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Authors

Nicholas Haysom

Abstract

Most of the current and intractable armed conflicts in the world today are intra-state conflicts in societies divided along the fault lines of race, religion, ethnicity, language, and region. These conflicts are overwhelmingly animated by identity. Even where such conflicts do not take on a violent form, they serve to prevent the emergence of interest-based politics in multi-cultural societies. The political systems in such nation-states -- and their national constitutions -- are required to address the way in which multiple identities can coexist within an inclusive national polity and alongside a national identity. This challenge faces both new democracies and older ones, whose constitutions were fashioned as statements of national sovereignty but no longer reflect the relationships that the nation desires. This is all the more important as the twenty-first century witnesses more strident assertions of identities other than national ones -- paradoxically at a time when globalization is asserting universality and uniformity. Individual pluralism, the solution offered by liberal democracy, is not always an answer to identity conflicts. This is not because of flaws in liberal democracy but because the conditions for the actualization of individual pluralism simply do not exist in many divided societies. At the same time, nation-states have been reluctant to constitutionalize "difference" by segmenting society into its ethnic or cultural groups. One response to the challenge of multi-culturalism in a divided society has been to emphasize greater participation, and hence stakeholding, by minorities in a political system. Federalism is one way of promoting greater stakeholding by minorities because inter alia: it allows ethnically supported parties that are national losers to be regional winners in sub-national units; it provides a basis for regional common interests that are neither national nor ethnic; it facilitates accountable government.

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