WorldDay for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

The Youth Media & Communication Initiative (YMCI) celebrated the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development in Nigeria on Saturday, May 21 with a dialogue session. The session had in attendance about 20 participants comprising journalists, religious leaders, students, and members of civil society.

The aim was to identify the issues/strategies in support of national identity formation, tolerance of diversity, and conflict management in Nigeria. The session focused on the role of the media. And given the number and scale of the conflicts that threaten to tear Nigeria apart, what kind of immediate and long-term intervention programmes were needed.

The session noted the central role the media plays in cultural diversity, hence the involvement of the Youth Media & Communication Initiative.  Participants agreed that the cultural diversity day celebration provides us with an enriching experience and opportunity   to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to live together.

It was also noted that effective management of diversity is an ingredient for development and an essential key in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Participants at the programme discussed factors to be considered in order to enhance cultural diversity in Nigeria. Factors considered included:

  • Living in a cosmopolitan environment is advantageous to relating effectively with people of different cultures.
  • Education is key. Education in this case should not only be formal but also informal. Education plays a central role in improving cultural diversity because it helps to reduce intolerance and violence.
  • Leadership will play a critical role in enhancing diversity. According to participants, cultural and religious leaders need to be more effective and also followers need to act morally and cross check instruction handed down by leaders.
  • Need for the re-orientation of the general public to be alert to actions that jeopardize the country’s unity. Participants also called for inclusion of the knowledge of our diversity in our educational curriculum.
  • The need to reassess the youth-based National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme if it is meeting its objectives in helping to promote diversity.
  • Traditional leaders will be critical in ensuring that the menace of violence and intolerance is managed properly. The message passed across to their followers should be adequately checked.
  • The need to preserve our original culture and preserve our value system in enhancing cultural diversity.

Managing Diversity, Which way forward

In exploring diversity as a major factor in the development of society, participants at the programme arrived at the following conclusions as a way forward. They also highlighted specific institutions and what needs to be done to make them more effective:

  • Legislature: In making policies, the legislature should be firm in ensuring that there is enforcement, measurement and accountability and the involvement of different groups in the implementation process of policies.
  • Community Leaders: Need for community leaders and religious people to be alive to their responsibilities.
  • Need to reward people whose actions and activities promote diversity.
  • Educational Institutions: Educational institutions need to revisit our educational curriculum to promote diversity and unity. They also need to ensure that Nigerian history is made compulsory to all Nigerian students.
  • Nigerian Citizens: Citizens need to open their minds in knowing more of other cultures and groups.
  • Government: There is need to encourage discussions among citizens on the issues of the country to promote feedbacks. Only by discussions will issues be brought to the table. Government should also be fully responsible for providing basic education to all Nigerians.  Government must also restrict individuals from owning media organizations and instead encourage the public to own them as some of these individuals use the media for their own selfish interests.
  • Eradication of some contents of registration forms in various institutions in the country that hinder diversity. Contents like religion, religious denominations, place of origin, ethnic group, etc. are contents that hinder cultural diversity.
  • Media: There is need for media houses to be less reactive to situation and report only in the interest of the unity of the nation as the press needs to understand the fact that the reality of this nation is diversity.

In conclusion, the participants identified Information and Communication Technology as a useful resource in promoting diversity especially with the advent of social networking websites. The participants identified the show of tolerance amongst religious group in Egypt in the post-Mubarak regime as a model of cultural diversity that should be emulated.