CRISE has examined the role of horizontal inequalities (HIs) among ethnic, religious or cultural groups in fostering violent conflict. It is clear that severe HIs constitute a serious development problem, even in conditions of relative political stability where violent conflict is unlikely. What is to be done? This In Brief deals with ‘direct’ policies, or affirmative action. The evidence reviewed suggests that ‘direct’ approaches, or AA, have great potential for achieving a relatively rapid significant decrease in HIs. In addition, they have proved to be the most controversial politically in virtually every location where they have been implemented, from developed countries such as the United States (US) to middle-income countries such as Brazil to developing countries such as Malaysia in the 1970s and South Africa today. Effective implementation of AA policies requires the cultivation of a political consensus that such policies are acceptable, the setting of achievable time-delimited targets, and transparent implementation. Moreover, AA should be treated as part of a broader agenda towards promoting inclusiveness and non-discrimination in all areas of social life.
Oxford, UK: Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE). 4 pp.