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Why Arab women still ‘have no voice’

In conversation with Al Jazeera, Qatari author Amal Almalki discusses the shortcomings of the Arab Awakening, and its failure to secure a legacy for women and deliver more freedom and equal rights for them. Whilst the struggle for greater equality has borne little fruit for women across the MENA, in her scepticism, Ms Almalki does note that

Inclusion & Growth – European Development Days 2012

European Development Days

One of the main topics at the upcoming European Development Days (Brussels, October 16 &17) is Inclusive Growth. Meeting at a critical time, participants will experience a unique opportunity to meet a wide range of stakeholders from around the world and debate, take stock, and make recommendations. Six panels will tackle the issue of how

Empowering Indigenous Women of Mexico


In Oaxaca, Mexico an Indigenous woman has been paving the way for women participation in local and national governance for a few years now. Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza launched a national-level effort to reform indigenous practices with regard to women’s rights and freedoms as a response to ancient indigenous rules usos y costumbres which do not

Were Ethnic Minorities driving the US elections?


As a newly re-elected President Barack Obama promises that the best is yet to come, ethnic minorities in the US hope that this will include fulfilling president’s promise to adopt new immigration policy and to create a framework for legalizing existing long term present immigrants. The message of this presidential election is that both camps;

Can we build a Shared future in South Caucasus?


The conviction of the Shared Societies Project has been, since its very inception, that the convergence of diverse cultures should be enriching and beneficial to peoples and societies. The South Caucasus region, which is located on the border of Eastern Europe and Southern Asia and includes the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, exemplifies this

Peace, Democracy, Shared Societies and The Global Peace Index 2014









Measurement is a crucial factor to foster the efforts towards building an effective Shared Societies. has been working during the last years on developing tools to measure different peace and democracy items, all of them relevant for a Shared Society. The latest is the 2014 Global Peace Index Report ‘Measuring Peace and Assessing Country Risk

The increasing interconnectedness of the global economy means that local actions and shocks can impact individuals, communities and businesses on an international scale. Just consider the widespread and lasting impacts of high youth unemployment in Europe, the Arab Springpolitical turmoil in Thailand, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continuing violence in Syria. Although these tend to confirm the old adage of change being the only certainty, there are clear benefits to being able to better anticipate such events with greater understanding providing us with a means to protect against, and alleviate the impact of economic and social shocks.

Although there are many methods of measuring sovereign risk there are few standard means of assessing risks as it pertains to violence, conflict and instability. We know many societal factors are adversely affected through higher interpersonal violence, terrorism, rising political instability, crackdowns on social, political and religious freedoms as well as increasing inter-state conflict. Similarly, improvements in social conditions and the economy can have a positive effect on peacefulness. Consequently, by analysing the interconnectivity between violence and societal dynamics, it is possible to develop risk estimates that improve on the accuracy of the existing techniques currently used and deepen our understanding of those factors which underlie peaceful and prosperous societies.

Recognizing this, the Institute for Economics and Peace has developed a new approach to assessing country risk as part of the 2014 Global Peace Index Report ‘Measuring Peace and Assessing Country Risk.’ By combining risk theory and quantitative analysis IEP has implemented frameworks to operationalise a series of risk models. The approach places a significant focus on understanding the trajectory and development of the long term institutions which support peace and observing how particular combinations of societal strength or ‘Positive Peace’ interact with violence and conflict.

The current approach, and resulting ‘Risk Scores’ have proven to be reliable in identifying the countries that were at risk and subsequently fell in peace. IEP Risk Scores can therefore be interpreted as the likelihood of a country deteriorating in peace in the presence of a trigger factor.

Broadly, IEP’s research found that the countries that will be at the most risk of economic loss, violence and societal breakdown tend to have lower levels of ‘Positive Peace’, the term used to describe the structures, attitudes and institutions that move society towards resolving conflict in a non-violent way. Nations with low levels of Positive Peace are less likely to remain flexible, ‘pull together’ and rebound in the face of crisis.

In fact, many of the societal factors defined by IEP that support peace also support the Shared Societies agenda of creating a society in which “people hold an equal capacity to participate in, and benefit from, economic, political and social opportunities regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, language and other attributes, and where, as a consequence, relations between the groups are peaceful…”.

Furthermore, IEP’s research found that not only do countries with stronger institutions have lower risks of experiencing an increase in violence over the next two years, but that democracies face the lowest risks. Specifically, it was found that the risk tends to be higher in regimes where there tends to be a deficit in political and social freedoms. In addition, it was found that although full democracies experience small deteriorations in peace, the likelihood of full democracies experiencing larger deteriorations is much lower.

Although the human costs of higher levels of violence provides a striking illustration of the importance of strong and accountable institutions, so too does the economic implications of peace. For instance, using IEP’s Global Violence Containment model, estimates were made of the economic impact of the projected falls in peace. From this the overall financial impact of a small to medium rise in violence was found to be greatest in South Korea, Indonesia and Argentina. Such an increase in violence would be equivalent to US$3.8 billion, US$3.7 billion and US$2.0 billion respectively.

However, perhaps most alarmingly, IEP estimated that 16 countries, or over 500 million people, live in countries with an IEP Country Risk score of more than 50, indicating a higher chance of experiencing a small to medium deterioration in peace over the next two years. For instance, if Angola, Myanmar and Papua New Guinea were to experience a ‘small to medium’ deterioration in peace they would experience an increase in their violence containment costs equivalent to $31.0, $10.6 and $10.3 per person respectively.

Although the findings provide a powerful illustration of the potential financial impacts of violence, one of the most important insights is the benefits that could be obtained through governments targeting policies which build Positive Peace. This is because, not only is excess expenditure in areas such as the military fundamentally unproductive, but by freeing up these resources more can be invested in activities such as health, education and infrastructure which encourage economic growth and improve wellbeing. In addition, societies which are peaceful, socially cohesive, stable and safe are undeniably worthwhile in and of themselves; they also make economic sense, with research by IEP consistently finding that more peaceful societies are also more resilient and prosperous.

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress.

You can read more about the findings discussed in this blog by clicking here.


Global Peace Index interactive map: http://bit.ly/GPI2014

Global Peace Index report: http://bit.ly/GPIreport

Global Peace Index Video: http://bit.ly/GPIvideo


The Importance of giving the opportunity to Indigenous People to participate in Politics.


Since the appearance of democratic regimes in Latin-America, Indigenous Peoples have undertaking the tough work of fighting for their recognition and rights in all fields, especially the political and economic field. The policies that Latin-American countries have developed in terms of inclusion have been almost always without real consultation with the people themselves. These measures were more concerned to placate and include them in a culture of containment, not to preserve or restore their rights in relation to the land or the forest not to mention, their cultural heritage rights.

The declaration made by the Vice-President of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Álvaro Pop, highlights again the crucial need of continuing working to ameliorate the situation and the position of these Peoples in terms of inclusion by democratic and representative means. This Blog, created to emphasize and foster Ideas of Social Inclusion, continally argues that the only way to create a Shared Society is to accept ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity by requesting the necessary legal, constitutional and electoral framework changes required for granting inclusive policies, that will bring back benefits for us all.

In compliance with ILO’s Convention 169 of 1989 on the right to consultation by indigenous people, Peru passed the Ley del derecho a la consulta previa a los pueblos indígenas u originarios in 2011, becoming the first country in Latin America to guarantee by law that indigenous peoples would be consulted on decisions that could affect their rights, in the framework of inter-cultural dialogue. Taking into consideration Peru’s commitment, the Club de Madrid, Centro Amazónico de Antropología y Aplicación Práctica (CAAAP) and Comisión Andina de Juristas (CAJ) have proposed a multidimensional Project gathering all key stakeholders, to advance the use of the “Consulta Previa” Law, by promoting an enabling political and social environment.

Click here for more information



Boosting Solutions: Leadership in Africa


During the 2014 Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank that took place in Kigali, Rwanda in May 19-23, 2014, a High Level was organized to discussed “Leadership for the Africa we Want“. Many of our African Members participated at this debate. This is a video-summary of the debate.

During the discussion, important actors speak about the opportunities and challenges of Leadership for and within Africa; Club de Madrid Members Benjamin Mkapa, President of Tanzania (1995-2005) and Olusegun Obasanjo, President of Nigeria (1976-1979, 1999-2007), Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, William Ruto, Vice-President of Kenya, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chair of the African Union Commission and Mo-Ibrahim, founder and chair of the Mo-Ibrahim Foundation. The ideas may be familiar but they give us a lot to think about in terms of how to move forward to a Shared Society through Leadership.

Take a look at it, it is worthy, straight forward. The ideas may be familiar but they give us a lot to think about in terms of how to move forward to a Shared Society through Leadership.

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Myanmar faces Buddhist-Muslim Ethnic Tensions in its Transition to Democracy

Captura de pantalla 2014-06-10 a las 13.32.20

Tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and other regions have manifested in violent outbreaks in the past two years since June 2012, calling international attention to the high level of ethnic tension between the Muslim Rohingya and the Buddhist majority.

A recent Report of the Thailand-based human rights organization Fortify Rights, directed by Matthew Smith, Policies of Persecution: Ending Abusive State Policies Against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar claiming to disclose the legal documents used to discriminate against Rohingya and other ethnic minorities. The release of this report comes at a delicate time, as Myanmar braces for its first national census in thirty years.

The report is based on twelve internal government documents detailing “restrictions on movement, marriage, childbirth and other aspects of everyday life,” eight of which delineate official policies targeting Rohingya, the group says. These include three Rakhine State regional orders and five addenda to those orders. Fortify Rights claims that although these were produced between 1993 and 2008, years of military dictatorship in Myanmar, their policies remain in effect today. The four other documents relating to Muslim citizens outside Rakhine State are not presented in the report but the organization claims that they are dated 2013 and “instructive as background findings.”

In a press release Smith claims that,

“The government is systematically persecuting Rohingya on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and at times gender.”

Fortify Rights maintains that the Rohingya population of 1.33 million is largely stateless and deprived of basic human rights, and that the Burmese government denies the existence of a Rohingya ethnicity. The organization also adds that the government tends to frame issues relating to the population as matters of national security, overpopulation and illegal immigration.

While the government has made efforts to stop further outbreaks of violence in the country through ceasefire agreements with armed minority groups, and the international community has acknowledged violence and displacement, the report explains that there has been a failure to address the “devastating systematic abuses perpetrated against the Rohingya on a daily basis.” In other words, Fortify Rights asserts that because it is a normalized phenomenon authorized by legal documents, everyday social exclusion often fails to draw international attention.  

The documents put forth by Fortify Rights can provide a basis for negotiation on which Myanmar can focus on an equitable society. Institutions and legal framework as safeguards for the protection of individuals’ rights and the governmental obligation to maintain these institutions are pillars of the commitments of the Shared Societies Project. Discrimination and exclusion that derives in some way from legal documents and institutions can be fought through legal and institutional means.

“I don’t understand”


Club de Madrid is partnering with Partnership for Change for the 2015 General Assembly/Annual conference, and they have adopted the Shared Societies Approach as a framing concept for its work.

In their last conference in Oslo on 15th May this year they devoted one stream throughout the day to Shared Societies.  Participants from Club de Madrid, the UN agencies, Search for Common Ground, the business community and Norwegian civil society explored what this concept really means.

The discussions spend some time considering the distinction between, on the one hand, tolerating people different from our selves but trying to mould them to be just like us, and on the other hand really being open to the other, welcoming them, respecting their dignity, and valuing them in their own identity.  The latter of course builds a Shared Society and helps the other person to feel at home and confident to take their share of the responsibility for the community.

One person told a nice story which captured the distinction.

An immigrant came into a library in Oslo and asked the librarian “What height am I?”  The librarian told him and he went away.  The next day a number of other immigrants came in and asked the same question “What height am I?”

It turned out that they had been registering with a doctor and had been asked this question.  They did not know the answer or even what the question meant, but they did not feel confident enough to ask for an explanation.  But they knew the library was a place to get information and that the staff would be understanding and accepting.  The librarian had conveyed their respect for the dignity of the other person, which the health centre had not been able to convey.  I am sure that the health service staff were kind and caring and that the individual would receive good treatment.  But if they are to use the services of the health centre there needs to be this extra dimensions which is harder to define and harder to apply.  At its root it means connecting to the person as a person, not a client or number, and showing we are willing to listen even in the midst of our busy routine.

There is a message in this for the drafters of the new Sustainable Development Goals. It is not simply identifying targets for the desirable level of service: the number of schools or health clinics or the access to jobs.  The actual provision is important but it only achieves the goal when people can use the services in a confident self-defining way.  We know too many stories of new health centres which were established in remote areas, but were not used because the planners had not listened to the local community and take into account their culture and values and provided the service in a culturally sensitive way.

This is why the Members of the Club de Madrid are advocating the importance of including a goal on good governance and, within that, the importance of the participation of those affected in planning and implementing policies.  Such a goal is not a means to judge states on their current standards of governance but to ensure that they provide the services they themselves want to provide for their citizens in ways that make them effective.  And that no one walks away because they do not feel able to say “I do not understand” or “I do not feel comfortable”.

Photo Credit: Hatford Public Library

A tribute to Maya Angelou: deep and thuthful voice of the shared societies

Maya Angelou was far more than just a poet or an American idol. She was an activist, an educator, a role model and an inspiration. She passed away this week at the age of 86 but her talent and work, always trying to bring hope and bridging differences, will stand still for generations to come.

There are many gems in Angelou’s work but for this post we have chosen “On the pulse of the morning” a poem about responsability and inclusion that she recited at the first inauguration of Bill Clinton on January 20, 1993. In the voice of this Malcom X and Martin Luther King’s collaborator, the advocacy for a shared society reaches new heights of legitimacy and beauty


Video courtesy of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library

On the pulse of the morning

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon.

The dinosaur, who left dry tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no more hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness,
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out today, you may stand on me,
But do not hide your face.

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song,
Come rest here by my side.

Each of you a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet, today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the stone were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.

The River sings and sings on.

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African and Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

Today, the first and last of every Tree
Speaks to humankind. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside me, here beside the River.

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you
Pawnee, Apache and Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet, left me to the employment of
Other seekers–desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot …
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours–your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream.

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands.

Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings.

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.


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