ICE blogs

March 10, 2008

Conference on moving Australia towards a cosmopolitan society

Filed under: Uncategorized, News, Headlines, media policy, politics, conferences, human rights — news_editor @ 2:36 am

The 4Rs conference, to be held in Sydney on Sept 30 - Oct 2, frames Australia’s future as a cosmopolitan civil society. Focused on the themes of rights. responsibilities, reconciliation and respect, it explores the internal debates and the relationships between crucial social, political and cultural questions, with their relevance to public policy, community development and societal cohesion.
The conference is organised by the Centre for Cosmopolitan Civil Societies, University of Technology Sydney , SAVE Australia Inc, the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts and the Institute for Cultural Diversity at a critical time for Australia, when the opportunities and desire for change abound, yet older fears still persist.
The conference is designed around the four themes and their interaction- human rights, Indigenous advancement, inter-communal relations, and active citizenship.

Rights

Australia remains the only Western democracy without a national human rights framework, yet it is a society in which the struggle for rights has been a central part of history - for Indigenous people, women, ethnic and religious minorities, people with disabilities and those involved in same-sex relationships. The Rights stream (R1) invites contributions that discuss global, national and local concerns across the full range of human rights issues, from the initial engagement with political rights, through social and cultural rights, to the most recent questions raised by action on disability and indigenous rights. It encourages philosophical as well as political and legal approaches. It explores the practical politics of achieving a national human rights framework within the international community.

Reconciliation

Wherever colonial powers have settled their populations on the lands of indigenous peoples there have been ongoing crises and conflicts. Reconciliation (R2) seeks to understand the truth of those histories and devise ways through which people from both indigenous and immigrant origins can work and live together in a shared society. Australia has faced a particularly difficult period as it has struggled with both symbolic and practical forms through which reconciliation should be advanced.

The reconciliation stream invites contributions that explore the challenges, success and failures in reconciliation across the world, and the specific dimensions of reconciliation in Australia. It welcomes community presentations, and joint presentations between scholars, policy groups and Indigenous activists. It particularly looks towards younger people and their perspectives on future directions for reconciliation.

Respect

In the often-heated conversations about relations between ethno-religious communities in pluralist societies, in the past framed by ideas about multiculturalism and tolerance, a key concept is that of respect. Respect (R3) requires recognition of the validity of different approaches to everyday life, and a desire to understand those differences. Respect is multi-directional; it calls on all members of a society to recognise the value of all other communities. In democratic societies it also points to the critical role of respect for individual human rights even though at times this may strain inter-group relations. Australia has experienced serious challenges to the place of respect in societal discussions about diversity, as have many other western societies.

The respect stream invites contributions that explore the tensions around the idea of respect, its representation, and its presence or absence in the discourse of difference globally and in Australia. It welcomes collaborative presentations that explore either comparative cases or innovations in community, arts and other practices in which respect is mobilised as a positive value.

Responsibility

Societies are made up of reciprocal relationships of responsibilities, in which various benefits are received and various obligations incurred. Citizenship, both political and cultural, provides the context in which debates about responsibilities most often occur. This Responsibilities theme (R4) addresses the debates about citizenship and how these have been affected by the transformations in world society in the current generation. Citizenship has been considered as a purely political question, relating to the legal status of individuals in their relations to nation states. It has also reflected broader concerns with social citizenship, active citizenship and cultural citizenship, where the broad range of human rights are considered to be part of the dynamics of citizenship. It explores the responsibilities citizens have for each other, for the well-being and protection of the state, and the responsibilities the state has for the well-being and freedoms of its citizens.

The responsibilities theme invites contributions that explore these multiple meanings of citizenship, and that can expose connections to the other themes of the conference. In particular it invites debates regarding the imposition of various tests for citizenship and what they reveal about the status of the citizen in the contemporary world.

Cross Theme proposals

This track supports innovative approaches to issues that bridge more than one theme, and involve participants from differing backgrounds and perspectives. It can also provide a location for arts-based presentations, performances and workshops.

Andrew Jakubowicz
Conference Convenor
Maqsood Alshams
Conference Secretary

Contact: a.jakubowicz@uts.edu.au

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