“The right to have rights, or the right of every individual to belong to humanity, should be guaranteed by humanity itself”. Hannah Arendt
“The right to have rights, or the right of every individual to belong to humanity, should be guaranteed by humanity itself”. Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951).
The context we live in today is full of uncertainty, complexity and change, globalisation and inequality. All these aspects have an impact on the wellbeing of people, groups and communities. We are facing multiple problems, such as poverty, high levels of emigration and immigration, substantial degrees of social diversity, heightened competitiveness and precariousness, and overexploitation of natural resources, which are all intertwined and interacting.
These aspects pervade our daily life, thus bringing about unexpected opportunities but also causing a lot of problems and marginalising an increasing number of people, from the most vulnerable to the medium class, who could be protected until now. Especially universities, due to their nature, need to invest in comprehensive and interdisciplinary research and interventions in close cooperation with the territory, to promote growth in terms of values, democracy, inclusion and sustainability.
As one can easily understand, these aspects will add to and further interweave with other components which are traditionally and prototypically ascribed to the issue of heterogeneity, such as those related to impairments, learning difficulties, gender differences, etc. All that creates a dynamic and ‘shifting’ situation, where cultures, biographies, repertoires of different identities, abilities and skills, as well as different forms of communication and interaction among individuals, come into play and create complex scenarios which are difficult to predict [Nota & Rossier, 2015].
It is clear that the society we live in features both macro- and mesosystem aspects, ready to exacerbate social conflicts and overshadow the process of building lives centred on human rights. Thus, an increase in various forms of unease, difficulty and vulnerability is being recorded at the microsystem level. To our mind, all of that requires different cultural instruments as well as different analysis and intervention procedures if compared to those we were used to apply.
Inclusion thus becomes a way to think about reality increasingly called for.
In the words of Shafik Asante, former leader of the New African Voices, it is very clear how inclusion is strictly linked to ‘uniqueness’: “Inclusion is recognizing that we are ‘one’ even though we are not the same”. Asante further states that fighting for inclusion also involves assuring that the environments are able to ensure that every person, with their unique features, can actively participate in social and civil life [Asante 2002].
Inclusive environments hence require that all community members become able to identify and highlight discriminations in place, ask for changes, provide support and create protection networks not as a favour towards those less fortunate, but as a responsibility towards the unique features we all have.
Inclusion aims at identifying the needed changes for the different environments to enable all to spend a quality life as it represents an original and no standardised way to live together in the belief that diversities are opportunities to grasp and real resources for the community, as well as an asset to be valued [Shogren, Luckasson & Schalock 2014].
Inclusion teaches to reduce prejudices and stereotypes and promotes the development of complex relational skills, as well as public awareness, solidarity, consciousness and the ability to act collectively so as to protect and give shape to human rights against exploitation [Nota, Ginevra & Soresi 2018].
With a broad inclusive perspective, Arqus and the dedicated Action Line 2 “Widening access, diversity and inclusion” aims to develop shared policies, guidelines and a transversal, research-based, cross-sectoral strategy for inclusion and diversity for all members of the university community, at all levels, facilitating inclusive admission and recruitment policies. Three Common Charters for Sustainability, Inclusion and Gender Equality will set the foundations for future actions within the Alliance and raise awareness, reaching out to citizens and engaging decision-makers. We are paving the floor to attract talent from less represented groups, leaving no one behind.
We are promoting the awareness that we need to go beyond an individualistic vision and that each of us is part of a larger reality, whereby the damage or the benefit to one part has an impact on the whole. Only this new cosmopolitan and global consciousness can make it more difficult to be inattentive to or even dismissive of the quality of life of others.
Laura Nota, University of Padova Rector’s Delegate for Inclusion and Benedetta Zatti, Chair of Action Line 2.