The Charter of the United Nations was created 70 years ago, in an attempt to lay the foundation for progress for all of the humanity. This year, the United Nations aim to formulate and adopt a post-2015 development agenda. In the framework of this ambitious goal, a conference “The Notion of Progress in the Diversity of World Cultures” was held in New York in the last days. The main questions the conference addressed: how to work towards progress and a better future in a world torn my cultural conflicts and how diversity can have a positive connotation on uniting instead of separating the human race.
Let us start with a look at the word diversity. The word derived from the Latin diversitatem, with main meaning of “contradiction, disagreement” – so far so bad – but the word had a second sense as well – “difference, turning different ways”. The word was adopted in the French language in 12th century with the spelling of diversité and meaning of “diversity, unique feature.”
The first written record in the English language comes from the religious works of one of the most widely read English hermits – Richard Rolle in 1340, where the word is used in the meaning of “variety”. In the following years the word was mainly a part of the juridical vocabulary and referred to a “contradiction, a contrary to what is agreeable or right”, with the next written record coming from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale, 1386: “There was such diversity between his both laws”.
With the rise of modern democracies in the late 1700s, the word diversity appealed as a virtue in a nation. In 1790, one of the best-known intellectual attacks against the French Revolution was published. Edmund Burke, a Whig himself and viewed as the philosophical founder of conservatism, in his tract Reflections on the revolution in France, sees the idea of social liberty of mankind threatened by the rich-poor conflict and the diversity of the governing interests: ”Through that diversity of members and interests, general liberty had as many securities as there were separate views in the several orders.”
And there we are, nearly two and a half centuries later, the global cooperative progress of the humanity is still utopia. And as UN realizes, new goals for progress must be formulated to respond to changes in the world in terms of population and GDP. Cultural diversity is to be seen as a set of unique characteristics (as its literal French etymology from 12th century suggests) which can co-exist in parallel. And there is not a better reference than European Union’s official moto: “United in diversity “. By embracing diversity and through dialogue and peaceful settlement of disputes sustainable progress and a better future can be achieved. A noble dream.