A new way for Europe: from Separation to Shared Societies

 In the light of recent events and statements in Europe the Club de Madrid is calling for a new and different conversation on how we create societies where different groups live in harmony with each other. Whether through divisive political actions or insensitive rhetoric, the old terminology of assimilation and separation once again threaten to frame the debate.

Neither option seems to answer the question of how to effectively manage the growing diversity within our societies.

Separation unequivocally leads to the appearance of conflict and tensions that can result in violence, harming not only the group excluded but the entire society.

Assimilation also leads to problems.  It is a form of integration that can involve denial of one’s previous identity. It confuses the obligations and responsibilities inherent in being able to live in a society, respecting the customs and ways of life of the host community, with the requirement of conforming to unnecessary values and customs to live in harmony with other groups. Eventually, this option creates conflicts of identity while depriving the society of the potential of diversity.

The Shared Societies Project proposes a third way to manage diversity which has been found to work in many situations: building a shared society which makes demands of all sections of society but at the same time is based on mutual respect for all.

In a Shared Society all members of society, while expressing their own identity and aspirations, are expected also to do so in ways that accept the dignity and rights of others with different identities.

In a Shared Society equality and fairness are essential principles. It cannot exist where there is discrimination, marginalization and lack of opportunity for all.

A Shared Society is not only tolerant but respectful of diversity which implies a more equal treatment among different groups living together.

As the Members of the Club de Madrid stated in Rotterdam in 2008 at the first Global Forum on Leadership for  Shared Societies ”…At a time when global crises will exacerbate the tendency to seek scapegoats among those different from us, the need to build Shared Societies is more important than ever.”

The recent challenges in Europe remind us that we need leadership now: leadership that will move beyond old rhetoric and encourage all sectors of society to engage in thinking about how our societies can be shared and acting to make that a reality.  Then the current concerns can also become an opportunity for hope where barriers are being brought down and change may come from new directions, leading us together from divided to shared societies.