Managing and Celebrating Diversity: a Mandate from the Commonwealth Heads of Government to Promote ‘Respect and Understanding’

Mr Kamalesh Sharma (Commonwealth Secretary-General)
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Distinguished Lecture

HE Mr Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, delivered the Centre’s Commonwealth Lecture to a capacity audience at the University Examination Schools.

In his lecture on the theme of ‘Managing and Celebrating Diversity’, the Secretary-General emphasised the connections between all faith traditions and suggested that they “are repositories not only of practices and beliefs specific to them but of human wisdom.” In that wisdom was to be found a respect for diversity. It was awareness of this respect which needed to be brought forward in this increasingly globalised world. Mr Sharma warned of the dangers of placing people into labelled boxes because identity was, and often is, complex and varied. It was important to educate people about diversity and he spoke of the need for grassroots initiatives that could provide positive images to young people about the community in which they live.

The Secretary-General emphasised the unique role which the Commonwealth could play in encouraging such initiatives. By working together on a voluntary basis its member countries seek to encourage a better understanding of the diverse traditions and cultures which together form the Commonwealth. This working together requires regular dialogue, mutual respect, and a conscious effort to understand what is of importance to others – whatever our regional origins or cultural traditions. Professor Andrew Hurrell, Montague Burton Professor of International Relations, thanked the Secretary-General and chaired the ensuing discussion.