Democracy That Delivers

The Shared Societies Project

Building a World Safe for Difference

Project summary


Overview of the Shared Societies Project: the essence of the Shared Societies project on dynamic slides!


What is a shared society?

A ‘shared society’ is a socially cohesive society. It is stable, safe. It is where all those living there feel at home. It respects everyone’s dignity and human rights while providing every individual with equal opportunity. It is tolerant. It respects diversity. A shared society is constructed and nurtured through strong political leadership.


Why shared societies?

Burqas banned in France... Brutal racial attacks on Indians in Australia... Gay Iraqis murdered by militia forces...Italian city passes “public security” ordinance to expel foreigners... Ethnic clashes erupt in Kenya... Bloodshed between Han Chinese and Muslim Uighurs... Headlines everyday tell us of identity-based conflict north and south, east and west.

A paradox of globalization is that the more we come together, the more we seem to fall apart. But fear of difference is not new and in times of crisis, apprehension grows as people cling to the familiar for fear of losing out to those who are different. Many leaders are comfortable catering to the majority – some even exploit tension between people of different identities to solidify political capital among their base. Research and practice show, however, that societies are most likely to be peaceful and prosperous when leaders and citizens recognize and celebrate the value of diversity and actively build an inclusive, shared society safe for diversity. 


Why a shared societies project?

As communities become ever more inter-twined and intercultural – ninety percent of the world’s countries have at least a ten percent minority – leaders face the challenge of building and maintaining social cohesion in their communities and countries. How they respond to social cohesion differs from leader to leader, but one element remains true for all: They need options and tools to address this challenge.

The Shared Societies Project was designed in response to an urgent call from leaders worldwide for arguments and action plans to help them effectively and constructively manage ethnic, cultural, religious and other identity differences – promoting human rights and respecting human dignity – to facilitate coexistence, inclusion, opportunity and participation.


Project goals 

  • Promote project principles and tools and outreach to leaders
  • Call for and encourage greater leadership action to build shared societies
  • Advocate for the adoption of new language and recognized instruments for social inclusion.
  • Include project principles and approaches in policy statements at national and global level, including the new Post-2015 Development Agenda 

The Shared Societies Project has identified four key conditions if individuals and groups are to feel that they have an equal place in the society in which they live: Democratic Participation; Respect for Diversity and the Dignity of the Individual; Equal Opportunity; and Protection from Discrimination.

Here’s how the Project set out to achieve this vision:

1. Outreach and Dissemination of Shared Societies Project Principles and Tools

2. International Advocacy on Norms, Practice and Policy, through participation in selected international fora and building on established partnerships and relationships with multilateral agencies, other IOs and civil society organizations.

3. Engagement with Leaders. Club de Madrid, led by its Members and with the support from third parties, will respond to requests for leader-to-leader support in implementing the project tools to face current challenges of exclusion and identity-based conflict.  Club of Madrid Members have held elected office, understand what leaders face, and can support their peers with experience, trust and discretion.

Two strategies are cross-cutting to all of the above lines of work.

  • Network of Political Leaders United for Shared Societies (NetPLUSS). Committed to promoting shared societies in their own work and working with others to promote that ideal in the wider world. The project will benefit from their experience and expertise and their capacity to engage and inspire other leaders. 
  • Building the Economic Argument for Shared Societies. Make the case that shared societies result in economic benefits and create tools and arguments that can be internalised and acted upon by leaders.


The project in action

  • Club of Madrid members developed and endorsed a Vision, Rationale, Call to Action and Ten Commitments for Shared Societies, illustrated by feasible approaches and examples for implementation; which are provoking strong interest and support.
  • The language and concepts of the Project are appearing in the work of the UN, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, African Union, OAS, and others. Civil society leaders are beginning to use Shared Societies concepts to encourage political leaders and hold them accountable for work on social inclusion.
  • Leaders in cities, regions and countries around the world are inviting collaboration with the Project.
  • Club of Madrid Members have held elected office, understand what leaders face, and can support their peers with experience, trust and discretion.
  • First Global Forum on Leadership for Shared Societies (Rotterdam, November 2008), which brought together political leaders, Intergovernmental Organizations, NGOs, activists and experts who validated the initiative and produced a Call To Action for Leadership on Shared Societies inviting current leaders and organizations around the world to adhere to it.
  • Club of Madrid Members and international experts have gathered good policy and practice worldwide through case-study missions and research, including the economic arguments. The result: a Toolkit for Leadership on Building Shared Societies. Designed as a compilation of best leadership policies and practices that promote social cohesion, this tool provides leaders with ample examples and arguments to lead towards social cohesion. It shows that shared societies are not only needed but also possible. Users will find inspiration and ideas from others who “have been there.”




Club de Madrid
Palacio del Marqués de Cañete. Calle Mayor, 69, Planta 1, 28013 Madrid - Spain
Tel +34 911 548 230 Fax +34 911 548 240