Archive for SSP in Action

“The Shared Society: A vision for the Global Future of Latin America”


Club de Madrid Member Alejandro Toledo, former President of Peru, has just published his new book The Shared Society: A vision for the Global Future of Latin America. In this publication, the former President puts forth a proposal to minimize inequality, preserve the ecosystem, and strengthen democracy in Latin America. Toledo argues that only extraordinary efforts of vision, determination, courage and inspired leadership will set Latin America on the path to inclusive development, a manifesto for creating the ideal Shared Society.

I am a member of the Club de Madrid, a nonprofit organization of over 90 former leaders of democratic countries. The Club de Madrid has led the way in pushing for the creation of global and local shared societies through the Shared Societies Project. I believe that if we actively work to construct a Shared Society, our vision for Latin America’s future will be achieved.

Toledo states his vision of an inclusive Latin America where economic growth is combined with equitable distribution of its gains for all.

Shared Societies’ economies also reduces costs related to intersocietal tensions, like law enforcement, security, and the repair of damage caused by violence or protests.

The author restated the basic principles for building Shared Societies:

  1. Respect for the dignity of every individual.
  2. Equality and fairness.
  3. Respect for human rights and the rule of law.
  4. Democracy.

Toledo´s vision of Shared Societies emphasizes the cultural diversity of the Latin American people and encourages this diversity as a unique perspective on the region´s challenges. Regional integration and collaboration with “the fastest-growing region in the world: the Asia-Pacific rim” are seen by the author as competitive advantages to compete in the global economy. In this vision, Latin America will also share the benefits and profits more equitably as its economy advances, transforming the high proportion of Latin Americans now living in poverty into a vibrant and expanding middle class.

On April 22, President Toledo will take part in a discussion at a launch event of “The Shared Society: A vision for the Global Future of Latin America” at the Council of the Americas in New York.

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

The Shared Societies Project, in the spanish public TV


Following the news about the Lampedusa tragedy, the spanish public television (TVE) interviewed Carlos Westendorp, Secretary General of the Club de Madrid, and showed the work of the Shared Societies Project and its call to avoid xenophobia by dealing efficiently with the differences in a society.

Chandrika Kumaratunga, President of Sri Lanka (1994-2005) and Member of the Club de Madrid, also talked with TVE about the project and her own experience. “When we took the Government we worked with the majority community, which I belong to, to convince them that the other groups should have the same rights. Because this is the duty of governments: change attitudes, and not only think about votes”, she told.

Beatriz Merino, former Prime Minister of Peru, was interviewed too. She explained the issue of double discrimination (women that suffer discrimination to belong a social minority, but also to be women), that the Club de Madrid studied in a working group who met in madrid, leaded by President Kumaratunga.

Watch here the full interview (in spanish. It starts at time code 7:10)

Ver vídeoLa tarde en 24 horas - El mundo en 24 h. - 04/10/13

Club de Madrid offers support for democratic changes in Myanmar


President of the Club de Madrid, Wim Kok, and Member Kjell Magne Bondevik led a mission to identify potential work to support national efforts in  transition to Democracy

Wim Kok, President of the Club de Madrid and former Prime Minister of the Netherlands and Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Prime Minister of Norway, led a second high level mission of the organization to Myanmar between 30 of May and 2 of June to identify potential work to support national efforts in  transition to Democracy through the Project: “Accompanying Change, Fostering Democracy and Building Shared Societies in Myanmar”.

They met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who welcomes Club de Madrid efforts to support the democratic transition in Myanmar, Minister U Aung Min, responsible for the peace negotiations with the ethnic groups, new elected National League for Democracy members of their Executive Committee and other key national and international stakeholders in the country.

These two missions, the first one took place in February 2013- were intended to build trust among Burmese authorities, democratic movement, civil society, ethnic groups and other relevant stakeholders in order to identify a potential long-term initiative to provide Burmese leadership accompaniment, counsel and support in facing the daunting challenges of democratic transition, including the probable increased tensions as the country gets closer to the 2015 general elections.

The Club de Madrid assists in the identification of politically sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by today’s leaders, developing practical recommendations, action plans and implementation strategies. The direct exchanges with current leaders on a peer to peer basis, and the Member´s ability to deliver the right message at the right time are an essential part of its work and are the core of the Club de Madrid’s impact

Kim Campbell: “Building a Shared Society is a benign circle”


United Nations Social Development Network (UNSDN) interviewed Kim Campbell, Member of the Club de Madrid and former Prime Minister of Canada (1993). She talked about Shared Societies and the “empowerment of people”. Bellow is the full interview:

1. From your perspective, what would empowerment of people mean in practical terms?

In practical terms, empowered people are able to speak and act for themselves; they are able to take responsibility. The results are almost always positive.  People, and the society they live in, are more vibrant and dynamic.  People no longer have to wait and depend on others to solve their problems.  And if people are able to take responsibility, they invariably act responsibly: they look after the community and the weaker members of the community; and that sense of community stretches wider and wider to those different from themselves; they look after the environment because they live in it and know the consequences of neglecting it or exploiting it in unsustainable ways; and they are more economically active and productive, feeling a sense of pride and ownership in the establishment where they work or the small enterprises they set up themselves.

2. Based on the Club de Madrid experience, what are the best methods for creating a sense of empowerment in people to eradicate poverty, achieve social integration, full employment and decent work for all?

I assume you know that the Club de Madrid is a network of former presidents and prime ministers (over 90 of us) who have experienced many of these issues first hand and now work with each other and with current leaders to find solutions to the challenges we face.

We are very aware that the reality is that many people are disempowered – they are maginalized and disadvantaged; they are unable to contribute to their society; and they become alienated and despondent.  What a waste of human potential!  Instead of contributing to society in the ways I have already mentioned, they become a burden on society.  This is particularly evident for those who are seen as different either because of race, religion, ethnicity, language, gender, age, etc.  They are often dismissed as irrelevant or even as a threat.  Of course treating people like this only builds up problems.

It is much better to invest in building a society where everyone feels they have a place and that they belong.  In the Club de Madrid we call this a Shared Society and we think it is such an important issue that we have established the Shared Societies Project to alert people to the importance of overcoming social divisions and providing ideas on how it can be done.

We know that marginalization has to be reversed. People need to be recognized as stakeholders: that they have a stake in their own land; their environment; their workplace; their children’s school; and so on.  We talk about the importance of people having “voice” and by recognizing them as stakeholders one cannot deny them a voice. The International Labour Organisation Convention No.169 deals with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples to be consulted about decisions and plans which affect them.  Twenty two countries have ratified this convention and Peru for example has passed a law on the right of consultation for indigenous people.

Rights also need to be recognized   In many countries traditionally land was held in common and so in modern times the land rights of indigenous people were often ignored.  As a result they have not been able not invest in it or use it fully.  Now these rights are being recognized   Only last year the Indian Government agreed to protect the land rights of poor dalit and tribal communities, which could affect 400 million landless people.  In my country, Canada, the First Nations have been able to use their land to establish successful businesses.  Similarly in New Zealand the award of fishing quotas has allowed Māori to develop the biggest fishing company in the country to the benefit of both the Māori and the national economy.  Not only have developments like these restored pride and confidence but the original inhabitants have gained renewed respect from the rest of the population.  So a Shared Society (which is an empowered society) makes good sense.

We also know that people need to be able to act for themselves and that means that their rights have to be recognized and that discrimination has to be challenged.

Education is also important not least because people are better able to make informed decisions.   I acknowledge that people without formal education have intuitively and through experience known what was needed for the good of their community, and I would not want to take away from that.  But we also know that education makes a profound difference to people’s life chances and that access to education for young girls not only makes a huge difference to them but also to their future families.

Underneath it all the dignity of every individual has to be respected.  If we respecting the dignity of others, we will be sensitive to their feelings, support their full participation in society and defend their rights.

3. Can inclusive social policies empower people?

The Shared Society Project has shown that building a shared or inclusive society is a benign circle and each development reinforce the others – if we respect others we are more open to ensure that people different from ourselves can play their full part in society, and as they play a full part in society we come to appreciate them, understand their needs and concerns and come to respect them.

So a Shared Society creates the opportunities and the space for people to take responsibility and become empowered.  But it is also true that as people become empowered they are also able to influence society and ensure that it becomes more inclusive and shared.  Empowerment in itself does not ensure social inclusion and a Shared Society, though it makes a significant contribution; while a Shared Society by definition is one that will ensure that all sections of that society are empowered to express and fulfill themselves.

Currently there is much discussion of the post-2015 Development Agenda to follow on from the Millennium Development Goals.  Because of this benign circle in which social and economic inclusion and participation and empowerment are closely interlinked with all aspects of development, we are arguing strongly that these aspects need to be expressed in the new set of development goals.

4. What international norms would be helpful in encouraging governments to promote empowerment?

I think it should be clear from what I have said already that international norms and conventions do support and encourage governments to promote empowerment and shared societies.  I mentioned already the ILO Convention 169on the rights of indigenous people and many other ILO Conventions also are helpful, as is its Decent Work Agenda and advocacy for social protection so that the state ensures that all people have not only a decent job but basic financial security.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the many other statements of human rights are also very important in entrenching norms such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, though of course it would be invidious to pick out specific norms, because they all go together as a package to ensure that people are able to play a full part in and contribute to society.

I have also already mentioned the Millennium Development Goals and of course the UN Millennium Declaration was a very important reaffirmation of many rights which, if they are respected, promote empowerment and inclusion.

As I said earlier we see the search for a new set of Development Goals as an important opportunity to bring empowerment and Shared Societies into the centre of the discussion and show that they are themselves drivers of development.  “Making poverty history” is of course important but it is not enough.  If people are given a basic income, but are not able to fulfil themselves, make their own way in life and play a full part in society, then they will be left as discontented outsiders.  We saw this recently in the Arab Awakening. While many people have been raised out of poverty in the last decade, inequality has increased and we know that extreme inequality drags a society down.  On the other hand a Shared Society and empowered society enhances the possibility of meaningful development.

Sharing and empowerment should therefore be at the heart of development and that means we need to identify goals that advance communities in that direction.  We can debate how those goals or norms should be expressed in the new development agenda.   It could be a goal to increase political participation at all levels; it could be a goal that the rights of all sections of the society are protected; or it could be a goal that all communities have fair representation in the work force and/or fair access to land.  With such provisions in place, all sections of society are then able to be involved in working together to achieve the other goals.  Whatever goals we identify, they need to be tangible and measurable so that we know if they are being achieved.  But we still have time to reach a consensus.  The important immediate task is an agreement that we include goals related to inclusion and empowerment.

5. In what ways innovation and technology have an impact on empowerment?

Innovation and technology are already having an impact on empowerment, in particular information technology.  I have mentioned the Arab awakening already and it was very much enabled by the use of social networks.  People, often young people, who had no opportunity to participate in society through conventional means, were able to express themselves through social media and it proved to be a powerful and empowering tool.

Access to computers also means access to information and the possibility of making more informed decisions.  We have heard of peasant farmers who are able to use text messaging to learn the state of the market which helps them to know how best to sell their crops.  People also gain information about how their political leaders are performing.  This keeps us on our toes.  These are not small things.  They make a difference.

But we must be careful.  Many people do not have access to the modern communication tools and others have limited skills for using them.  Basic literacy becomes even more important.  We need to embrace technology but also ensure that disadvantaged and marginalized people acquire the skills to ensure that they are not farther disadvantaged and marginalized because they are not able to take up the new technologies available.

More widely, I am fascinated by the way other technologies are affecting disadvantaged marginalized communities.  I am thinking of systems to keep food fresh; to grow crops with minimal water; to provide electricity through small scale renewable systems which replace dangerous and unhealthy kerosene lamps and stoves; and simple inoculations that prevent life threatening illnesses.  The list goes on but it provides security at so many levels – health, food, physical, etc. We need to roll these simple technologies out and ensure they reach the more disadvantaged and marginalized and as a result they become empowered and part of a Shared Society.

Colombia: lessons learned from the Northern Ireland Peace Process


From 26 to 28 April, Shared Societies Project Content and Policy Coordinator –Clem McCartney- was able to join a group of Colombian academics and activists meeting in Derry, Ireland, with similar people from Northern Ireland to consider lessons which might be drawn from the Northern Ireland Peace Process for the current negotiations between the Government of Colombia and FARC. It was intended that following the discussions the Colombian participants would develop proposals to assist the current negotiations.

The formal negotiations have taken the form of exploratory meetings during 2012 and they have developed a General Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace.  This document has laid out an agenda:

  • Integrated agricultural development policy,
  • Poliitical Particpation,
  • End of Conflict.
  • Solution to the Problem of Illicit Drugs
  • Victims

The general view in the discussions in Derry was that the parties are serious about the talks but it was stressed that there are many others with a stake in the future of Colombia, including the campesinos,  and some such as the paramilitary forces which could undermine any agreement.  There concerns also need to be taken into account. It was said by one Colombian participant that the talks did provide civil society with an opportunity to raise the concerns of other groups and ensure that they are included in the National Debate. This was close to the point that Clem McCartney made – that for a sustainable society a holistic approach is needed which includes all stakeholders and their concerns.

There is some signs that this wider perspective can become part of the Government/FARC negotiations or become a parallel process. It is a positive sign that some elements of the agreed agenda are also featured in the Ten Commitments for a Shared Society. The agreement has also agreed that “there should be the widest possible participation and a mechanism will be established to receive [...] proposals on the Agenda”.  It recognises that “Construction of peace is a matter for society as a whole”, that “Respect for Human Right should be promoted”, that “Economic development with social justice and in harmony with the environment is a guarantee for peace and progress” and that “Social development with equity and well-being … allows growing as a country”.

These are all welcome statements and auger well for the establishment of a stable shared society.  Progress will need to be monitored closely and efforts made to ensure consideration of how to meet the other Shared Societies Commitments. At this stage one can wish the negotiators well and offer support, as well as support for the efforts of civila society to ensure it is a truly inclusive process.

Photo: Colombia Peace March; AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos


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