Archive for SSP related News and Videos

Shared Societies Approach in Kenya


Member of the Shared Societies Project Expert Advisory Panel, the Kenyan lawyer and academic, Yash Pal Ghai, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Hong-Kong and an expert when it comes to constitutional law and human rights.

With a life-time of study, scholarship, and experience, Ghai reports on past and current events regarding the themes of diversity and peace in his new book entitled Ethnicity, Nationhood, and Pluralism: Kenyan Perspectives.

This book marks the culmination of ten years of research and assessment of national sentiments on the acceptance of various cultural groups in Kenya. All of this occurs within the context of the country’s new constitutional commitment to becoming an inclusive society. An intriguing comparison and analysis of Canada is made in order to demonstrate 1) that achieving a pluralistic society is possible, and 2) how a country can bring diverse communities together to ultimately create a peaceful and prosperous society. According to Ghai, “a commitment to pluralism requires systematic effort across all sectors of society” and “there is no one-size-fits-all approach to pluralism.” With all of this in mind, he demonstrates that the 2010 constitution is an indicator that Kenya wants to embrace meaningful social inclusion, however it needs to do more.

Educated at Oxford and Harvard, Yash Ghai, has served as an advocate of the High Court of Tanzania. His primary interests now are constitutions arising out of conflict and political and constitutional issues of autonomy in the context of China. Some of his principal writings have been published in non-legal journals. He has been consulted on constitutional matters by a number of countries, including Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Seychelles, Afghanistan, Maldives, Cambodia, and East Timor. He chaired Kenya’s constitutional review from 2001-04 and facilitated various consultations in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, and advised the Tibetan Government in Exile. In September 2006, he became UN Special Representative for Human Rights to Cambodia.

The Project values Professor Ghai’s support and wise counsel, as these issues are critical in building Shared Societies

Positive Peace and Shared Societies


The Shared Societies Project was represented at “From Theory to Practice: Inaugural Positive Peace Conference” held by the Institute for Economics and Peace at Standford University, California, USA, on October 5, 2015.

The Institute for Economics and Peace has sought to better understand the drivers of peaceful societies through the development of an empirical framework that identifies the optimum environment in which peace can flourish. This is termed Positive Peace. The main contribution has been the development of a framework of inter-related factors or Pillars of Peace, identified by analyzing over 4,700 different indices, datasets and attitudinal surveys. Countries with higher levels of Positive Peace are less likely to slip into major conflicts, are more likely to experience less violence, and are better equipped to bounce back from internal or external shocks caused by economic conditions, societal disagreements and natural disasters.

During the Conference’s session “Positive Peace and Systems Thinking”, aimed to examine positive peace through the lens of systems thinking, Necla Tshirgi, Professor of Practice, Human Security and Peacebuilding at the University of San Diego and and member of their Project Expert Advisory Panel, participated on behalf of the Shared Societies Project.

Necla Tshirgi spoke about the fundamental interrelationships between positive peace factors and Shared Societies. See copy of her presentation here

Cities Against Racism


The International Coalition of Cities against Racism is an initiative launched by UNESCO in 2004 to establish a network of cities interested in sharing experiences in order to improve their policies to fight racism, discrimination and xenophobia.

In times of growing globalisation and urbanization, municipalities are a key factor in ensuring that all their citizens, regardless of their nationality, ethnic, cultural, religious or social origin can live in dignity, security and justice. The initiative is expressly supported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the world’s largest organisation of municipalities, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).

On December 10th 2004, the “European Coalition of Cities against Racism” was established in Nuremberg, and a “Ten-Point-Plan of Action” was adopted. In order to take into account the special conditions and priorities of different regions of the world, further regional coalitions have been established in the two following years and have worked out their own action plans.

The “Welcoming Cities – Keys for an anti-racist culture” General Conference was held in Karlsruhe, Germany, October 8-9, organized by the European Coalition of Cities Against Racism. In these intense two days, representatives of European Cities identified and shared good practices to fight against racism, promote social inclusion and improve the efficiency of the public services offered to migrant and refugee’s population.

The Club de Madrid Shared Societies Project has decided that involvement with local activities has a number of advantages; promoting social inclusion at this level may be possible when national governments are not ready to engage with issues of inter-group relations at the level of national policy. To develop this area of work, the Club de Madrid has developed a publication to emphasize the role of Shared Societies at the local level with dedicated materials based on the existing Shared Societies Project documents and made specifically relevant to local contexts. The English and French versions of the publication, “Local Government for Shared Societies”, was disseminated during the Conference in Karlsruhe.

Benedetto Zacchiroli, ECCAR President and representative of the City of Bologna, gave the keynote speech focused on the challenges of the recent refugee crisis in Europe. He stressed that “the Mayors of European cities are in the forefront of receiving the requests of help for immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, to facilitate their acceptance and their integration.”

Turning to the issue of migration, Frank Mentrup, Mayor of Karlsruhe, stressed that “the exchange of best practices is the best tool to combat racism and discrimination.” The Mayor also explained how the City of Karlsruhe is undertaking special measures to promote a culture of anti-racism through cooperation with civil society organizations and actions in public spaces of the city.

Club de Madrid staff officer, Rafael Moreno, and representatives of the ECCAR Secretariat and UNESCO held bilateral meetings in order to discuss further cooperation on initiatives to promote social inclusion and diversity at the local level.

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.


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

Join other followers: