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    The Scout Report for Social Sciences Selection
«It is intolerable that the world's religions - founded on the values of love and compassion - should provide a pretext for the expression of hatred and violence» 
Federico Mayor 
Director-general of UNESCO (1987-1999)
  The analysis of multicultural societies is one of the major research topics of UNESCO's MOST Programme. Through interdisciplinary, comparative, and culturally sensitive research, the MOST Programme aims at furnishing information useful for the peaceful and democratic management of societies characterized by ethnic, religious and linguistic pluralism. In particular, this research should help design policies that contribute to the goals of achieving equality of citizenship rights between culturally diverse groups and the avoidance and solution of ethnic conflict. It is in this framework, that the MOST Clearing House is strengthening social science research on religious diversity. 

The challenge of religious diversity 

The world-wide re-emergence of religion in the public sphere constitutes a particular challenge to the monitoring of social transformations. As shown by the political impact of religious fundamentalism and ethno-religious movements, religious difference is a main factor of contemporary social conflict on local, national and global level. On the other hand, some religious communities, engaged in promoting democracy, tolerance and peace, have become important actors in civil society. Given these two apparently opposite trends, it is an important task of contemporary social sciences to analyze the dynamics of multireligious societies and to contribute to the formulation of policy-models based on international legal standards. Therefore, the MOST Clearing House on Religious Rights is designed to provide tools for researchers, legislators, decision-makers, and representatives of both governmental organizations and religious communities to explore problems of  multireligious societies and to develop solutions to their peaceful management. 

Disseminating information on religious rights 

Promoting democratic governance in multireligious societies requires first and foremost a legal framework recognizing the freedom of religion and belief. This framework is provided by standard-setting legal instruments of international human rights. Aimed at disseminating information on basic legal instruments relevant to democratic governance in multireligious societies, the MOST Clearing House on Religious Rights has established a database which contains information on international legal instruments pertaining to the principles of non-discrimination, the Freedom of Religion or Belief and the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities. 

Since it is primarily on the national level that human rights are implemented - by jurisdiction, legislation, and policy-making - , the MOST Programme intends to assist decision-makers in designing constitutional frameworks and public policies to promote peaceful coexistence between different religious communities, to find mechanisms of equal participation and interreligious dialogue and, thereby, to build democratic institutions and a democratic political culture. Therefore, the MOST Clearing House on Religious Rights also provides information on the incorporation of international human rights in national constitutions. This information can be used for further legal analysis as well as for the specification of policies aimed at resolving and avoiding religious conflict. 

The Scout Report for Social Sciences
March 23, 1999
Volume 2, Number 13

MOST Clearing House on Religious Rights - UNESCO

UNESCO's MOST Clearing House (first mentioned in the November 18, 1997 Scout Report for Social Sciences) has added a new segment on religious rights. The Clearing House on Religious Rights supplies legislators, policymakers, researchers, and other representatives of both governmental and non-governmental organizations with information to monitor to the peaceful transition to democracy in societies characterized by cultural and religious pluralism. This site provides several full-text international legal documents concerning religious rights, excerpts of 67 national constitutions that contain provisions on religion, and a modest bibliography on religious rights. In addition, the site hosts a new discussion forum, Democratic Governance in Multireligious Societies. The forum will address "the social dynamics of multireligious societies and policy-options for the management of religious conflict from a social science perspective." Subscription information for the mailing list is available at the site. [AO]
Copyright Internet Scout Project, 1994-1999.


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