On 3 October, Constitutional Transitions Faculty Director Sujit Choudhry delivered a public address on group rights at The Pluralism Forum of the Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP) in Ottawa. The event was a partnership of GCP, the Académie Diplomatique Internationale, and Constitutional Transitions.
The event, entitled “Group rights: cultural difference or economic and political power?,” took place in Ottawa, Canada, and was moderated by Rupak Chattopadhyay, President of the Forum of Federations. Over 100 people participated in the event, which featured a lively dialogue about the drivers of group rights claims in divided societies. Videos of the day’s events are available online here.
Choudhry’s presentation contrasted the standard conception of group rights, which assumes that such rights are driven mainly by cultural identity and cultural preservation, with an alternative conception, in which these rights are driven by concerns about economic and political power. “Conflict between culturally distinct groups,” he began, “might not be about their cultural differences. It might be about something else.”
According to Choudhry, culture can remain an important driver in the politicization of claims for group rights, but it is often secondary to objectives such as access to public services, opportunities to obtain public sector employment, and equal participation in government institutions. Through this alternative lens, and drawing on examples including South Asia, China, and Turkey, he offered a reconceptualization of what these rights are, why they are demanded, and how conflict between group rights and individual rights can be managed.