Tag Archive for Social Cohesion

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.

Ethnic diversity as a positive element for the provision of public goods in Zambia

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The ‘diversity debit’ hypothesis, developed in a famous article by Easterly and Levine in 1997 argues that ethnic diversity has a negative impact on social, economic, and political outcomes. According to this theory there is a negative relationship between ethnic diversity and public goods provision, due to different aspects related to the heterogeneity of the society such as: variety in ethnic group’s preference; less contribution to public goods; difficulties in solving problems that require collective action; or difficulties in governance when the elites are formed by diverse ethnic groups. The consequences of these negative relationships were in most cases low schooling and insufficient infrastructure, as well as political instability, underdeveloped financial systems, distorted foreign exchange markets, and high government deficits.

The study “Ethnic heterogeneity and public goods provision in Zambia” published by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER)[1], challenges the ‘diversity debit’ hypothesis as it shows that ethnic fractionalization is not clearly associated with the under-provision of public goods. Instead they argued that diversity can have a rather positive relationship with key welfare outcomes. According to the authors, instead of posing the question: ‘Why does ethnic diversity undermine public goods provision,’ we should ask ourselves why does it not?

According to the study, ethnic diversity does not necessarily undermine public goods provision in those cases when ‘diversity’ is not equivalent to ‘division’. They argue that division, rather than diversity per se, is what drives the diversity debit hypothesis. Studies in those places where ethnic identity is comparatively stronger than national identity show that is in those cases when we can clearly see remarkable inequalities in public goods provisions.

Regarding the case of Zambia, in order to understand why and how diversity does not necessarily undermine public good provision is important to look at different factors such as internal migration or the role of political institutions.

The paper shows that internal migration (namely, urbanization) in Zambia is relevant to understand this issue. Between 1964 and 1990, the urban population in the country increased from 10.5 to 39.4 per cent. Those who choose to move around the country instead of staying within an ethnic enclave are likely to me more tolerant and highly educated and thus less reluctant to diversity. As a consequence, internal mobility and urbanization will result in variations of ethnic heterogeneity and in the construction of diverse communities at a sub-national level.

The findings of this study on the case of Zambia, challenging the widely accepted ‘diversity debit’ hypothesis and showing that division rather than diversity undermines the equal access to public goods provision, connects closely with the vision of the Shared Societies Project and the findings of the Working Group on the Economics of Shared Societies[i] together with the work of other researchers [ii]. Thus, the findings of this study, showing that there can be a robust positive association between diversity and key welfare outcomes resonate with the view of the Shared Societies Project: diversity is not an obstacle for justice and fair distribution of opportunities and public services, in the contrary, it can be a strength and can foster the well-being of a society, provided that all sections of the community feel at home and are able to contribute to the society.

This study shows that division, rather than diversity, is what fosters some of the main problems and inequalities in the provision of public goods. Academics and policy-makers should look at this case in order to find yet another example of the importance of inclusion in order to build truly just and shared societies.

 



[1] Rachel M. Gisselquist, Stefan Leiderer and Miguel Niño Zarazúa: Ethnic heterogeneity and public goods provision in Zambia, WIDER Working Paper 2014/162

 



[i] http://www.clubmadrid.org/img/secciones/The_Economics_of_Shared_Societies_Publication.pdf

[ii] Alesina, A. and E. La Ferrara (2005) Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance, Journal of Economic Literature 43, 3, pp. 762-800

“Birnir, J and D Waguespack “Economic Policy and Relevant Ethnic Groups.” Party Politics. 17(2): 243-260

Hall,R.and C.Jones (1999) Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?  The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114, 1,pp.83-86

 

The Power of Music in Raising Awareness and Breaking Barriers

A couple of weeks ago the Shared Societies Blog ran a story on Expressing Social Inclusion in New Ways. The story highlighted art and culture as other paths to social inclusion and it focussed on the Day-Mer Culture and Arts Festival which took place in North London, where the Turkish and Kurdish Community came together to celebrate their community but also to engage with the London Community at large. The main objective of this festival is to promote collective life in the UK and inclusion of immigrant and indigenous workers. Through Art, Culture and Music we can help to reduce tensions and hostility between communities and work towards social inclusion.

This time our focus is on the power of music as a means of raising awareness and sending powerful messages to the world. Velarde, an Aymara musician from Bolivia has always been fascinated by music, which he now uses to create awareness and to show to the world what Bolivia is as a country. He reminisces about his childhood and the times where playing indigenous Aymara music was the only means of being acknowledged as an indigenous ethnic group in Bolivia. Velarde talks of times when the Aymara people were grossly marginalized and discriminated against to the point of not being allowed in the city. This experience and the treatment of the Aymara people had a big impact on Velarde’s father and he forbade playing folk music in his home.

However, during the 1960’s political unrest in Bolivia, the folk music of indigenous people inspired people to protest against the Bolivian government’s power. The ethnic music of the Andes brought Bolivian people together.

Today, Velarde uses music and photography to produce musical documentaries about Bolivia and he actively promotes awareness of Andean musical culture.

Do you agree that art, culture and music can foster social inclusion? Do you have any stories similar to Velarde’s? Let us know what your thoughts are and what similar experiences you might have had.

Read the full story:

http://brookhavencourier.com/?page_id=352

 

Relevant Links:

http://www.corkcity.ie/services/communityenterprise/socialinclusionunit/Music%20Social%20Inclusion.pdf

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

Towards Greater Equality in China: The Economic Growth Dividend

Guanghua Wan - Towards Greater Equality in China: The Economic Growth Dividend, at the Shared Societies International Workshop held in Maastricht (May 2012).

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Guanghua Wan is principal economist at the Asian Development Bank.

Guanghua Wan’s profile on Research Papers in Economics (RePEc)

 

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