Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning

“Around the world, multination states are in trouble. Many have proven unable to create or sustain any strong sense of solidarity across ethnonational lines[i].” (Will Kymlicka, 2001).

Investigating the Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning Division of the Council of Europe, it is natural to question the meaning of social cohesion. Social cohesion is an outcome of the Council of Europe’s main objectives: Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, but, to some extent, I would also argue that it is a necessary ingredient of these same concepts. Without social cohesion, human rights are compromised, the unity required for democracy is missing, and there is no incentive to apply the rule of law. I would go further and say that the terrorism-security debate is fundamentally a consequence of failed social cohesion, and in its absence human rights are inevitably abused, democracy is ineffective and the rule of law is applied in accordance with the largest force wielded (c.f. UK police ‘stop and search’ powers under the ‘sus’ law, extraordinary rendition in EU states, UK parliamentary debate on the 42-day terror limit.) Continue reading Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning

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Gouvcamp Paris Quebec Geneva 10 April 2012 – http://parlement-et-citoyens.fr (version française en bas)

At the Assemblée nationale, Salle Lamartine, Paris

What was it?

Last week, there was a very interesting conference discussing how to promote open government in the French-speaking world. Attending was a very diverse group of citizens, democracy advocates, locally elected officials, members of parliament, researchers (sociology, political science, economists, etc.) developers, activists, civil servants et al. The choice of venue in the Assemblée nationale suggested a real desire to connect grass-roots and high-level policy makers. There were representatives from a range of countries: Tunisia, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Quebec. Continue reading Gouvcamp Paris Quebec Geneva 10 April 2012 – http://parlement-et-citoyens.fr (version française en bas)

Open government: state of play for newcomers, April 2012

In preparation for my participation at the Gouvcamp conference, Paris 10 April, I’ve put together a little summary of some of my reading:-

Beth Noveck, Professor of Law, expert in public participation and collaboration, @bethnoveck: “Evolving Democracy for the 21st Century”

http://cairns.typepad.com/files/evolving-democracy.pdf

Many fascinating and revealing illustrations of the benefits of open data: social innovation, economic rocket fuel, user-based improvement of public services. Examples range from bicycle accidents improving road and safety planning, GPS data multiplying cost 100 times in value, to understanding the Chennai bus network. Continue reading Open government: state of play for newcomers, April 2012

Itinerant member

I’m an itinerant member of society… living in France for three years now has become the longest time I have spent continuously in one city since leaving home nearly 20 years ago and the longest time overall in a city since leaving university. I obviously don’t like staying in one place for very long. In those 13 postgraduate years I have lived in five different countries with only 5 of those years back in the UK. I also obviously don’t like living in my country of origin very much. I hardly feel to belong to my hometown any more, never mind ‘my’ country. Even though I have very little doubt that both shape my identities considerably, I don’t consciously accept any relationship between who I am and where I am from. The only irritating exception to this is my support for national teams in sport. Continue reading Itinerant member

A pounding head for social justice…

When my head pounds I know I’m onto something: I’ll have either carefully navigated my thoughts and feelings to find what I genuinely care about, or I’ll have stumbled upon phenomena I truly value. These headpounding moments have been like epiphanies and generally relate to what I perceive as social injustices: poverty and inequality; exclusion and discrimination; or unfair and disrespectful treatment of “vulnerable” people. They have been positively triggered too: training on diversity as a tool of inclusion; encouragement; maximisation of potential; and pluralistic participation.

Given that I care about these themes to such an extent as to make my head pound, it is only appropriate that I dedicate some of my time tackling the injustices and promoting diversity. On a personal level I’ve never been particularly fond of in-group behaviour, finding the consequent and inevitable exclusion unpleasant. That is not to say that group behaviour should be discouraged, but that perhaps it should not be idealised as the essential glue that holds societies together. It seems particularly distasteful to establish advanced, privileged and indulgent groups that function in a cohesive way, and even democratically within their own boundaries, before inclusive co-operation has been guaranteed for those marginalised beyond those boundaries. Perhaps we might consider this as conflict theory, but I would argue that inequalities and social injustice are themselves innately derived from and therefore indicate conflict regardless of the theoretical prism we decide to apply. The far more relevant question for me is how diversity and intercultural tools and methodologies can help to resolve the conflict through reduction of social inequalities and injustice.