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Is separation inherently bad?

The assumption underlying the discussion on rights, responsibilities, and duties is that separation between communities undermines societal cohesion and that active processes of participation and cross-community engagement are required to strengthen links between different communities. The Llubjana Guidelines take an explicitly non-isolationist approach to minority issues which warns of the risks to society of ‘isolation or excessive separation’, while acknowledging the need to balance a degree of separation necessary for free expression and development of identity on one hand with the need for cross-community links.46 There is no space in this model for the peaceful coexistence of separate communities with limited or no contact, but who get along peacefully side by side. This reflects the view expressed in consultations that, while persons belonging to minorities may legitimately choose to opt out of participation in mainstream society, this issue should not be addressed directly in the recommendations.

The approach also reflects a degree of consensus among experts who emphasized the importance of contact between communities and of learning from and about others. The role of educational curricula was emphasized in this respect. At the same time, there was recognition that ‘togetherness’ cannot be imposed on communities, but can only be encouraged as part of a gradual process determined by what members of different communities are ready for and willing to accept. Challenging fears and negative perceptions of others was identified by some as a key element of this process. It was therefore considered vital that HCNM guidelines challenge entrenched fears and misperceptions about social risks. As a result, specific guidelines support the creation of political and socio-cultural space, including especially intercultural experiences and education, as the route to ‘living together’ based on actual contacts and knowledge of one another.47 The HCNM’s practical experience of helping the state to manage the challenges of accommodating diversity within one cohesive society in situations where separate parallel structures have developed along ethnic or cultural lines such as Bosnia-Herzegovina is particularly useful in this regard. Again, the approach adopted in the Guidelines, while well balanced [1]

and legitimate, can be seen to respond to fears reflected in ‘parallel lives’ discourses prevalent at the time of drafting (and since).

  • [1] 6 Guideline 7. 47 See e.g.: the Explanatory Note to Guideline 41, regarding the need to foster ‘permanent andongoing dialogue among and between all minority groups and between minorities and majorities’,Lj'ubljana Guidelines: 50.
 
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