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Civil Society and its Institutions
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2005 11:30 am    Post subject: Civil Society and its Institutions Reply with quote

MHI on numerous occassions has stressed the importance of establishing credible civil society institutions to bring about cultural change. The following article in today's Calgary Herald discusses why the western culture has become secular in the past century inspite of a strong and popular underlying religious sentiment. It argues that to impact society strong institutions are necessary and that the Church needs to either establish counter institutions or infiltrate the existing ones with its own people and ideas.

Solving the secular paradox
How can Christians influence world culture?

Joe Woodard
Calgary Herald

June 19, 2005

James Davison Hunter has been chewing on a sociological problem for the past 15 years.

"While Americans are among the most religious people on earth" -- 56 per cent worship at least monthly, 43 per cent weekly -- "how is it that our culture is thoroughly secular?"

The same paradox exists on a lesser scale in Canada, Hunter says: 78 per cent of Canadians call themselves Christian, 37 per cent worship at least monthly and 26 per cent weekly. Yet religion is banished from public life.

How can that be?

"Less than 14 per cent of Americans" and 16 per cent of Canadians "call themselves secular, yet our business, law, government, academic and entertainment institutions are all intensely secular," Hunter tells a select audience of 100 Christian church, advocacy, education and business leaders at the Epcor Centre.

"The general view of culture and cultural change is that Christians have failed to change the culture, because they just don't understand the biblical world view well enough, or don't try hard enough. But that comes out of a fundamentally insufficient understanding of culture."

Sociologist Hunter is the director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He was in Calgary last week as part of a four-city speaking tour, sponsored by the Work Research Foundation, the research arm of the Christian Labour Association of Canada.

"Christians have a mandate to change the world," Hunter begins.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were commanded to "cultivate and preserve" the world, in words that mean work, nurture, sustain, protect.

"Human beings, by divine intent and our very nature, are world makers," Hunter says, spectacled and balding under the Epcor Centre spotlights.

"Art, music, literature, commerce, law, science and scholarship -- and all our relationships and institutions, our communities, families and churches.

"The passion to engage the world, shape and change it for the better is the mandate of creation. To be Christian is inseparable from an obligation to engage the world."

The issue is culture as the premier human creation. All that Christians do should be for the greater glory of God. And more urgently, healthy cultures nourish life, while decadent cultures destroy it.

At the turn of the last century, Christians began to realize that the culture of "the West" (once Christendom) was detaching itself from its Christian foundations, Hunter says. So almost by reflex, they began trying to influence the culture in three ways:

- Evangelism, as the primary means of change, one person at a time, on the assumption that individuals having the right "world view" results in right choices, resulting in a healthy culture;

- Politics, assuming that bad culture comes from bad laws, comes from bad judges and politicians, so putting good individuals there reverses the process;

- Voluntary social reform movements, like the old temperance movement or today's fatherhood or teen abstinence movements.

All these efforts are good, Hunter insists, especially the obligation to one-on-one evangelism, which is central to the Christian mandate. They all achieve good things, saving souls, cleansing corruption, changing lives. But as proven by the past 50 years of Christian activism, the one thing these efforts cannot do is change the world.

Over the last two centuries, despite a majority Christian population and ever more fervent spiritual, political and social efforts, the culture has become increasingly, militantly secular.

So what's gone wrong?

The standard Christian paradigm for understanding culture and cultural change is the "hearts and minds" model. People have values. Their values determine their choices, how they work, play, marry, raise their kids, build their communities, worship.

Hunter explains the old paradigm: When people have good values, they make good choices and build a healthy culture, reinforcing their good values. When they have bad values, they make harmful choices and a decadent culture, teaching destructive values.

The now-classic expression of this conventional, democratic understanding of culture is Prison Ministry evangelist Chuck Colson's "World View" hypothesis, argued in his book How Now Shall We Live?

Colson argues that "big ideas form minds, fire imaginations, move hearts and shape cultures." So "history is little more than the rise and fall of different World Views." At the heart of the post-modern World View is ethical relativism, promoted by big ideas like Charles Darwin's theory of random evolution, taught in a way that produces bad values and bad choices.

So the obvious need, Colson argues, is "to change the culture from the inside out," since cultures change when people change. Thus the three strategies, one-on-one evangelization and politic action and social reform movements to transform the grass roots. "Transformed people transform cultures," Hunter quotes Colson, the assumption being that, when enough people are finally thinking biblically, the culture will be transformed.

The problem is, it doesn't work.

In fact, Hunter says, the "hearts and minds" approach to cultural change suffers from "a fatal naivete" about culture, a kind of idealism that thinks of ideas as the decisive components of culture. And every strategy of cultural change based on this idealism will fail.

The missing component is seeing that culture is made up of institutions and elite interests. Institutions embody or incarnate ideas. Their elites don't count heads; they count status. Elite status is "cultural capital."

Hollywood has known for years that G-rated movies make money; but the industry still churns out barely viable R-rated flicks. Why? Because for the Hollywood elite, there's status only in fringe violence and pornography.

The vast majority of Canadians and Americans do not want gay marriage; but they are on the periphery of the legal and political institutions. People of a different faith control the centre.

Christian novelists sell a thousand times more books, but post-modern writers are featured in the New York Review of Books or Globe and Mail.

Conservative Evangelicals and Catholics are the most vital and active members of their own denominations, but liberals control the institutions.

"To change the world is to take power seriously," says the sociologist.

"It's to take seriously raising leaders, building networks and taking over institutions" -- becoming an elite without succumbing to unbiblical elitism.

Hunter cites the example of the apostle Paul. When first founding his institution, Jesus recruited from the periphery of Jewish society. But for an Apostle to the Gentiles, he tapped someone highly educated, privileged, at the centre of the Jewish elite.

A more adequate understanding of culture and culture change requires appreciating five things, Hunter says.

- First, culture is a resource, a kind of capital or power. Credentials count. A stupid PhD has more cultural capital or public credibility than a brilliant mechanic. The ultimate credibility at the centre of culture is "the power to name things," to determine the public meanings of terms like "equality." This is particularly deadly in post-modern culture, because post-modernism deliberately empties words of meaning.

- Culture is produced, not mainly by individuals, but by institutions or networks and the elites who control them. Leadership is important, but the ideas of history-shakers like Nietzsche or Luther had an impact only because others built networks around them.

- Culture has a rigid structure of centre and periphery, the centre with the highest prestige. In economics, quantity counts, but in culture, only quality or status. USA Today sells 10 times the copies, but the New York Times has 10 times the prestige.

- Cultures change from top down, not from bottom up -- "the hardest thing for Christians to accept," Hunter says. The root of every culture is a tiny network of intellectuals. In his Sociology of Philosophies, Randall Collins estimates that just 500 thinkers have been at the centre of 3,000 years of world civilization; and their total network comprised just 2,700 people, shaping the public vocabulary. Grass roots movements bring only temporary change, because they don't build lasting networks, then institutions, to embody and preserve the culture.

- World change happens when networks of belief and institutions overlap, as when academics and businessmen overlap with filmmakers, or entertainers overlap with politicians.

"You can evangelize one-by-one, but to change the world, you must control the elite institutions," Hunter says in a later interview with the Herald.

"That means both infiltrating existing institutions and forming counter-cultural networks" -- not ghetto subcultures, but a counterculture that "penetrates existing elite institutions."

A subculture is not an option, he adds, because that would abdicate the responsibility to reach out to non-Christians and "change the world."

Jubilee Christian Centre pastor Phil Nordin says he was fascinated by the sociologist's perspective.

"God's committed to working through people and our institutions; so he allows us to partner with Him in changing the world," Nordin says.

Nordin was less certain how much Hunter is suggesting Christians infiltrating the secular institutions, versus establishing new separate Christian institutions: "All those secular institutions used to be Christian," he says with a laugh.

Dan Reinhardt, director of the CREST Leadership Centre at Rocky Mountain College, said Hunter's analysis was "spot-on," explaining why Christians have so little cultural impact despite so much effort.

"The secular modernists were very strategic and very deliberate in taking control of the culture," Reinhardt says.

"They took 50 or 100 years" -- since the First World War at least -- "so we can expect to take as long getting it back."

Faith & Reason

© The Calgary Herald 2005

Last edited by kmaherali on Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:16 am, edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2005 6:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The following article that appeared in today's Calgary Herald discusses the relevance of liberal arts in today's society particularly with respect to the framework it provides to sustain and enrich civil society. I am NOT suggesting that we should all go for it in terms of careers. As MHI has indicated you need to be exceptionally good to succeed. However, I believe we can pursue it as a hobby.

The value of liberal arts learning

Ronald Glasberg and Kathleen Scherf
For The Calgary Herald

September 6, 2005

As a new academic year dawns throughout primary, secondary and post-secondary centres of learning, an important question confronts those who fund, as well as learners in, our education institutions: What is the value of a liberal arts education?

That is, an education focused less on acquiring purely pragmatic skills than on gaining familiarity with the ideas, values and fundamental assumptions that underlie not only western civilization, but those of other civilizations as well.

As the word "liberal" suggests, and as the term is traditionally understood, a liberal arts education is that which benefits a free person.

But why bother?

Tax dollars are always in short supply, even in oil-rich Alberta. We have many pressing issues pertaining to energy, health, ecology, employability, sustainability, globalism, information processing, economic competitiveness and the like.

Surely, one could reason, students and taxpayers would be better served by an education that emphasizes the attainment of marketable skills, rather than the study of civil society.

We don't believe so.

We believe there are many productive ways to approach post-secondary education, and that a very important one is the pursuit of a liberal arts education.

We believe the liberal arts training of a segment of the population benefits both the individual and the social fabric. A liberal arts undergraduate degree, while admittedly earning graduates a lower starting salary than those with a trades or diploma certification, pays off when graduates are in their 40s and 50s, by which time the liberal arts grads are in management positions, earning about 20 per cent more than their colleagues.

Our global corporate culture values the creative thinking, research, analytical, teamwork, comparative cultural, reasoning and communication skills emphasized in liberal arts degrees.

In short, enterprising, energetic graduates of these degrees do rather well.

But perhaps more importantly, we believe a liberal arts education contributes to a careful, considered sustenance of our civil society.

How does that happen? In at least two ways.

First, by gaining familiarity with the political, economic, social, scientific and religious assumptions that infuse the life of our culture, we increase our range of choice and freedom. We can identify assumptions that limit our actions, and change our approach and behaviour. But if we are unaware of the assumptions and beliefs that control us, our behaviour, and our freedom as a society, is accordingly diminished.

Second, one grows in the context of a good liberal arts education, because material can only be presented in the form of a conversation. Ideas and values exist, not as facts to be memorized, but as parts of an ongoing discussion among community members of those things we hold most dear in our lives: our political ideals, our social goals, our relationships with other societies, our hopes for the future and our connection to our history. If the conversation about all these things is a good one, we can only grow, and thereby enrich our experience, our understanding of the world, and the context in which we and our colleagues live.

What a good liberal arts education seeks to do is more than engage students in the complexities of a culture-defining conversation. It also seeks to inspire students with the courage to face that conversation's uncertainties, as well as the fortitude to undertake the strenuous labour that comes from familiarizing oneself with its richness and depth. Not easy work, but certainly worthwhile if we wish to build a civilization that befits free people. Do we really want leaders who do not possess this scope of vision?

When asked what he thought of western civilization, Gandhi, who led India to independence, reportedly said he thought it would be a good idea.

This witticism has considerable significance in the sense that all civilizations -- not just those of the West--are a work in progress, and that a liberal arts education is one of the key ways to engage in that work.

Inquiry into and examination of social values, civil society, cultural change, respect for tradition, intercultural communication, community service and ethical leadership: strong arguments that a liberal arts education is a very wise -- and perhaps shrewd -- social investment.

Ronald Glasberg and Kathleen Scherf are in the faculty of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary.

© The Calgary Herald 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 17, 2005 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The following article covering a sad occurence of violence to Ismailis of Qadmous, Syria underscores the importance of having civil society institutions to deal with issues and probelms arising from the social, cultural and economic spheres of life before they get out of hand.

Date: Sun, 11 Sep 2005 19:34:38 -0700

Confessional Violence: Alawites Attack Ismaili stores in Qadmous

27 stores and several homes were burnt or destroyed last week in Qadmous. All of them belonged to Ismailis. "I blame the government and the state 100% for failing to stop this violence," said Samir, an Alawi villager, whose home is only a few kilometres from Qadmous. "Where was the Baath Party? Where were the police," he asked? "There were a hundred signs that something was going to happen, but no one did anything," he lamented. "Now what will happen to our town? It will never return to what it was."

When I got off the bus in the centre of Qadmous yesterday, I didn't notice anything wrong. Not at first. On the contrary, Qadmous is a handsome town and prosperous compared to the forlorn and dusty villages that hug the main road along the hot dessert plain leading from Homs up to feet of the mountain region shared by Syria's minority sects. The greenery and cool mountain air of Qadmous is so refreshing and welcome to the traveller who arrives from the plains that he breaths deeply and rejoices.

But everything was not alright in Qadmous. The bus deposited me in front of the police station in the centre of town - a stately building of neatly cut stone set three meters in from the street. It's imposing size and calm authority, meant to symbolise the steady hand of the state, belied the fact that on the night of the riots, the six police stationed there did not venture out and did nothing to stop the marauding crowds. Perhaps they didn't know what to do in the face of such multitudes and disorder, except to call for help? The Alawite district president, originally from Latakia, is now fired, accused of being interested only in illicit gain. He failed completely, either to stop the violence when it began, or, more importantly, to take measures that might have prevented it before it started.

No sooner had I deposited my bags on the sidewalk and begun to take my bearings, than my brother-in-law, Firas, appeared. He jumped out of his car and threw his arms around me in greeting. We kissed on both cheeks and then bowed to kiss the other's shoulder in the customary salutation of the mountain area. Once settled into his passenger seat, I began to take a better look around. Firas, in a hushed voice, began to point out the long black tongues of soot that reached up above many of the shop doorways like angry cobras ready to strike. Every third or fourth store along the main street had been burned. Each had a gaping hole torn into the corrugated mettle sheeting, which the shop owners roll down over their entrances. Some doors had been ripped completely off the stores, leaving the black interiors exposed and allowing the charred contents to come tumbling out on the sidewalk. Had the attackers used pickaxes, I wondered? How had they ripped through the mettle? Firas murmured something about gasoline.

It was Friday, the weekend, and down-town Qadmous was deserted, the unaffected stores shut tight and mute, their tin faces expressionless in their guilty survival. They were all Alawite stores. Only police and security men stood about lazily at the street corners. The quite exacerbated the sense of violence that must have overtaken Qadmous on the July evening. It lent the town an eerie sense of mourning. Evidently, the rampage had begun around nine in the evening and not abated until three in the morning.

As one Alawi observed, "the more modern we become, the more savage." He was referring to the use of cell phones, which have become ubiquitous over the last two years. "The bad people who started the violence began to call their brothers and cousins on their phones and everyone from the villages surrounding Qadmous hurried to the town centre to take part in the revenge against the Ismailis. It happened so quickly. No one expected such a thing." At 3:00 o'clock in the morning, two battalions [Katiybatayn] of solders finally arrived from nearby military bases to shut off the surrounding roads and staunch the inflow of villagers looking for trouble or merely coming to gawk. Five hundred people have been detained by security and are being questioned.

"We now call our town Falouja," Firas joked, when we reached the outskirts of the town. He wanted to break the somber mood. "Do you think the Americans ordered this?" He laughed thinly. It is the only time I have heard this question when I knew it wasn't serious. I laughed more heartily than did Firas.

"So how did it start?" I asked my father-in-law, when I was alone with him that evening and my wife was putting our child to bed? He had been troubled all day long, knowing this question was coming and being unsure how to answer so an American could understand.

Abu Firas is proud of his town and region. I knew whatever explanation he gave could not satisfy him. His pride in Qadmous and in Syria had been dealt a serious blow by the sectarian violence. He is forever telling me how he organised and oversaw the building of the first secondary school in his village. It now serves the 10 surrounding villages. He had the first paved road built to his town - Bayt al-Murj or Bayt Qashqa'ur, in which every house is filled with a family member. Before the road was paved, only a donkey track connected the village to the main road, which had been paved only years earlier. Today the village is only a short 10 kilometre drive to Qadmous. When my father-in-law was a child it took hours to get there. The first time he set eyes on Qadmous was at the age of eight.

His grandfather, Ali Ahmed, the great family patriarch, had bought the entire valley from the Ismailis in 1920 for a hundred gold lira and built the town single-handed, clearing the trees and underbrush, terracing the stony hillside, building five water-driven grain mills, the only ones for miles around. He prospered and built the first one-room school house in 1948 to provide primary education to his kids and those of the nearby villages. It was only the third school built in the entire region including Qadmous all the way down the mountains to the edge of Baniyas. He raising twelve children, ten of whom survived to built their own houses in town.

Abu Firas measures himself by his grandfather's accomplishments; last weak he found himself wanting. He was powerless to stop the violence and unable to keep the region on the road to progress established by his forefathers.

"There are no longer any wujha' [literally "faces" or community elders] of consequence in the region that could step into the void to assume authority and restrain the baser instincts of hot heads and the mob," he explained. "The younger generation listens to no one. There is no chamber of commerce in Qadmous, no community organisations or leaders of the town able to stop this sort of confessional nonsense and repair relations between the communities before they ignite," Abu Firas lamented. "Why is this so? Because the government doesn't permit it. It must control everything and appoint its people. There is only the Party. That is why no one does anything. We sit on our verandas drinking tea and visiting their relatives. It is a waste." Not knowing whether to blame himself or his government, Abu Firas blamed his government, but he was not happy doing so. He once loved the Baath Party.

My father-in-law was the most successful of his generation of Qasha`urs, rising to be general and second-in-command in the Navy, but his ambitions and steady rise in the military was cut short at the age of 58. Having served 10 years at the rank of "liwa'," or general, it was up or out according to Syrian law. He was forced to retire. His boss and commander stayed on as head of the Navy well into his 70s because he was related to someone. Even as he grew deaf and unable to carry out his full duties, the commander hung on, forcing able and rising stars like Abu Firas to retire early just as they were reaching their prime.

The living-room to Abu Firas' village house has a large photo prominently displayed of him shaking hands with Gamal Abdul Nasser on graduation day from the Naval Academy in Alexandria, Egypt in 1960. He was part of the Syrian generation that believed in Arabism and which felt certain the military and Baath Party would lead the way to overcoming sectarianism and building a united and strong society. His faith has not survived well.

He was the first to say that the government and Baath Party had failed to head off the violence which overtook Qadmous. By preventing the emergence of civil society in the region and undermining potential wujha' (local figures of authority), such as himself, the government has created a social wasteland, in which normal mechanisms for healing old sectarian wounds cannot emerge, and in which people like Abu Firas are spectators, unable to contribute. The young learn to be selfish, looking after their own families and leaving local affairs in the hands of the government administrators who are sent to the district from somewhere else. They have few role models.

Abu Firas explained how there were long and short-term reasons for the violence. For the long-term reasons, he recounted the long history of sectarian competition in the region - how Ismaili Emirs had ruled the mountains when the Alawites began to spread into the area hundreds of years ago, especially after the Ottomans expelled the Shi'a from Aleppo and its surrounding regions in the 16th century. Alawites were the peasants, treated like serfs and indentured servants. The Ismailis, according to local Alawi lore, grew fat and forgot how to work, slowly selling off their land, but they never forgot their arrogance - at least that is what the many Alawis claimed whom I spoke with. Wars broke out and the Alawite peasantry grew stronger and won battle after battle. They bought up more land and prospered because they are an "ambitious, hardworking, and open-minded people." That is how Alawis explain their success.

The Ismailis for the last 200 years have been moving off the mountain. Salamiyya, the Ismaili town on the outskirts of Hama is a product of this recent migration and loss of Ismaili power in the mountains. In short, the long history of communal animosity lives on. As one Alawi in his 20s insisted to me, "Ismaili merchants and bosses still treat us with disrespect. They are "haqiriin" or of base character. They are jealous because we have been successful and now have the state behind us. They have not learnt." Unfortunately, I did not speak with Ismailis, who, I am sure, would tell a very different story.

The short-term reasons for the violence began with a confrontation between Alawi and Ismaili youth over girls. A group of young Alawi men had come to a family entertainment spot and flirted with Ismaili girls. A scuffle broke out. Later the Ismailis led a noisy delegation to the local police station to protest the behaviour of the Alawi youth and demand an apology be made and steps be taken to punish the offenders. The police director did nothing. Perhaps he thought the dispute would blow over soon enough and required no action? Perhaps he didn't want to offend the local Alawis, or perhaps, being an Alawi himself, he was not sympathetic to the plight of the Ismailis? Maybe, as some people claimed, he was only interested in collecting small bribes for issuing local licences and did not care about anyone in the region?

In revenge, the Alawi community enforced a boycott of Ismaili merchants in town. There has always been a reluctance to buy at the store of an Ismaili, but it had been half-hazard. Most importantly, Ismailis, who make up perhaps 50% of Qadmous proper, monopolise certain businesses, most importantly the sweet shops and furniture stores. In order to take advantage of the boycott, several enterprising Alawis began to import sweets from a local market and sell them in Qadmous to satisfy local demand and make a profit.

This enraged the local Ismaili merchants whose businesses were suffering terribly. The surrounding villages and customer base of Qadmous is almost uniquely Alawi. Seeing their livelihoods being destroyed, the Ismailis stoned the store fronts of their competitors. Then all hell broke lose. That evening Ismaili stores were attacked and burnt, causing an estimated 10 million Syrian Pounds of damage.

The outbreak of sectarian violence in Qadmous comes only a few months after similar clashes tore apart Misyaf, a mountain town some 20 minutes by car from Qadmous. Though less violent, those clashes, which began with a dispute among taxi drivers, inflamed communal tensions between the two Shiite communities who have shared the mountains for 100s of years. Today Qadmous has a new district president, a Christian, who is known for his even-handedness and discipline. He has replaced the Alawi who came from Latakia.

Syria's Baath regime has suffered a terrible blow in the high peeks of the Coastal Mountains. Since 1970, the main legitimising slogan and proudest accomplishment of the state is that it has brought stability and security to Syrians. That legitimacy was badly frayed on the July night that sectarian violence burned through Qadmous. Few people express open devotion to the Baath Party. Most no longer believe that it is helping them to modernise as it once did. On the contrary, they complain that the regime's efforts to dismantle and wipe away all traditional forms of authority have deprived them of any shield against the darker passions of sectarian and ethnic hatred that still simmer below the surface of village life.

As one local resident said to me, "What happened in Qadmous, could happen anywhere in Syria. If the state were lifted off this society, who knows what would happen to our country? Maybe we would become Iraq?" Ironically, the absence of civil society, has created an ever greater need for state authority. Even as people criticise the corruption of local officials, they insist on ever more vigilant state intervention. The absence of alternative sources of authority
and leadership in Syria, means that the authoritarian state is needed more than ever. What would be the alternative? Qadmous? Iraq?
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2006 3:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Times of India Online
Printed from > Editorial


VIEW: Rajasthan to entrust heritage buildings to private trusts

The Rajasthan assembly has brought in a new legislation that allows government to give custody of its temple and heritage buildings to private groups and trusts.

As per the new law the government would not only hand over temples and monuments for maintenance and preservation, but authorise them to charge fees from visiting tourists.

The legislation is being opposed by state home minister Gulab Chand Kataria who has threatened to resign on the issue. That should not deter the government. A country like India, with 5,000 years of civilisation, has a wealth of heritage sites.

Rajasthan is particularly rich in this respect and figures high on the tourist map. Showcasing Rajasthan's immense wealth of historical and cultural treasures requires money, manpower, imagination and expertise.

The government with its limited resources cannot do this effectively. Most of the monuments under the government's charge are badly maintained and poorly displayed. Roping in private parties to renovate, maintain and run these places makes perfect sense.

Today, when tourism is big business and competition tough, you cannot afford to be sloppy. These heritage sites have to be professionally managed to attract tourists.

The new legislation making way for public-private partnership for the upkeep of monuments is a step in the right direction.

Fears that private parties might over-exploit these places for commercial gains or charge exorbitant fees, making them virtually out of bounds for the locals whose heritage it is, are misplaced. Government can easily guard against such misuse by working out detailed MoUs Delhi's Humayun's tomb is an excellent example of public-private partnership.

The involvement of the Aga Khan Trust transformed this mediaeval mausoleum from a crumbling edifice to the best maintained monument in the capital.

Experience of maintenance of parks and public conveniences shows that they are far better maintained in private hands. The state should concentrate its energies on governance, leaving activities like the upkeep of monuments in civil society's domain.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 17, 2006 4:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Women must be empowered rationally

Speakers highlight importance of human rights
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Presentation on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility in Times of Recession’ on March 17 March 16, 2009
Posted by ismailimail in Aga Khan Development Network, Asia, Pakistan.
14 March 2009 Business Recorder

A presentation on ‘CSR in Times of Recession - Experience from IBLF Companies’ will be made at an internal workshop, being organised by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) here on March 17. The International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF), UK, is partnering with the AKDN for this initiative, and two of its senior staff–Ms Amanda Bowman, Director, Corporate Partner Engagement, and Rafal Serafin, Director, The Planning Initiative, will be here for the workshop.

In April 2006, the AKDN had launched a pilot civil society program in eight countries, including Pakistan, to build capacity of civil society organisations in each of these countries to enable them to contribute in a better way to improve the quality of life.

One of the key objectives of this program is to develop better understanding on the part of business about the usefulness of Corporate Social Responsibility (CRS). This includes activities designed to foster strong and effective collaboration between the business sector and civil society to encourage businesses to strengthen their CSR approaches, and to encourage business association to promote CSR.
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Another aspect is ethics. But not ethics born of dogma, but ethics in civil society. Because when governments fail in these parts of the world, it is civil society which steps in to sustain development. And when ethics are not part of education, teaching, examinations; when they are not part of medicine, the quality of care; when they are not part of financial services, then civil society is undermined. Ethics in civil society is another aspect which is absolutely critical." (Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Academy of Sciences, in Lisbon, Portugal, 08 May 2009)

May 30, 2009
A Promise to Be Ethical in an Era of Immorality

When a new crop of future business leaders graduates from the Harvard Business School next week, many of them will be taking a new oath that says, in effect, greed is not good.

Nearly 20 percent of the graduating class have signed “The M.B.A. Oath,” a voluntary student-led pledge that the goal of a business manager is to “serve the greater good.” It promises that Harvard M.B.A.’s will act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.

What happened to making money?

That, of course, is still at the heart of the Harvard curriculum. But at Harvard and other top business schools, there has been an explosion of interest in ethics courses and in student activities — clubs, lectures, conferences — about personal and corporate responsibility and on how to view business as more than a money-making enterprise, but part of a large social community.

“We want to stand up and recite something out loud with our class,” said Teal Carlock, who is graduating from Harvard and has accepted a job at Genentech. “Fingers are now pointed at M.B.A.’s and we, as a class, have a real opportunity to come together and set a standard as business leaders.”

At Columbia Business School, all students must pledge to an honor code: “As a lifelong member of the Columbia Business School community, I adhere to the principles of truth, integrity, and respect. I will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” The code has been in place for about three years and came about after discussions between students and faculty.

In the post-Enron and post-Madoff era, the issue of ethics and corporate social responsibility has taken on greater urgency among students about to graduate. While this might easily be dismissed as a passing fancy — or simply a defensive reaction to the current business environment — business school professors say that is not the case. Rather, they say, they are seeing a generational shift away from viewing an M.B.A. as simply an on-ramp to the road to riches.

Those graduating today, they say, are far more concerned about how corporations affect the community, the lives of its workers and the environment. And business schools are responding with more courses, new centers specializing in business ethics and, in the case of Harvard, student-lead efforts to bring about a professional code of conduct for M.B.A.’s, not unlike oaths that are taken by lawyers and doctors.

“I don’t see this as something that will fade away,” said Diana C. Robertson, a professor of business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s coming from the students. I don’t know that we’ve seen such a surge in this activism since the 1960s. This activism is different, but, like that time, it is student-driven.”

A decade ago, Wharton had one or two professors who taught a required ethics class. Today there are seven teaching an array of ethics classes that Ms. Robertson said were among the most popular at the school. Since 1997, it has had the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research. In addition, over the last five years, students have formed clubs around the issues of ethics that sponsor conferences, work on microfinance projects in Philadelphia or engage in social impact consulting.

“It’s been a dramatic change,” Ms. Robertson added. “This generation was raised learning about the environment and raised with the idea of a social conscience. That does not apply to every student. But this year’s financial crisis and the downturn have brought about a greater emphasis on social ethics and responsibility.”

At Harvard, about 160 from a graduating class of about 800 have signed “The M.B.A. Oath,” which its student advocates contend is the first step in trying to develop a professional code not unlike the Hippocratic Oath for physicians or the pledge taken by lawyers to uphold the law and Constitution.

Part of this has emerged by the beating that Wall Street and financiers have taken in the current economic crisis, which can set the stage for reform, Harvard students say.

“There is the feeling that we want our lives to mean something more and to run organizations for the greater good,” said Max Anderson, one of the pledge’s organizers who is about to leave Harvard and take a job at Bridgewater Associates, a money management firm.

“No one wants to have their future criticized as a place filled with unethical behaviors,” he added. “We want to learn from those mistakes, do things differently and accept our duty to lead responsibly. Realistically, we have tremendous potential to affect society for better or worse. Let’s humbly step up. We are looking out for our own interest, but also for the interest of our employees and the broader public.”

Bruce Kogut, director of the Sanford C. Bernstein & Company Center for Leadership and Ethics at Columbia, said that this emphasis did not mean that students were necessarily going to shun jobs that paid well. Rather, they will think about how they earn their income, not just how much.

At Columbia, an ethics course is required, but students have also formed a popular “Leadership and Ethics Board,” that sponsors lectures with topics like “The Marie Antoinettes of Corporate America.”

“The courses make people aware that the financial crisis is not a technical blip,” Mr. Kogut said. “We’re seeing a generational change that understands that poverty is not just about Africa and India. They see inequities and the role of business to address them.”

Dalia Rahman, who is about to leave Harvard for a job with Goldman Sachs in London, said she signed the pledge because “it takes what we learned in class and makes it more concrete. When you have to make a public vow, it’s a way to commit to uphold principles.”
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trust deficit in relief work: civil society's effective response

ARTICLE (August 28 2010): The floods in Pakistan are described to be of "Biblical proportions". The same rivers that provided a lifeline to its people over the centuries have now submerged a fifth of Pakistan's landmass and made 20 million homeless. Along with the daily dose of newspaper stories and television footages showing images of destruction, destitution, hunger and disease are tales of governmental apathy and mismanagement.

While it would be easy to sensationalise such a situation, it can be said that the magnitude of the tragedy is beyond the scope of any single government. The Katrina tragedy in New Orleans showed that even the most powerful government on earth proved ill equipped to handle the situation. This does not of course excuse a perceived lack of timely action. Nor should it cast a shadow on the heroic work of the military and some local governments.

Perhaps the most effective in the delivery of relief at the grass roots level is Pakistan's civil society. Pockets of credibility and excellence in the civil society sector have slowly become major recipients of flood relief aid donated by local and international philanthropists. Robust as it is, civil society too is not fully equipped to match the task at hand without continued support of government, the people and the international community.

A 1999 landmark study of philanthropic giving by Pakistanis representing all economic segments showed them to be among the most generous on earth, far exceeding the charitable giving in most developing countries. In fact, they gave the same in terms of their per capita income as did US citizens who are regarded the most generous.

Yet many did not give as much as they could afford simply because they lacked trust in those charged with responsibility to direct funds where they were most needed. As a result, leaders of civil society, business and government in Pakistan, with backing from the Geneva-based Aga Khan Development Network, itself a major non-profit social development agency of the world, established the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP).

PCP's objective is to enhance the effectiveness and volume of giving in the country. Private and independent from government and other influences, it has devised a means of identifying and certifying other private, non-profit organisations that could be trusted to distribute donor funds where they are needed, without being diluted by malpractice or excessive administrative charges by unscrupulous administrators.

Today, PCP's certification is accepted as one of the means for assessing the reliability and credibility of CSOs by national and international donors. Certification is also a requisite for recognition by the Government of Pakistan as a basis for tax exemptions. Aid agencies of Australia, Italy and Norway only disburse their support to PCP certified CSOs.

Of the 167 PCP certified organisations, 26 are directly working in relief and rehabilitation of the flood affected people. Some of these organisations have previously been involved in providing relief assistance during the earthquake of 2005, and more recently to over 2 million internally displaced persons in 2009.

Fortunately, the level of credibility presented by PCP certified CSOs is now assisting them and the PCP in mobilising funds for flood relief. The Citizens Foundation, a PCP certified CSO has received tremendous response from the public in support of its programme to provide 20 million meals to the flood affected families, using its network of 650 schools across the country.

Bunyad, another certified organisation working through a network of over 600 schools in the Punjab has set up Child Friendly Places for traumatised children and those who have been separated from their parents. Clean drinking water has also been distributed to 48,000 people as all regular water supplies have been contaminated. The Participatory Village Development Programme in Sindh is already planning the provision of sustainable livelihoods besides providing immediate food relief.

While the trust deficit looms large as a determining factor for philanthropy and international aid to flow into Pakistan, it is heartening that for PCP-certified CSOs, this is not as big an impediment as it once was. This is a time when Pakistan needs all the support it can get to mitigate the suffering of the millions left wrecked by an exceptionally brutal natural calamity.

Reconstruction will be another phase. For the moment, let the citizens of Pakistan carve out a reputation for their exceptional initiatives in alleviating suffering from one of the greatest natural calamities in our country's history. They have demonstrated the ability to stand on their own feet even when government support is hard pressed.

Donors seeking information on how they can help in flood relief may wish to visit the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy's Web site at Information is provided on the role PCP-certified organisations are playing in the current disaster, as well as bank details for both the PCP and its members where donations may be sent. The application of funds sent directly to PCP for distribution through its certified organisations will be monitored and reports sent back to each donor.

(Shams Kassim-Lakha, Chairman of the Board, Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy)
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aleppo Friends Resurrect the Beloved Citadel and City

Sep 02, 2010

Aleppo, Northern Syria, (SANA)- With the increasing importance of civil societies and the expansion of their scope to include various aspects of society beside humanitarian and charity work, civil societies specialized in tourism have recently emerged in light of the growing significance of the tourist sector and its relationship to the country's heritage and culture.

Out of love and recognition of the great value of Aleppo Citadel, which is considered one of the most famous cultural, archeological and tourist landmarks in Syria and a symbol of Aleppo city, Aleppo Citadel Friends Society was established with the aim of supporting the administration, rehabilitation, maintenance and resurrection of Aleppo Citadel and its surroundings.

Adli Qudsi, Head of Aleppo Citadel Friends Society and representative of Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Syria, said in a statement to SANA that the Society works on preserving the documents of the Citadel and its surroundings, publishing brochures and periodicals on its history and that of Aleppo city and providing tourist guides for visitors in a number of languages beside Arabic.

"The Society focuses on increasing tourist awareness and promoting Aleppo Citadel through programs and establishing funds for carrying out the necessary restoration and maintenance works," added Qudsi, pointing out that the civil society includes researchers in Islamic arts and the history of the ancient near east, as well as a number of experts, architectural engineers, writers and economists.

He referred to a comprehensive urban study that is being prepared of the Citadel's surrounding to tackle a number of issues related to traffic movement, building car parking lots, establishing tourist service centers and improving the facades of adjacent buildings and the infrastructure of the streets in the area.

Qudsi also pointed out that the Society has recently set up camera surveillance system around the Citadel with a total cost of SYP 1.5 million (1 USD is equivalent to about 47 SYP).

Member of the Society Khaldoun Fansah also told SANA the Society is working on deigning a guide signboard of Aleppo Citadel to help visitors touring the parts and landmarks inside the Citadel and is preparing a guide book in the Arabic and French languages.

In cooperation with Aga Khan Foundation, Aleppo Citadel Friends Society is also working on a project to publish a book on the restoration and rehabilitation activities conducted in the Citadel between 2000 and 2007, which will be an important record to document aspects of the history of Aleppo Citadel.

H. Said
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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2011 9:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

May 28, 2011
The Weak Foundations of Arab Democracy

Durham, N.C.

The chronic weakness of civil society suggests that viable Arab democracies will not emerge anytime soon.

THE protesters who have toppled or endangered Arab dictators are demanding more freedoms, fair elections and a crackdown on corruption. But they have not promoted a distinct ideology, let alone a coherent one. This is because private organizations have played only a peripheral role and the demonstrations have lacked leaders of stature.

Both limitations are due to the longstanding dearth, across the Arab world, of autonomous nongovernmental associations serving as intermediaries between the individual and the state. This chronic weakness of civil society suggests that viable Arab democracies — or leaders who could govern them — will not emerge anytime soon. The more likely immediate outcome of the current turmoil is a new set of dictators or single-party regimes.

Democracy requires checks and balances, and it is largely through civil society that citizens protect their rights as individuals, force policy makers to accommodate their interests, and limit abuses of state authority. Civil society also promotes a culture of bargaining and gives future leaders the skills to articulate ideas, form coalitions and govern.

The preconditions for democracy are lacking in the Arab world partly because Hosni Mubarak and other Arab dictators spent the past half-century emasculating the news media, suppressing intellectual inquiry, restricting artistic expression, banning political parties, and co-opting regional, ethnic and religious organizations to silence dissenting voices.

But the handicaps of Arab civil society also have historical causes that transcend the policies of modern rulers. Until the establishment of colonial regimes in the late 19th century, Arab societies were ruled under Shariah law, which essentially precludes autonomous and self-governing private organizations. Thus, while Western Europe was making its tortuous transition from arbitrary rule by monarchs to democratic rule of law, the Middle East retained authoritarian political structures. Such a political environment prevented democratic institutions from taking root and ultimately facilitated the rise of modern Arab dictatorships.

Strikingly, Shariah lacks the concept of the corporation, a perpetual and self-governing organization that can be used either for profit-making purposes or to provide social services. Islam’s alternative to the nonprofit corporation was the waqf, a trust established in accordance with Shariah to deliver specified services forever, through trustees bound by essentially fixed instructions. Until modern times, schools, charities and places of worship, all organized as corporations in Western Europe, were set up as waqfs in the Middle East.

A corporation can adjust to changing conditions and participate in politics. A waqf can do neither. Thus, in premodern Europe, politically vocal churches, universities, professional associations and municipalities provided counterweights to monarchs. In the Middle East, apolitical waqfs did not foster social movements or ideologies.

Starting in the mid-19th century, the Middle East imported the concept of the corporation from Europe. In stages, self-governing Arab municipalities, professional associations, cultural groups and charities assumed the social functions of waqfs. Still, Arab civil society remains shallow by world standards.

A telling indication is that in their interactions with private or public organizations, citizens of Arab states are more likely than those in advanced democracies to rely on personal relationships with employees or representatives. This pattern is reflected in corruption statistics of Transparency International, which show that in Arab countries relationships with government agencies are much more likely to be viewed as personal business deals. A historically rooted preference for personal interactions limits the significance of organizations, which helps to explain why nongovernmental organizations have played only muted roles in the Arab uprisings.

A less powerful business sector also hindered democracy. The Middle East reached the industrial era with an atomistic private sector unequipped to compete with giant enterprises that had come to dominate the global economy. Until then, Arab businesses consisted exclusively of small, short-lived enterprises established under Islamic partnership law. This was a byproduct of Islam’s egalitarian inheritance system, which aimed to spread wealth. Successful enterprises were typically dissolved when a partner died, and to avoid the consequent losses Arab businessmen kept their enterprises both small and transitory.

Arab businesses had less political clout than their counterparts in Western Europe, where huge, established companies contributed to civil society directly as a political force against arbitrary government. They also did so indirectly by supporting social causes. For example, during industrialization, major European businesses financed political campaigns, including the mass education and antislavery movements.

Since the late 19th century, commercial codes transplanted from abroad have enabled Arabs to form large, durable enterprises like major banks, telecommunications giants and retail chains. Still, Arab companies tend to be smaller relative to global norms, which limits their power vis-à-vis the state. Although large Western corporations have been known to suppress political competition and restrict individual rights, in Arab countries it is the paucity of large private companies that poses the greater obstacle to democracy.

Despite these handicaps, there is some cause for optimism when it comes to democratization in the Middle East. The Arab world does not have to start from scratch. A panoply of private organizations are already present, though mainly in embryonic form. And if the current turmoil produces regimes more tolerant of grassroots politics and diversity of opinion, more associations able to defend individual freedoms will surely arise.

Moreover, the cornerstones of a modern economy are in place and widely accepted. Economic features at odds with Shariah, like banks and corporations, were adopted sufficiently long ago to become part of local culture. Their usefulness makes them appealing even to Islamists who find fault with other features of modernity.

Over the last 150 years, the Arab world has achieved structural economic transformations that took Europe a millennium. Its economic progress, whatever the shortcomings, has been remarkable. If political progress has lagged, this is partly because forming strong nongovernmental organizations takes time. Within a generation or two, as the economic transformations of the past century-and-a-half continue to change the way citizens interact with organizations, insurmountable pressure for democracy may yet arise even in those corners of the Arab world where civil society is weakest.

A stronger civil society alone will not bring about democracy. After all, private organizations can promote illiberal and despotic agendas, as Islamist organizations that denounce political pluralism and personal freedoms demonstrate. But without a strong civil society, dictators will never yield power, except in the face of foreign intervention.

Independent and well-financed private organizations are thus essential to the success of democratic transitions. They are also critical to maintaining democracies, once they have emerged. Indeed, without strong private players willing and able to resist undemocratic forces, nascent Arab democracies could easily slip back into authoritarianism.

Timur Kuran, a professor of economics and political science at Duke, is the author of “The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East.”
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Companies asked to find ways of improving productivity
Published: September 29, 2011

IBM Pakistan Country General Manager Humayun Bashir
Stock Exchange Managing Director Nadeem Naqvi IBM Pakistan Country General Manager Humayun Bashir Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy head Dr Shamsh Kassim Lakha

KARACHI: Companies should analyse how they can improve their productivity in the face of present-day challenges despite the fact a number of them have significantly improved their earnings with innovative business ideas over the last few years, top leaders of national and multinational firms say.

Speaking at Pakistan Business Leaders’ Summit here on Wednesday, they emphasised the role of business leaders in present challenging times and urged the private sector to find local solutions to local problems.

The speakers said those who do not change with time would face more challenges because the world has changed dramatically after the global financial crisis of 2007-08.

“Our company brings major changes in its business strategy after every 18 months to adapt to the changes,” IBM Pakistan Country General Manager Humayun Bashir said. “If we give space, others will come and fill the gap and we will lose what we could get with innovative solutions.”

Bashir, who is also the president of American Business Council (ABC) and vice-president of Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), urged business leaders to create new avenues along with their ongoing businesses.

Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy Chairman Dr Shamsh Kassim Lakha, while speaking on the topic of “leaving a leadership legacy”, said the most important legacy of business leaders is ethical and moral value.

Lakha, who has led Aga Khan University Hospital for 27 years, argued that leaving behind big buildings is not the best legacy of leaders. “The values that a leader left behind are actually bigger than big buildings because values always guide organisations, especially in challenging times and organisational dilemma,” he said.

Comptel Corporation Finland Senior Vice President and Head of Middle East-Africa Region Syed Veqarul Islam said employees notice minute details of leaders that give leaders a strong power to change their subordinates.

“Top civil and military offices in Islamabad have separate toilets for officers and junior staff,” Islam said, adding “how can you expect to bring change when a leader even does not consider others equal to him.”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2011.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AKDN Civil Society Director Talks with AKF USA

Tue, 2012-03-20 21:52 — admin

Nick McKinlay, Director of Civil Society for the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), recently visited Washington, DC to talk about the importance of and next steps for civil society throughout all of AKDN's work in development.

Read the interview with Nick McKinlay by AKF USA below:

Can you explain what civil society is and how village organizations contribute?
McKinlay: We’re talking about civil society as being private energies for public purposes. In the simplest terms, basically where people come together to do something that benefits society as a whole and, in a sense, doing something for others or for their community.

For AKDN and the communities where we work, Village Organizations are very important because they become the vehicles for change in terms of people’s economic and social opportunities. For example, in many of our rural support programs Village Organizations act as a venue where all of the villages come together and start to make joint decisions about how they can achieve more by working together.

So it becomes a good vehicle for managing and making plans around what’s important for the community. Increasingly, we’ve seen these Village Organizations become in a sense federated where you may have a whole range of Village Organizations coming together to create another body that represents a much wider area. These bodies are also now able to interface with local government and are really creating a voice of participation for people to actually, beyond a democratic election, participate in decision making about what happens for them in their society. This is what we call participatory governance.

How do Village Organizations play a role in improving individual households?
McKinlay: I think in many of the rural locations that we work, Village Organizations have allowed people to come together and collectively say, “Look, if we work together and think together and pool our resources together, then everybody benefits.”

It’s also important to understand that everything isn’t equal. In any location, some people have more than others, some people may be disadvantaged. There may be widows living in the village, there may be elderly people that perhaps don’t have the same assets or opportunities. So I think having a group that’s more structured like a Village organization also allows people to look at equity and see how maybe you can take care of people who are more vulnerable.

What is the benefit of strengthening civil society organizations in post-conflict countries?
McKinlay: One of the things we're looking at in Afghanistan is how to provide knowledge and skills to build the capacity of civil society organizations to make a bigger contribution to society.

We have plans to develop institutions that would provide certified training and capacity building to civil society organizations across the country. The idea is that certification would be recognized by international agencies and not only be a capacity building approach but also, over time, increase the number of high quality civil society associations that would gain credibility in receiving funding and donations.

It's very important to build civil society in a country like Afghanistan so that it can help propel the country forward.

Civil society is integral to the AKDN's approach. How does it overlap with other sectors where the AKDN works?
McKinlay: I think health's a good example. The AKDN’s health programs involve communities and community organizations where people elect or select representatives and have a voice in how health services are managed. I think that ownership, involvement and participation are all important parts of a civil society approach. You see this approach across almost all of the activities of the AKDN.

In Pakistan, AKF USA supports the Chitral Child Survivors Program, which engages civil society to measure improvements in health outcomes. I think that there are lots of statistics and measurements that show a positive impact. If you involve people in these activities, you have much more of a chance of including everybody and making sure that there is some equity in terms of how resources are used. Also, there's some ownership.

Another important part of what we do is to look at sustainability. If there's external funding that comes into an area through a program which is time bound, can the program continue to completion? There’s a better chance of those activities continuing if community people are involved and own the process from the beginning. These are things that they want and need.

How do you view the connection between civil society and community philanthropy?
McKinlay: The connection between community philanthropy and civil society is important because if external assistance is provided for only a certain amount of time and then stopped, how do you continue what you started? What's important about community philanthropy is the need to build up local assets, which may be physical assets, or may be issues related to skills and knowledge.

It is also important to build local governance and accountability systems so trust and transparency are there from the beginning. And I think these things are really important because you need to make sure that there is a sustainable plan in place about how you as a community, organization and even village are going to continue to ensure your own development when outside funding dries up.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

July 12, 2012
Why Our Elites Stink

Through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Protestant Establishment sat atop the American power structure. A relatively small network of white Protestant men dominated the universities, the world of finance, the local country clubs and even high government service.

Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment. People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance.

Yet, as this meritocratic elite has taken over institutions, trust in them has plummeted. It’s not even clear that the brainy elite is doing a better job of running them than the old boys’ network. Would we say that Wall Street is working better now than it did 60 years ago? Or government? The system is more just, but the outcomes are mixed. The meritocracy has not fulfilled its promise.

Christopher Hayes of MSNBC and The Nation believes that the problem is inherent in the nature of meritocracies. In his book, “Twilight of the Elites,” he argues that meritocratic elites may rise on the basis of grades, effort and merit, but, to preserve their status, they become corrupt. They create wildly unequal societies, and then they rig things so that few can climb the ladders behind them. Meritocracy leads to oligarchy.

Hayes points to his own elite training ground, Hunter College High School in New York City. You have to ace an entrance exam to get in, but affluent parents send their kids to rigorous test prep centers and now few poor black and Latino students can get in.

Baseball players get to the major leagues through merit, but then some take enhancement drugs to preserve their status. Financiers work hard to get jobs at the big banks, but then some rig the game for their own mutual benefit.

Far from being the fairest of all systems, he concludes, the meritocracy promotes gigantic inequality and is fundamentally dysfunctional. No wonder institutional failure has been the leitmotif of our age.

It’s a challenging argument but wrong. I’d say today’s meritocratic elites achieve and preserve their status not mainly by being corrupt but mainly by being ambitious and disciplined. They raise their kids in organized families. They spend enormous amounts of money and time on enrichment. They work much longer hours than people down the income scale, driving their kids to piano lessons and then taking part in conference calls from the waiting room.

Phenomena like the test-prep industry are just the icing on the cake, giving some upper-middle-class applicants a slight edge over other upper-middle-class applicants. The real advantages are much deeper and more honest.

The corruption that has now crept into the world of finance and the other professions is not endemic to meritocracy but to the specific culture of our meritocracy. The problem is that today’s meritocratic elites cannot admit to themselves that they are elites.

Everybody thinks they are countercultural rebels, insurgents against the true establishment, which is always somewhere else. This attitude prevails in the Ivy League, in the corporate boardrooms and even at television studios where hosts from Harvard, Stanford and Brown rail against the establishment.

As a result, today’s elite lacks the self-conscious leadership ethos that the racist, sexist and anti-Semitic old boys’ network did possess. If you went to Groton a century ago, you knew you were privileged. You were taught how morally precarious privilege was and how much responsibility it entailed. You were housed in a spartan 6-foot-by-9-foot cubicle to prepare you for the rigors of leadership.

The best of the WASP elites had a stewardship mentality, that they were temporary caretakers of institutions that would span generations. They cruelly ostracized people who did not live up to their codes of gentlemanly conduct and scrupulosity. They were insular and struggled with intimacy, but they did believe in restraint, reticence and service.

Today’s elite is more talented and open but lacks a self-conscious leadership code. The language of meritocracy (how to succeed) has eclipsed the language of morality (how to be virtuous). Wall Street firms, for example, now hire on the basis of youth and brains, not experience and character. Most of their problems can be traced to this.

If you read the e-mails from the Libor scandal you get the same sensation you get from reading the e-mails in so many recent scandals: these people are brats; they have no sense that they are guardians for an institution the world depends on; they have no consciousness of their larger social role.

The difference between the Hayes view and mine is a bit like the difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. He wants to upend the social order. I want to keep the current social order, but I want to give it a different ethos and institutions that are more consistent with its existing ideals.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FACT SHEET: U.S. Support for Civil Society

"The President also announced a new, groundbreaking initiative to support and connect civil society across the globe through the launch of Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers, in partnership with the Government of Sweden and the Aga Khan Development Network. Over the next two years, up to six networked Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers will be created worldwide. These Centers will connect civil society organizations at the regional and global level to each other, new partners, and resources; encourage peer-to-peer learning; provide civil society organizations and their networks with virtual and physical platforms to access tools and technologies that will bolster their work; and amplify civil society voices around the world. Civil society organizations, academia, and technology partners will provide additional financial and in-kind resources, as well as technical expertise, to enhance the value of the Centers to civil society."

Remarks by the President at Clinton Global Initiative

"Second, we’re creating new innovation centers to empower civil society groups around the world. And I want to thank our partners in this effort, including the government of Sweden and the Aga Khan Development Network. Starting next year, civil society groups will be able to use these centers to network and access knowledge and technology and funding that they need to put their ideas into action. And we’ll start with six centers in Latin America, in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the Middle East and in Asia. Oppressive governments are sharing “worst practices” to weaken civil society. We’re going to help you share the “best practices” to stay strong and vibrant."
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2014 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
September 23, 2014
FACT SHEET: U.S. Support for Civil Society

In September 2013, President Obama launched Stand with Civil Society, a global call to action to support, defend, and sustain civil society amid a rising tide of restrictions on its operations globally. Working in partnership with other governments, the philanthropic community, and multilateral initiatives, including the Community of Democracies and Lifeline: Embattled CSO Assistance Fund, the United States Government has focused on three lines of effort over the past year: (1) promoting laws, policies, and practices that foster a supportive environment for civil society in accordance with international norms; (2) coordinating multilateral, diplomatic pressure to push back against undue restrictions on civil society; and (3) identifying innovative ways of providing technical, financial, and logistical support to promote a transparent and vibrant civil society. The United States is the largest supporter of civil society in the world, with more than $2.7 billion invested to strengthen civil society since 2010.

Today, President Obama deepened the United States’ commitment to Stand with Civil Society by issuing a Presidential Memorandum to U.S. agencies engaged abroad. Specifically, the Presidential Memorandum directs U.S. agencies to defend and strengthen civil society abroad by: consulting regularly with civil society organizations to explain the views of the United States, seek their perspectives, utilize their expertise, and build strong partnerships to address joint challenges; resisting efforts by foreign governments to dictate the nature of U.S. assistance to civil society, the selection of individuals or entities to implement U.S. Government programs, or the selection of recipients or beneficiaries of those programs; opposing efforts by foreign governments to impose excessive restrictions on the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association; and creating greater opportunities for exchange and dialogue between governments and civil society. Through this directive, the President is mobilizing the U.S. Government to address the global crackdown on civil society.

The President also announced a new, groundbreaking initiative to support and connect civil society across the globe through the launch of Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers, in partnership with the Government of Sweden and the Aga Khan Development Network. Over the next two years, up to six networked Regional Civil Society Innovation Centers will be created worldwide. These Centers will connect civil society organizations at the regional and global level to each other, new partners, and resources; encourage peer-to-peer learning; provide civil society organizations and their networks with virtual and physical platforms to access tools and technologies that will bolster their work; and amplify civil society voices around the world. Civil society organizations, academia, and technology partners will provide additional financial and in-kind resources, as well as technical expertise, to enhance the value of the Centers to civil society.

The Administration is committing additional resources and taking new actions – in partnership with other governments, regional and multilateral institutions and bodies, the philanthropy community, and the private sector – to expand the space for civil society around the world and advance the Stand with Civil Society Agenda:

Providing core funding for the Community of Democracies (CD). The United States will provide $3 million over three years in core funding to CD to strengthen the architecture for global diplomatic action when governments are considering new laws, regulations, or administrative measures that restrict civil society in a manner inconsistent with their international obligations and commitments, including those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Financial Action Task Force. This funding will also help CD in its efforts to repeal or reform excessive restrictions on civil society through expert consultations and dialogue with civil society representatives from repressive environments.

Operationalizing CD-UNITED (Using New Investments to Empower Democracy). The United States is supporting a groundbreaking effort that enables governments and organizations in CD to pool resources and co-finance projects that strengthen civil society and democracy worldwide. From training women activists in Central Asia to helping citizens and the media monitor elections in North Africa, CD-UNITED is making it easy for donors to team up and provide multilateral funding that supports civic engagement and citizen action. The new core funding for CD from the United States will allow CD-UNITED to build civil society partnerships and projects with courageous organizations in more countries around the world.

Expanding the Legal Enabling Environment Program (LEEP). An increasing number of governments are inhibiting the free operation of civil society and cutting off civil society organizations’ ability to receive funding from legitimate sources. In some cases, these restrictions arise out of the implementation of laws, regulations, and administrative measures that are being inappropriately applied; in other cases, the laws, regulations, and administrative measures are themselves problematic. The U.S. Government will expand the LEEP program, which is implemented by International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), to further strengthen legal and regulatory environments for civil society by providing technical assistance, financial support to partner organizations, training, and expert research to mitigate restrictions on civil society.

Coordinating with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to support civic participation and making government more responsive, effective, and accountable. OGP’s 64 participating countries represent one-third of the world’s population and have made more than 2,000 open government reform commitments since 2011. OGP National Action Plans (NAPs), developed through consultations between government and civil society, commit to advance transparency, accountability, citizen engagement, and technological innovation for good governance. The United States consulted with the general public, a broad range of civil society stakeholders, academia, and the private sector in developing its first two National Action Plans in 2011 and 2013. Globally, the United States works with participating countries to deepen engagement with civil society organizations to improve good governance in key thematic areas, such as the environment, health and education. The United States strongly supports the development of OGP’s Rapid Response Policy to respond when participating countries do not fulfill their commitments to inclusive governance.

Consulting with civil society. Over the past year, the U.S. Government has held public and private consultations with civil society organizations to explore new approaches and partnerships around civil society sustainability and civic space. Consultations included a Partners’ Forum in June on “The Challenge of Closing Space” and the Civil Society Forum of the African Leaders Summit in August. Most recently, in September, the Asia Civil Society Experience Summit in Indonesia (co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme and others) brought together over 150 participants from civil society, government, and the private sector from 21 countries across Asia. A joint statement by participating civil society organizations called on civil society to leverage information and communication technologies to strengthen regional coalitions; called on the international community to improve donor coordination and promote innovative partnerships with non-traditional actors; and called for civil society and international partners to engage local governments to collaborate with civil society to solve community problems.

Enhancing efforts with other governments and within intergovernmental bodies to protect civil society while combating terrorist activity. The United States is committed to working with relevant institutions and bodies, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to implement laws on combating terrorist financing while working to protect the legitimate activities of civil society organizations from being disrupted. For example, the United States has worked closely with the FATF over the past year to increase engagement with civil society, including in the development of the FATF Non-Profit Organization Typology Report, and supports the inclusion of civil society during the important FATF anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance country assessment process. In the coming year, the Administration will continue to work with the FATF and seek continued consultation with the private sector to revise the FATF Best Practices on protecting non-profit organizations from abuse by terrorist organizations.

Expanding assistance to Lifeline: Embattled CSOs Assistance Fund. The Administration will contribute an additional $2 million to Lifeline, a multilateral initiative in which the United States participates. This builds on the $5 million that has been provided to date. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Norway have also renewed their financial commitments to Lifeline. This funding will augment emergency assistance available to civil society organizations under threat and deliver more coordinated diplomatic engagement in priority countries. Since its founding in 2011, Lifeline has assisted 446 civil society organizations in 85 countries.

Developing the Next Generation of Civil Society through the establishment of an Asian Civil Society and Non-Profit Management Curriculum Program. The U.S. Government is partnering with Khon Kaen University in Thailand to establish Southeast Asia’s first School for Civil Society and Non-profit Management. This program will allow 140 university students per year, as well as 40 civil society leaders from throughout the Mekong Lower Basin, to complete a degree or certificate program that builds their non-profit management skills. Over the next three years, the University will develop Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs as well as executive certification (non-degree) programs, and will serve as a regional hub for coordination, best practice exchange, and networking among civil society leaders.

Emerging Global Leaders Initiative: Atlas Corps Fellows. The United States Government and Atlas Corps will partner to bring 100 of the world’s best social change leaders to the United States on a leadership development fellowship, each ranging from 6-18 months. As part of the program, Atlas Corps will convene fellows three times in Washington, D.C. for leadership training and place them at leading civil society organizations across the United States.
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