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  • Transcending the Clash of CulturesFreedom, Development, and Human Worth
  • Aung San Suu Kyi (bio)

At its third meeting, held at San José, Costa Rica, on 22–26 February 1994, the World Commission on Culture and Development set itself three goals, the third of which was “to promote a new cultural dynamic: the culture of peace and culture of development.” The Commission undertook to “endeavour to recommend the concrete measures that could promote, on a national and international scale, a culture of peace” and went on to state that “a culture of peace, culture of democracy and culture of human rights are indivisible. Their effective implementation must result in a democratic management and . . . the prevention of intercultural conflicts.” 1

Peace as a goal is an ideal which will not be contested by any government or nation, not even the most belligerent. And the close interdependence of the culture of peace and the culture of development also finds ready acceptance. But it remains a matter of uncertainty how far governments are prepared to concede that democracy and human rights are indivisible from the culture of peace and therefore essential to sustained development. There is ample evidence that culture and development can actually be made to serve as pretexts for resisting calls for democracy and human rights. It is widely known that some governments argue that democracy is a Western concept alien to indigenous values; it has also been asserted that economic development often conflicts with political (i.e., democratic) rights and that the second [End Page 11] should necessarily give way to the first. In the light of such arguments culture and development need to be carefully examined and defined that they may not be used, or rather, misused, to block the aspirations of peoples for democratic institutions and human rights.

The unsatisfactory record of development in many parts of the world and the ensuing need for a definition of development which means more than mere economic growth became a matter of vital concern to economists and international agencies more than a decade ago. In A New Concept of Development, published in 1983, François Perroux stated: “Development has not taken place: it represents a dramatic growth of awareness, a promise, a matter of survival indeed; intellectually, however, it is still only dimly perceived.” Later in the same book he asserted that “personal development, the freedom of persons fulfilling their potential in the context of the values to which they subscribe and which they experience in their actions, is one of the mainsprings of all forms of development.” 2 His concept of development therefore gives a firm place to human and cultural values within any scheme for progress, economic or otherwise. The United Nations Development Programme too began to spell out the difference between growth and development in the 1980s. With the beginning of the 1990s the primacy of the human aspect of development was acknowledged by the UNDP with the publication of its first Human Development Report. And the special focus of the 1993 Report was people’s participation seen as “the central issue of our time.” 3

Beyond Economics

While the concept of human development is beginning to assume a dominant position in the thinking of international economists and administrators, the Market Economy, not merely adorned with capital letters but seen in an almost mystic haze, is increasingly regarded by many governments as the quick and certain way to material prosperity. It is assumed that economic measures can resolve all the problems facing their countries. Economics is described as the “deus ex machina, the most important key to every lock of every door to the new Asia we wish to see”; and “healthy economic development” is seen as “essential to successfully meeting the challenge of peace and security, the challenge of human rights and responsibilities, the challenge of democracy and the rule of law, the challenge of social justice and reform and the challenge of cultural renaissance and pluralism.” 4

The view that economic development is essential to peace, human rights, democracy, and cultural pluralism, and the view that a culture of peace, democracy, and human rights is essential to sustained human development, may seem on the surface to...

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3214
Print ISSN
1045-5736
Pages
pp. 11-19
Launched on MUSE
1995-04-01
Open Access
No
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