Featured Posts

<< >>

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

Étienne Balibar: ‘Ejecting Greece from the eurozone would be a moral failure for Europe’

French Marxist philosopher Étienne Balibar discusses European identity amid the financial crisis. Using ideas explored in his latest book Politics and the Other Scene, he argues that the continent still has some way to go to rid itself of xenophobia. As one of Louis Althusser’s most brilliant students in the 1960s, Étienne Balibar contributed to the

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;

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

The Shared Societies Project in the Civil Society Policy Forum

Remember: Club de Madrid Proposes a “Shared Societies Global Agenda” During IMF-WB Spring Meetings. Check out the summary of the Civil Society Policy Forum! The Civil Society Program Policy Forum (CS Forum) was held from Wednesday, April 18 to Saturday, April 21, prior to, and during the 2012 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World

“An open door to the future”


That was how Iñaki Azkuna described the city he was managing during the last fifteen years. The former Mayor of Bilbao was one of the few political leaders persuaded that success could be measured in terms of citizens wellbeing and not just in terms of GDP. Doctor, Mayor, global actor, a man from the Renaissance, Iñaki refurbished a declining industrial city into an inclusive city, creating a broader scope that has enhanced the citizens and the city.  He died after a long illness on Friday, March 20th.

The City Mayors Foundation recognized this effort in 2012, announcing him as winner for the World Mayor2012. Bilbao´s debt was reduced during his mandate until being paid off in 2011, being an example of managing and building consensus with other political groups, including all stakeholders of the society.

BilbaoBilbao, since Iñaki took the highest position at the City Hall, has been an example of shared prosperity, becoming a place of synergies, art, and inclusive opportunities for people from all over the world

This city is very representative of a shared and inclusive city, and a mirror to look into, following in his bold steps to create a better Shared Society.

The success of ‘12 years a slave’ triggers shared societies community efforts

The NY Times' 1853 Article On 12 Years A Slave's Solomon Northup

Second of March at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, California: 12 Years a Slave wins three Oscars. For the first time in 86 years a movie directed by a black person wins the award and Afro American Lupita Nyong’o takes home the film’s industry higher honor as best supporting actress. The script is also awarded as the best adapted screenplay of the year.  Media underlines the importance of these awards as a landmark in the race discussion and the newly elected Academy’s President African-American Cheryl Boone Isaacs, says that with 12 Years’ success, “a major door have been kicked down… I believe very strongly that the entertainment and motion picture business is going to be more open and aware of different voices.

But far away from the string of reactions and global buzz that the picture generates along with the Hollywood Hills flashes and glamour, the story that tells and is a reminder of the recent past of the United States is still causing a lot of uncomfortable situations for many.

One place hidden from the limelight is Rapides Parish, the community in rural Louisiana where the real story of “12 years a slave” occurs. The picture is based on a book of the same name and it tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who is kidnapped and enslaved. That was 161 years ago, but even today that legacy stills lives on today.

The book was rediscovered in 1968 by historian Sue Eakin, who lived in the same area were Solomon Northup was enslaved. As a white woman championing the story of a black slave in the days of deep segregation, and therefore as a women championing a shared societies vision, Eakin faced many challenges. 50 years after that, her great-nephew, Lamar White still has to deal with controversy as, even today, there are many who refuse to acknowledge this area’s history. As White says, “It is difficult to build a community when there’s that giant psychic wound that slavery inflicted. It was easier for people to get along if they ignored it”.

As the BBC reports in its article “Louisiana grapples with 12 years a Slave” at a two-day discussion on the book held recently at Louisiana State University, “Northup’s story was debated by a group of black and white Americans. Ginger Jones who leads the university’s multicultural committee, says her initial proposal to host a symposium on race relations met with resistance

People whose ancestors were slaves in the area refused to attend because it was a painful topic to address. Karen Riley a panelist at the symposium says “there’s shame, fear and mistrust”. She points to the way many in the South celebrate the start of the Civil War and the lack of memorials for those who suffered slavery. Bob Vincent, a white pastor whose ancestors were slave owners believes the conversation will only open up if America fully acknowledges the past.  “Here in America our hands are very bloody with the legacy of slavery”.

Therefore, here we have a case where a Hollywood success has again had a translation into the real world. Despite all the troubles and difficulties, the bad memories coming alive and resistances found in the way, there are a lot of positive angles to stress starting from the fact that the powerful filming industry starts breaking its own racial barriers.  And second, but as important as the former, the efforts of the communities to initiate frank talks about their past and to move forward a shared future in a shared society.

Additional information: see the original text from the New York Times (20th of  January, 1853) that documents Solomon Northup story. “THE KIDNAPPING CASE. Narrative of the Seizure and Recovery of Solomon Northrup. INTERESTING DISCLOSURES”.

Ethnic and cultural minorities with worse health outcomes

Precisely when we are in the process of reviewing the Post 2015 Development Agenda from a Shared Societies Perspective, we found this article “Stop Denying People Their Right to Health” by Sarah K. Edwards from Health Poverty in Action at the HuffPost Impact.

Across the world, ethnic and cultural minorities are marginalized and experiencing more poverty and worse health outcomes than the rest of the population, but there is a lack of statistical information around this. By measuring national averages, the MDGs cover up this situation and fail to incentivize countries to breakdown of data into sub-national groups.

Professionals on the field, as those from Health Poverty Action, are viewing and experiencing this, but the lack of data hinders the development of policies that could put a stop to this marginalization process. Allow us to link this with the position paper that the Club de Madrid prepared and is now promoting within the framework of the Shared Societies Project: “A Shared Societies Perspective on the Post-2015 Development Agenda”. In this paper, it is clearly stated that the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals must address the issue of the continuing marginalization of many groups on grounds of identity. Marginalization affects not only the groups being excluded but also the society as a whole, socially, economically and politically.

Furthermore, the first suggestion of this position paper for the New Sustainable Development Agenda is the importance of disaggregating data to show the differential outcomes for different sections of society. This was stressed in the Report of the High Level Panel. It would be helpful if this is explicitly stated in the new Agenda and that it includesdisaggregation in terms of identity. Otherwise we will have no way to know if new development has reached all sections of society.

If we want to promote policy approaches that generate safe and prosperous shared communities, Ethnic minorities shouldn’t be left behind.

Follow Sarah K Edwards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@healthpoverty


April elections: a Shared Societies opportunity for Afghanistan?

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

History in Afghanistan has as many twists and turns as one can ever imagine. And a new one could be in the making. This could be surprising for some but for the first time in many years the next elections, to be held this April, will feature 11 presidential tickets and all of them will be ethnically diverse. All tribes have their leaders separated and represented in various presidential candidate teams and that triggers a question: is the era of ethnic divisions, that had its climax during the civil war (1992-1996) over?

The answer to this kind of complex questions about Afghanistan will hardly consist in a simple “yes” or “no” but the good news is that it is “probably yes” or “partly yes” (for instance check out this article with the four main questions on the table regarding the elections). As Helena Malykar, Afghan political analyst and historian said in her Al Jazeera report:

The ousting of the Taliban by the US-led military forces at the end of 2001 and establishment of a new regime based on democracy, equal rights and freedoms, has offered Afghans a new environment. During the last decade, while Machiavellian games for power have continued to be played, a wave of change has also made its way into the society, especially among the young generation of Afghans. Changing values are slowly transforming this nation and this shift is quietly, but fundamentally challenging the old ways.

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

It’s true that the reasons why all the presidential tickets are integrating leaders from different backgrounds might not be very clear. The rumors in Kabul point to President Karzai as having a lot to do with this refound diversity in an attempt to control the process. Others think it is not a convictions/ideals driven process but calculation on the part of the candidates themselves. And yes, the common visions and programs may mean little but the fact is that the younger generation is striving for a better quality of life and better public services like education, health care or infrastructure rather than focusing on ethnic issues. As Malykar says

there are clear and present signs that voters may transcend ethnic and sectarian dividing lines during the April presidential elections. Whether the division of votes will be motivated by immediate material gain or based on a forward-looking vision, remains to be seen.

Therefore the process in Afghanistan towards a Shared Society is both challenging and promising. The fact that all the presidential tickets will be ethnically mixed at least opens the door to implement three of the Shared Societies Commitments and Approaches on Inter-Community Development: “take steps to reduce tensions and hostility between communities”, “initiate a process to encourage the creation of a shared vision of society” and “promote respect, understanding and appreciation of diversity


Awareness and media (sometimes) positive influence in building Shared Societies

Brookings Paper

A serious study based on facts, good media coverage and radical positive real change. A virtuous circle as hard to see as Halley’s comet? Maybe. But that’s why a more conscious media is needed in order to make an impact and foster the building of Shared Societies. In other words, media needs to be aware of their power to raise awareness and therefore make changes in positive (or negative) ways.

This story begins in the National Basketball Association in the USA, precisely in the NBA referees. A study from The National Bureau of Economic Affairs issued in June 2007 founded “that more personal fouls are called against players when they are officiated by an opposite-race refereeing crew than when officiated by an own-race crew. These biases are sufficiently large that we find appreciable differences in whether predominantly black teams are more likely to win or lose, based on the racial composition of the refereeing crew”. The study was grounded on a huge statistical database from two decades (1991-2002)

The report jumped into the headlines, was a front page story in The New York Times and many other newspapers, got extensive coverage from the powerful ESPN and NBA stars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Charles Barkley engaged in an open and public discussion.

A new paper (click here to download the paper) published by the same authors Devin G. Pope, Joseph Price and Justin Wolfers  and published by the Brookings Institute compares the next time period after the first study (2003-2006) to the timeframe immediately after the study was publicized (2007-2010). The result? “Racial bias persisted in the years after the study’s original sample, but prior to the media coverage. Subsequent to the media coverage though, the bias completely disappeared”. The authors founded that the most likely mechanism that may have produced this result is that upon becoming aware of their biases, individual referees changed their decision-making process. The media exposure was apparently enough to make that change as the NBA reported that it did not take any specific action to eliminate referee discrimination.

This case study proves awareness and media coverage are powerful mechanisms for change. And in this specific story it is not just awareness in the way we usually think, making others conscious of a certain situation or reality but the other way round. Sometimes the hell doesn’t live in the body of others, to use the phrase from Jean Paul Sartre (“L’enfer, c’est l´Autre”; “Hell is other people), but within us. Discovering our own evils, in this case through media exposure, is a good first step to clean them up and therefore make real individual and collective progress towards a Shared Society.

Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders

SSP African Symposium 005

How can we foster shared societies and inclusive sustainable development in Africa?

How are the experiences from African leaders in seeking to achieve inclusive economic transformation for their nations?

To answer these questions, a group of informed African leaders and citizens met on 19th and 20th November in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania under the auspices of the Club de Madrid and the UONGOZI Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development. It was co-chaired by Club de Madrid Members H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania, H.E. Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana and H.E Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria.

A breakfast roundtable discussion with the theme of ‘Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders’ kicked-off the symposium on November 19th, where the former presidents imparted their respective leadership experiences in seeking to achieve inclusive economic transformation for their nations and look forward to Africa’s future challenges and opportunities. The roundtable discussion gathered over 80 participants including politicians, senior officials and executives from the public and private sectors, and leaders from civil society.

Watch the Session “Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders” here:

The meeting reviewed development in Africa to date and the current challenges facing future development in the continent and reach the following conclusions which they share and commend to political leaders and policy makers and Africans as a whole, believing that they provide perspectives which will allow a more effective sustainable and inclusive development for the region.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR. Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.




Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: