fwdk-speech-smallIt is a great honour to be with you today and to be able to address the extremely relevant question of the Power of Regions within the context of the challenges facing Ukraine.

I have no doubt that the greatest single threat to peace in the new millennium lies in the accommodation of diversity, within the borders that the countries of the world have inherited from their diverse histories.

The era of the homogenous nation state has gone. Immigration, emigration and the unfolding of history have led to a situation where populations all over the world are becoming increasingly diverse – and in which the great majority of countries have minorities that comprise more than 10% of their populations.

Diversity has two broad roots: firstly, it arises because different peoples have, for one or other historic reason, been included within the same borders. This is what happened in the United Kingdom; in Spain; Switzerland; the Russian Federation – and many other countries.  In South Africa, widely diverse peoples were corralled together by the British in 1910 to form the Union of South Africa.

The other root of diversity is immigration. The diversity of countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and Brazil – and increasingly of Europe – came about as a result of the arrival of millions of people from other countries. The general pattern was that such immigrants integrated into their new societies within a generation or two. There was a reasonable expectation that newcomers would with time accept the values and identities of the countries which they have chosen as their new homes. As we are all observing at the moment, new waves of immigrants do not necessarily accept the assimilation model.

Minorities that have historically been part of the countries in which they live are also reluctant to submerge their identities in the culture and language of the national majority.

In many countries throughout the world, such minorities are increasingly restive. In regions like Scotland, Catalonia, Kurdistan, the Donbass region of Ukraine – and even Venice – long dormant identities are once again beginning to stir – with profound implications for the countries to which they belong.

The continuing crisis in Ukraine also has its roots in its failure to accommodate diverse ethnic and linguistic communities within its traditional borders.