Tag Archive for #SharedSocieties

Housing and Social Cohesion in Singapore

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On February 26, speaking at the inaugural Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore mentorship program for students, Mr. Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Social and Family Development said that “While the Government might build flats, achieving the aim of greater mixing across social divides called for more than this, as it entails people being willing to interact and foster strong community ties. Good design and careful planning can help foster this.” During the event, housing and social cohesion issues were discussed by the Minister, architects and real estate developers, as reported in an article in the Singapore newspaper, The Straits Time.

According to the 2010 Singapore Census of Population[1], ethnic Chinese constitute the majority of the population with 74.2 per cent; ethnic Malays 13.4 per cent; ethnic Indians 9.2 per cent; and other ethnic groups, including Eurasians, represent 3.2 per cent. Due to his, the Government introduced the Ethnic Integration Policy in order to prevent the formation of ethnic enclaves and, more generally, to promote racial harmony. Under this policy, each of the main ethnic groups has a maximum quota of homes that may be rented or purchased by them in each public housing block and neighborhood. Once the maximum quota has been reached for a particular ethnic group, no further sale or rental of apartments to members of that group will be allowed, unless the transaction is between members of the same ethnic group.

On March 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance published a report about Singapore in which it was stated that “common spaces and shared facilities such as playgrounds or fitness corners enable all communities to regularly interact and to gain entrance into each other’s world of food, festivals or social customs.” In particular, the Special Rapporteur’s attention was drawn to the “void decks” situated on the ground floor of each public housing block. These shared open spaces, where weddings, funerals or group games frequently take place, were highlighted as representing an important element of multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural life in Singapore.

In addition to this, the United Nations Human Settlement Program, UN-HABITAT, noted in a report published in 2011 that “As Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-cultural society; social harmony is a very important factor for stability and growth. Thus, the Ethnic Integration Policy has been established to ensure that racial enclaves are not formed within public housing developments”, adding in conclusion that “public housing policies in Singapore are convenient, efficient and effective tools by which the government could employ to achieve its social and economic goals.”

This public policy shows the benefits of working with planners, architects and academics identifying how our physical environment impacts on social cohesion. This is one of the commitments (Number VI) and fundamental components of the Shared Society Project. As reinforced by the different reports, the Singapore Housing Policy encourages mixed communities, enabling local authorities to ensure opportunities for building Shared Societies..



[1] http://www.singstat.gov.sg/

I am an immigrant

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On 9th April, the BBC News website published “Election 2015: Campaign seeks to put pro-immigration case”, an article describing an election campaign based on the migrant population´s contribution to the UK.

As a consequence of  the rising arguments putting pressure on immigrants and their impact on public services during the current general elections campaign, the nonprofit organization Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has launched the “I am an immigrant” campaign. This campaign is made up of first hand messages on the immigrant’s contributions to the British society, specifically to the welfare system.

The JCWI is spreading the campaign nation–wide, using real migrants’ pictures and their own experiences as workers and citizens.  It is designed under an encouraging premise: “Our campaign seeks to challenge the negative rhetoric against immigrants, celebrate them and provide them with a platform to share their story.”

The BBC article  interviewed the people who are the faces of the campaign including Mr Chelvan, who arrived in the UK from Sri Lanka.  He said “the reason for this is that various political parties felt they were losing the debate on Europe on other issues, so migration is the easiest way of opening the anti-Europe debate”. Mr Chelvan says many of those who are against immigration “fear difference” and often blame migrants.

Saira Grant, legal and policy director at the JCWI stated that their campaign is not party political, but argues “it is absolutely ridiculous for parties to put a specific cap on net migration”.

In the framework of the Shared Societies Project, we are convinced that initiatives directed at embracing diversity and cultural identities have a particularly crucial part in societies where negative stereotypes and fear of strangers are being used to gain political advantage. Steps such as the one explored in the article encourage respect and appreciation of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity, and understanding of the contribution that diversity can bring – basic premises in building social cohesion.

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

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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.

Victoria Park Primary Academy – Changemaker

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On February 11th, UK newspaper The Independent published “Special Measures” an article about the Victory Park Primary Academy, located in a disadvantaged area outside Birmingham. Victoria Park has 450 pupils school speaking, between them, more than 30 different home languages. In spite of the challenges, the British Minister of State for Schools has confirmed that it is among the top 100 primary performer schools in the country, in terms of the progress made by children between seven and 11. It has also gained international recognition on account if its diverse profile. “Children come to us from all four corners of the world. There are asylum seekers and refugees who have never been to school before”, says Andrew Morrish, Executive Head of the School. Rather than seeing diversity as a difficulty to overcome, the school chooses to celebrate it and one way it does that is by displaying in the main hall the different flags of the pupils’ countries of origin.

The Ashoka Foundation, an international network of social entrepreneurs, has awarded 130 schools around the world the “changemaker” status, including Victoria Park among the five in the United Kingdom. This status recognizes institutions that have “ceased to operate as examination factories and have embraced the development of skills such as empathy, leadership, team-work and creativity among their pupils”.

On the School’s website, the follow statement is made by the Head of the School: “We are lucky enough to welcome children to our school with a range of different needs and backgrounds from all corners of the globe. It is this mix that makes Victoria Park such a harmonious and happy place to learn”.

Furthermore, in an article published in 2014 at Warwick University, Lisa Worgan, Director of Curriculum at Victoria Park Academy, described how the curriculum at the school is organized through an approach of enterprise education, enabling students to “celebrate diversity and be proud of their own individualities as part of a multicultural community” among others approaches concerning leadership, high expectations and developing “ positive attitudes and values and show respect to others”.

According to the British Population Census in 2011, one-in-five people (20%) identified with an ethnic group other than White British compared with 13% in 2001. The population with ethnic background other than White (White British, White Irish and White Other) has doubled in size since 1991 from 3 to 7 million, while remaining a minority of the total population (14%).

The Victory Park Academy initiative, alludes to one of the fundamental components of Shared Societies Project, that ensuring an education system that offers equal opportunity for developing the knowledge, skills, capacities and networks necessary for children to become productive and engaged members of society. As reinforced by the article, the message of respect for difference and diversity strongly benefits all members of society.

 

Trends in Income Inequality and its Impact on Economic Growth

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At the end of 2014, the OECD published a working paper titled “Trends in Income Inequality and its impact on Economic Growth” arguing that the disparity in the distribution of incomes has been rising over the past three decades in a majority of OECD countries. Addressing income inequality and the long-term trend towards higher disparity has risen to the top of the political agenda in many countries. This is occurring partly due to growing concerns over income inequality and its impact on economy growth and on the slow pace of exiting the current economic crisis.

Following a series of analyses of these trends, the OECD examined whether rapid increase in inequality might have an effect on economic growth and on the pace of recovery from the current recession. In this sense, this paper argues that a rapid increase in income inequality has a negative and statistically significant impact on subsequent growth. In particular, what matters most is the gap between low income households and the rest of the population.

Analysis based on the OECD data suggests that redistribution policies via taxes and transfers are a key tool to ensure the benefits of growth are more broadly distributed and the results suggest they need not be expected to undermine growth. But it is also important to promote equality of opportunity in access to and quality of public services. This implies a focus on families with children and youths, promoting employment for disadvantaged groups through active labor market policies, childcare supports and in-work benefits.

As an alternative way to represent the effects of inequality by focusing on changes in individual countries, the report estimates that more than 10 percentage points have been knocked off growth by rising inequality in Mexico and New Zealand during 1990-2010. On the other hand, greater equality increased GDP per capita in Spain, France and Ireland prior to the crisis.

The OCDE working paper concluded that reducing income inequality would boost economic growth, and that countries where income inequality is decreasing grow faster than those with rising inequality. Moreover, it shows that government transfers have an important role to play in guaranteeing that low-income households do not fall further behind in income distribution. However, it should not be limited to cash transfer programs, but incorporates policies to promote and increase access to public services.

Although the report did not look at inequalities between different identity groups, we know that the most disadvantaged groups are often from a different ethnic or other identity and therefore, in overall terms, the OECD analysis is linked with the guiding principles of the Economics of Shared Societies: a society in which diverse groups and individuals are economically integrated and utilize their talents and skills tends to be more stable and enjoy higher economic growth than divided societies.

 

Photo from the Diario Do Centro do Mondo

Webinar Session on Social Inclusion: What You Need to Know

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The World Bank is launching a webinar series on social inclusion. The first session draw directly from use definitions, operating framework and examples from the recent World Bank Group report Inclusion Matters that places the discussion of social inclusion within global transitions and transformations.

These webinars can be accessed from anywhere and the spectators are expected to be researchers, students, policy makers and development practitioners primarily from developing countries.

The purpose of the webinar is to showcase the fundamental concepts related to social inclusion and policies and practices for their implementation. This session Foundations of Social Inclusion: What You Need to Know, conducted by Maitreyi Bordia Das, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank, will draw important distinctions between social exclusion and related concepts of inequality, poverty, and discrimination. It will take place on December 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm Central European time.

Social exclusion can be felt everywhere. It is relevant for both developing countries and for developed economies as well as a fundamental element of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Therefore, as Club de Madrid has been working in the last 8 years, there is an urgent need for promoting leadership for social cohesion and shared societies as a key priority for the world today.

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