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Leadership for social cohesion

Leadership for social cohesion

November 23, 2010

Carlos Westendorp, Secretary General of the Club of Madrid, recalled during the Second Meeting on Social Cohesion and Regional Development, Cities and Immigration, that ensuring that public policy and political discourse have a positive effect on social cohesion, is a responsibility that lies under governments and political leaders. 

This meeting, organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Fundación Instituto de Cultura del Sur, analyzed, during November 17-19, the role that social cohesion has played in the past and will play in the future. Since the late 1980's, much of the political debate in democratic societies has revolved around the need to maintain social cohesion as one of the priorities for action for many governments. The key to succeed consist in finding ways to ensure that these concepts are tangible and achievable, facilitating their implementation, so that leaders and communities, especially at the local level, meet the challenges of creating an inclusive society with concrete ideas and through specific tools.

For more than three years, the Club of Madrid, through the Shared Societies Project, has been working hard to mobilize leadership for action in social cohesion. We do this because, as noted by Westendorp, we believe that the most direct threats to the coexistence and social cohesion are not of an interpersonal nature. The most dangerous threats to social cohesion are institutional.

Political leadership is needed to incorporate an inclusive approach and challenge those who appeal and exploit the fears of different communities, which don’t know each other very well. But political leaders cannot replace the contribution of individuals in their own communities and the work of local organizations. Often political leadership must support and facilitate the social leadership that encourages a change of attitude in the community.

Among the different participants of the conference, there were journalists, politicians and former ministers, like Jordi Sevilla, Claudio Aranzadi, Thomas de la Cuadra, Gaspar Zarrías, Secretary of State for Territorial Affairs, and experts from OECD, like Cristina Narbona, Spain's ambassador to the OECD.

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