the constitutional recognition of minorities, the protection of their basic human rights and the entrenchment of specific minority rights, as well as the participation of minorities in government.