After 50 years of independence, proclaimed on the 12th of March 1968 under very unsteady conditions, Mauritius has been a paradox in the developing world with its skillful management of diversity, sustained democracy and political stability and economic success.
Despite the odds, the successive post-independence governments implemented economic policies that led to industrialization, economic diversification and development. To a certain extent, Mauritius has been able to successfully accommodate the ethnic diversity of its population through different mechanisms, including institutional provisions, political conventions and real and symbolic gestures that contributed to building a sense of belonging among the different groups.
Yet, Mauritian society and the ‘unity in diversity’ of the country remain fragile. As the 1999 riots illustrated, peace and harmony in the country can be disrupted when communities feel excluded from the fruits of development and lack of meritocracy.
The conference will focus on the Mauritian postcolonial developmental and multicultural model as well as comparative case studies/research, examining issues pertaining to quality, sustainability and challenges to democracy, social harmony and economic growth. It will also examine the management of diversity and multiculturalism, especially and what the Mauritian experience can contribute to this debate.
While the conference has a strong focus on the Mauritian model and experience, case studies and research on comparative postcolonial developmental contexts are welcome.
PANELS AND THEMES
The Mauritian multicultural model
How does the Mauritian experience compare with the dominant theories and models of multiculturalism elsewhere? To what extent are existing political structures and institutions relevant to present day Mauritius?
How has religiosity evolved since independence and what role has government played in influencing this state of affairs? Is religion a source of unity or the cause of social tension in the society?
The politics of language
What has been the politics and policy on language promotion in Mauritius? To what extent does this foster a sense of national identity? How can language policy strengthen national identity and the sense of belonging to the Mauritian nation?
Globalization and identities
Given the growing influence of the global media and internet age, what are the dominant paradigms of identity construction in present day society? Are language, religion, race and ancestral culture still the main criteria or lenses through which citizens view themselves and others? Or are these identities giving way to newer ones as a result of the influence of new consumption practices and globalization?
Political structures and democracy
How relevant are existing political structures to modern day Mauritius? How can political institutions become more democratic and better represent the interests of the Mauritian population?
Corruption and good governanceCorruption and disillusionment with politics are issues of growing concern to voters and intellectuals alike. What are the implications for the country? To what extent is good governance a reality in Mauritius?
Gender and democracyWhile the constitution and laws guarantee women’s rights, yet, in practice, gender equity is still to be attained in many postcolonial contexts. To what extent are gender equality and gender equity a reality in present day Mauritius?
Media and democracyWhat has been the role played by the media in the preservation of and enhancement of the quality of the Mauritian democracy? To what extent is the press free in Mauritius? What can the media do to strengthen the Mauritian democracy and what is necessary to enhance the contribution of the media?
Poverty, social exclusion and inequalityWhat are the types and causes of poverty? Des poverty and social inequality carry an ethnic dimension. What has been the impact of poverty alleviation strategies adopted so far?
Identity and land ownership The ethnic and class dimensions of landownership has been shifting, initially largely concentrated among the Franco-Mauritian community. Mauritians from other communities have become land and homeowners, such that the island has unusually high home and land ownership rates for a developing country. What factors have contributed to this state of affairs?
Social protection and the welfare stateThe welfare state has played a major role towards fostering social cohesion, peace and stability in the country. However, the relevance of the current model to present day Mauritian society has been increasingly questioned. What would be the most economically and socially sound policy and model for 21st century Mauritian society?
The ageing populationMauritius finds itself with a population growth that is below net replacement rate. Population growth trend mirroring that of industrialised countries. How sustainable is it? What are the growth and development implications? What are the implications of this on the welfare state?
The Mauritian economy The Mauritian economy presently appears to be at the crossroads of its development. The country is faced with numerous challenges among which the need to establish new growth promoting sectors to deal with high unemployment rates, the problem of ageing population - 21st century. What are the implications for growth and development? What will be the contribution of smart cities in the new development trajectory?
Livelihoods and climate changeClimate change has manifested itself in various ways with rising sea levels, flash floods, more prolonged droughts amongst others. How are livelihoods being affected by climate change? What are the coping strategies? Is there a gendered dimension to climate change?
Sustainable development, urbanisation and the environment Formerly an agrarian society, Mauritius is now a middle-income country and at a cross-roads in terms of finding ways to manage the development of its infrastructure while ensuring environmental sustainability. What is the way forward and how are stakeholders seeking to address emerging developmental issues such as the increasing demand for housing, recreation, mass transport, electricity and water?
Higher education and developmentThe higher education sector has expanded significantly in Mauritius. What are the new challenges to the Mauritian higher education sector in the global era? How can universities better contribute to development and social harmony in the country?
The outer islands The Republic of Mauritius is a relatively young state, leading to questions on the management of its territory and people. How far has the devolution of power to Rodrigues met its objective? What is the status of the inhabitants of outer islands? The question of sovereignty arises regarding the Chagos Archipelagos and Tromelin. What are the strategies adopted by Mauritius to reassert its sovereignty over those islands? What is the way forward?
The Indian Ocean Region How has the cooperation between countries in the IOR evolved over the years? What are the avenues of cooperation between Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in the Indian Ocean? What are the obstacles to cooperation between Mauritius and other states in the Indian Ocean? How does Mauritius deal with competition between emerging powers in the Indian Ocean? What strategic role can the Mauritian port play in the Indian Ocean?
Mauritius and its ties to AfricaMauritius aspires to be the gateway to the African continent and service the economic rise of the African continent. How does Mauritius define its strategy in Africa? Is it a win-win situation? What are the obstacles to Mauritian cooperation with African countries? What could be proposed as remedies to counteract those obstacles?
Mauritius and the Asian DriversWhat are the impacts of the ‘Asian Drivers’ on Mauritius’s political economy? How do the global, regional and national linkages influence the future of sustainable development in Mauritius?
Diaspora and developmentContribution of the diaspora towards development. Ancestral diasporas, the Mauritian diaspora.