On 05-07 December 2012 the Founder and Executive Director of ACCORD, Vasu Gounden, was invited by the Centre for Global Pluralism to be their keynote speaker at their second Pluralism Forum held on 06 December 2012. The Forum is a new series of moderated dialogues with leading international authorities on the various policies and practices that broadly support pluralism.
The Global Centre for Pluralism is a new international organization founded by His Highness the Aga Khan in partnership with the Government of Canada. Located in Ottawa, the mission of the Centre is to support peaceful and sustainable approaches to living well with diversity. John McNee, Canada's former Ambassador to the UN, joined the Centre as its inaugural Secretary General in September 2011.
The first Pluralism Forum was held in April 2012. It presented a reassessment of Europe's multiculturalism debates (arguing that Europe's much-publicized retreat from multiculturalism at the political level has not been mirrored at the policy level, with the notable exception of the Netherlands). It featured three leading academics – Will Kymlicka and Keith Banting from Queen's University (Canada) and Tariq Modood of Bristol University (UK). Each panellist made a 15 minute presentation and then the panel engaged the audience in a question and answer session moderated by Susan Harada, a former CBC journalist teaching at Carleton University.
The topic that the Executive Director spoke on was "Preventing pluralism breakdown: Lessons from African peace processes." Intra-state conflict is the ultimate expression of State failure. Divisions, often blamed on ethnic or religious differences, spiral into violent upheaval. However, most societies are diverse in some way. Therefore in his presentation some of the questions that the Executive Director looked to answer were: i) why some are able to live peaceably with diversity while others fail; ii) what can conflict mediation processes in Africa and elsewhere teach us about the conditions of pluralism breakdown; and iii) how can divided societies pull back from the brink.
The two respondents to Mr. Gounden's presentation were Rita Abrahamsen and David Petrasek from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. About one hundred local participants joined the Forum, drawn from academia, the diplomatic community, Government departments and civil society.
While in Ottawa Mr. Gounden also had a meeting with representatives from Cida as well as Romeo Dallaire from the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.