CIVICUS Civil Society Index

An international action-research project by and for civil society

“We are not so different.”

Posted by civilsocietyindex on September 2, 2010

Written by Tracy Anderson;-CSI Research Officer

This is perhaps the most profound statement I have ever heard regarding the CSI project and its findings.  It came about in a workshop led by some of CSI’s partners at the World Assembly last week.  As mentioned in a previous blog (click here), this workshop presented the findings and experiences of two cross-border initiatives based on the CSI project: Zeynep Meydanoglu (Third Sector Foundation of Turkey – TUSEV) and Lusine Hakobyan (Counterpart International Armenia) presented findings from Turkey and Armenia respectively; and Vanessa Cartaya (SINERGIA in Venezuela) and Luis Serra (Red Nicaraguense por la democracia y el desarrollo local, Nicaragua) each presented on the experiences of the cooperation throughout the Latin American region.

When examining their CSI diamonds and the various sub-dimensional scores that make up this image, both groups noted they had similar results. It was Luis who said:  “We are not so different.  The similarities far outweigh the differences.”

While he was talking about the scores of the diamond and therefore the makeup of civil society in the Latin American countries that participated, the honesty and simplicity of that statement echoes to all aspects of society.  We are not so different.   In a world full of conflicts- international conflicts, civil wars, genocide, personal conflicts, work-place conflicts; in a world full of poverty; of economic and environmental injustice, we are not so different, you and I.

Though the catalyst for this message here was the CSI project, the profoundness of this statement is its universality. The catalyst does not need to be CSI, but it is dialogue. Taking the opportunity, finding the ‘excuse’ (as Lusine and Zeynep said about the CSI), to talk, to get to know the ‘other’ enables us to see we are not so different.  This is often a key step in conflict resolution and prevention, humanizing the enemy, the ‘other’.  It also makes it harder to justify many of the ills in the world: how can we watch so many starve, let these children grow up without education, and deny those people refuge from the atrocities in their homeland.  If we are not so different from each other and we would not wish these ills upon ourselves or our friends and loved ones, we cannot allow them upon others.  If we are not so different, then why conflict, why poverty, why?

And if we are not so different, then surely we must stand up and help out. And that is the root of civil society.  Stand up together for the things we believe in, because we are not so different and we all are worthy.



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