Forum convenes international roundtable on diversity

Michael Schneider of the EU Committee of Regions (left), Petra Bendel of the Central Institute for Regional and Area Studies, and Frank Delmartino of Leuven University ponder the question of diversity at the Forum’s international roundtable in Brussels.

The Forum of Federations organized an international roundtable on "Unity and diversity in federal countries » in Brussels recently in partnership with the European Union’s Committee of the Regions. The roundtable, the seventh in the Global Dialogue series, brought together participating experts from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Nigeria, Russia, Switzerland, Spain, and the United States.

Roundtable members explored the challenges in responding to diversity faced by federations around the world. These challenges ranged from the difficulties of managing bi-national federations, to the role of second chambers, to the integration of new immigrants into existing federations. Roundtable participants also considered the challenges around the preservation of the rights of indigenous peoples in multicultural states, and the protection of minorities within minorities.

Key questions addressed by the roundtable included:

1. What do social solidarity and collective responsibility mean in federal systems?
2. Is a three-tiered federation composed of a central government, regions and municipalities successful in effectively promoting the recognition, remedying and upholding of diversity and in reconciling it with the suppression of socio-economic inequalities?
3. To what extent are constitutional silences and ambiguities, or the political avoidance or deferment of sensitive regional issues, viable strategies (even in the short-term) for sustaining unity in diversity in deeply divided societies?
4. If federalism is designed to accommodate territorially-based communal groups, then which groups have legitimate claims to have their own constituent states or provinces? Once such states are created, do they have an inherent right to exist in perpetuity?
5. Are regional political parties diversifying agencies or unifying forces in federal democracies?
6. How can one build legitimate and inclusive institutions in multiethnic societies, particularly when all the different groups taken alone at the federal level are all minorities?
7. In Canada, relations between the center and the provinces is focused on direct bargaining between the executives of both orders of government; in other federations there is much more emphasis on accommodation within central institutions such as the upper chamber. What are the consequences of these two different patterns?
8. What role do power-sharing arrangements which involve second chambers play for the management of diversity?
9. How should the federal system adjust to demographic changes affecting ethnic composition of « ethnic » regions and thus their legitimacy?
10. Have shifts in the conceptualization of internal diversity and cultural differences taken place with the increase of immigration? Do national or regional identities feel threatened by new minorities?
11. Under what demographic, social and other conditions are territorial or ethnic autonomy arrangements both viable and helpful to indigenous peoples?
12. Should the rights of minorities be protected mainly by the constituent units such as provinces or states or through federal legislative or constitutional provisions?

The international roundtable was held on June 10 and June 11, 2008. Participants from the Forum of Federations included: Arnold Koller, Chair of the Board; George Anderson, President and CEO; Rupak Chattopadhyay, Senior Director Global Programs and Head, International Conferences, and Felix Knüpling, Director, Europe Programs Global Dialogue Manager.

Participants from the Committee of the Regions included: Gerhard Stahl, Secretary General of the Committee of Regions (CoR); Michael Schneider, CoR member; Karl Heinz Klär, CoR member; Michel Lebrun, CoR member; Werner Heinrich Jostmeier, CoR member; Rüdiger Sinn, Cabinet Secretary General; Béatrice Taulègne, head of the Forward studies Unit; Isabelle Dirkx, Forward Studies Unit; Hendrik Theunissen, Forward studies Unit; Valentina Staveris, Forward Studies Unit; Jose Pedro Pessoa E Costa; Tereschenko Victor; Yvonne Nasshoven, Secretary General assistant Trans European Policy Studies Association; Claire Dhéret, Fondation Robert Schuman Brussels Office; Elisa Rodaro, Network and Subsidiarity Unit; Arianna Arlanch, Press Unit Events European Network of Political Foundations member.

Country coordinators and other participants included: Nicholas Aroney, University of Queensland; Frank Delmartino, Faculty of Social Sciences, International Relations Section, Catholic University of Leuven – Centre for Peace Research and Strategy; Vincent Defraiteur, JDDV Advocaten Avocats; Hugues Dumont, Doyen, Faculté de Droit, Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis; Johanne Poirier, Centre de droit public, Faculté de droit, Université Libre de Bruxelles; Astrid.VanderHaegen, Doyen, Faculté de droit, Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis; Sébastien van Drooghenbroeck, Doyen, Faculté de droit , Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis; Marcus Faro de Castro, Universidade de Brasília, Faculdade de Direito; Gilberto Marcos Antonio Rodrigues, Universidade Católica de Santos; Richard Simeon, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto; Ronald Watts, Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, Queens University; Assefa Fiseha, Ethiopian Civil Service College, Faculty of Law; Mohammed Habib, Addis Ababa University; Roland Sturm, Lehrstuhl I, Institut für Politische Wissenschaft; Petra Bendel, Central Institute for Regional and Area Studies (CI); Horst Risse, Secretary to the Joint Commission of the Budestag and Bundesrat on the Modernisation of the Federal Order; Markus Söbbeke, Deutscher Städtetag, Büroleiter des Hauptgeschäftsführers; Henrik Scheller, Projektmanager Aktion Demographischer Wandel; Bertelsmann Stiftung; Balveer Arora, Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences; Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Ravi Dhingra, Government of Himachal Pradesh; Sandeep Shastri, International Academy for Creative Teaching; Rotimi Suberu, Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan; Irina Busygina, Centre for Regional Political Studies, Department of Political Science, Moscow State Institute of International Relations; Andreas Heinemann-Gruder, Bonn International Center for Conversion; César Colino, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia; Kenan Hadzimusic, Club de Madrid; Clem McCartney, Club de Madrid; Luis Moreno, Unidad de Políticas Comparadas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas; Thomas Fleiner, Institute of Federalism, University of Fribourg; Thomas Pfisterer, Former Senator, Member of Cantonal Government, Federal Judge, Professor University of St. Gallen; Maya Hertig Randall, Université de Genève, Faculté de droit; John Kincaid, Lafayette College.

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