Citizenship & Democracy


The Program on Citizenship and Security emerged from the conviction on the part of a core group of WPI Senior Fellows that there is too little dialogue between individuals working on migration and social integration challenges facing democratic societies involved in the fight against terror in the post-9/11 environment. From the security perspective, minority groups–particularly Muslim groups–tend to be viewed primarily in terms of the potential security risk they pose. As a result, their civil and human rights have been and continue to be violated. When minority populations are targeted in this manner they invariably become alarmed and defensive, rejecting cooperation on security concerns with government agencies and institutions. Already marginalized, they end up feeling even more isolated, with even less of a stake in the larger society. On the other hand, immigrant and minority advocates sometimes fail to recognize the very real nature of the terrorist threat and may view security measures that disproportionately affect immigrant communities as unwarranted harassment. Moreover, the views and concerns of members of these minority communities themselves are, incredibly, often left out of discussions of both social integration and security. This is particularly true with respect to female members of these communities.
Beyond the rift between the immigration and security domains, there is a further problem in that the major democracies take different approaches to what is fundamentally a transnational issue. Each country’s history with regard to immigration and citizenship differs, and the perception of the terrorist threat is different in each. Yet, we believe that a dialogue across borders is essential if the core values of open society are to be preserved.
The Program on Citizenship & Security addresses the ways in which democratic societies can reconcile enhanced national security in the face of a transnational terrorist threat with the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the core values of democracy. Through four working groups covering major thematic areas in which international and interdisciplinary work can best influence policy, the program will compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of existing policies in the liberal democracies within the purview of the program. It networks policymakers, experts and advocates working on both immigration and security, with a particular focus on involving representatives of the private sector in the discussion on evolving priorities in these critical policy areas. Our work is interdisciplinary and comparative, with an initial focus on Germany, France, India and the U.S. In the wake of the tragic bombings in Madrid, London and New Delhi and ethnically tinged riots in France and Australia, these issues have taken on added urgency, and the need for international collaboration in a search for solutions has become more important than ever. The Program provides a unique international forum to spur cross-border discussion of these issues.
Working in consultation with our international advisory board members and with our institutional partners abroad, program participants develop concrete proposals to harmonize integration and security policies.