Archive for SSP related News and Videos

Refugees attitudes in Europe


On August 6th, The Guardian published an article: “German TV presenter sparks debate and hatred with her support for refugees”. The article’s author wrote how the German TV presenter Anja Reschke denounced that, racist comments have recently become socially acceptable and it’s common to make them under real names. Her declarations generated debates about emerging racism in Germany.

Until recently, such commentators were hidden behind pseudonyms, but now these things are being aired under real names, (…) in reaction to phrases like “filthy vermin should drown in the sea”, you get excited consensus and a lot of “likes” on social media.

However, the article’s author mentioned that the aggressive response towards foreigners is seen as a minority reacting to the changing face of Germany where one fifth of the population is now of a migrant background, according to statistics out this week.

Since then the Germany Government has accepted many more refugees and advocated within the European Union for a better system for receiving refugees. The situation is changing day by day.

The mainstream debate and attitudes have been overwhelmingly positive, with many communities and individual families welcoming refugees, most of whom have fled conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In most towns, inhabitants received new arrivals, offering help, collecting food and clothing, offering language lessons for free, and even inviting them to live with them. Some neighbors help them with the shopping and with the bureaucratic issues, others give them presents and even install a satellite dish for them so they could watch Syrian TV.

Yahian, a Syrian refugee with his family in a village in Germany told their experience arriving in Germany to The Guardian:

There were flowers, candles, milk and coffee waiting for us. They tried to make it as comfortable as possible. It was cold, wet and dark. My wife was crying, she was so nervous, but we’ll never forget the warmth of their welcome.

The Pastor of his village, also help him to negotiate with the butcher to provide halal meat.

The Guardian, also published an article on the same topic that emphasizes the desire of Germans citizens to improve the situation of refugees, and described a project created by a couple that felt uncomfortable with the way Germany were treating them, “Refugee Welcome” ( This initiative consists in sharing home with refugees; “Accommodating a refugee does not have to mean losing out on the rent of a room, Refugees Welcome representative said. In a third of the cases, costs are covered either by the job centre or social welfare payments, and a quarter of the rents are paid for via micro-donations to the site”. 26 people have been placed in private’s houses so far, and more than 780 Germans have signed up to the website.

Acts like the ones described above demonstrates that most of the Germans do their best to make the refugees feel like home. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Germany is a country used to integrate both immigrants and refugees, having “one of Europe’s most hospitable asylum systems”.


The Refugee Crisis: Short and Long Term Solutions, by Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta

Syrian Refugees - Photo by Freedom House

José Manuel Ramos-Horta, former President of Timor-Leste (2007-2012) and member of the Club de Madrid, published a few days ago a statement with possible short and long term solutions for the refugees crisis. You can read it in the following link.

Photo: Freedom House

President Ramos-Horta argued that Western and Latin America countries “should open their arms to fellow human beings, women and children, fleeing the catastrophes of the Middle East and Africa”. He suggested that these countries should accommodate refugees starting with families with small and teen age children.

The article’s main idea is that national and international institutions would have to be mobilized to assist in absorbing the impact of the refugees and creating economic opportunities for them. Ramos-Horta highlighted that “experience has shown how refugees have never been a burden or a threat to the host countries.”

Rumours at the Local Level

Captura de pantalla 2015-09-03 a las 12.59.45

Daniel de Torres, former Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue at Barcelona City Administration and lead author of the recent Club de Madrid publication “Local Government for Shared Societies”, has just published an article on the Spanish news website In this article, “Sobre rumores y goteras” (About rumors and leaks), the former Commissioner puts forth a proposal to build Shared Societies as one of the great challenges of our time.

De Torres argues that, in a context of increasing cultural diversity, an intercultural model, as followed by the Council of Europe in its “Intercultural Cities” project, must take into account the equality principles based on “citizens’ rights, responsibilities and social opportunities.” He explained that we should go beyond “diversity celebrations and food exchanges” working on areas such as education, culture, city planning and economy.

The author’s vision of Shared Societies also includes the importance of addressing subjective feelings such as “prejudices, stereotypes and ignorance.” The project “Anti-rumours Strategy” was undertaken in Barcelona in 2010 to quickly refute rumours before they became embedded in the community and it has quickly spread to different European countries.

The great impact of this initiative in Spain has rendered it to be now found in 12 countries throughout Europe, as reports the Spanish newspaper El País in an article titled “Usted Puede Ser Agente Antibulos,” (You may be an anti-rumor agent) encouraging the public to become active anti-bullying participants in their communities. In the city of Erlangen, Germany, for instance, an antiracist simulation took place in the multinational headquarters of Siemens engaging all of its 23, 000 employees, about a quarter of the population of this German city. While in Sabadell, Spain, Paul Llonch, a rapper from the music group At Versaris, joined the efforts of the Arraona High School and the initiative “Change your point of view”. The students united to shot a video clip denouncing racism which quickly went viral.

The strategy was focused on achieving a real impact through political commitment, people’s participation, creativity and accuracy. Daniel de Torres stressed that the most challenging factor is to recognize that we all have prejudices, even the most marginalized groups, and that cities are the best context where we can identify and deal with these attitudes.

The Millennial Generation “color-blind” view on race

Protestors Gather Against Confederate Flag


On 20 July 2015, American magazine TIME published, an opinion article that explored the view of racism nowadays by young people: “Millenials can’t afford to be color-blind about race”.

Due to recent racist violent events happened in the United States, the article’s author, Victor Luckerson, writes that this kind of incidents “is not going to stop just because an older generation passes away.” He mentioned a recent survey by MTV showing that 91% of people ages 14 to 24 said they believed in racial equality. Despite that, the author stated that “racial rancor continues to play out in our streets, on social media and even in our churches.”  He is concerned that many young people take “not seeing race” as a proof of their progressivism and therefore feel absolved from engaging in discussions on the topic.

The article’s main idea is that thinking of ourselves as “color-blind” can make it harder to see persistent inequalities many of which are becoming more pronounced.

A recent report by the US Census Bureau found that white children are a smaller proportion of those aged under one that those from ethnic minorities including blacks, Hispanics, Asians and mixed race. Of the four million children born in the US in 2011, 50.4 per cent were from ethnic minorities. That compares with 37 per cent in 1990. As stated in the article, the challenges these kids face are virtually invisible to white kids.

Importantly, the article warns that “there are obvious financial and political dangers if people deny these demographics shift” which is one of the Shared Societies Project key messages: “Leaving groups and individuals on the margins of society is not cost-free, as it creates social, political and security problems which are avoidable, unnecessary and costly”

Photo Credit: Andrew Renneinsen / The Whasington Post-Getty Images

Social Media Campaign Fosters #Tolerance and #Friendship in #Myanmar



On June 4, 2015, the social media source, Global Voices, published the article “Selfie Campaign Promotes Interfaith Tolerance and Ethnic Diversity in Myanmar”. The Facebook campaign rooted in interreligious acceptance and mutual respect was launched in April in Myanmar with the hashtags #myfriend and #friendship_has_no_boundaries. The campaign, characterized by the classic selfies is led by youth from the city of Yangon, the largest metropolitan center in Myanmar.

People from different creeds pose together, making it clear that harmonious cohabitation among different religious groups is not only possible, but that close friendships among people of a diversity of faiths can be clearly seen and is a reality in Myanmar.

The campaign comes at a challenging time in Myanmar, when a tentative inter-ethnical peace process is being agreed this year. Myanmar has over 100 ethnic groups, languages and dialects, one of the richest examples of ethnic diversity in Asia.

In spite of recent events, the campaign shows a united determination to end discrimination and gives expression to the voice of solidarity towards friendship and respect for diversity, particularly among young people. The participants of the campaign are raising their voice to show that tolerance is stronger than hate.

Some of the captions from the pictures in the campaign read:

“I’m a Buddhist and My Friend is a Muslim. I’m a Boy and She is a Girl. We are different but we accept each other. Life is not permanent, enjoy yourself right now. Because friendship has no boundaries,” Han Seth Lu.

He is a Sikh and I’m a Muslim. But we are friends. Although we have diversities, we share our own opinions and beliefs, we accept and respect our different identities,” Su Yadanar Myint.

The social media campaign is aligned with some of the key principles of the Shared Societies Project: respect among members of a society where all have the right to express their ideologies while regarding the dignity of those around them.


Diversity Schools in Georgia


The Diversity School is an educational program implemented by the NGO Iris Group in Georgia in the South Caucasus.  It offers young activists a platform of capacity building and ideas execution. The program strives for a pluralistic society “focusing on educating young people to give them the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to strengthen a tolerant Georgian society.”

More specifically, the Diversity School Programme aims to increase the inclusion of minorities while promoting equal opportunities in school and youth employment. On the program’s website the organization stated the main objectives and values, among them:

  • to promote a pluralism of identities enabling members of different social groups in Georgia to better understand each other” and;
  •  “to empower young people to use the potential offered by diversity to shape Georgia’s future as a country with space for a variety of ethnic groups, each possessing a broad range of aspirations and beliefs.

To participate in the Diversity School activities candidates must be aged between 18 and 24, have an affinity with ethnic minority issues, be active in the local community and have an interest in diversity education and youth activism.

The NGO Iris Group was founded in Tbilisi in 2010 as a non-profit and non-governmental organization with a main purpose “to support young people to figure out their potential, use the strength of diversity and contribute to the development of their society by active participation.” Prior to 2012, the activities of Iris Group were mainly focused on the South Caucasus region (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan). Since then Iris group has started to implement activities in Russia and Turkey working with ethnic minorities and strengthening them to become full members of the society.

Through workshops and specific material the organization provides resources for project management, mentoring, non-formal education and development of Educational Programs in the field of active citizenship. One of these training activities was published in an article in the local newspaper Georgia Today, where one of the participants mentioned that “Diversity School taught me to write, gave me experience as a project manager and taught me to overcome hardships (…).”

As stated in a European Parliament report[1], Georgia is the most ethnically diverse state in the South Caucasus. Its minorities constitute 16% of the population including large Armenian and Azeri minorities, each speaking their own language. Georgians themselves are divided into four separate groups: Georgians proper, Megrelians, Svans and Laz. The report highlighted that minorities are poorly represented in the political system and state structures. In the 150-member Georgian Parliament there are three Armenians and three Azeris. Insufficient knowledge of Georgian, the national working language, among minorities hampers more active participation by them in the decision-making process of the country.

The Diversity School program alludes to one of the fundamental components of Shared Societies Project, the creation of a shared vision of society at local and national level through projects in schools and other institutions in order for young people to think about their society and their place in it and the place for other identity groups. Initiatives such as the project implemented in Georgia encourage young people to envisage a shared society for the future.

The Club de Madrid has had a long interest in Georgia as one of the countries coming out of the Soviet Bloc, and at present is considering a more active involvement to help the government and people to work on diversity issues.

[1] Directorate General for External Policies, European Parliament: “Minorities in the South Caucasus: New visibility amid old frustrations”, June 2014.



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