Democracy and Human Rights in Multicultural Societies (La démocratie et les droits de l'homme dans les sociétés multiculturelles)

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By unanimous adoption of the Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity, the UNESCO Member States accepted a new ethical approach to respect diversity as a guiding principle for democratic societies. While support for the Declaration remains strong, there is a general awareness that the democratic management of multicultural societies needs rethinking and further development.

This volume presents an important contribution to this debate. Democracy and Human Rights in Multicultural Societies examines the political governance of cultural diversity, specifically how public policy-making has dealt with the claims for cultural recognition that have increasingly been expressed by ethno-national movements, language groups, religious minorities, indigenous peoples and migrant communities. Its principle aim is to understand, explain and assess public policy responses to ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. Adopting interdisciplinary perspectives of comparative social sciences, the contributors address the conditions, forms, and consequences of democratic and human-rights-based governance of multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-faith societies.

Contents [PDF, 340 KB]

Preface, Pierre Sané, UNESCO


Part I Ethno-national Movements

    • Nationalism, ethnic conflict and democratic governance, Juan Díez-Medrano
    • Nationalist extremism and outcomes of state policies in the Basque country, Enric Martínez-Herrera
    • Conflict management in Northern Ireland, Stefan Wolff
    • The decline of the PKK and the viability of a one-state solution in Turkey, Matthew Kocher

Part II Linguistic Diversity

    • Linguistic rights as an integral part of human rights - a legal perspective, Fernand de Varennes
    • Protecting linguistic minorities - the role of the OSCE, Sally Holt and John Packer
    • Language legislation in the Baltic states, Boris Cilevics
    • Language rights in South Africa: an adequate level of minority protection?, Kristin Henrard
    • The impact of language policy on endangered languages, Suzanne Romaine

Part III Religious Diversity

    • The resurgence of religious movements in the processes of globalization, Shmuel N. Eisenstadt
    • Modes of governing religious diversity under conditions of globalization, Ole Riis
    • Management of religious diversity in England and Wales with special reference to prison chaplaincy, James A Beckford
    • Governing religious diversity in post-Soviet Russia, Kathy Rousselet

Index [PDF, 255 KB]

Book Reviews

“Matthias Koenig and Paul de Guchteneire in Democracy and Human Rights in Multicultural Societies successfully brought together an international body of scholars studying the dynamics of politics in those parts of the world with large ethnic minorities who also have a clearly identifiable homeland. The contributors’ main concern is to show how the governing authorities in selected multiethnic states have dealt with the challenges from a particular ethnic community and also to make suggestions on how to best meet ethnically derived demands. All the chapters are excellent, very informative in content, and illuminate how discrimination in Northern Ireland, Spain in the Basque region, and Turkey with respect to the Kurds have contributed to violent nationalism and threatened the state. It will therefore be useful for all students of politics and current affairs as well as to the nonspecialist interested in making sense on the turbulent politics of the present-day world.”

Review by Vejai Balasubramaniam, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Published in International Studies Review (2010) 12, 105–109.

Download the review [PDF, 77 KB]

“Altogether 16 scholars have contributed to the volume, which draws together discussions of ethno cultural movements, linguistic diversity, and religious pluralism. The motivation to bring such diverse fields of interest together lies in the fact that they all challenge existing state orders to recognize difference in new ways. (…) In sum, Democracy and Human Rights is an uneven, but highly interesting compilation that furthers our understanding on how various strands of “difference” come together and challenge existing state orders and modes of governance. Pressure on accepting diversity in its various forms is an increasingly inter- and transnational affair, where international organizations, transnational NGOs, the European Union, nation states, and ethno national, linguistic, and religious interest groups come together. This book is a good addition to bookshelves of scholars who are willing to go beyond methodological nationalism and see how complex forces are changing the world in which we live, including religion.”

Review by Tuomas Martikainen, Abo Akademi University, Abo, Finland.

Published in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2010) 49 (2):374–387.

Download the review [PDF, 120 KB]

Book Type

Available in Hardback and Paperback


Koenig, Matthias; Guchteneire, Paul de




Ashgate / UNESCO Publishing

Publication Date


Number of Pages

326 p.

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