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Public Lecture on “Communities of Solidarity”, Antwerp, September 2013
19 September 2013
In the framework of a meeting of the SCRIBANI-network ( www.scribani.net ), consisting of 16 European Jesuit centres reflecting on social justice in Europe, UCSIA, as the coordinator of the network, organized this session on the topic of ‘Communities of Solidarity’.
Violence and injustice fracture societies and marginalise vulnerable groups. Is it possible to avoid these mechanisms of exclusion by supporting new forms of solidarity that may contribute to the reparation of social ties in broken communities? Communities of solidarity can offer the necessary conditions for concrete action towards reintegration of broken relations and redistribution of wealth and welfare. These issues were reflected upon by experts involved in academic research on the ethics of solidarity, the welfare state and restorative justice.
The President of the SCRIBANI network, Mark Rotsaert SJ, introduced the topic of the session as an appeal to think about how ‘broken’ people may be integrated in decision making processes in view of a better future. The Academic Director of UCSIA, Professor jacques Haers SJ, referred to the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus that encourages to create communities of solidarity as social change involves more than economic and political transformation. Working towards human development requires a commitment to the excluded. The forthcoming SCRIBANI conference on energy transition in Paris will raise the question in how far such transition might become ‘a trap for the poor’.
Professor Michael Reder, Director of research projects on the global common good at the Institute for Social and Development Studies in Munich, gave a social philosophical analysis on global justice and local cultural traditions of solidarity. The concept of global justice ignores the capacities for solidarity of local communities and as such the cultural plurality in which solidarity is rooted. Moral values are less a case of universal regulation than an exercise in social practice. The ‘organic’ solidarity cannot be replaced by the abstract solidarity of state regulated welfare distribution.
Professor Bea Cantillon, Director of the Centre for Social Policy Herman Deleeck at the University of Antwerp, started from the premise that justice requires mechanisms and institutions to redistribute resource. She opposed this horizontal solidarity to the vertical distribution or organic solidarity between citizens. The system of the welfare state was a powerful tool in the post-war fight against poverty and inequality. Today these welfare states face two major challenges. On the one hand, national institutions seem to stagnate in light of their aims (even in Scandinavia the levels of inequality and poverty are on the rise), while globalization, on the other hand, requires us to rescale at transnational levels. We need to invent new mechanisms to connect national institutions and, for instance, apply the open method of coordination to develop an unemployment insurance system at the EU level. We should start at the European level before moving to the global level.
Professor Stephan Parmentier, Coordinator of the research line on criminology and human rights at the University of Leuven, introduced the topic of transitional justice. He studies changes in countries that move from authoritarian regimes to democracy and applies the concept of restorative justice in the framework of rebuilding societies after genocide. He explained the restorative justice paradigm and the role the community may play. Restorative justice stands in opposition to retributive justice as embodied by the ‘lex talonis’. Public authorities have taken over in allotting prison sentences and imposing financial retribution on offenders. In restorative justice the victim is placed central stage, the offender brought to account and the community reintroduced as a third actor in trying to strike a balance in the new reality created by the offense. Crime is approached as a form of conflict in which not only the direct actors are involved or suffer damage and an effort is needed to create a collective conscience. This has inspired professor Parmentier to develop the Truth, Accountability, Reparation and Reconciliation (TARR) model for local justice procedures in war-ridden states.
The issue of solidarity and the role of local communities in sharing the burdens of people in the margins of society form a key focus in the projects of the SCRIBANI network, as exemplified in the last conference, organized by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice (JCFJ) in Dublin, on ‘Reimagining Imprisonment in Europe’ and the next one to be held in Paris in September 2014 on ‘Energy Transition and Social Justice: A Challenge for Europe’, organized by the Centre de recherche et d’action sociales (CERAS). Both projects were succinctly presented to the audience by their respective coordinators, Eoin Carroll, Advocacy and Social Policy Research Officer at JCFJ and Bertrand Hériard Dubreuil, Director of CERAS.