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Peace and Democratic Society

Amartya Sen

Part II. Civil Paths to Peace. Report of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding

1. Why Do Respect and Understanding Matter?

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1Violence has been a lasting feature of human civilisation, and the contemporary world is no exception to the ubiquitous presence of assault and fury. But the world in which we live today is also one of systematic group violence, in which religious, or racial, or ethnic, or territorial divisions are used to foment violence and sometimes even genocide. Recurrent acts of targeting and terrorism make life deeply insecure for those on the ‛wrong’ side of the targeted separating line. Indeed, global violence clustered around systematically cultivated divisions has a huge presence in contemporary life across the world. Advances in science and technology have also increased the potentially catastrophic destruction of such violence and, as 9/11 has shown, not only in the context of nuclear, chemical or biological warfare.

2The seriousness of global violence has led to many initiatives aimed at defeating it. Military means for trying to secure peace have been widely discussed and have sometimes also been rapidly deployed, with more reasoned and better informed justification in some cases than in others. And yet group violence through systematic instigation is not only – perhaps not even primarily – a military challenge. It is fostered in our divisive world through capturing people’s minds and loyalties, and through exploiting the allegiance of those who are wholly or partly persuaded. The recruits are prodded into joining, directly or indirectly, various movements for promoting violent actions against targeted groups. Much larger numbers of people are influenced but do not take part in any violent activities themselves, contributing instead by generating a political climate in which the most peaceful of people come to tolerate egregious acts of intolerance and brutality, on some hazily perceived grounds of ‛just retaliation’ or ‛self-defence’.

3Military initiatives can sometimes be of limited use, when they are well informed, well thought through, and well executed, paying attention to the diverse concerns that have to be borne in mind in any use of force. But many interventions have not met these desiderata, and – as we discuss in this report – they typically leave the root causes of violence unaddressed. They can also generate immensely counterproductive results, by creating fresh hostilities and by giving reason to distinct violent groups to join their hands in ‛resisting aggression’.

4In probing deeper into the causal processes that generate violence and into the ways and means of overcoming them, we have to examine how distortions as well as genuine misunderstandings, such as having a sense of being isolated from the ‛mainstream’ community, can feed extremism and violence. In alleviating the conditions that give rise to a sense of grievance and isolation through civil rather than military initiatives, and in trying to recover the ground that has already been lost, realistic processes of generating better understanding have a huge role to play. The strengthening of respect (in a very broad sense) for each other must have a critically important place in any plausible agenda for promoting peace.

5We have to distinguish between respecting persons (including, of course, their right to hold their own views) and indiscriminately ‛respecting every doctrine’ held by anyone. Respecting people does not demand accepting their points of view, and a consensus to do something jointly, given the views that different people hold, does not demand that there must be unanimity of substantive views of different people.

6Respect does, however, demand trying to understand the points of view of others and why they are held, and appreciating the shared interest that people of diverse groups have in cultivating common objectives and finding common ground, such as peace and well-being. This approach suggests a variety of practical actions that can contribute to generating resistance to violence through the social means available to us. The civil routes to peace, which this report explores and presents, are based on a basic appreciation of the role of respect and understanding in this very broad – and constructive – sense.

What do we mean by respect and understanding?

7In everyday life, the term ‛respect’ is used in a number of ways. Sometimes it refers to the esteem or honour given to senior people in acknowledgement of their greater age or experience. This denotes deference and implies a relationship that is unequal; though a distinction should be made between respect earned (for example through experience) and power taken note of (for example money or position). But in an inter-cultural context, the term ‛respect!’ is used quite differently – as a demand for rights and equal treatment. Here it is contrasted with disrespect – the experience of being picked upon, discriminated against, or treated in a demeaning way because, for example, of one’s race, colour or culture.

8In the context of the Commonwealth it makes sense to define respect with reference to rights and equal treatment but to broaden it beyond the issue of race so that it refers to a way of treating others, whatever their age, race, gender or other aspects of their identity, with fairness and with dignity. Looked at in this way, the term respect reflects and encapsulates the principles for which the modern Commonwealth stands – human rights, liberties, democracy, gender equality, the rule of law and a political culture that promotes transparency, accountability and economic development.

9And respect is about acknowledging a common humanity, and a preparedness to treat everyone, no matter how different their world views, with the dignity they deserve because of their humanity. It is as much about how we treat those who occupy lower social positions as it is about how we respond to those who are more senior. There is an important distinction to make between respecting persons (and their right to hold their own views) and indiscriminately respecting what they believe in or how they behave. We can show respect to others without agreeing with their particular doctrines or their actions.

10Understanding implies an ability to grasp what someone else is saying in order to get to the heart of what they are trying to communicate.

11To do this requires a willingness to put aside one’s own preconceived notions in order to appreciate their world view. Understanding, therefore, involves the acknowledgement that one’s own culture and experience are not the only models for thinking or acting.

12Like respect, understanding does not necessarily involve agreement with the views or beliefs others hold. A consensus to do something jointly therefore, given the different views that people hold, is not preconditioned by the necessity of any unanimity of view. No-one or nobody should hold a veto that requires subordination of all to a single view or belief.

13It is also important to understand disrespect and what it is like to be disrespected. Disrespect for an individual or a community can be expressed simply through passive rejection, ignoring their presence and their needs. The poorest people – those marginalized by their poverty, social status, gender or disability – often have the least power to mobilize and make demands. Local services might be high quality but still be delivered in ways that make poor women feel like cattle, or worse. And being a woman might mean that you are all but certain to receive a sub-standard service. Being treated as invisible or irrelevant in a clinic, on a bus, or in a shop is an indication of disrespect. It is equally possible that those who are put in positions of authority can be treated with disrespect, not because of how they have behaved, but simply because they are in authority. Respect should be a characteristic of all our relations.

14Respect and understanding are intimately connected with human rights expressed in terms of the four great freedoms (from hunger, disease, ignorance and fear) – to which one might add freedom from violent conflict. These freedoms are not attainable in a vacuum. They necessarily require consideration of the nature of basic values that underlie the actions necessary to achieve these freedoms.

Respect and understanding and the Commonwealth

15Respect and understanding are values at the heart of what we might call the ‛Commonwealth approach’. This approach involves a tradition of doing things through dialogue, where everyone has the right to speak, to be heard and to be consulted in coming to a common view. It involves a belief in a shared process and in the ability of people – all people, no matter how diverse – to make use of that process. In essence, it is about seeking a consensus and valuing the process that brought about coming to a common view.

16The principle of dialogue can be seen as part of respecting each other and wanting to achieve understanding rather than unilateral victory. In practice, dialogue between Commonwealth members has not always involved agreement. Indeed, the approach that has been used could even be described as getting by without an agreed perspective, but with some agreed and recognized general principles on how to do things.

17The Declaration of Commonwealth Principles first agreed in Singapore in 1971, and then reaffirmed in Harare in 1991, reflect the importance given to respect and understanding by Commonwealth countries. These Principles emphasize the human rights of all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief and the need to absolutely oppose racial prejudice and all forms of racial oppression. They recognise the urgency of economic and social development and the need to progressively remove disparities in living standards to achieve a more equitable international society. They also affirm the importance of active participation by civil society, including by women and young people, through free and democratic processes.

18Individuals and countries of the Commonwealth have valuable experience in putting respect and understanding into practice, having played catalytic roles in helping to liberate peoples from colonialism and apartheid. The multi-ethnic and multi-religious membership of the Commonwealth embraces a diversity of faiths, cultures and societies that are marked by divisions of rich and poor, powerful and powerless, and of caste and class. The Commonwealth is therefore a microcosm of the challenges being faced in today’s conflict-ridden world, but also of the determination to find solutions – not through confrontation, but through an agreement that all parties have the basic right to be fully involved in dialogue processes.

19There are also established ways of working in the Commonwealth that have proved fundamental in putting respect and understanding into practice. The organization seeks consensual rather than confrontational debate. It seeks out those principles on which member states can agree – whether on democracy and good governance, human rights, including those of women, or the importance of development and economic justice. It is informal and non-threatening in manner and tends to work behind the scenes in non-public ways.

  • 1 RCS, 2007. Examples include the Royal Commonwealth Society’s ‛Commonwealth Essay Competition’ (ope (...)

20At the same time, the wealth of non-governmental connection in the association, through Commonwealth civil society, works away at the cultural context in which these values have meaning and application, to promote respect and understanding. There are many practical examples of how Commonwealth institutions and societies contribute to a discussion and exchange of views between members of different Commonwealth countries to build respect and understanding, including between young people.1

21One of the striking social changes which is currently taking place across the globe is the move from hierarchical structures to networks. We experience this dramatically in the operation of the internet, but this is merely one example of the phenomenon. The Commonwealth has always tried to operate ahead of the game in this regard since it has always operated as a network, and is therefore not only a suitable format for future international relations, but has valuable experience to share with more traditional international and intergovernmental formations.

22That said, all Commonwealth member countries and organizations recognize the very real challenges that the Commonwealth has faced, and will continue to face, in adhering to a shared set of fundamental principles, living out these values and dealing with situations when these are flouted or abused. Over the years, there have inevitably been divergences in perspective within the Commonwealth, not least in the area of human rights. The openness of discussion and debate has sometimes brought to the surface deep divisions in perspectives that have not been resolved by extensive dialogue.

23There is very strong support for parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth – to a great extent inspired by the British experience but also drawing on traditions of debate and discussion in other Commonwealth countries.

  • 2 Sen, 1998.

24What behaviour is or is not consistent with Commonwealth principles and values? The basis of the Commonwealth is frank and open discussion with the right of all to speak and to be heard. As a result, denying people the freedom to participate in the public life of their own country will always be in tension with membership of the Commonwealth.2

25Whilst the Commonwealth does have ways of taking action against unacceptable political behaviour on the part of governments, all efforts are made to keep lines of communication open (for example with countries under suspension). This is to ensure that there remain channels for supporting the efforts of those within a country who are struggling to re-establish democratic practice and respect.

26In many countries the Commonwealth approach to dialogue has yielded significant and positive results and has even achieved consensus across previously entrenched divisions. South Africa’s peaceful transition from apartheid to a modern democracy is a powerful example of the approach in action, not least in ensuring that previous critics of sanctions against a white minority-rule regime were brought around to support a common strategy. Also, as we discuss further in paragraphs 224–226, had greater priority been given to an interactive civil approach after the initial defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, some of the residual problems there might have been avoided, which have instead resurfaced and grown stronger over the years.

Why do respect and understanding matter now?

27Respect and understanding matter now for three important reasons that drive the timeliness of this report:

  • Firstly, because of the prevalence and the far-reaching effects of violent conflict in the world today and the apparent persistence of conflict even as, or perhaps because, the world grows more interconnected.
  • Secondly, respect and understanding in the world is critical now because of the persistence of terrorism and the fear of terrorism.
  • Thirdly, as we have already noted above, our increased technological capacity for destruction through ever-more sophisticated and powerful weapons of war makes the avoidance of human and environmental catastrophe as a result of war a matter of profound urgency.

28Violence is deeply disturbing and even low-level violence at a community level has enormous impacts. Fear of its continuation may stop people going to work or sending their children to school; relations of trust between neighbours may break down, further isolating vulnerable groups such as the elderly. If the police move in clumsily, or act in a way seen to be partisan, then the risk of violence is likely to increase – with the police also seen as potential perpetrators. In the longer term, violence damages the whole economy – for example, through reducing inward investment, raising the cost of doing business and removing the skills and the savings of those who can afford to move away.

29Violent conflict also takes a huge toll on the poor and on the prospects for reducing poverty. Of the 34 countries currently furthest from reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 22 are in the midst of, or emerging from, violent conflict. The consequences usually fall most heavily on women and children, who make up the majority of displaced people – at times of violent conflict women and girls often experience rape, sexual violence, forced pregnancy, kidnap and abuse.

30The Commonwealth is not immune to conflicts within and between its member countries. At the end of 2003 nearly half of the 23 armed conflicts between and within states around the world were in Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth has extensive experience in addressing conflicts, and, more importantly, defusing the tensions that create them.

31Respect and understanding in the world are critical now because of the persistence of terrorism and the fear of terrorism. Some of the ways in which this is being tackled seem to have the effect of provoking, not reducing, violence and terrorist acts. A new, or at least a complementary approach, is urgently needed.

32The Commission is persuaded that some of the policy actions taken to protect citizens from further terrorist attacks have been limited in their conceptualisation and in their effectiveness. Because of the importance given by all governments to the threat of terrorism today it is worth setting out our understanding of the limitations of current approaches.

The so-called ‛War on Terror’

33Current approaches to the ‛War on Terror’ raise many questions on a number of fronts. Most importantly, there has been a tendency to see terrorism as essentially a military or security threat requiring, primarily, a military and security response. Where a military intervention has been tried and there has been an effort to effect democracy by military means, as in the case of Iraq, it has not succeeded either in military terms or in terms of leaders being able to maintain the support for a sustained intervention by their publics at home or internationally. In Afghanistan, where the rationale for intervention was to remove a regime that posed a threat to international peace and security through its extensive support of terrorism, efforts to establish a new democratic constitution – which would have been challenging enough in any circumstances – have been undermined by the diversion of resources to Iraq.

34World public opinion has taken a dim view of this approach and has raised many questions, not least whether the war on terror itself is helping to sustain feelings of grievance and therefore contributing to the possibility of future attacks, as well as to a higher level of violence in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. There have been many unintended consequences of adopting the strategy of a ‛War on Terror,’ not least that aspects of the strategy seem to have further inflamed sentiment across the world. Not surprisingly, there has been a loss of hope and a growing cynicism about a felt loss of the common international values and standards that all nations in principle adhere to.

35It could be argued that, in Britain and America, attempts at engaging against terrorism through the medium of faith and religion have had, at times, a perverse effect of magnifying the voice of extremist Islamists at a time when the political and civil roles of Muslims in civil society, including in the practice of democracy, need emphasis and much greater support. Faith-based approaches make it more difficult for politically secular Muslims (who do not have any standing, or any great urge, to speak in a faith-based discussion) to speak out against terrorism and violence. Like everyone else, they feel ‛voiceless’ in the middle of faith-based discussions. Religious extremism has made citizens, whatever their religious affiliation, less capable of taking responsible political action and speaking out against violence. And this tendency has often been strengthened rather than weakened by attempts to combat terrorism through recruiting the religious establishments of various communities to ‛the right side’, with young people being dismissive of the older religious establishment spokesman when they line up with Western governments. Civil society is currently in need of strengthening with all the positive resources at our disposal. Whilst religious identities can be used in a very positive way, by for example instilling a moral code and way of living, stressing religious identities over and above other political and social identities can undermine efforts to strengthen civil society and community cohesion. The culturally rich, more nuanced non-religious aspects of pluralism have been downplayed at precisely the wrong moment. This makes it easier for belligerent extremists to gather support and gain a stronger foothold in many countries.

36There have been other casualties of the strategy of the ‛War on Terror’. In countries that have themselves experienced terrorist attacks, greatly enhanced additional surveillance operations and a raft of new counter-terrorism laws have raised questions about the state’s ability to uphold the rule of law and individual rights. The difficulty is the balance these new measures and laws must achieve to allow policing and security agencies to find and prosecute suspects for criminal offences, whilst maintaining legal safeguards in the criminal justice system that protect individual freedoms and uphold the rule of law.

37A major concern is that the strategy of a ‛War on Terror’ may be helping to increase support for the messages of oppression, humiliation and disrespect that groups involved in terror attacks are putting forward. Where state responses have included extrajudicial measures that allow the government to circumvent national or international law, or if the military response is seen as disproportionate and is interpreted as vengeance, or if the measures proposed to tackle terrorism are seen as simply unworkable then, almost perversely, this can increase public support for the message, if not the methods, of the insurgents. People may abhor the use of terror tactics but nonetheless have some sympathy for those who seem to be subjected to laws which they perceive to be harsh and undemocratic, and as a result show concern for the rights of these people as a means of expressing their opposition to the impacts of counter-terrorism strategies. The public can be antagonized by the adverse impact of official reactive security measures, especially if they are not proportionate. On the one hand, the Commission accepts and endorses the importance of effective security measures for the prevention of violent crime, no matter how generated. The strength of security which we firmly support must not, however, be confused with an image of indiscriminate toughness that gives people a false sense of security.

  • 3 UN DESA, 2004: 2.

38Terror attacks carried out in the name of a particular identity inevitably have the potential to polarize societies. Sadly, counter­terrorism strategies can themselves exacerbate this polarization. The threat of terrorism following 9/11 fostered particular resentment of perceived migrants in many countries, particularly migrants of Muslim origin.3 The response of many Muslims was to retreat from public discourse at exactly the moment that more Muslim voices were needed. When new security measures are imposed quickly following a terror attack, without due debate, discussion and sensitivity, this can further divide people at a time when more engagement is what is required.

39Those communities perceived to share an aspect of their identity with the perpetrators are then particularly vulnerable. Increases in hate-related violent attacks against minorities are extensively documented for all countries that have experienced terrorism. Efforts to protect and reassure minority communities – who often feel acutely vulnerable – that are carried out through community policing strategies and dialogue with community leaders, have greatly helped. But the problem could be better mitigated by a response which simultaneously consults with minorities, community groups and civil society about the short and long-term consequences of all aspects of counter-terrorism action at the same time as taking reasonable, well-conceived and well-communicated security measures, both internal and external.

40Terrorism is not simply like other forms of political violence. The Commission sees terrorism as a tactic – as well as a crime. It may be used by the left or the right, or by populist or nationalist extremists. It involves the premeditated use of violence to create a climate of fear, but is aimed at a wider target than the immediate victims of the violence. The victims may have symbolic significance but the real target is not the victim. The target is the ‛responsible authority’, for example a government or a dominant group. The aim of many terrorist groups is to force a reaction – or overreaction – by the responsible authority toward terrorist acts and those who perpetrate them. It is this (over)reaction that makes it possible to cast the government or responsible authority as the greater villain.

41The ‛responsible authority’ (or its historic predecessors) is seen as having perpetrated an injustice. Terrorists and their supporters see themselves as righting some terrible wrong, some humiliation, some deep disrespect that has been done to them, their community or their nation by an authoritarian government or state. Terrorists and their supporters believe that they are ‛freedom fighters’, embarking with great courage and risk to themselves on a heroic task, namely of righting that perceived wrong.

42Yet the nature of this injustice, the ‛terrible wrong’ that they aspire to right, is under-explored. There is a disinclination to understand – never mind talk to – those involved because of the means through which their grievances are expressed. The tendency at national level to exclude groups classified as terrorists from the political process, through listing them in Terrorism Acts and Criminal Codes, is the antithesis of a process based on dialogue. Where dialogue is possible, and where the stated aim of terrorists is ending repression and humiliation and having a greater level of inclusion in society and its political processes, then dialogue is essential – as hard as that is to engage in where there is violence and fear. Where it may not be possible is where there is a militant goal to destroy a democratic society or way of life based on the rule of law. In that case, it is essential to create the conditions where there is less capacity for extremists to win the hearts and minds of others to their cause: that can only be done through creating the perception that it is possible for members of minorities to feel included in society and to have a shared sense of destiny in a common future.

43Dialogue with groups at the far ends of the political spectrum, or with those that hold views that most people feel are repugnant, is a probing and uncomfortable test for countries that have experienced terrorism. Yet it must be done, or tried, where the objectives of the terrorists do not include the complete destruction of a democratic state governed by the rule of law. Whilst not underestimating the difficulties of the Commonwealth experience, the fundamental truth is that the willingness to listen and engage in dialogue not only helps but is the only way to bring any form of political violence to a sustainable end. It also addresses the criticism that peace is unlikely without addressing justice.

Understanding root causes better requires challenging various cultural theories

44The tendency to present the causes of conflict or terrorism as having their roots in a clash of civilisations has seized the popular imagination. The Commission believes such cultural theories to be deeply flawed on a conceptual level and deeply divisive in practice.

45For one thing, separating the world into discrete civilisations assumes that: (a) the millions of individuals classified under each categorization identify with the persona they are ‛given’, and (b) there is sufficient homogeneity within each identified group for the categorization to mean something.

46Furthermore, these cultural theories have tended to presume that the groups so identified will inevitably clash. The Commission categorically rejects this claim. There is simply no substantial evidence for it. Millions of people may be represented as being either part of ‛the Islamic world’ or ‛the West’ (to take two examples of such cultural categories), but neither Muslims nor Westerners think, act or believe as one. Individuals within these hugely differentiated population groups have multiple affiliations, multiple identities. There is as much discrepancy in belief, political position and cultural practices within the populations referred to as between them.

  • 4 On this see Sen, 1999 and Sen, 2006.

47Being Muslim or Western can never be an overarching identity that determines everything that a person believes in or is prepared to do. It is imperative that world leaders are not seduced into thinking that these categories, representing as they do such a diverse range of peoples, accurately capture the feelings and values of those so categorized, much less that they have the power to ‛explain’ violence. Reducing people to such categories represents only part of them, rather than the whole persons they are, and fails to recognize the complexity of their diverse affiliations and identities.4

  • 5 5 On this see Appiah, 2006. See also Appiah, 2004 and Sen, 2006.

48Taking up this challenge now is vital: theories such as the ‛clash of civilisations’ are already widely reflected in the press and have found their way into a range of explanatory frameworks that in turn influence public policy. They will inevitably find their way into classroom discussions and, ultimately, textbooks, thus institutionalizing a way of thinking that will indirectly influence young people. For the Commonwealth, it is also important to avoid inadvertent regressions to a divisive mindset.5

49The issues discussed in this report are therefore substantial concerns in their own right across the world. The Commonwealth is no exception in feeling the consequences of greater sensitivity about ethnic and religious identity, and the effects of the failure to tackle grievances.

50This report operates within this larger context, which itself is constantly evolving and developing, in part through the work of governments and international organizations, to address underlying issues. Indeed, even with a robust and shared understanding of the problem, it is important that those holding political and economic power implement appropriate remedies to the fullest extent that they are able. This will require additional effort to ensure that:

  • The rationales for intervention in particular situations are clear and demonstrable, and are thus more likely to promote consensus (or more near-consensus) about what needs to be done.
  • The potential responses are viewed within the framework of various existing Commonwealth and inter-governmental objectives (including ending violent conflict, promoting development, extending democracy, addressing sustainability, tackling extremism and identifying the root causes of radicalization).
  • There are better understandings of emerging challenges, for example through policies aimed at targeting highly disengaged groups who are at risk of sinking into deeper and/or further kinds of alienation.
  • Governments in particular appreciate their own limitations and fully recognize the role that others (such as the business and civil society communities) can play. The influence of neighbouring giants or regional superpowers, the mass media and market behaviour may mean that a particular governments’ role is limited in any case.
  • Important gaps in knowledge and understanding are flagged, in order to establish priorities for follow-up work among practitioners and also among researchers.

51With the above caveats in mind, it is important still to remember that in many cases there is much more that governments can do to secure greater respect and understanding. This must of course never involve turning a blind eye to gross discrimination and victimization. It might involve articulating clearly that government itself stands for the principles of respect for individuals as human beings, and that all people have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity. Government can also: (a) adopt policies that tackle gross unfairness and injustice, (b) create systems which give citizens and their preferences a strong voice, and (c) acknowledge the role of the international community in shaping universal values and promoting positive change.

52There are other things that governments can do, in policy-making in many areas, to develop the sorts of connections across groups that are so crucial to avoiding conflict. Even the operation of the military can contribute to this. Armies and police forces provide a crucial mechanism by which people of diverse origins can be brought together in a context that enhances respect and understanding. Most people enter the armed or police forces when young. Their attitudes are still forming. And the military and the police are institutions that, by their nature, must exercise more control over the lives and attitudes of its members than any other government bodies. Strict insistence on non-discrimination, promotion without regard to ethnicity, and the principle that all must be willing to take orders from superiors, whatever their social origin, creates a context in which even those who may enter with discriminatory attitudes can often be persuaded to change them for the better. The approach of the military in dealing with people in the communities in which they work is also vital. More than ever the real military struggle is for the hearts and minds of people rather than simply for control of territory, and this requires a very different set of skills. A serious long-term commitment to sport in multi-ethnic teams can have similar good effects.

  • 6 Moskos, 1986.
  • 7 Estlund, 2003.

53Social psychologists confirm what common sense suggests: people who work together when young in circumstances of equality and mutual dependence across races, religions and ethnicities, tend to be less prejudiced than those who do not.6 Similarly, in the area of employment, integrating government workplaces and enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the private sector can lead to developing cross-group linkages outside the workplace.7 In the context of educational policy, encouraging young people not only to study together but to play sports, engage in community activities, make music, and otherwise work together across groups, can have similar beneficial effects. In all these cases – the military, government and private sector employment, and education – there are opportunities to shape policies and develop practical proposals that will encourage respect and understanding.

54Although others have an important role to play, the role of government in supporting respect and understanding is unique. For one thing, despite obstacles, it is often much better placed to provide standards of equality and equal treatment. Government can also pursue strategic public policy goals to remedy unfairness and injustice. And, of course, properly accountable government is in a position to be answerable for its actions and inactions.


1 RCS, 2007. Examples include the Royal Commonwealth Society’s ‛Commonwealth Essay Competition’ (open to all students aged between 8 and 18) and its ‛Youth CHOGMs’ (a simulation of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); and, the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit’s ‛Commonwealth Clubs in Secondary Schools’ project.

2 Sen, 1998.

3 UN DESA, 2004: 2.

4 On this see Sen, 1999 and Sen, 2006.

5 5 On this see Appiah, 2006. See also Appiah, 2004 and Sen, 2006.

6 Moskos, 1986.

7 Estlund, 2003.


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