Archive for SSP related Analysis

“No to Xenophobia”: the Twitter Community Speaks Up

CCzsPiTUgAAasR4

On May 10th, the Spanish newspaper El País published an online article titled Twitter, al Rescate del Sueño de Mandela (Twitter to the Rescue of the Mandela Dream) depicting the efforts of the Twitter communityto raise its voice against hate crimes in South Africa.

Solidarity and social cohesion became loud and clear after South Africa and the international community turned to Twitter to take a stand regarding the latest outbreaks of violence, which specifically targeted immigrants in South Africa mostly from Mozambique, Zimbabue, Malawi and Ethiopia. The most recent outbreaks, fueled by xenophobic sentiments, began in March in the city of Durban, but have spread throughout South Africa including Johannesburg. Twitter served as a platform for all those who felt the moral and social duty to speak up against the unfortunate series of violent occurrences. On April 14th, Twitter users started raising their voices and identified their call to social justice and human rights with different hashtags, which quickly caught on among the Twitter users and reached outstanding numbers of supporters. Among the most notable hashtags are #XenophobiaSA which almost reached 100,000  #NoToXenophobia, which surpassed 90,000 #SayNoToXenophobia is around 68,000, while #StopXenophobia has surpassed 38,000. Winnie Mandela, one of the most recognized and important figures of this Twitter movement, expressed her heartfelt sentiments on April 14th, “This is not the freedom that we fought for. I am hearth broken #StopXenophobia. (WM).”

Other media are launching campaigns to do their part to raise consciousness that aims to create social cohesion given that the great majority of the victims are from other parts of Africa. LeadSA is an organization that promotes social progress and justice. Foundation Africa 2.0 launched a campaign at the end of January through social media to reject the wave of violence that Boko Haram has created.

It became apparent that South Africans and the international community, individuals and organizations alike, felt the urge to react against the hate crimes with the aim of creating public awareness and cease the violence. As Nelson Mandela said, “We can build a society grounded on friendship & our common humanity–a society founded on tolerance.”

“My Synagogue is your Synagogue”: Muslim caretakers in India

2014101393122318734_20

Photo: The Jews in Kolkata came from Baghdad about 220 years ago [Priyanka Borpujari/Al Jazeera]

Could you imagine a deeply religious person in the service of an alien-faith institution, say a Buddhist taking care of an abandoned Christian Church? Well, you can now not only imagine it but also believe it. Al Jazeera’s article about the Kolkata Synagogue keepers (“Muslim families look after Kolkata Synagogues”) presents us with a heartening reality for future developments on a Shared Societies path. Just like medieval Spain, in which Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together respecting and learning from one another’s cultures and beliefs, Kolkata in Eastern India- introduces us to a surprising panorama in which several Muslim families and one Hindu, take care of the three synagogues which are the almost abandoned Jewish heritage in their hometown.

The account of faith-based belligerency has spattered many of the pages of history books, with blood spilled in different wars in different times and between different identity groups. Such has been the impact of religions and the competition between them, that many of the conflicts alive or latent nowadays, can mostly be traced back to this kind of controversy: from the Charlie Hebdo attacks to the everlasting Arab-Israeli conflict. Sadly, the testimony of a religious person selflessly minding an institution of a different faith is an odd bird; however it suggests that there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

The caretakers’ accounts are truly hopeful for a comeback to communal coexistence: “My father raised me by working here, and today I have the same job. It is God’s home, and it is my livelihood. I would give my life for this place”. Moreover, they shed an encouraging light on our awareness of the nature of religious wars: “The Quran, the Torah and the Bible have similar origins. How then could we be fighting?”

Living in the Synagogue’s compound and taking care of both the wellbeing and respect for the prayers, as well as acting in the capacity of “on-site” rent collectors for many of the Jewish property owners who have fled, has also provided these people a unique point of view that, if shared and agreed upon by their neighbours and countrymen, could prompt new developments, leading to a Shared Societies reality of peace and communal understanding: “The wars are taking place in other countries. If the Jews had any issues with our religion, they wouldn’t have hired us. Religion has its own place, while we have ours. This is something that we never think of. The Jews respect us and we respect them”

There are still many problems, in which a Shared Societies approach would struggle, as one of the caretakers stated: “Communal coexistence has been common across India and hence we don’t think of it as important. Yet, there is also a problem in becoming conscious about it”; however, their insider view could be vital for a better understanding of events.

Minority Voices

MinorityVoices

The Minority Voices Programme is a development and training project organized by the Minority Rights Group, an international non-governmental organization that supports minority groups and indigenous people as they strive to maintain their rights and culture, while promoting equal opportunities in education and employment and full participation in public life.

More specifically, the Minority Voices Programme aims to increase the inclusion of the perspectives and opinions of the minorities and the indigenous population in the EU media and more specifically in development issues related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Furthermore, the Minority Voices Programme promotes the awareness among development policy-makers of the various needs of minority and indigenous communities, by helping them to advocate for their own rights at a national, regional and international level.

The dedicated webpage of the organization, minorityvoices.org, is a place where both journalists and minority activists are encouraged to participate and to interact with each other. Through this page the members of minorities and indigenous communities, as well as their advocates, can upload their stories on a variety of media forms (video footage, audio, pictures, reports) and advocate for many issues, but most importantly through this page they can engage with the EU-based media, since the journalists are given the possibility to research and download all the available material (under creative commons licenses).

One very important issue that came to light thanks to the the Minority Voices Programme is the extinction of various indigenous languages in Nepal, an issue that Members of the Club de Madrid heard about first hand during a recent mission to the country. There is a gradual loss of the languages such as Kisan, Rai, Kusunda and Baram; these languages are getting replaced by the official language of Nepal, Nepali, contributing to the deterioration of the cultural heritage of various communities.

With as many as 123 dialects and languages spoken in Nepal, the Minority Voices Programme advocates for their protection and their instruction in local schools. A great majority of Nepalese children that come from different indigenous communities and linguistic minority groups encounter learning problems and perform poorly or even choose to leave school because the State has failed to recognize and cater for their diverse linguistic needs. A change in the educational system and the incorporation of all the languages of Nepal in administration and legal issues has been promoted through the Minority Voices Programme and to its ability to connect indigenous groups with the media.

Shared Societies between Jewish and Arab Citizens of Israel

Photo from The Social Venture Fund for Jewish-Arab Equality and Shared Society

On February 2014, the Inter Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues published the report, «Shared Societies between Jewish and Arab Citizens of Israel: Visions, Realities and Practices». The report, which is presented in two parts, “is a conceptual overview of the key approaches, meanings and milestones of Shared Society work in Israel and a mapping of current government and civil society Shared Society initiatives to provide a more granular illustration of these concepts as implemented today”. Moreover, this report aims to record the attitudes and understanding of the officials in Israel, in regards to Shared Societies, as well as to evaluate the relevance of these definitions for American Jewish organizations interested in Israel, the Arab Society the relations between them.

For their research, the Inter Agency Task Force members focused on the work, the key approaches and the underlying principles of Shared Society programs developed by civil society and not for profit organizations. The author the importance and the impact that the Shared Societies Project has had so far, by stating that the “best and most concise framing of shared society itself has been articulated by the Club de Madrid“. The report listed different approaches identified as guiding each organization’s decisions and actions when advancing into a shared society:

  1. Part of Israel’s Multicultural Diversity: For some organizations the issue of Jewish-Arab Shared Society is addressed as part of the wider context of multiculturalism or diversity in Israeli society.
  2. Singular Issue: Other organizations believe that the Jewish-Arab divide is “singular” in both character and importance within Israeli society and that therefore Shared Society work should address it as a unique and particular issue.
  3. Focus on Inter-Communal Relations: Some organizations focus on creating better relations between Jewish and Arab communities or particular stakeholders within the communities (i.e. students, teachers, artists) through encounters, shared living education, and joint projects.
  4. State-Minority Relations: Other organizations believe that the focus should be placed on state-minority relations.
  5. Focus on Arab Society Internal Development / Economic Integration: Another group of organizations views the need to enhance economic development and capacities within the Arab community as a priority in working towards a shared, equal and integrated society.
  6. Inclusivity in Service Provision: A number of civil society organizations that provide services to the entire Israeli citizenry, give special attention to enhancing a Shared Society by purposefully developing specially tailored services for the Arab communities.

Additionally, the report offers a very informative list of the initiatives that have been taken both by the government of Israel has taken over the years, through the Ministry of Education as well as on local government level and  by Civil Society and readers can find a list of efforts and projects that have been taken and various ideas for follow-ups that aim to create a society that may be diverse yet inclusive.

The Club de Madrid is very encouraged to have been included as a key reference in the work of a fellow organization and encourages the Inter Agency Task Force to continue its work on the issue of social inclusion and inter-communal relations between the Jewish and Arab groups, especially as it is operating in a region where the concept of “Shared Societies” is still relatively new.

 

Photo by The Social Venture Fund for Jewish-Arab Equality and Shared Society

Trends in Income Inequality and its Impact on Economic Growth

DESIGUALDADE-600x400

At the end of 2014, the OECD published a working paper titled “Trends in Income Inequality and its impact on Economic Growth” arguing that the disparity in the distribution of incomes has been rising over the past three decades in a majority of OECD countries. Addressing income inequality and the long-term trend towards higher disparity has risen to the top of the political agenda in many countries. This is occurring partly due to growing concerns over income inequality and its impact on economy growth and on the slow pace of exiting the current economic crisis.

Following a series of analyses of these trends, the OECD examined whether rapid increase in inequality might have an effect on economic growth and on the pace of recovery from the current recession. In this sense, this paper argues that a rapid increase in income inequality has a negative and statistically significant impact on subsequent growth. In particular, what matters most is the gap between low income households and the rest of the population.

Analysis based on the OECD data suggests that redistribution policies via taxes and transfers are a key tool to ensure the benefits of growth are more broadly distributed and the results suggest they need not be expected to undermine growth. But it is also important to promote equality of opportunity in access to and quality of public services. This implies a focus on families with children and youths, promoting employment for disadvantaged groups through active labor market policies, childcare supports and in-work benefits.

As an alternative way to represent the effects of inequality by focusing on changes in individual countries, the report estimates that more than 10 percentage points have been knocked off growth by rising inequality in Mexico and New Zealand during 1990-2010. On the other hand, greater equality increased GDP per capita in Spain, France and Ireland prior to the crisis.

The OCDE working paper concluded that reducing income inequality would boost economic growth, and that countries where income inequality is decreasing grow faster than those with rising inequality. Moreover, it shows that government transfers have an important role to play in guaranteeing that low-income households do not fall further behind in income distribution. However, it should not be limited to cash transfer programs, but incorporates policies to promote and increase access to public services.

Although the report did not look at inequalities between different identity groups, we know that the most disadvantaged groups are often from a different ethnic or other identity and therefore, in overall terms, the OECD analysis is linked with the guiding principles of the Economics of Shared Societies: a society in which diverse groups and individuals are economically integrated and utilize their talents and skills tends to be more stable and enjoy higher economic growth than divided societies.

 

Photo from the Diario Do Centro do Mondo

Economic Inclusion in Action: EU Migration benefits to the UK Economy

web-eu-flag-getty

On 4 November 2014, UK newspaper The Independent published “EU Migrants Add £20bn to the economy in decade,” an article that explored the huge monetary benefits migrant workers added to the British economy between 2001 and 2011.

Numerically, “migrant workers from EU15 countries, which include Germany and France, paid 64% more in tax that they receive in benefits. New arrivals from Central and Easter Europe “accession” countries contributed 12% more than they took out,” confirming the assertion that migrant workers produced a significant monetary boost for the economy and rebutting the often made claim that migrants are a drain on social services.

Following the same approach in one region of the UK, the local Belfast Telegraph published “How Migrant Workers Oiled Wheels of Recovery,” an article written by Jamie Stinson on data that reinforce the increased economic and social benefits of migrant workers.

In a recent report on how migrant workers had contributed around £1.2bn to the Northern Irish economy between 2004 and 2008, Nigel Smyth, Director of the CBI in Northern Ireland, importantly remarked “economic recovery in Northern Ireland would ´grind to a halt´ without migrant workers.

Migrant workers are helping to sustain economic growth and filling labor shortages by bringing much-needed skills. In that regard, Smyth stated that “immigration is instrumental in helping many sectors of the economy, including food processing, IT, and hospitality.” Workers from overseas – accounting for 4% of the workforce, were also enriching society through cultural diversity.

By generating income, raising productivity and through their purchasing power, migrant workers are substantially contributing to the economy, and “with the UK and Northern Ireland facing the challenge of an ageing population in the years ahead, it would be extremely myopic for policy makers to ignore the overwhelming contribution migrant workers will bring to our economy.

Importantly, both articles allude to one of the fundamental components of SSP, that of total economic inclusion. As reinforced by the authors, economic inclusion strongly benefits all members of society as capacities are developed and put to use and capital, both human and financial, substantially increases. In the words of the author of The Independent article, Nigel Morris, “…so why is your Government trying to keep them out, Home Secretary?

Follow

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

Join other followers: