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Military Diversity: Ethnic Tolerance and Intolerance

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Human Factors and Medicine

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Crosscultural Relations, Discrimination, Diversity, Education and Training, Ethnic Tolerance, Ethnicity, Inclusion, Intolerance, Military


Ethnic intolerance continues to challenge NATO’s efforts to promote “military diversity as a key transformational element” in overcoming cultural differences (NATO, 2013). Perceptions of cultural diversity can influence military-civilian relations and relations within the military (e.g., during deployments and in peacetime establishment). This is important within national and cooperative/multinational contexts, and is applicable to understanding the current context of ethnic intolerance and its impact on the security environment. Promoting ethnic tolerance is essential to creating greater cultural diversity and inclusion in a military environment, and to attract new recruits who come from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Existing studies indicate that although the majority of perceptions towards ethnic groups are generally positive, there are individuals who continue to exhibit negative attitudes and behaviours toward people belonging to different ethnic groups. Ethnic intolerance and exclusion (e.g., conflict, discrimination, racism, intergroup threats, and ethnic hatred) negatively impact people’s experiences and perceptions of specific ethnic and cultural groups as well as those cultural groups’ perceptions and experiences of military organizations. As a result, ethnic intolerance and its impact on cultural diversity need to be better understood within the military setting, particularly how it relates to soldiers’ perceptions of diversity and inclusion. The goal is to provide a framework and identify the key factors associated with ethnic tolerance and ethnic intolerance among military personnel, and to provide evidenced-based educational programs that will create a more inclusive organizational culture in defence organizations. Overcoming cultural differences can lead to more cooperative relations between military organizations, improve cross-cultural military-civilian interactions, and further improve operational and organizational effectiveness in the military environment.


This RTG will examine interdisciplinary research that will help to identify the factors associated with ethnic tolerance and intolerance, and their relationships to military diversity and inclusion. The primary objectives are: • To review current research and identify best practices and shortfalls in diversity management, policies, and practices, and where applicable, drawing lessons from other sectors; • To understand the current knowledge and research on ethnic tolerance and intolerance, and its applicability to the military context; • To examine the strategies, methods, and tools to prevent ethnic intolerance in the military; • To develop a conceptual model and operationalize the measures for ethnic tolerance and intolerance; • To develop a framework and generate recommendations on the factors that promote ethnic tolerance and hinder ethnic intolerance among military personnel; and • To provide evidenced-based educational programs that will create a more diverse and inclusive organizational culture in defence organizations.


Topics to be covered include: • International perspectives on the strategies, methods, and tools that enable inter-ethnic relations in military organizations (e.g., diversity and inclusion strategies, cross-cultural communications, and cultural sensitivity training); • Cross-national perspectives on issues particularly related to ethnic intolerance, including research on ethnic tolerance; • Impact of ethnic tolerance/intolerance on operational and organizational effectiveness; • Conceptual models and frameworks that describe the factors that impact ethnic tolerance and intolerance (e.g., attitudes and behaviours related to ethnic tolerance and intolerance); • Leadership styles that promote diversity and inclusivity; and • Existing strategies, tools, and best practices to measure and combat ethnic intolerance (e.g., ethnic conflict management and evidenced-based educational programs and practices) to enable greater diversity and inclusivity in the military.

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