December 7, 2015 – Revolving around marginalized communities, the 2016 CSD conference will generally address three guiding questions: Who do we mean, when speaking about marginalized communities? What is the role of marginalized communities in the evolution, process and termination of conflict? How can the international community improve its response to marginalization?
Moreover, the conference will centre on four precise themes:
1) the link between marginalization of youth and radicalization;
2) the role of women as victims versus agents in high-conflict zones;
3) the Western use of ethnic minorities in conflict zones; and
4) the integration of marginalized communities in wider society.
As indicated by these overall questions and more specific topics, the expression ‘marginalized communities’ encompasses a wide range of meanings. It is thus essential to define the framework within which the 2016 CSD conference will unravel. Offering a fresh viewpoint on the matter, this year’s discussions will aim to breakdown popular stereotypes. When thinking of marginalized communities, people often apply racial and geographical distinctions. The West is often viewed as a place where all communities are well integrated, leaving the concept of ‘marginalized groups’ to the ‘under-developed’ or ‘developing’ world. However, as shown by the following exercise, marginalized communities are present all over the world. Consider the photograph provided by CSD student and photojournalist Christiaan Triebert. Try to pin down the location depicted in the photograph on a map. It is nearly impossible; it could actually be anywhere ranging from the outskirts of London to Kabul or some poor African nations conventionally linked to marginalized groups in the popular psyche. Another great example is the fate of the French Muslim population after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. The following video by The Guardian shows that marginalized communities are a key issue that needs to be addressed in the West.
The CSD 2016 conference thus acknowledges the multiple layers of the expression ‘marginalized communities’. It is not about geographies and races; it is rather about the interactions between a state and some of its people. There is no universal definition of the concept of ‘marginalized communities’. It is often looked at as two separate issues, with ‘marginalization’ on one hand and ‘minority’ on the other. Shifting from this angle of analysis, the CSD 2016 conference will combine both elements in order to offer an all-encompassing set of discussions.
Its take on the definition of ‘marginalized communities’ is as follows. In broad terms, ‘marginalized groups’ refer to a small collection of people that is intentionally and systematically separated from the political, economic, social, cultural and moral spheres of the state they live in by the ruling institutions or other larger groups within the population because of their race, identity, age, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity or political opinion. Such seclusion occurs through a variety of means implemented by the state, such as economic, political, judicial, educational, physical, cultural and geographical exclusion to name a few. It can be either a systemic ‘silent’ oppression or involve the blunt use of force. This definition incorporates broader categories than the commonly used notion of ‘social exclusion’. Levitas et al. define in their report, The Multi-Dimensional Analysis of Social Exclusion, this latter expression as ‘a complex and multi-dimensional process. It involves the lack or denial of resources, rights, goods and services, and the inability to participate in the normal relationships and activities, available to the majority of people in a society, whether in economic, social, cultural or political arenas. It affects both the quality of life of individuals and the equity and cohesion of society as a whole’. Their view nonetheless adds more specificity to the way in which the CSD 2016 conference will address the issue at hand.
On a final note, the definition expressed above is by no means the enshrined truth. Its main objective is to lay the ground for debate as well as raises questions among the conference attendants and speakers. It is a framework within which the sessions will operate and something to keep in mind as you read the coming blog posts.
By Aliaume Leroy, Chawahir Yussuf, Zoya Javed, and Aaditya Dave