Discussion 28 May 2020

Panel participants:

  • Dr Mohamed Keshavjee, a recipient of the Gandhi King Ikeda Peace Award, having worked in the Aga Khan Development Network.
  • Prof. Albert (Albie) Louise Sachs, a former judge, and recipient of the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
  • Facilitator: Theo Richardson-Gool of Cov360

SUMMARY

In light of recent events and calls for change globally precipitated by the Covid 19 pandemic, Cov360’s most recent event sought to explore social justice in the context of public health. The central themes of the conversation were openness, empathy and the “social compact of trust.”

Mohamed, a scholar of mediation and compassion, and international cross-cultural mediator emphasised the need for a social compact of trust. He named Cov360 as a crucial organisation to support building and highlighting the excellent work of communities around the globe.

Albie, an icon of South African liberation highlighted how we had come out of the second world war and repudiated racism. And how we had defied the cruel oppression of apartheid which was backed by States across the world.

Building trust in our communities

Mohamed spoke personally about the support he and his wife received from volunteers in London, he celebrated how communities came together to support those vulnerable. That community operates at different levels across countries, and mediation enables us to appreciate, as Martin Luther King said, ‘we are all knitting the same garment of destiny.’

Concerning the social unrest that followed the tragic death of George Floyd, Mohamed suggested utilising mediation to build a new social compact.

“MEDIATION AS AN ART”

Mohamed explained how the essence of mediation is openness, empathy, compassion and love, to help people heal and restore important relationships. He said it was “an art,” integral to the future of society, an ethic of pluralism, which allows us to hear many voices. And which seeks to increase engagement between polarised groups to erase bias and prejudice. He believes education is central to  this process, as well-rounded views will stimulate broader conversation regardless of difference. He emphasised how empathy is desperately needed in all facets of life to actualise justice. For Mohamed, mediation is crucial across disciplines, including medicine, law, journalism, to achieve health, social, and environmental justice.

Alternative dispute resolution

Mohamed clarified how all stakeholders need to be present including those outside the adversarial context for mediation, in the form of alternative dispute resolution, to work effectively. And how individuals must look deep into their own hidden biases and prejudices to determine how each one can genuinely contribute to the promotion of social justice.

Mohamed recited, ‘The principle in the African Ubuntu tradition, that I am me because of you, if I dehumanise you, I am lessening myself. In my re-healing myself, I have to heal you.’

INTERDEPENDENCE AND INTERCONNECTEDNESS

Albie emphasised how society is interconnected and interdependent, and how: “through empathy, [there is] a connection with other human beings which is very nourishing for our souls. It satisfies our curiosity. It is astonishing and marvellous how human beings are in the ‘interconnection.”

When asked for advice, Albie encouraged young people to take their own initiative, to be spirited and to improve on what has happened in the past, to “be better than us.”

He alerted us to the dangers of colonisation both in terms of the virus, control of genes and the climate crisis. He noted that because we are interdependent, when we have a vaccine, ‘it must become the right of every individual to receive it, it must become the property of humanity rather than one country or entity.’

Speaking as a judge and lawmaker, he celebrated how many countries have come together to support the imperative that we all have a ‘basic right to receive the vaccine, once found, with dignity and equity.’ A narrative pushed by the WHO.

CONCLUSION

Both Sachs and Keshavjee brought their experience, intellect and energy to the discussion encouraging confidence to recognise the challenges of the present. And yet to draw upon past success, utilise opportunities and engage with the strengths of present movements and events.

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