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In libreria

Diversity as Strategic Opportunity. Exploring New Paths to Good Administration

edited by Anna Simonati

29 aprile 2024
Versione stampabile

The principle of equality has always been considered as one of the fundamental values of modern societies; it compels administration to provide equal treatment to all subjects it enters in touch with, which is normally expressed as a general prohibition of discrimination. However, in recent times, the idea, according to which equality is not based only on protection against discrimination but also on promotion of diversity as a source of richness for society, is widely shared. This book gives a multidisciplinary overview of some of the possible methods and tools which are nowadays experimented by administration, in order to properly face the practical problems connected to diversity.

Anna Simonati is professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Trento

From Introduction (pp. XXXIX-XLII)

As is well known, the principle of equality has always been considered as one of the fundamental values of modern societies and it is declared among the basic rules of a legal system all over the world. Looking at public action as a whole, the main corollary of the principle is the duty of the administration to provide equal treatment to all subjects it enters in touch with, which is normally expressed as a general prohibition of discrimination. 

However, in recent times, public policies, both at the national and supranational (especially E.U.) level, have started a new path. Differently than in the past, the idea, that equality is not based only on protection against discrimination but also on the promotion of diversity as a source of richness for society, is widely shared. 

The aim of inclusion primarily involves the implementation of an integrated and inter-sectional perspective. The possible causes of discrimination are numerous: sex and gender, race, age, religion, state of health, economic and social condition, and so on. Socio-economic differences often produce or aggravate other kinds of inequalities and are the origin of the multiple-discrimination phenomenon. Starting from education, but also in other fields of social life, a “negative” approach to differences should be replaced by a “positive” one, based on sensitivity to diversity as a relevant driver of human interaction. Moreover, equal treatment corresponds to the fundamental rights of individuals and a duty of public authorities and formally private subjects pursuing a public interest. Affirmative actions are often used as a tool to erase discrimination, but other instruments (for instance, in the field of participative best practices) may be suitable as well.

In such a polyhedric context, a relevant issue is the increasing complication of administrative action. Currently, new kinds of competencies and duties, to be pursued in the public interest, have been added to the traditional ones, and they correspond to (legitimate) expectations by the private individuals and groups, which are the interlocutors of the institutions and aim at receiving satisfactory performances. Another source for the complexity of contemporary administrative action—which partially derives from the increasing level of capacity and expertise, required of subjects charged with public-interest-goals action—is the assignment of some tasks to formally private entities, who are often for-profit actors. Finally (but not least) the growing digitalization of administrative procedures is an issue itself: on one hand, it may signify opportunities for stronger and proper access to services and utilities by all people; on the other hand, it can lead to the possible exclusion of certain people (belonging to the most vulnerable as less digitally literate part of population), thus creating new kinds of discrimination.

These issues are progressively emerging almost everywhere, since administrative action—like many other fields of human behavior—is unstoppably globalized. Therefore, very similar problems may be grasped in different Countries, and comparing the solutions offered in some of them could be particularly useful to propose and promote new shared ways to the legislators, the policymakers and the practitioners.
The various chapters are linked to each other to highlight a conceptual path. Hence, the book is divided into three sections.

The first section is dedicated to gender diversity and empowerment.

Gender studies represent a very relevant part of the research on diversity since the distinction between women and men is almost always accepted—rightly or wrongly—as a basic one, a sort of starting point for all reasoning about discrimination and bias. Therefore, numerous authors decided to focus on this topic, even though the specific fields of research and methods are quite different. The section starts with two management chapters on female leadership. The first, by Wendy Farrell, examines the leadership issues for working women in Tyrol. In the second, Marjukka Mikkonen discusses the possible efficacy and effectiveness of specific leadership programs for women in Finland. The third chapter of the section, by Giovanna Iacovone, is instead dedicated to the Italian system with a legal approach; it is aimed at examining a different field of women empowerment—the political arena—considering what is perhaps the most important tool for affirmative action: gender quotas. Finally, Arianna Pitino studies the complex interaction between gender equality, freedom of religion and the right to work through the lens of a recent judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The second section of the book aims to allow the reader to grasp the great variety of sectors and means for administrative action, where the issue of diversity between people is somehow involved. The four chapters here are consistently devoted to explaining some issues emerging from various public policies, from various perspectives. First, Anna Maria Chiariello and Rocco Frondizi match their (respectively) legal and managerial expertise to face one of the most serious issues of contemporary administrative action: the search for a proper approach to artificial intelligence, especially in service providing, to avoid the pitfalls associated with their misuse. The second chapter of the second section, by Jyoti Rattan and Vijai Rattan, enlarges the analysis beyond the borders of Europe; it is devoted to the exam of case law in a very specific area—the protection of the right to be forgotten, vis-à-vis data processing, especially in social media—offering a comparison between some judgments pronounced in the Indian system and at the EU level by the Court of Justice. In the third chapter, Agnes Jenei, Réka Zsuzsánna Máthé, Maliga Reddy and Srinivasan Pillay address the issue of diversity in administration from a different perspective, which is cooperation between three atypical partners in a joint action of assistance for refugees in Hungary: the study is useful to grasp whether and how diversity of actors may help in emergency problem-solving. In the fourth and last chapter of the section, Annalisa Giusti focuses, with a legal cut, on land planning, and more precisely on urban regeneration as scope for the development of administrative inclusive best practices.

In an ideal itinerary—from sectorial to polyfunctional, and then back to particular—the third section of the book aims at investigating another field, representing a particularly fruitful ground for both researchers and practitioners: education. In the five chapters here collected, the authors study their national system, putting into light the links with the supranational European level. Esther Happacher, Lamiss Khakzadeh, and Alexandra Weiss concentrate (from a legal perspective, but—so to say—with a double methodical approach, systemic and practical) on gender diversity management at Austrian universities. Quite similarly (notwithstanding a management approach), the second chapter by Marianna Brunetti, Nathalie Colasanti, Annalisa Fabretti, and Mariangela Zoli is focused on a specific research project on the perception of gender differences in a large Italian University. The other chapters of the third section are related to Italian schools, and they examine the issue of diversity from three different points of view: Stefania Baroncelli studies the topic holistically, starting from its constitutional legal background; Loredana Giani’s interest specifically lies in the effect of digitalization, while Orsolya Farkas takes into account the principles and rules on the involvement of migrant students.

The chapter by Leo Huberts may be seen as a sort of precious “conceptual map” of the whole research. Considering his long, deep, and fundamental work on ethics and integrity in administration, the author points out the main open issues. Some of them are the object of other chapters, some are not examined in the book; hence, Leo Huberts offers important food for (further) thought. His reflections also show once more how a multidisciplinary perspective is pivotal in the field of good governance since the sensitivities are often different in the various scientific sectors, and what can be taken almost for granted in some of them may not be for other ones.

Courtesy by IAP Information Age Publishing.
Diversity as Strategic Opportunity. Exploring New Paths to Good Administration