Economic Progress

'Good people of the world unite.' How can we win the fight for tolerance?

Sparks of hope: 'Progress goes in steps and not all at once'

Laura Oliver
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Economic Progress

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Leading thinkers, activists and politicians shared their thoughts on the fight for more inclusive growth and greater social inclusion, during several Davos sessions focused on tolerance, racism and LGBT reforms.

“I want to call all the people of good intentions. We have to organize, we have to join together to fight together. I don't say, like Marx, workers of the world unite; I say good people of the world unite,” said Abdallah bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, in the session Tolerance at the Tipping Point?

On the same stage, Brendan Cox, Director of campaign group More in Common, agreed that unification is crucial in the fight against intolerance: “We've spent a lot of time talking about diversity and not enough talking about what binds us together.

“What that's meant is that we've ceded patriotism, which is a very powerful instinct in people's identity. We've ceded that to the extremes and there's a big opportunity now for us to take that back, to define patriotism in inclusive way rather than an exclusive way.”

Cox's wife, British Member of Parliament Jo Cox, was murdered in the run-up to Britain's referendum on Brexit.

Talking about Canada's success in integrating of different cultures, its acceptance of refugees and pioneering of LGBT rights legislation, Ratna Omidvar, Senator for Ontario, Canada, said: “Canada is a new country, protected because we're on top of the world and share a safe and secure border with a very secure country. Multiculturalism is one of our symbols - it ranks up there with maple syrup.”

Speaking in the same session, Yasmina Filali, Founder and President of the Fondation Orient Occident, shared a positive message from her country. “Morocco is a Muslim, Berber country and we received black Africans, mainly Christians. It was difficult but we succeeded by culture and education. There were festivals, markets, cooperatives that mixed locals and migrants, sensibilization to media. It was long-term work, but powerful.”

'Progress goes in steps and not all at once'

In an earlier session focusing on the progress of LGBT reforms and tolerance within business, Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board of Canada, said it was obvious why all companies should push for a more diverse workforce: “Every big company and most small companies have LGBTQ2 members working for them. The question is do you want to maximize their full capacity and productivity of those people?

“From a productivity perspective you don't want to create spaces that aren't diverse.”

The panel, which included Lisa Sherman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Advertising Council in the US, and Sander van't Noordende, Group Chief Executive, Products, at Accenture, agreed that companies that have shown themselves to be diverse and supportive of LGBT reforms, such as Salesforce's challenge to Indiana's "religious freedom" law, will be more attractive to the younger generation.

“When you're talking about Millennials, this is something that is driving and will drive change in terms of markets and consumer demand, and in terms of citizens and what they demand from their governments,” said Brison.

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Fellow panellists Sherman and van't Noordende echoed this sentiment, saying it has been businesses and business leaders that have recently led the charge against anti-LGBT legislation.

“That is where you hurt states, that is where you get attention,” said Sherman. “What companies, NGOs, organizations do – that is so important to persuade governments to do the right thing [in terms of LGBT reform],” said van't Noordende.

“Every signal, however big or small, helps. Progress goes in steps and not all at once.”

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