Tag Archive for Council of Europe

Rumours at the Local Level

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Daniel de Torres, former Commissioner for Immigration and Intercultural Dialogue at Barcelona City Administration and lead author of the recent Club de Madrid publication “Local Government for Shared Societies”, has just published an article on the Spanish news website eldiario.es. In this article, “Sobre rumores y goteras” (About rumors and leaks), the former Commissioner puts forth a proposal to build Shared Societies as one of the great challenges of our time.

De Torres argues that, in a context of increasing cultural diversity, an intercultural model, as followed by the Council of Europe in its “Intercultural Cities” project, must take into account the equality principles based on “citizens’ rights, responsibilities and social opportunities.” He explained that we should go beyond “diversity celebrations and food exchanges” working on areas such as education, culture, city planning and economy.

The author’s vision of Shared Societies also includes the importance of addressing subjective feelings such as “prejudices, stereotypes and ignorance.” The project “Anti-rumours Strategy” was undertaken in Barcelona in 2010 to quickly refute rumours before they became embedded in the community and it has quickly spread to different European countries.

The great impact of this initiative in Spain has rendered it to be now found in 12 countries throughout Europe, as reports the Spanish newspaper El País in an article titled “Usted Puede Ser Agente Antibulos,” (You may be an anti-rumor agent) encouraging the public to become active anti-bullying participants in their communities. In the city of Erlangen, Germany, for instance, an antiracist simulation took place in the multinational headquarters of Siemens engaging all of its 23, 000 employees, about a quarter of the population of this German city. While in Sabadell, Spain, Paul Llonch, a rapper from the music group At Versaris, joined the efforts of the Arraona High School and the initiative “Change your point of view”. The students united to shot a video clip denouncing racism which quickly went viral.

The strategy was focused on achieving a real impact through political commitment, people’s participation, creativity and accuracy. Daniel de Torres stressed that the most challenging factor is to recognize that we all have prejudices, even the most marginalized groups, and that cities are the best context where we can identify and deal with these attitudes.

The Diversity Advantage Challenge

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The Shared Societies Project has been involved in the “Diversity Advantage Challenge“, an initiative supported by the ICC/Council of Europe in an effort to promote a new approach to managing increasingly diverse societies based on the concept of diversity advantage. It aims at raising awareness among the public about the benefits of diversity and to provide a large number of examples of how organizations, businesses and cities which have realized these benefits by creating innovative products, services, ideas and initiatives.

NETPLUSS Member Kinga Göncz was selected as a member of the jury of the Diversity Advantage Challenge in representation of the Shared Societies Project. The final stage of this process will be held next week on 24 March in Strasbourg in the framework of the plenary session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.

This process has represented a great opportunity to learn from key local stakeholders from difference cultural (ethnic, religious, linguistic) backgrounds that are greatly committed to the design of innovative policies and initiatives which contributes to the dissemination of the notion of Shared Societies at the local level.

These are the 5 finalist that will be presenting during the final session:

  • Ordinary Heroes, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • La diversité à l’œuvre: des habitants charpentiers d’une nouvelle dynamique dans leur quartier!, France.
  • NDM –for more diversity in the media, Germany
  • Festival O Bairro i o Mundo, Portugal.
  • XEIX, Fostering intercultural relations around local businesses, Spain

Video presentations of the finalist’s projects are available here: http://www.coe.int/t/DG4/CULTUREHERITAGE/CULTURE/DIVERSITY/

The winner will be announced at the prize-giving ceremony and we will publish additional information of each of the finalists in the blog during the next days.

We wish all the finalists the best of luck!

 

World Forum for Democracy

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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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