World Forum for Democracy

SSPCouncilEurope02

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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One comment

  1. Philip says:

    I am not as familiar with some of the other countries mentioned as models, but I have been impressed with the progress made by both Iceland and Canada since the late-2000s financial crisis with respect to their economic recovery in general but also with the way in which those countries have managed to extend that recovery to all sectors of society. As it turns out, Iceland’s “miracle” recovery has not only rapidly transformed the country economically. With its emphasis on mild austerity, debt forgiveness, and especially on extending the social safety net to poor and disadvantaged groups, Iceland is now on track to continue growing and expanding.

    Canada may have never felt the economic pain as acutely as other developed nations, but in its attempt to hold its economy and debts together the country has stayed committed to welcoming refugees and other immigrant groups (an attitude that Canada realizes actually helps grow the economy).

    Hopefully other countries will follow the lead of Canada and Iceland. I see no reason why the US cannot follow a similar path as Canada. Unfortunately, the structure of the Eurozone makes it more difficult for those countries to follow Iceland’s lead, but we can hope that at least some of Iceland’s policies can inspire the EU and Eurozone.

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