Sustainable Development: Eploring Peace
Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: The EDI Concept in the Context of Peace
Viewpoint Series E-190. February 2023
The concept of "Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion" in the context of peace provides us with a policy framework to undertake a number of actions, including rcognizing and valuing the unique contributions of all individuals, regardless of their differences, and promoting a culture of respect, understanding, and appreciation for diversity. The EDI concept helps in addressing systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality and limit opportunities for marginalized groups, and encouraging inclusive decision-making processes and promoting active participation of diverse individuals and communities in peacebuilding efforts. Ultimately, ensuring equal treatment and access to resources, services, and opportunities for all individuals - by addressing discrimination and prejudice in all forms, including racism, sexism, and homophobia.
EDI is a concept that is usually applied at the organizational level, particularly in private sector entities, to create a level playing field for their employees and foster innovativeness. EDI policies are also commonly used in universities, where student and staff enrollment is defined by EDI criteria.
This document is based on, and adopted from, a detailed survey of EDI policies of private companies and universities in Japan and Europe (as available on their respective websites), and adopted here in the larger context of local communities and peace. This enables us to emphasize the broader importance of equality, diversity and inclusion to create peaceful societies.
The Viewpoint explores whether the EDI concept can also be applied at the societal and higher levels, and its potential in creating peaceful communities from the perspective of well-being and contentment. GDRC looks at the concept of peace from two perspectives: (1) The absence of conflict, and (2) well-being and contentment. The EDI concept falls under the second of these two.
What does equality, diversity, and inclusion mean?
EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion)aims to ensure that everyone is treated fairly, and opportunities are available to all. EDI policies aim to eliminate prejudice and discrimination on the basis of an individual's or group's characteristics.
EDI was essentially developed by/for private sector businesses and universities in order to create a working environment that would attract new talent, and keep the entities' market competitiveness and on the cutting edge.
In the private sector, EDI in the workplace is promoted as equality of opportunity for all, through diversity, - giving each individual the chance to achieve their potential, free from prejudice and discrimination, and inclusion - providing equal opportunities for all to contribute to the growth of the business.
How would this look when these three concepts and approaches are applied to whole societies, and not just single organizations? Providing equality of opportunity, valuing diversity and promoting a culture of inclusion are indeed vital to creating peaceful societies as well.
By creating a living environment in which individuals can utilize their skills and talents to the full, without fear of prejudice or harassment, we are essentially creating the core elements for peace - where everyone have equal opportunities to reach their fullest potential, irrespective of the condition that they find themselves.
Equality: Fairness, dignity and respect. Diversity: Differing values, abilities, and perspectives. Inclusion: Equal access to opportunities, resources and acceptance
The EDI Concept
The terms equality, diversity and inclusion take on different meanings depending on a range of elements: from external factors like the economy and geographic location, to internal factors such as skills, capacities and commitments of a community's idividuals. Broader societal influences such as availability of education or health services also have a part to play.
At its core, equality means fairness: ensuring that individuals or groups are not treated less favourably because of their characteristics. Equality also means equal access to opportunities. It has to be ensured that those who may be disadvantaged can get the tools and resources they need to access the same, fair opportunities as other groups.
'Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability' - Equality and Human Rights Commission
Diversity is recognizing, respecting and celebrating each other's differences. A diverse environment is one with a wide range of backgrounds and mindsets, which allows for an empowered culture of creativity and innovation.
Diversity means more than just acknowledging and tolerating differences. To truly practice diversity alliances need to be built across the differences so that individuals can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination. Diversity policies call for the practice of mutual respect for an individual's choices and experiences that could be different from others.
Understanding diversity includes recognizing that personal, cultural and institutionalized discrimination creates privileges for some, while creating disadvantages for other. Ultimately diversity can be achieved by understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment - creating the core base for peaceful societies.
Inclusion involved the creation of a society where everyone feels welcome and valued. An inclusive society can only be created once awareness of the biases that exist is understood, and have learned how to manage them.
For inclusion to work, communities have to make sure they facilitate people to proactively engage in their living environments. Feeling included is a sense of being a part of a community or organization.
EDI policies, at the societal/local level - say regulations or rules at the level of a city or province - can take several forms. Much like private sector organizations that originated the EDI concept, using EDI at the societal level for peace can include, for example:
Non-discrimination policies: This policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and other personal characteristics.
Affirmative action policy: This policy aims to increase representation of underrepresented groups in a city council or other arms of a city's functionaries - groups such as women, minorities, and people with disabilities.
Diversity and inclusion training: These types of training helps educate city/public officials about the importance of EDI and provides strategies for building an inclusive communities and neighbourhoods.
Flexible living arrangements: These policy allows urban residents to have flexible living conditions and community services, which can be beneficial for families with different responsibilities, disabilities, or other needs.
Unconscious bias training: These types of training help urban residents become more aware of their own unconscious biases and how they might affect their interactions with other groups and communities.
Residents resource groups: Residents resource groups are groups of people who specifically come together - based on shared characteristics or experiences, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation - to promote diversity and inclusion within the community.
Diversity and inclusion Reporting: Such policies focus on regularly measuring and reporting on the diversity in the community, such as by race, gender, and sexual orientation, to ensure that the community is setting up, and making progress towards, its EDI goals.
Thus, from the perspective of peaceful societies, EDI policies offer a conceptual framework for the exploration of equal opportunities concerns, including economic, gender, ethnicity, class, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, and other forms of inequalities in the context of our societies.
Embedding EDI across communities and societies will help in fostering an inclusive environment and engage the talents and energy of diverse people in all areas of a community. It also helps improve the relevance and quality of life in a community.
Ensuring EDI policies across a community also upholds their human rights - particularly their economic, social and cultural rights as enshrined in the International Covenent of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and other human rights instruments.
The need for a commitment to EDI to create peaceful and empowered communities is critical - Diverse and inclusive communities are more creative, productive, profitable and more responsive to diverse developmental needs [This indeed is the thinking behind GDRC's "Innovative Communities" initiative]
EDI ensures fair treatment and opportunities for all within a community, with the aim of eliminating prejudice and discrimination based on an individual's characteristic traits.
Any community that wants to implement an EDI strategy has to be prepared to embrace a living environment and acceptance of cultural change and commit to a long-term, sustainable commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in their living environment.
It requires residents within a community to understand the unconscious bias issues that can create divides between themselves and foster a negative living environment.