Event at Almedalen week in Sweden: "Inclusive societies – a universal challenge, from Nairobi to Tensta." Photo credit: The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation

From Nairobi to Tensta, building inclusive societies

Marginalization and exclusion are challenges in most societies around the world. These issues are pressing factors in fragile contexts, but also in developed nations. Exclusion and marginalization can particularly have a devastating impact on the youth of a society, who suffer from a lack of inclusivity, participation and opportunities of development in their context. In the discussion “Inclusive societies – a universal challenge, from Nairobi to Tensta”, organized by UNDP Sweden and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation at Almedalen, Sweden’s yearly political gathering, these challenges were discussed by three panelists, paying particular attention to the growing threat of marginalization in countries in Africa and how this issue is also affecting countries like Sweden.

1

Speakers at the event in Sweden: Mohamed Yahya, Development and Conflict Prevention Specialist of UNDP, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Lisa Sjöblom, Secretary General of Forum Syd; and Tomas Amanuel, Local Facilitator for Interpeace in Sweden. Photo credit: The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the principle of inclusivity is deliberately incorporated in several goals, including goal 16 for peaceful and inclusive societies. Sigrid Gruener, Programme Manager at the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, was moderator of the event and expressed that “peace is critical to development, and development is critical to peace.” She described that there is a growing and vital focus on inclusivity in global development policies, and indicated how this is particularly connected with the concept of local ownership.

A panelist at the event, Tomas Amanuel, Local Facilitator for Interpeace inSweden, works closely with marginalized youth in Tensta, one of the suburbs in the country. Tomas grew up in Tensta, a neighborhood that is home to a large immigrant population, and has dedicated his life to help young people in need. His work with Interpeace began in 2014, in a participatory research project to analyze the main issues facing the area, following a series of social unrests and protests in 2012 and 2013. Exclusion and marginalization were two of the main factors highlighted by the people interviewed, especially with regards to youth and how they are affected by a lack of participation in their community’s development and employment opportunities. Media has portrayed a negative image of this suburb, which has resulted in low economic investments and general negative perception of the area. Tomas Amanuel declared that: “people are not sufficiently involved in the solutions. They are affected by the problems but they are not part of the solutions and I think that it is a big mistake when we are working on issues of exclusion and marginalization.” Local ownership must be at the forefront of the strategies concerning inclusivity. Engaging communities and working from their perspectives is the only way to transform conflicts and ensure social cohesion and inclusion.

Photo 2

Tomas Amanuel, Local Facilitator for Interpeace in Sweden and Alice Bah, Swedish Minister of Culture and Democracy. Photo credit: Interpeace

“The issue of mismanagement of diversity is the foundation of problems. How do we manage diversity of age, diversity of gender, diversity of minority groups and larger groups?” questioned Mohamed Yahya, Development and Conflict Prevention Specialist of UNDP, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He mentioned that Africa has the largest levels of inequality and that many of the young people in the continent are politically and socially marginalized. This issue makes youth vulnerable and in many cases can prompt them to join terrorist groups. He believes that “the issue of mismanagement of diversity is a critical road block to achieving sustainable goals.” Therefore, policy makers and peacebuilders must work with the local actors to promote and celebrate cultural, political and economic diversity within their communities as a strategic method to build and promote inclusivity.

Lisa Sjöblom, Secretary General of Forum Syd, an organization that supports marginalized people around the world, believes that we can only reach the goals addressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development if we work on strengthening pluralistic and independent societies. She believes there must be an effort to encourage civilians to have a voice, not only to hold decision makers accountable, but to tell their own stories and to be included in the solutions of the situations they are in. “A strong civil society when it works, that it contributes to what is called as a social capital, builds trust between groups and people, and it also provides networks between people. We think this helps avoid polarization and increases tolerance and the level of dialogue in a society.”

2

Mohamed Yahya, Development and Conflict Prevention Specialist of UNDP, based in Ethiopia and Lisa Sjöblom, Secretary General of Forum Syd. Photo credit: The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation

She went on to encourage each person, to ask him/herself if they are in fact inclusive in their personal lives, if they make their own voices heard and if they hear the voices of the people in their communities. Only with the contribution of every individual can society truly become more inclusive and provide equal opportunities for all. Moreover, reinforcing engagement amongst diverse groups, supporting youth and providing secure spaces of dialogue will pave the way in building inclusive societies.

For further information:

Watch the first 20 minutes of the discussion here.

Photo 3

Tomas Amanuel, Local Facilitator for Interpeace in Sweden. Photo credit: Interpeace