Tag Archive for Shared Socieites

April elections: a Shared Societies opportunity for Afghanistan?

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

History in Afghanistan has as many twists and turns as one can ever imagine. And a new one could be in the making. This could be surprising for some but for the first time in many years the next elections, to be held this April, will feature 11 presidential tickets and all of them will be ethnically diverse. All tribes have their leaders separated and represented in various presidential candidate teams and that triggers a question: is the era of ethnic divisions, that had its climax during the civil war (1992-1996) over?

The answer to this kind of complex questions about Afghanistan will hardly consist in a simple “yes” or “no” but the good news is that it is “probably yes” or “partly yes” (for instance check out this article with the four main questions on the table regarding the elections). As Helena Malykar, Afghan political analyst and historian said in her Al Jazeera report:

The ousting of the Taliban by the US-led military forces at the end of 2001 and establishment of a new regime based on democracy, equal rights and freedoms, has offered Afghans a new environment. During the last decade, while Machiavellian games for power have continued to be played, a wave of change has also made its way into the society, especially among the young generation of Afghans. Changing values are slowly transforming this nation and this shift is quietly, but fundamentally challenging the old ways.

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

Photo credit: Al Jazeera

It’s true that the reasons why all the presidential tickets are integrating leaders from different backgrounds might not be very clear. The rumors in Kabul point to President Karzai as having a lot to do with this refound diversity in an attempt to control the process. Others think it is not a convictions/ideals driven process but calculation on the part of the candidates themselves. And yes, the common visions and programs may mean little but the fact is that the younger generation is striving for a better quality of life and better public services like education, health care or infrastructure rather than focusing on ethnic issues. As Malykar says

there are clear and present signs that voters may transcend ethnic and sectarian dividing lines during the April presidential elections. Whether the division of votes will be motivated by immediate material gain or based on a forward-looking vision, remains to be seen.

Therefore the process in Afghanistan towards a Shared Society is both challenging and promising. The fact that all the presidential tickets will be ethnically mixed at least opens the door to implement three of the Shared Societies Commitments and Approaches on Inter-Community Development: “take steps to reduce tensions and hostility between communities”, “initiate a process to encourage the creation of a shared vision of society” and “promote respect, understanding and appreciation of diversity


Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders

SSP African Symposium 005

How can we foster shared societies and inclusive sustainable development in Africa?

How are the experiences from African leaders in seeking to achieve inclusive economic transformation for their nations?

To answer these questions, a group of informed African leaders and citizens met on 19th and 20th November in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania under the auspices of the Club de Madrid and the UONGOZI Institute of African Leadership for Sustainable Development. It was co-chaired by Club de Madrid Members H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania, H.E. Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana and H.E Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria.

A breakfast roundtable discussion with the theme of ‘Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders’ kicked-off the symposium on November 19th, where the former presidents imparted their respective leadership experiences in seeking to achieve inclusive economic transformation for their nations and look forward to Africa’s future challenges and opportunities. The roundtable discussion gathered over 80 participants including politicians, senior officials and executives from the public and private sectors, and leaders from civil society.

Watch the Session “Leading Change for Transformation: Experiences from African Leaders” here:

The meeting reviewed development in Africa to date and the current challenges facing future development in the continent and reach the following conclusions which they share and commend to political leaders and policy makers and Africans as a whole, believing that they provide perspectives which will allow a more effective sustainable and inclusive development for the region.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR. Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.



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

Free speech versus hate speech

Photo by CNN

For anyone that has been following the news the past two weeks, these phrases may sound familiar, “muslim outrage,” “wake of violence,” “religion and free speech,” etc.  Since the terrible deaths of a U.S. ambassador and three Americans amid protests against a film that denigrates Islam, we at the Club de Madrid have been trying to find the perfect article to post on our blog. First we thought about publishing something about the stereotypes of Islam, then maybe something about the religious component of the Arab-spring, but from the perspective of the Shared Societies Project, nothing fit the core of the problem.  We were looking for an article that discussed the coexistence of contrasting ideas in our changing and interconnected world.

To frame the debate, we must first draw a starting point: the refusal of violence. We firmly believe that the construction of functional and inclusive societies needs to be based in a consensus of a framework of coexistence. We as political and religious leaders, media, and civil societies, need to respect and value the differences among us through dialogue. We must adopt a worldview that includes a charge to prevent and resolve conflicts and strengthen our democratic values and democratic institutions. However, when this dialogue is broken, violence is not an option. This is why we deeply regret the deaths of the fallen persons that paid the price of this broken dialogue.

A second point upon which we all agree is freedom of speech. In a democratic society, citizens must always have the right to speak freely and claim their given rights. We have already established that this claim doesn’t justify the use of violence.  Where is the line between free speech and hate speech?

The Shared Societies Project identifies four key conditions that individuals and groups are to feel if they have an equal place in their respective societies:

  • Democratic Participation
  • Respect for Diversity and the Dignity of the Individual
  • Equal Opportunity
  • Protection from Discrimination

What happens when freedom of speech goes against the respect for diversity and the dignity of the individual?

In this post by CNN.com Religion Editor, Dan Gilgoff shared the following quote from a statement of the U.S. Embassy in Egypt (highlighted):

“Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy,” the statement continued,  ”We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”


What do you think?  When building stable and safe cohesive societies, what is the fine line that separates freedom of speech from hate speech?


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