Tag Archive for Social Cohesion

Building identity through the arts

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Kibera, one of the biggest slums in Nairobi, Kenya, and one of the biggest in the world, houses people from all ethnic backgrounds coming from different parts of the country.

The original settlers were the Nubian people from the Kenyan/Sudanese border, mostly Muslim, living alongside the Kikuyu, the majority tribe in Nairobi, although now the majority of the tenants are Luo, Luhya and some Kamba, from the west of Kenya. There are many tensions in Kibera, particularly tribal tensions between the Luo and the Kikuyu, but also between landlord and tenant and those with and without jobs.

One man, Geoffrey Ochieng, also known as Oyoo (meaning mouse in Acholi) and a native from Kibera, is trying to create an identity for them. The TV Show Top Comic has chosen him as the funniest man in Kenya and the slum is so proud of him, his initiative for the community was been received with open arms.

Kibera Creative Arts, his own social project, aims at educating and transforming the society in the slum through the arts. A group of comedians, poets, dancers and singers used their influence to attract the youth and counteract crime.

The Spanish NGO Kubuka has helped funding the project with a new and special element: the construction of an identity for Kibera. “We have to live like brothers. You cannot permit that politics make you kill your brother”, said Oyoo to the Spanish Newspaper El País.

In the headquarter of Kibera Creative Arts everything speaks about the neighbourhood: the music, the pictures, and the handicrafts. More important than the ethnicity of the maker, the voice of the whole neighbourhood is what matters. “There is a lot of talent here”, says Oyoo, “we want to attract the youth so they don’t fall into delinquency”. What Ochieng wants is to erase all divisive ethnic components; neither Luo nor Kikuyu, everyone is from Kibera there.

He intends to show children and youth what they are able to do. “Not everyone is going to be an artist, but the arts gives them the possibility of expression”, reaffirms the comedian. “It is the art and not the violence what can help you to get out of poverty”.

As stated within the Shared Societies Commitments, promotion of respect, understanding and appreciation of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity and support for local communities in exploring their identity is one of the steps to deal with social division and exclusion.

 

Sources: https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/08/03/planeta_futuro/1501770958_765024.html?por=mosaico

http://www.kiberacreativearts.org/

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-31540911

Consulting Indigenous communities to preserve a unique ecosystem: a first time in Chile

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In September 2017, The Rapa Nui people agreed with the Chilean Environment Ministry on the creation of a 700,000 square kilometer protected marine area around Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean.

Due to its location, Easter Island’s ecosystem has unique coral species preserved by the traditional fishing practices that would be also protected. Chile has become one of the five countries with the largest area of marine space protected in the world.

The Environment Ministry, Marcelo Mena, introduced the agreement as part of the commitments of Chile with the community:

“it was the first time indigenous people had been consulted over the creation of a marine area in Chile.”

Overall, 642 Rapanui people voted on this unique consultation to create this area which will be administrated by 6 Rapanui representatives and 5 Chilean Government representatives.

In an interview with the Chilean Newspaper La Tercera, PokiTaneHaoa, Rapanui local leader, highlighted that the protected area would allow them not only to manage their territory but also to fight against illegal fishing and consequent loss of biodiversity. All relevant decisions regarding the sea area around the island will be overseened by its inhabitants.

As included in the Minority Rights Organization directory, indigenous people in Chile include the Mapuche, Ayamara, and the Rapanui people among others. According to the 2012 census, more than 1.7 million Chileans self-identified as indigenous: 88% as Mapuche, followed by 7% as Amara and 5% other smaller groups.

In 2007, Chile adopted the United Declaration on Indigenous Rights and, in 2008, it ratified Convention 169 of the ILO on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples which guaranteed rights to education, property, consultation and self-determination. The same year Chile adopted an indigenous policy called “Recognition: Social Pact for Multiculturalism (Re-conocer: Pacto Social por la Multiculturalidad”. In 2016, a Presidential Advisory Commission was set up with the purpose of preparing proposals in the areas of regional and territorial development and participation of indigenous communities[1].

As part of the conclusions of the Working Group on Sustainability and Shared Societies convened by the Club de Madrid through its Shared Societies Project, society and the environment, together with the economy, have been identified as the three pillars of sustainable development. Given that, this Working Group underline that “meaningful participation by all stakeholders is viable and can ensure more sustainable decision making: some are the continuation of traditional practices, some are part of devolution of local government by the state; and some are situations in which local people have taken control of their own affairs.” As a core element of the Shared Society concept “the ability of indigenous peoples not only to maintain their own cultural context but also to fulfil their responsibilities to future generations, demonstrates the significance of their own local government systems.”



[1] OECD (2017), Making Decentralisation Work in Chile. Towards Stronger Municipalities, Multi-Level Governance Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Can you imagine a supermarket without foreign products?

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In an article published by the BBC, an initiative undertaken by a supermarket located in Hamburg, Germany, was highlighted as an innovative action against xenophobia.

The Edeka Supermarket took away all foreign products from their shelves such as Spanish tomatoes and Greek cheeses replacing them by signs including the following messages:

“Our selection knows border today”

“This is how empty a shelf is without foreigners”

“This shelf is pretty boring without diversity”

Pictures of the empty shelves became viral worldwide a few weeks ahead of the recent federal elections in Germany held in September in which migration became an important issue within the political debate.

More than 1 million refugees have entered Germany since 2015, a social challenge that made German politicians raised integration and national identity as main topics of discussion. As highlighted in certain media, Chancellor Merkel’s “refugees welcome” policy in 2015 “has fueled the rise of extremist views that wants to close the country’s borders and curb the right to asylum”.

Germany, like many other countries in Europe, faces major global challenges including climate change, a demographic challenge and economic pressures from globalization and migration. It also faces specific defiance related to democracy: the rise of populism as exemplified by the rise of the AfD.

However, according the Migration Policy Index (MIPEX), which measures policies of countries to integrate migrants in Europe, Germany ranks among the top ten countries in Europe on integration policy. The index stated that “Germany’s integration policies have benefited its economy by contributing to rising employment rates and positive public attitudes towards immigrants”. In addition to this, the creation of a Federal Commissioner at the Chancellery to coordinate integration plans among ministries and federal states, has been highlighted as a good practice.

The Edeka Supermarket’s campaign promotes a Shared Societies perspective and was revealed at the right time, a few weeks ahead of the German election.  It shows the imaginative way that the issues related to migration and refugees can be highlighted and shoppers provoked to stop and think.

Refugees attitudes in Europe

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On August 6th, The Guardian published an article: “German TV presenter sparks debate and hatred with her support for refugees”. The article’s author wrote how the German TV presenter Anja Reschke denounced that, racist comments have recently become socially acceptable and it’s common to make them under real names. Her declarations generated debates about emerging racism in Germany.

Until recently, such commentators were hidden behind pseudonyms, but now these things are being aired under real names, (…) in reaction to phrases like “filthy vermin should drown in the sea”, you get excited consensus and a lot of “likes” on social media.

However, the article’s author mentioned that the aggressive response towards foreigners is seen as a minority reacting to the changing face of Germany where one fifth of the population is now of a migrant background, according to statistics out this week.

Since then the Germany Government has accepted many more refugees and advocated within the European Union for a better system for receiving refugees. The situation is changing day by day.

The mainstream debate and attitudes have been overwhelmingly positive, with many communities and individual families welcoming refugees, most of whom have fled conflict in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In most towns, inhabitants received new arrivals, offering help, collecting food and clothing, offering language lessons for free, and even inviting them to live with them. Some neighbors help them with the shopping and with the bureaucratic issues, others give them presents and even install a satellite dish for them so they could watch Syrian TV.

Yahian, a Syrian refugee with his family in a village in Germany told their experience arriving in Germany to The Guardian:

There were flowers, candles, milk and coffee waiting for us. They tried to make it as comfortable as possible. It was cold, wet and dark. My wife was crying, she was so nervous, but we’ll never forget the warmth of their welcome.

The Pastor of his village, also help him to negotiate with the butcher to provide halal meat.

The Guardian, also published an article on the same topic that emphasizes the desire of Germans citizens to improve the situation of refugees, and described a project created by a couple that felt uncomfortable with the way Germany were treating them, “Refugee Welcome” (http://www.refugees-welcome.net/). This initiative consists in sharing home with refugees; “Accommodating a refugee does not have to mean losing out on the rent of a room, Refugees Welcome representative said. In a third of the cases, costs are covered either by the job centre or social welfare payments, and a quarter of the rents are paid for via micro-donations to the site”. 26 people have been placed in private’s houses so far, and more than 780 Germans have signed up to the website.

Acts like the ones described above demonstrates that most of the Germans do their best to make the refugees feel like home. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Germany is a country used to integrate both immigrants and refugees, having “one of Europe’s most hospitable asylum systems”.

 

Foreign Migrants in Johannesburg

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On May 7, the book titled “Healing communities, transforming society: Exploring the interconnectedness between psycho-social needs, practice and peace-building” was launched in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This publication was written by Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela from the University of the Free State in South Africa, Dr. Ingrid Palmary from the African Center for Migration and Society and Professor Brandon Hamber at the International Conflict Research Institute in Northern Ireland. It offers personal reflections about precarious life in the city of Johannesburg for foreign migrants.

According to the book, migrants in Johannesburg are facing “opportunities, challenges, moral orders and relationships in this iconic and complex city”. The book analyzes those challenges through their interaction with organisations, such as churches, brothels, shelters, political movements, counseling services or art projects. From a mental health perspective, the publication describes in-depth case studies on how migrants seek support beyond traditional mechanisms for those in distress. Those case studies cover a diversity of groups of people in Johannesburg including refugees, homeless people, sex workers and former soldiers from across the African continent

In addition, a recent report on the effects of migration on urbanization in South Africa, posted by the research body, African Centre for Migration and Society, on May 2015, roughly 4.4% of the South African population was born outside of the country and 3% of the population within South Africa has moved across internal borders. These population movements have resulted in rapid growth of urban areas and a challenge for social cohesion at the local level.

In the framework of the Shared Societies Project, this book alludes to one fundamental goal of SSP: working with leaders and organizations to help them confront challenges to coexistence. As reinforced by the authors, by ensuring that individuals have equal access to economic and material resources in order to satisfy their social, physical and economic needs, as a result they are able to play an active part in the development of the host country.

Cities like Johannesburg, which is one of the biggest in the African continent, are true laboratories of political and social innovation. Here, political leaders have a great responsibility to use this social transformation capacity to build Shared Societies and provide models of good practice.

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/

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