Editorial by Federico Mayor

By Mayor Zaragoza, Federico | UNESCO Courier, June 1993 | Go to article overview

Editorial by Federico Mayor


Mayor Zaragoza, Federico, UNESCO Courier


WHAT is a minority? Does a group become a minority simply by virtue of regarding itself as one? Can any and every minority invoke the right to self-determination? Is it conceivable that the map of the world could ever be redrawn to conform with ethnic criteria? Are there any general principles for ensuring peaceful coexistence between majorities and minorities? These are some of the questions raised in the following pages, in an issue of the UNESCO Courier which does not claim to be an exhaustive treatment of the problem but an attempt to investigate its complexity. For myself, I should particularly like to emphasize the worldwide dimension of this question, because it throws light both on its most topical aspects and on conditions for a long-term solution.

The context in which the issue of minorities arises today is indeed very closely related to the general characteristics of the age. It is no longer a context of sealed frontiers and isolated regions but one of an integrated global system in which the links of interdependence in finance, technology and communications are growing closer each day. Political, industrial or military decisions made at one end of the world very rapidly have an impact at the other. Because of the scale of production units and the pressures of international competition, regional economic groupings are imposing increasing constraints upon individual countries, to the detriment of their national preferences. Certain role models, symbols and tastes in clothing and food are being propagated worldwide by the mass media.

As a reaction against this trend towards globalization--which is accompanied by growing inequalities between the different world regions--people everywhere are seeking to defend themselves against encroaching uniformity and dehumanization. Individuals and communities alike are thereby voicing their desire to exist, to use their powers of creation, to play an active part in national and international life. Where there is no peaceful and democratic context in which these aspirations can find an effective outlet, extremist, demagogic, xenophobic and even racist ideas begin to spread, transforming the legitimate desire to affirm identity into an aggressive attitude, tending towards isolationism and exclusion and accompanied by a rejection of universal values, disregard for the rights and liberties of the person, and a refusal to seek common ground or to teach the values of tolerance. …

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