Regional Conference on Diversity Theme: Diversity, Democracy and Federalism: Issues, Options and Opportunities

Participants of the event including the Forum’s CEO

Leading international experts and academics from eight countries assembled in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu at a regional conference for three days and shared experiences and knowledge on understanding, respecting and celebrating diversity.

The conference was held from 7th to 9th June, 2011. The participants included politicians, academics, and representatives from civil society and media from Pakistan, Canada, India, United Kingdom, Nepal, Spain, Nigeria and Indonesia. The theme of the conference was "Diversity, Democracy and Federalism: Issues, Options and Opportunities”.
The objectives of the conference were to promote a greater understanding of the complexities of diversity, identify issues, challenges and opportunities; explore institutional linkages, policy perspectives and cultural undercurrents of diversity; broaden the theoretical base of diversity through international/global experiences; and to outline areas of intervention and entry points for optimizing diversity in politics, economy and culture.

The three-day regional conference also explored the theoretical and philosophical aspects, as well as management and accommodation of diversity, not only in well-established federations but also in evolving and emerging federal systems of the world, South Asian states including Pakistan, India, and Nepal.

The conference involved several presentations followed by plenary discussions. Mr. Zafarullah Khan, executive director of the Centre for Civic Education Pakistan, briefed the participants about nation-wide discussions in Pakistan, where leading political leaders, academics and civil society activists from all provinces discussed the challenges and opportunities of unity in diversity within the context of the Pakistani federal system. Mr. Rupak Chattopadhyay, President and CEO of the Forum of Federations, spoke of how federal structures respond to challenges posed by diversity in a comparative context and also in Canada in particular. Country specific case studies were made by Dr. Sandeep Shastri from India, Prof Krishna Khanal and Prof. Balkrishna Mabuhang Limbu from Nepal, Dr. Rotimi Suberu from Nigeria, Prof. Luis Moreno from Spain, and Dr. Indraneel Datta from Indonesia.

Prof. Saeed Shafqat’s presentation was on provincial autonomy, governance and service delivery in Pakistan, while Dr. Nukhbah Taj Langah made a presentation on the claims for a Seraiki province in Pakistan. Dr. Ash Narayan Roy from India and Ms. Bushra Gohar, vice president of Awami National Party and member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, discussed how marginal tribal communities are governed and explored ways and means of access to national resources by these groups in their respective countries.
Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa’s presentation was based on ethnic balance and competing vision in Pakistan’s military establishment while Prof. Syed Jaffer Ahmad, Mr. Ahmad Mahmood Zahid and Dr. Katherine Adeney from the UK’s University of Sheffield, discussed different aspects of the 18th Constitutional Amendment and prospects for a more inclusive federalism in Pakistan.
The conference besides other issues identified linguistic diversity as one of the main issue that most of the federal systems are grappling with and recommended that countries shall construct adaptable, flexible and forward looking institutions because unity is best achieved through recognition and accommodation of diversity.
The conference was conducted as part of by the Forum of Federations’ program in Pakistan which is supported by German Foreign Office.

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