Archive for SSP related Analysis

Sustainability matters: the Equator Prize 2015 and Shared Societies

Equator Prize

 

On December 7th, the Equator Prize 2015 Award Ceremony took place in Paris. This year the Price was awarded to 21 outstanding local and indigenous initiatives that are advancing innovative solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.Winning organizations come from Asia, Latin America and the Sub-Sahara Africa. Each winning initiative received US$ 10,000 and was supported to participate in a series of special events at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, France in December 2015.

The Equator Prize was established in 2002 and there are now 87 winner organizations from 70 different countries. The Equator Prize is awarded biennially to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. As local and indigenous groups across the world chart a path towards sustainable development. The Prize is part of the action plan of the Equator Initiative, a partnership that brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses, and grassroots organizations to build the capacity and raise the profile of local efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Other initiatives include the so-called Equator Dialogues and Equator Knowledge, a research, documentation and learning program.

In this regard, the Club de Madrid has established a working group to examine the link between Shared Societies and Environmental Sustainability. The Shared Societies Project contends that the common basis for sustainable development is a socially inclusive process based in the achievement of Shared Societies. The Post-2015 Development Process has given the debate impetus, as the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require a reorientation of all aspects of development

We, at the Club de Madrid, believe that the common basis for sustainable development is a socially inclusive process based on the achievement of Shared Societies. For this reason, the Club has convened a working group to examine how a more inclusive participative and shared society can provide the framework in which social,economic and environmental wellbeing can be realized for all.

 

Tracking the Post-2015 debate

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The process of creating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will replace the Millennium Development Goals, is coming to fruition with the Summit during the UN General Assembly in September 2015.

It has been difficult to keep track of all the meetings, reports and conferences on the topic that have taken place I the last few. They have been important not only as contributions to the drafting and adopting of the goals but in the years to come they will continue to be important in reminding us of key issues and approaches that can inform the implementation of the new set of Goals.

The Post-2015 Development Process has become a defining focus for the global debate on social development, bringing together economic, social and environmental concerns.

The Club de Madrid, mainly through its Shared Societies Project, has made its own contribution to the debate, particularly addressing the issue of the continuing marginalization of many groups on grounds of identity. The Members have contributed to High Level Panels, and listed below are their various statements, making the argument that an inclusive Shared Society is more likely to be able to meet environmental, economic and social goals, and therefore it is a foundation for achieving the SDGs.

Back at the beginning of the Process, Members of the Club de Madrid presented the Global Shared Societies Agenda to Promote Long term Inclusive and Sustainable Growth. The event “Sustainable Development in an Unequal World” took place on June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, addressed different facets of the event’s overarching message on the state of national and global inequalities and their relationship to sustainable development and growth.

Hörst Kohler, former Chancellor of Germany and Member of the Club de Madrid was a member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons, which produced the report “A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty And Transform Economies Through Sustainable Development”.

The SSP Project was involved during the work sessions of the Open Working Group (OWG) of the UN General Assembly on Post 2015 Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals to retain a Shared Societies perspective in the outcome document and published “A Shared Societies Perspective on the Post-2105 Development Agenda”. Cassam Uteem, former President of Mauritius, and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, spoke at an OWG session in February 2014 and the Project circulated a statement from the Second Global Shared Societies Forum in Baku. After the OWG published its report, a further paper was circulated: “Response to Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals Outcome Document”.

During the final phase of negotiations from the beginning of 2015, the Project has kept in touch with the process and in the lead-up to the Financing for Development Summit in July 2015, the SSP Project team Co Chairs issues a paper.

In addition, Club de Madrid members Roza Otunbayeva, former President of Kyrgyzstan, Zlatko Lagumdzija, former Prime Minister of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Abdurrahim El-Keib, former Prime Minister of Libya, were keynote speakers at the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Annual Ministerial Review of the Millennium Development Goals. The participation of the CdM members took place from 8 to 10 July, 2015 in New York just days before the Financing for Development Summit.

For further information the website Post2015.org “What comes after the Millennium Goals” and its twitter account, @post2015, has been collecting relevant material on the Post-2015 agenda coordinated by the British think thank Overseas Development Institute.

The website is focused on the debate on what should follow the Millennium Development Goals when they expire this year 2015 emphasizing that “there is a new meeting, report or conference on the subject somewhere in the world almost every day, although trying to keep track of what the key players are thinking, writing and saying is becoming increasingly difficult.” The post2015.org website brings together the key documents, reports and ongoing research on the post-2015 agenda, with regular updates on events and briefings about the emerging agenda.

“No to Xenophobia”: the Twitter Community Speaks Up

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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

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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

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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

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