Chandrika Kumaratunga: “When inequality is horizontal, the disadvantaged group feels the discrimination more sharply”


“Studies have ascertained that when all communities living within a State are guaranteed equal opportunities—economically, socially, politically—and their identities are respected and given free expression, they will become a productive, vibrant part of the State, celebrating the richness of its diversity, while building a united, strong, and stable country. Such a society is called a Cohesive or Shared or Inclusive Society.”

Club de Madrid member and former President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Kumarantunga presented this conclusion during her keynote address at the 2012 Emmanuel Onyechere Osigwe Anyiam-Osigwe Lecture Series in Nigeria. The theme of her address was “Unity in Diversity; Building Shared and Inclusive Societies for Peace and Prosperity.” Her speech focused on the connections between levels of violence and economic failure of a State and its degree of inequality.

“When inequality occurs among groups which have similar economic and social status—that is, horizontal inequalities, the disadvantaged group feels the discrimination more sharply. Perceived injustice as well as frustration and despair caused by continued social marginalization, economic deprivation, and political defeat have been known to result in violence.”

Madam Kumarantunga offered case studies of the appearance of this trend throughout the world. She then drew upon her own experiences as the leader of Sri Lanka from 1994 to 2005 to offer advice to nations working to create or improve their Shared Societies.

“The challenge of the 21st century for many nations remains the enterprise of erecting pluralist, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural states. This requires that we manage the existing diversity within our Nations, directing the richness of this diversity towards positive change in order to build Free, Democratic, and Prosperous Societies. We need to accept and celebrate diversity, not reject it. The combined efforts and skills of peoples of different communities can only enrich our Societies, not damage them.”

Read the full lecture of Chandrika Kumaratunga, “Unity in Diversity; Building Shared and Inclusive Societies for Peace and Prosperity”

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