The Good Country Equation: Math for a Better World

Last week I had the real pleasure to read this beautiful book by Simon Anholt. it was hardly a surprise to me to find out that I was in agreement with virtually every statement. I have to admit that I knew it in advance: I have been following the work of Simon since he started publishing the Good Country Index and, later on, I happily joined the audience of voters of the Global Vote. One year ago I welcomed as well the Good Leader Index, so you definitely can categorize me as a Simon Anholt fan!

Yet, I knew nothing about his previous work experiences and about his advisory work for many governments in different continents of the world and how he came to the ideas behind these indexes and social experiments which answer to the simple question: Is that true that everybody (individuals and governments alike) want to be classified among the good ones? The answer is an enthusiastic YES.

Before you think I’m confusing international relations with an episode of The Good Place, let me explain….

The Good Place - Stagione 3: Eleanor & company nel poster della serie

Earth IS “the Good Place”, it might look like the Garden of Eden if we only accepted the simple idea that we are all connected and whatever we do as individuals and as citizens, as electors ad as elected politicians has an impact on the other individuals, the other governments, the other states.

And so this is one of the key ideas you will take from the Good Country Equation: every country has positive as well as negative externalities. These externalities may, as well, be measured and offer us a clear picture about who are the good and the bad ones. It is the well known “naming and shaming” we all learned on the school desks.

And it is not just about being good.

Being perceived as a positive country has a value that any government (and its citizens) could monetize in many ways. Depending on the reputation of the country, States can make better agreements with other countries, exporting companies can get better contracts, workers can be offered better jobs and salaries, citizens could be welcome or not. Each of us could offer plenty of examples of this conditioning by prejudice about countries. The good news is that prejudices can be reversed. By facts.

And it is funny and interesting to read about the author’s experiences with the governments he advised to help them going up in the ladder of international reputation because being good was good for the world as well as for them. It is, definitely, in the utmost self-interest.

Just imagine the transformation of our beautiful planet if governments would start wondering if their political choices are aligned with the highest and best good! A win-win-win: for People, Planet and Prosperity.

It is hard to eradicate – after millennia – the competitive model in international relations in order to establish an authentic collaborative approach, yet this book is a leap forward as it shows in a simple and pleasant language – with a lot of examples – how it is the best model we can imagine of, not just for the world, but for ourselves.

What struck me at the end of the book, is that I am what Simon defines a “natural cosmopolitan”. It is a character trait which doesn’t depend so much from the country you happen to be born in. I hold my vision of how the world could work better which may be different from the one that other fellow cosmopolitans have, yet we all are curious, open to cultural diversity and pluralism, concerned about social harmony, trustworthy, optimistic, ready to compromise our interest with others to benefit a larger audience.

We come from different experiences and have different cultural approaches and different recipes for the world. Yet there is so much we have in common. And if we can agree so easily on the principles and the goals as I agree with the ideas in Simon’s book, then this world has some real chance to work better.

This book makes the perfect gift for any politician friend 🙂

Join the On-line International School: The Mediterranean and climate change: Impacts, people, action.

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Photo by Simon Clayton on Pexels.com

As we all know, the relationship between we, humans, and the planet is at the core of the paradigm shift towards collaborative solutions which is so absolutely needed for our species to survive. To this aim, education is a pre-condition and multi-stakeholder and multi-disciplinary events are the best tools to get to know all the ideas, actors and tools which can be mobilized to manage global issues as oceans’ pollution and global warming. For all these reasons I am glad to pass word about this timely international on-line school. The only regret I have is that I cannot attend it myself as I will be busy in another not less topical on-line conference whose title is “How Democracy Survives: the Crises of the Nation State” (the subject for the next post!)

The International Oceans-Climate School, running on-line from October 28 to November 1 2020  will be an “exploratorium”: a participant-oriented forum for the hands-on, collaborative exploration of known issues through a new lens with the purpose of opening up pragmatic, action-oriented pathways to progress.

It is open to all stakeholders with an interest in the well-being of our oceans, especially the Mediterranean.  The School will be of interest to organizations that and people who have a stake in planning and acting for the future of the oceans, especially the future of the Mediterranean, as it will be shaped by accelerating global warming and climate change.

​​​Stakeholders may include:  Researchers, decision makers, citizens, scientists, students, activists, environmental organizations, NGOs, scientific institutions, local and central government agencies and their representatives, business and industry, local politicians, health, tourism, utilities, military and transport.

​The Oceans-Climate School is an official event of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

For all those who are interested, the link to know more and register is:   https://oceansclimate.wixsite.com/oceansclimate

Summary and Concluding Remarks from the Supranational Democracy Dialogue 2020

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The Supranational Democracy Dialogues II (hereinafter “SDDII”) of 2020 is the second edition of a successful two-day event that took place in Lecce (Italy) in April 2018, at the end of which all the speakers and the majority among the organizers and the attendees decided to write and sign a “Manifesto for Supranational Democracy”.

The statements included in that act represented the summary and the shared conclusions of all the presentations and all the matters discussed in the SDD. It promotes, namely, the need for democratic institutions at all levels, from the local to the global, as well as the development of an inclusive dialogue about global democracy among all human beings, the raise of awareness among citizens, communities and populations and the support of democratic solutions to global challenges.

Unfortunately, after having completely organized the second edition event, originally scheduled for April 16th and 17th, 2020 in Brindisi (Italy), the Organizing Committee had to temporarily cancel it because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to then rethink and reprogram it as a series of webinars.

The first webinar, entitled “European Union: improving democracy and participation”, took place on May 9th, on Europe Day, in 2020 also celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Shuman Declaration. The other meetings followed, precisely, on May 15th (“Rethinking global rules and institutions”), on May 22th (“European Union: improving economic governance and solidarity”), on May 25th (“Shifting the paradigm: new cultural models, new awareness”) and finally on May 29th (“Shifting the paradigm II: new rules for the world order”). The full playlist of the event is on the YouTube Channel of Università del Salento, here.

Panelists came from different backgrounds and paths of life: academia, civil society, activism, business/corporate environment, international institutions. They met in 5 webinars under the label Supranational Democracy Dialogue, to present different visions and perspectives on the future with a constructive approach. They offer an example of how a global political sphere and global political discourse could look like. It is impossible to condense so many diverse contributions in a single vision.

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All the panelists agreed on that: the state of the world may be improved and mankind can be in the near future far better than it is now. The international community should avoid getting out of the pandemic and back to the previous state of the world. A number of issues need to be addressed without delay, among them, are:

– A non-sustainable relationship with nature, a current model based on exploitation;

– Inequalities, fostered by an unfair system of tax -avoidance made possible by competition among states as well as by fight  for control over natural resources in the interest of the few;

– lack or inadequacy of policies implementing shared values, as the fundamental human rights, at the global level and SDGs.

Yet, a double paradigm shift is required: a paradigm shift in cultural models and awareness and a second one concerning global rules and institutions. New technologies may help, but just as tools serving clear purpose-driven goals.

The human species could be able to live as part of an ecosystem where all other species equally thrive, in harmony with nature and as part of nature. Education may encourage the development of creative and critical thinking, contributing to prepare global citizens to take full responsibility for the planet and empowering them. The economy may serve the collective good while serving entrepreneurs and workers. Leaders should be in service of their communities and offer the example of compassionate and mindful leadership.

Ideas and Proposals for the Global Governance

The international community could take this incredible opportunity to move towards more sustainable standards in the relation between human species and the environment and towards more cooperative and supportive global governance. Panelists, in different ways, all supported a more democratic model for global governance, empowering individuals, also in the aggregate form of civil society, to have a meaningful say over issues affecting their existence. They could do so in participating in negotiations, having a dialogue (or being represented) within global institutions, ultimately be part of a new “omnilateral” vision of international relations. Such a model would better pursue the goal of reducing inequality and fostering inclusiveness and gender equality.

 UN or a new international organization could be in charge of the management of crises. The existing global institutions could be reformed – WHO for instance could raise a little tax and then provide for free patents and coordinated solutions – international agreements could oblige companies and states to internalize costs for environmental damage. Simultaneous national policies could provide a frameworks solution; a point for a global government instead of global governance was made as well. Whatever the chosen solutions, the need for global solutions to global issues was stressed as well as the need for legitimacy and representation, for instance through parliamentary bodies (as the suggested UNPA), or by online open consultations, or other tools yet to be invented. The global governance should be part of multilevel governance, where all levels – even the smaller as the local community – is empowered and responsible. 

All levels have to be accountable to citizens and this is especially important for the global one, now escaping any kind of accountability. Inclusiveness has to be cultivated through education, access to the internet, and easily usable tools for participation at all levels. National judges are on the frontline to make common rules enforced also at the national and local levels.

Many suggestions emerged during the five webinars. Some are ready to use:

– the two proposals from Petter Ollmunger (Democracy without borders): (i) establishing a UN parliamentary assembly and (ii) introducing a proposal initiative from the citizens of the United Nations. Both of them do not require a UN Charter review process.

– the proposal by Jerome Bellion-Jourdan of an International Negotiation Platform, which is on its way shortly after “Exploratory talks” convened by the Graduate Institute’s Global Governance Centre, in cooperation with Executive Education.

Most of the proposals require instead a medium or long-term approach as the convening of a global intergovernmental conference to reformulate – among the willing – some key points in global collaboration and governance. Such a process should involve as well civil society, local governments, indigenous communities, and all the other key stakeholders. Some more sectoral goals could be put right now on the agenda of specialized agencies, like UNESCO, WHO, UNEA.

Ideas and Proposals for European Governance

the speakers commented on the European Union response as well as the Member States’ reactions to the pandemic crisis and also the effects that all the measures adopted at all levels would engender to the democratic order and the economic governance.

Due to the emergency, all the democratic institutions at the national level dealt with an unprecedented global and health crisis. This crisis could have been a moment of solidarity and cohesion where a temporary deviation of democratic rules and an equally temporary limitation of human rights could have been justified. Some problems appeared regarding the reactions to these deviations coming from citizens, political parties, and the Member States.

In the European Union, in one hand, most of the economic resources that have been spent came from the Member States. The problem is that within the EU, there are still different spending capacities between the Member States and, in the long term, these differences could create distortions in the internal market. The COVID-19 is going to become an accelerator of the existent divergences, separations, and gaps between States. What the EU needs is a common approach, a common instrument to face this unprecedented crisis, which has hit all countries in a symmetric way.

On the other hand, the European Union contributions consisted, above all, in suspending the application of the stability and growth pact and in suspending the application of the State aid rules.

The S.U.R.E. (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency) is a temporary measure, which includes some conditions concerning the destination of the resources. Furthermore, the Commission’s proposal for a Council Regulation establishing a European Union Recovery Instrument to support the recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic (COM(2020)441final of 28.05.2020) has been based on art. 122 TFEU, which suggests the temporary and exceptional nature of the measure.

Some speakers proposed to transform the European Stability Mechanism (E.S.M.) into a European development fund (inspired by the Italian “Cassa Depositi e Prestiti”) to be used in the next ten years to finance the long-term investments for local systems, in order to bring the EU citizens closer to the European institutions.

Despite some speakers showed concerns relating to radical institutional reforms in the EU legal order, all of them agreed that the European decision-makers should, at this moment, make important steps in order to avoid the EU going down or, worst, becoming dysfunctional. In particular, all the panelists considered as necessary to abolish unanimity because democracy could not be complete as long as veto powers are subsisting in the decision-making process.

Furthermore, other interventions have to be done in the EU legal system, such as the implementation of transparency in the decision-making process, for example by implementing the possibility for all citizens to access to relevant documents. It has been enlightened how, in this context, the efficiency of the decision-making process had been used as a justification for denying access to documents, above all to those related to the legislative procedure, and this practice cannot be accepted.

Different proposals came up in the discussion concerning the improvement of the participatory democracy in the EU. On one hand, it has been stressed out how important could be the contribution of the European Parliament in promoting the follow-up of a successful European citizens’ initiative: doing this the European Commission would face a twofold encouragement to consider the content of the initiative, but also it has been underlined how important could be in shaping inclusive participation to press the European Commission to motivate in an appropriate manner any rejection to follow a successful ECI up.

Furthermore, there have been some speakers who considered the idea of giving citizens the possibility not just to present “appropriate proposals” to the European Commission, but also to submit amendments to pending legislative measures and to guarantee a role for civil society in the informal negotiations of legislative acts. Others underlined the importance of the citizens’ participation in the sense of bringing constant points of view to the attention of the decision-makers, without complicating the decision making structures. Another important point of discussion has been the implementation of the democratic participation of citizens at all levels, also by promoting the use of new technologies in all the sectors that are relevant to democracy where technologies can actually improve information and participation.

*** *** ***

Some interesting considerations have been collected among the youngest participants to the webinars: high school students.

The most relevant and surprising fact came from their participation in the discussion, despite their young age, was their awareness of the connection between all people and between States as well as the importance of a shared response to all the global challenges.

They proposed the promotion and the improvement of the participation of local authorities and municipalities, which can better represent the local community into the global discussion.

They also underlined the strategic role of technologies in shaping the future of democracy and the importance of governmental intervention in order to prevent all the negative effects deriving from cyber attacks and from fake news, because, as they stressed, otherwise technologies will bring much more distances than closeness in the future.

 

Susanna Cafaro and Stefania Attolini

Borders

 

blue and white planet display

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that our beautiful planet appears from space as a mostly blue ball, surrounded by white clouds.

It’s a poetic view: a cosy and hospitable planet. No borders are visible, not one of the about 200 fragments called states that we humans have created in the last few centuries. Yet, one old boundary is visible, the Great Wall of China. Big walls are not something new, as we can see, and yes, they get outdated soon or late.

There are many kinds of borders.

Yet, speaking about borders, the first which come to mind are the borders between states. They have multiple functions, here are the main ones: safety from external threats such as invasions; delimitation of rights for the conferral to the insiders of some special status (as citizens or residents); source of income as goods and services can be taxed when they cross that line; stop of unwanted people or unwanted goods.

States and societies are more or less open. As Popper taught, the more a society is democratic, the more it is expected to be open. An open society accepts the exchange with the outside on the economic as well as on the cultural level. The more it exchanges, the more it flourishes. History has proven this to be true in all ages.

Nonetheless, even for democratic countries, borders are a challenging topic. It took about 50 years to Europe to dismantle them; first came down the customs barriers and the limitation to circulate for workers, then the police controls, finally they became totally invisible. The European Court of Justice, one decision after the other, deleted tons of hidden obstacles to the free movement of people, goods, services and capitals and removed all the discriminations brought to its attention. Free circulation became a fundamental right. EU contributed to reducing borders with the other countries too, as this was the main goal of hundreds (or even thousands) of international agreements concluded in the last half-century.

Many borders went down thanks to technological advancement. Internet was a powerful tool for overcoming cultural borders. Low-cost flights made the movement of people easier. Yet, borders are now rising again.

Borders are constructs of fear. And fear is rising

Even within borders, there are often other borders. Many ancient towns have walls around them, yet they were inside kingdoms or even empires. Nonetheless, they feared near towns, or just near towns’ products in the market, they kept guarded gates to keep outside unwanted travellers and to close inside at night.

Even within towns, there were often other borders. Ghettos are old phenomena, they had real barriers around them.

Now that many physical barriers are collapsed, and others are more permeable than they were 50 years ago, the political debate seems polarized on how to raise them again.

In Europe, after a long season without internal borders that attracted 28 countries from the initial 6, confusion and uncertainty dominate the political scene on how to rebuild the border with Britain (and even more unfortunately across Ireland).

In the US, “the wall” seems to be the reason for an unprecedented shutdown costing billions to the American economy.

The international relations appear dominated by debates about trade wars and trade deals on customs duties.

But the worst borders are the invisible ones, those within the mind of people. In Italy, as well as in several European countries, nationalism and racism are menacingly reappearing. This resurgent division between us and them – be them the strangers, the refugees, the poor, even those living in another region of the same country – are my main concern.

Once again, it is nothing but a construct of fear, and it generates even more fear. Even those resisting this wave and trying to keep mind and heart open could start thinking in terms of us and them – being them, this time, the racist, the fascist, the “bad ones”. This is falling in the same trap of separation.

If we want to resist all this, we cannot but think in terms of humanity. We cannot but express compassion for the reasoning we cannot accept nor legitimize. We can see and acknowledge the fear behind it.  Then we can play our little role in dismantling inner and outer borders in politics as well as in daily life.

 

The “infringement procedure” against Italy for the excessive deficit.

 

silver and gold coins

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

First of all, the infringement procedure, all the Italian newspapers talk about, is not an infringement procedure (sorry, as EU law prof I cannot but suffer for all these wrong terms, words are important).

Second, there is no conspiracy against Italy or its recovered sovereignty, just the (usual?) consequence of an infringement of a rule, which, by the way, is quite common sense:  excessive deficits are prohibited as they threaten the whole Euro area, its very existence under its current institutional structure.

But let me clarify the first point first.

The infringement procedure is a legal procedure started by the European Commission against an EU country that fails to implement EU law. The Commission – after a pre-judicial exchange of communications – may refer the issue to the Court of Justice, which in certain cases, can condemn the state and even impose financial penalties.

Otherwise, in this case, we are witnessing the first step of the procedure for the application of the prohibition of an excessive deficit, set up by article 126 TFEU and further specified by a number of legal acts, which is radically different.

First of all, it is not a judicial procedure, but a political one. The main decisional body is the ECOFIN Council (the Council of Financial Ministers of the Union), not the Court of Justice. Second, it is grounded in economic reasoning, and the only possible line of defence is on the same ground.

But let’s take a step back

The States of the Union have “almost” full sovereignty over budgetary matters, they are absolutely free to decide how to compose the basket of income and expenditure.

The only limit is the prohibition of an excessive deficit.

The rationale is simple: the default of one state would spread among the others like a contagion. Moreover, the EU budget is too small to save anyone. And taking money from one state’s budget to rescue another is difficult and unpopular (we have witnessed all this during the Greek crisis).

So the EU Treaties try to prevent all this through two basic rules: one is article 125 TFEU stating that every state is responsible for its own budget and no government (not even the European one) is obliged to take over the responsibility stemming from a state’s budget. The second is article 126, intended -with its prohibition – to prevent unsustainable deficits.

The ECOFIN Council is in charge of assessing, on a proposal from the Commission, whether the deficit is excessive. In this case, with a predefined step by step procedure, it may adopt a recommendation, then an intimation, and finally a sanction (but it takes almost a year to get to this final stage). The spirit is to promote correction: the procedure can be stopped at any moment presenting a correction plan. It has happened many times for other EU countries, it happened in 2003 for France and Germany.

These rules, in the treaties since 1992, have been signed and ratified by Italy, even willingly.

Among the fathers of the euro, some eminent Italians as Guido Carli, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Tommaso Padoa Schioppa were well aware of the damage that was being inflicted on future generations with a debt out of control. They thought that an external bond could save Italy and acted accordingly.

In general terms, excessive debts are not a good thing for States: they generate interests and reduce oxygen for expansive policies, they compress the discretion of States on current policies and they transfer a burden over the future generations. In a currency union, they are even more unsustainable as we cannot print money to cover them.

But, let’s think for a moment that we could, would it be the solution? Are you aware of the price of inflation over the economy and over the population? Just on everybody? In a short span of time, we would all be poorer as the purchasing power drops and savings lose their value.

Or are you thinking that we have the choice of not honouring the debt?

Unfortunately, it’s not a debt with some foreign power or financial institution. It is a diffused debt, which we find in most of the mutual funds, in the retirement funds, in the portfolios of all Italian banks. Not repaying it would be just a different way to spread poverty.

Now, I personally do not like either the stability pact or the austerity approach. I think there are times when expansive policies have to be made (and the Commission has tried to do so with an investment plan that has greatly benefited our country, but we do not talk about it). Of course, it is too little, and the EU budget is also too little if we think (as I think) that it is useful having some kind of corrective and balancing function of a central budget in a currency union. But this is another point.

We can promote new rules at European level, we can negotiate the new EU budget multiannual framework having in mind our needs and the needs of the disadvantaged areas (not just our ones), we can suggest new funding for unemployed people, wherever they are (you know Italy studied this proposal some years ago?).

This nonetheless would not stop the procedure. We can stop it, anytime, implementing sounder public finances, whatever the political vision we want them to mirror.

By the way, we are already paying the sanction. It is the so-called sanction of the markets: call it spread, call it interest, call it difficult allocation of the new debt emissions. It is, in broader terms, the price of loss of credibility.

I don’t think my country deserve this, but I can only blame its current political choices and not some financial monster in the shadows.

The Beauty of Being Visionary

 

SDD opening

 

The first Supranational Democracy Dialogue has ended one week ago and I am just recovering from the stress and the fatigue of managing and hosting it, and from the overdose of joy and enthusiasm of welcoming so many friends and fellow visionaries, of sharing ideas and plans for the future. We even signed a beautiful final manifesto, you can download it here: Manifesto for supranational democracy final.

SDD reading the manifesto

It was a great experience and the most exciting in my career path.  Nonetheless, I am not sure it was really about my career path. As Myra Jackson pointed out in one of our breakfasts together, it was more about coming out of my “academic closet”.

Several of my young, great team members published posts on the event pointing out how I was the visionary behind all this. And that’s flattering!

Except that, in Italian, if you write visionary (visionario), then you add “in a good way”, as they all did. Because in Italian “visionario” means plain foolish (pazzo visionario!).

It’s a pity. As I learned in other political and cultural climates, being visionaries is a good thing: it’s about having a vision for the future and sharing it. It’s the quality of true leadership. I wonder if this reticence of our language in using the word “visionario” is just a reflection of our collective pessimism and of having given up visions for the future.

It took me years to accept the idea of being visionary and it is just the first time that I am publicly defined so.

Before accepting my being visionary I went through a number of life-changing experiences: starting the Group of Lecce with some fellow visionary colleagues, being invited to join the Bretton Woods Committee, walking a spiritual journey and meeting many extraordinary mentors, attending three A-fests in a row and the first Mindvalley U (and this year, again!), stretching my finances – in a way I would have never imagined – and standing mostly out of my comfort zone. I was already forty – and a single mom – when it all started – several years ago. It happened gradually, it was sort of re-prioritizing my entire life, step by step. And setting myself free.

Do you realize how much of our freedom of expression is limited by self-censorship?

Now, I cannot say I have arrived somewhere. Maybe I have just stopped in some big station, and waiting for the train to move forward, to the next one. It’s all about who you become along the way:  yourself, or Your-True-Self.

In my case, it is about becoming visionary (or plain foolish :-)))

By the way, I love this quote, it is from a conversation between Alice and her father:

 

Risultati immagini per alice foolish quote

 

 

 

 

Blessed be the peacemakers…

 

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“Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.”

I have always loved the Sermon on the Mount, but I doubt I fully understood it until this morning.

Yes, this morning, in the shower, when I had an intuition (a full download, as a friend of mine would say). No surprise, my best intuitions are often in the shower, that’s when my rational mind is at rest and it doesn’t interfere.

Here it is. Since childhood, I have always thought of the peacemakers (and the meek and the poor in spirit) as the first Christians, the persecuted,  and, then, missionaries, men and women of God and all those who make themselves small and dedicate their lives to others.

I think of them in a non-denominational way, as I see all the religions as equal paths to God and I think that also people outside the official religions may fall within these categories, moved by spirituality or a strong ethical commitment.

Now I see how my reading of that text was limited.

Peacemakers are many more.

I am a peacemaker and I know many peacemakers. Everybody who works to build peace is a peacemaker. Changemakers who have a recipe for peace are peacemakers.

Being a lawyer with a background in the EU law I have my recipe for peace, I see law as a bridge between people, between nations and cultures.

For me peace is not the absence of war, peace is having structures which make war very unlikely: conferences, assemblies, joint committees and councils, and all sorts of places for dialogue. Law is also the tool to frame procedures: decisional procedures which are perceived as legitimate and fair. Once we have shared rules, we have a social pact, we have a legal order and a community, we don’t need anymore to take the law into our own hands, pick up our rifle.

What is true for individuals is true for states as well. Nowadays it is an (almost) universal truth that individuals have surrendered their right to take the law into their own hands as they belong to a society, sharing rules for justice and safety. But the international community – in spite of many efforts – is still half-way between society and Far West.

And I know that my role as peacemaker is to promote bridges instead of walls and guns.

But there are many more peacemakers who are at work to build these and other important tools. Many people involved in civil society organizations are at work to reduce inequalities and violations of fundamental rights which at the roots of many conflicts. Many people, who fund these organizations, are making their activity possible. There are political leaders and activists who promote peaceful political solutions. Social innovators – tech innovators as well as business innovators –  promote new models for shared responsibility for global problems. And many educators and coaches are at work to spread awareness and raise consciousness over the traditional patriarchal and hierarchic models grounded on strength and dominance.

The list is incredibly long.

This post is to tell them they are peacemakers and sons of God.

They too could have fallen in the interpretation trap I fell since childhood, and think that peacemakers are others. Please don’t underestimate yourselves, the world needs you.

If you want to connect with fellow peacemakers, you will meet a good number of them in Lecce,  on April 26-27.

Human Rights: Myth or Reality?

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Today, the United Nations kicked off in Paris a year-long campaign to honor the foundational human rights document, which will mark its 70th anniversary.

Since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, “human rights have been one of the three pillars of the United Nations, along with peace and development,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in his message for Human Rights Day, annually observed on 10 December.

As “one of the world’s most profound and far-reaching international agreements,” the Universal Declaration proclaimed the inalienable rights of every human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

Unfortunately, the fundamental  rights are being tested every day in the five continents and even if mass or systemic violations appear to be the norm only in some states – usually those which cannot be defined democracies – they appear to be evanescent also in all the countries and territories characterized by extreme poverty and/or severe  inequalities. More often than we think, also in mature democracies, there are serious injuries of human rights affecting marginalized minorities (as the Roma in Europe) and the weaker part of the population – such as migrants and refugees.

Indeed, there are different categories of human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – and they are interrelated more than they appear. Denying education to children – or just to little girls – seriously impairs their future ability to enjoy civil and political rights as well as their access to good standards of living.

Denying health care to poor people or access to safe food (and air!) are violations which can occur in the most civilized of nations (admitting this expression holds any sense). Denying equal rights to women is something which happens patently in maybe one third of the world, but sometimes it happens in subtle ways also in the remaining two thirds.

So, sometimes I have wondered which could be the real impact of a standard which appears out of reach for most of the world and, even when solemnly proclaimed and legally enforced, seems quite theoretical. Except when a court has the opportunity to offer about it a concrete example, which happens sometimes – not for everyone, not always.

Nonetheless, the fundamental rights became important as a standard used to assess our level of humanity and the respect of the rule of law. They progressively welded with our notion of democracy transforming it from the inside. Putting the individual at the core not just as a holder of sovereignty, but also as a beneficiary of a basket of rights that in many cases require the state to take positive action.

The UN  year-long campaign is the opportunity to revive all this, to recall that all nations can still do more and work more for the human rights to be not just myth, but reality.

It is also important to remember that the levels of protection achieved must be defended because it is always possible to go back. According to Freedom House “There were setbacks in political rights, civil liberties, or both, in a number of countries rated “Free” by the report, including Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, and the United States.”

In short, there are plenty of good reasons to consider human rights still a very topical subject.

A Real Dialogue, in Lecce, April 26-27

I am glad to inform you that the debate over supranational democracy is going to get real, or, I should say, to find its place in the real world.

The University of Salento will host it, as a two-day event – the Supranational Democracy Dialogue – aimed at bringing together scholars of any background, NGO leaders, political activists, businessmen and all sort of innovative thinkers to discuss the big challenges that humanity is currently facing.

It is planned as a conference, but it could become a festival along the way: with debates, side events and network gatherings all scattered around in the baroque centre of our beautiful town.

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The main focus is on global governance, or – I should say – democratic global governance (a much less explored topic).

To involve civil society and practitioners, we decided to invite to the discussion people interested in four main issues, perfect as case studies on global governance: International migration policy and refugee protection; Consequences and effects of climate change; Fair-trade and sustainable development; Impact of innovation and disruptive technologies.

It came as a surprise to receive many abstracts about cross-cutting theoretical topics (identity, democracy, multilateralism and so on ), so, the final program was somehow re-imagined to match the great suggestions we received.
So, these are the titles of the five sessions:

       I. EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVES ON DEMOCRACY

–I.1 – Evolving consciousness: from the Local to the Global Dimension;

–I.2 – New Paths for Global Interaction

II. GLOBAL INSTITUTIONS: WHERE ARE WE? WHICH WAY FORWARD?

–II.1 – Session Co-hosted by UNHRD and UNGSC

–II.2 – Suggestions for a Reform (and the Climate Imperative)

III. MIGRATIONS AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS: NATIONAL, EUROPEAN AND GLOBAL APPROACHEs

IV. ADDRESSING INEQUALITIES IN A CHANGING WORLD: NEW MODELS, NEW TOOLS.

V. EUROPE AS A LAB FOR SUPRANATIONAL DEMOCRATIC SOLUTIONS?

 

Full programme and info here: http://supranationaldemocracy.unisalento.it.
I am looking forward to meeting you in Lecce!

Susanna

 

PS We also welcome support and sponsors, any little amount will be much appreciated:

 

 

Identity, Nationality, Citizenship.

Who are we? 

Does our nationality or citizenship define us in some way?

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There is much confusion around and it’s about time to clarify the meaning of some words much used and sometimes abused.

These three words communicate different concepts answering to three very different questions:

Who am I? (Identity)

Where are my roots? (Nationality)

To Which Community I belong? (Citizenship)

Of course, the most difficult question – and the most important – is the first one. And we are totally free to answer as we like and we feel. No objective data, no other person can answer for us. Our choices, our purpose in life, our beliefs, our personality traits are important clues, but ultimately we decide about their priority in defining who we are. Our nationality – our culture, religion, language – adds to our identity, but there is so much more at stake.

Nationality, so, is only a part of our identity. It is the place where we are born or the nationality of our parents. It is where we feel at home or where our roots are. It is our language, often our religion too. It is our food, our traditions. It could even be our football team. We can choose to identify totally with it or not, we can even feel disconnected, as it may happen in a dysfunctional family.

Citizenship, instead, is a political concept. It is the community we belong to, where we enjoy political rights, where we vote, or participate in some way.

Citizenship can be acquired and can be lost. Multiple citizenships are possible.

Even if usually nationality and citizenship go together, it may not be so (as for Albert Einstein) or we could have citizenship without a state, as it is the case for European citizenship, or citizenship beyond the borders, as Estonian e-citizenship. If nationality may be an accident, citizenship may be a choice.

In the end, as social animals, we humans need identity, roots, belonging. We also need to be aware that the circumstances of our life do not define who we are, we do.

And we could also accept the idea that all these definitions can be dynamic: identity evolves as we grow and deepen our understanding of ourselves; nationality, as the tree’ s roots, expands as we learn more about our culture and its interconnectedness with other cultures; citizenship can change as we progress in our life path and I bet that we are going to experiment new more kind of citizenships, as legal creations giving us rights and access. We, humans, are a work in progress.

Whatever the nationality and the citizenship, the broader is the definition we give of ourselves, the larger is our circle of compassion. Defining ourselves as human beings means we choose to feel connected to the human family.

As Einstein beautifully said, “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind”

It happens when the three, identity, nationality, and citizenship, just overlap and adhere to each other in the illusion of exclusivity and superiority.

We had that disease already. If we can keep that memory alive the next generations will be immune.