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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

Kim Campbell: “To empower excluded people involves cultural change”

Kim Campbell at the UN Comission for Social Development

Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada (1993) and Member of the Club de Madrid participated last week in the UN Comission for Social Development. In her speech, she talked about The Shared Societies Project and its ten commitments and approaches, which she presented with examples of her own pollitical experience.

You can watch her full intervention, titled “Global Shared Societies Agenda: a model framework for promoting long-term inclusive and sustainable growth through economic empowerment”, in the video below.

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Economic reasons to build a shared society: The Maastricht Papers


The Shared Societies Project is designed in the belief that societies are most likely to be peaceful, democratic and prosperous when leaders and citizens recognize and integrate the value of diversity. But, also, there is another powerful argument: a shared society brings economic development too.

In this direction, the Club de Madrid hosted a Shared Societies International Workshop with the Maastricht School of Management in the month of March: “Can the Economics of Shared Societies Support more Resilient Economies and Global Sustainability?”.

To answer to this question, a group of academics and practitioners worked hard since the Maastricht event. Now, their work is compiled and available in our website. [You can read here all the Maastrich papers]

The papers, that will be also published in the book “Shared Societies: The Case for Inclusive Development”, face the subject from different angles: from theoretical approximations to real and located cases, like South Africa, Northern Ireland or China. Some of them also focus on one of the biggest reasons to build a shared society: to avoid the existence of conflicts, violence and war. [You can also check the podcast series that we released with the Maastrich experts here]

The Seventh Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy


The 7th Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, a highly diverse and growing movement of activists, practitioners, scholars, donors forging the bonds of democratic solidarity around the world, took place in Lima between the 14th and 17th of October 2012.The theme of this year’s Assembly was “Democracy for All: Ensuring Political, Social and Economic Inclusion”.

The Club de Madrid was there and we had the opportunity to link with many of the more than 500 participants at the Movement, all of them working on Democracy related issues, with very interesting  and diverse backgrounds.

We were amazed by the impressive and courageous work some of them are doing to promote democracy in their countries, such as Tawakkol Karman, 2011 Nobel Laureate  from Yemen; Yevgeniy Zhovtis, Director of Kazhakstan International  Bureau of Human Rights and Rule of Law; and Glanis Changachirere,  Director of the Institute for Young Women Development in Zimbabwe. All of them spoke at the opening session alongside Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell -chair of the Steering Committee of the WMD and Club de Madrid Member.

We were able to share and discuss with participants about many of the Shared Societies materials, such as the books of the 10 Commitments and Approaches to build Shared Societies and the books on the Economics of Shared Societies in the Democracy Fair that was installed in the Forum.

During the Session “A Conversation on Democracy for all: ensuring political, social and economic inclusion”, Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell held an interesting debate with Beatriz Merino, former Prime Minister and Ombudsman of Peru Beatriz Merino, and also a member of the NetPLUSS (Network of Political Leaders United for Shared societies) of the Club de Madrid on inclusive policy frameworks, to which they both brought good practices on social inclusion from different perspectives.
From the Founding Statement of the World Movement for Democracy:

…the time has come for democrats thorough the world to develop new forms of cooperation to promote the development of democracy. Such cooperation is needed to strengthen democracy where it is weak, to reform and invigorate democracy even where it is longstanding, and to bolster pro-democracy groups in countries that have not yet entered into a process of democratic transition.

The different workshop panels focusing on the challenges to achieving full inclusion for women, youth , ethnic and religious groups, indigenous populations, sexual minorities, and other excluded groups in all societies were dynamic and produced plenty of constructive ideas for people working on Democracy issues.

We congratulate the World Movement for Democracy for convening such interesting forum!

World Forum for Democracy


Last week, we were at the World Forum for Democracy of the Council of Europe: “Bridging the gap. Democracy: between old models and new realities” that took place in Strasbourg from October 5 to 11, 2012. Our Member Kim Campbell, Prime Minister of Canada (1993) participated as a moderator in the session: “Virtual values? Democracy and new social networks”.

Furthermore, we co-organised a session in the framework of its Shared Societies Project called “One size fits all? Democracy and globalization. The crisis threat to social cohesion”, where Kim Campbell and Kinga Göncz, member of the European Parliament and member the Network of Political leaders United for Shared Societies spoke about the negative effects of the crisis on societies.

Regarding the question of the kind of threat that the current crisis creates for social cohesion, Campbell said that the actions of political leaders in response to that threat can be an even greater challenge. She shared the toolkit and the commitments and approaches that the Club de Madrid has developed in order to provide current leaders with good practices and policies for taking action on social cohesion. Ms. Campbell also expressed her concern about immigrants, the poor, and other minority groups having no support or political influence to protect their interests, and how they can be easier to scapegoat. These groups, she said, are also easier to target as they cannot avoid taxation as wealthier sectors of society are able to do. She finally shared some good examples of countries that have succeeded in avoiding division by fostering Shared Societies, such as Ireland, Iceland, Canada, Botswana and Ghana. She highlighted that countries should invest in creating resilient institutions so that they are able to face times of crisis.

Kinga Göncz spoke on behalf of the Shared Societies Project, of which she is an expert, concentrating first on the Economics of Shared Societies. She also raised a concern about the autocratic leaders who channel the frustration and anger that results from a severe crisis by blaming vulnerable groups. She specifically highlighted the examples of Hungary and Greece. In difficult times, people are more willing to exclude people. There are two ways in which leaders can react: the first is through solidarity via the strengthening of civil society. The second is a destructive solution: a weak State can foster the environment for extreme right-wing parties to replace the missing State by providing social assistance to the general population, but, at the same time, by excluding certain groups and attacking irregular migrants. National leaders should move on to a solidarity-based solution, building trust and ties within society that will bring more stability and therefore will pave the way for economic growth.

Keeping in mind these two ways mentioned by Kinga Göncz, how do you think leaders are reacting to the crisis in the Western Countries? Which country will you mention as a model?

More info about the Shared Socities Session here


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