Blog Posts

Addressing Inequality in the Middle East and North Africa

by Emma Sky

Twenty-one billionaires in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) saw their wealth increase by nearly $10 billion since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, according to a recent Oxfam report “For a decade of hope not austerity in the Middle East and North Africa: Towards a fair and inclusive recovery to fight inequality.” The region’s richest amassed more than double the regional emergency funds provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to respond to the pandemic, and almost five times the United Nation’s COVID-19 humanitarian appeal for MENA.

Before the virus hit, the Middle East was already one of the most unequal regions in the world. The pandemic has exposed the deep inequalities and massive failures in economic systems in the Middle East which leave millions without jobs, healthcare, or...

From hate speech to good speech: moderating online content in a free society

by Juan Carlos Salamanca

By the early 2010s, social media platforms had connected the world and provided a platform for those voices that had previously been muted. There was a tangible excitement for the potential that platforms like Twitter and Facebook represented in the fulfillment of the democratic values of free speech, equality and participation. Movements such as the Arab Spring seemed to support this techno optimism.

However, by 2020, we have learned that social media platforms can be used for brutal oppression and against democratic values — clear examples of this are the incitement to genocide in Facebook against Rohingya Muslims in MyanmarRussian interference through social media platforms in the 2016 US elections, or the cases in India where WhatsApp has been used to organize lynchings — ...

Physical Activity in the Good Society

by Luke Grenfell-Shaw

In February, I went for a jog with a running group with a difference. Each person had a cancer diagnosis, and was dealing with it in a hugely positive fashion, through the power of exercise. As we ran, I heard stories of incredible fortitude, bravery and positivity. 5K Your Way, the small charity behind the group, helps to empower these individuals, who are literally facing the challenge of their lifetime. This prompted me to reflect on the power of exercise to help those facing great challenges in our society. This is what part of the Good Society looks like.

In the Good Society, individuals, communities and wider groups need to overcome challenges faced on a personal, community and societal level, for each individual to live their most fulfilling life and to drive society in a positive direction. This requires tackling the obstacles we encounter with energy, determination and positivity...

Gender Equality in the Good Society

by Emma Sky, Co-Founder and Co-Host at Good Society Forum

Although there has been considerable progress since the 1995 conference on women in Beijing, gender equality has yet to be attained particularly in the Arab world, reflected Tunisian politician Samia Melki, at a Good Society Forum webinar on 8 July. Samia, who is president of Kadirat and member of the steering committee of Solidarity for African women’s rights network, observed that women’s political participation in the region is hindered by male interpretations of the Quran, traditions and culture.

In some countries, the Arab uprisings helped women achieve greater rights through revised constitutions and increased representation in parliament and government. The uprisings were initiated by what Samia described as “secular and progressive forces.” However, she noted that they also unleashed repressive, conservative forces....

How do we embed racial equity in our future vision of the good society?

by Nizam Uddin, Co-Founder and Co-Host at Good Society Forum

“Our visions for racial equity are so small that we’re asking only to die at the same rate as others”. This unsettling truth from our most recent webinar encapsulates how the coronavirus pandemic has exposed deep racial fault lines in our societies, including entrenched inequalities that have led to disproportionate health and economic impacts on minority communities, with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Groups more likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts in the UK, and the same being true for African-American and Hispanic communities in the United States.

The brutal murder of George Floyd captured this tragic interplay both visibly and symbolically, from the systemic police violence that physically killed Mr. Floyd through to the desperate pleas of “I can’t breathe” echoing out during a global pandemic targeting the respiratory system...

Building inclusive and welcoming societies in a time of COVID divisions

by Nizam Uddin, Co-Founder and Co-Host at Good Society Forum

As the human and economic toll of the coronavirus crisis continues to reveal itself, there has been little to celebrate. One positive story, however, has been the way local communities right across the globe have responded, from coming together to clap for our nurses, doctors and key workers, to locally self-organising and providing mutual support to help our most vulnerable neighbours. It has shown us the potential for positive relationships between different groups in society and that a new social contract with each other is possible.

But as our recent Good Society Forum Webinar on building inclusive and welcoming societies highlighted, this is against a very challenging backdrop that will require significant focus and resource to achieve...

International cooperation for the good society

by Emma Sky, Co-Founder and Co-Host at Good Society Forum

The spreading of a virus from a wet market in Wuhan to all corners of the globe has shown how interconnected the world is. And yet in the face of the pandemic, multilateral institutions were slow to respond.

At a Good Society Forum webinar on 10 June, Michel Rentenaar, the Netherlands Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO, asserted that NATO — a 70-year old organization comprising 30 allies — prides itself on providing security to almost a billion people. Yet when COVID19 hit Europe, this was a threat it was not prepared to face.

However, NATO officials quickly realized that the pandemic could exacerbate other crises and that action was required on its part...

Art and the ‘Good Society’

by Emma Sky, Co-Founder and Co-Host at Good Society Forum

It is generally appreciated that art has an intrinsic value in that it enriches individual lives. At a webinar on 7 June 2020, hosted by the Good Society Forum, Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi asserted that it art also has a societal value. Al-Qassemi is an Emirati columnist and researcher, and the Founder of Barjeel Art Foundation. He was a 2018 Yale World Fellow and taught a class at Yale on the Politics of Middle Eastern Art. Al-Qassemi described how in the Arab world, art played an instrumental role in the formation of national identity during the 20th century. He used the example of the prominent Egyptian sculptor, Mahmoud Mokhtar, who was commissioned to sculpt a monument that he called Nahdat Misr, Egypt’s Awakening. He depicted a woman with her hand on a sphynx, lifting up her veil. It symbolized both modernity as well as rootedness in Egypt’s Pharaonic past. Egypt’s different peoples of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Greeks each have their own heritage — but Egypt’s Pharaonic heritage provides a unifying sense of identity of which all Egyptians are proud.

Will the coronavirus change the future of food?

by Nizam Uddin, Co-Founder and Co-Host at Good Society Forum

This is a question the Good Society Forum explored with José Luis Chicoma, Executive Director of Ethos Public Policy Lab (Mexico); Avi Szapiro, chef and owner of Roia Restaurant in New Haven CT (USA); Soledad Barrutti, an investigative journalist and best-selling author of books Mala Leche and Malcomidos on food systems in Latin America (Argentina); and Hallie Davison, a documentary producer whose work includes the James Beard Award-winning Netflix series The Taco Chronicles (USA).

What was immediately clear from our panelists is a sentiment that has emerged across all our webinars, COVID has facilitated a depth of inquiry into the theme that is unprecedented in our lifetimes. More people are asking questions about where our food is coming from, whether lockdown measures will enable us to even get our food, and just who is having to go into work to ensure we are all able to eat...

Should we be looking to cities for leadership in a post-COVID world?

by Nizam Uddin, Co-Founder and Co-Host at Good Society Forum

This is the question the Good Society Forum explored at our recent webinar with Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol (UK), Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr OBE, Mayor of Freetown (Sierra Leone); Ufuk Kâhya, Deputy Mayor of Hertogenbosch (Netherlands) and Professor Sheila Foster, Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University and Chair of the Global Parliament of Mayors Advisory Committee.

We know more than half of the people in the world now live in cities and by 2050 that number is expected to rise to 68%. Cities and concentrated urban centres are where wealth and power are concentrated in most countries, but also where inequality...

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