Understanding Gibraltar Think-Tank

 ”Ian Watts, Gibraltar – aside from his legal practice – dedicated to Understanding Gibraltar’s multi-cultural success model

An Introduction to the “Understanding Gibraltar” Think Tank

‘’Gibraltar is a truly unique place – this tiny Rock is indigenous to different ethnic groups who live together in a gregarious environment with a strong level of tolerance and respect for their respective cultures and religions’’

Mixed Ancestry

I was born a Gibraltarian, and proud to be so. I herald from mixed ancestry – namely, Irish, Maltese, English and Spanish, and my religious denomination is Roman Catholic (although I must profusely confess that I am not a regular churchgoer, I do nevertheless have a profound respect for the practice of religious faith).

Community Solidarity in Gibraltar

I grew up in Gibraltar in the eighties and the nineties. My local friends were Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Hindus. We attended school together and basically grew up in a solid environment without racial oppression or serious crime.

In Gibraltar we have always had this sense of community solidarity – it doesn’t matter what your religious or ethnic denomination is; in fact, it’s something which I (even as a child) never even applied my mind to. For my part, living in a multi-cultural environment was the normalcy; and I feel it trite to say that this mind-set is very  much common currency in Gibraltar to this very day.

What is “Understanding Gibraltar” all about?

A few years back, a dear friend of mine, Joshua Lhote[1], a Parisian born and English qualified Solicitor invited me to form part of a local think-tank by the name of ‘Understanding Gibraltar’. He explained to me its overall ethos which I found to be mentally stimulating and engaging from a sociological stand-point – I therefore readily accepted his offer to get involved in this societal organisation. So, what is this think-tank all about?

Multi-Cultural Success Model – Analysis & Beyond

Put simply, “Únderstanding Gibraltar” is devoted to seeking to comprehend the following: why is Gibraltar a haven for multi-cultural success? Can our multi-cultural success model be a blueprint for export to other countries? Furthermore, and quite importantly, why is multiculturalism seemingly successful in some places (for example, Gibraltar and Canada) and not in others? How can we in Gibraltar contribute to a better understanding of this purported phenomenon? Here’s the link to our Facebook Page (please follow us): https://www.facebook.com/understandinggibraltar/

It ought to be remembered that in other countries in the Western World different ethnics groups live amid a sense of racial oppression –take for example the rise of ultra-nationalism in recent years in England, France and Holland.

Gibraltarian Society as a “Mini-Laboratory”

Gibraltar may be a tiny rock at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula but this does mean to say that it cannot be a mini-laboratory for multi-cultural analysis and a great teacher for others in the political world. If we consider Gibraltar to be at the centre of the World Map, Gibraltar may well be placed  in a propitious position for such a study – in fact, an epicentre that can radiate out to the wider world important lessons of social dynamics eventuating in harmony and tolerance.

I should point up to the international audience that Gibraltar is a truly unique place – this tiny Rock is indigenous to different ethnic groups who live together in a gregarious environment with a strong level of tolerance and respect for their respective cultures and religions.

Gibraltar’s Multi-Culturalism in Literature

Gibraltar’s singular state of multi-cultural affairs has also been previously noted by Gibraltarian authors –take, for example, the following literary passage in point:

“One of the most remarkable things about Gibraltar has always been the religious tolerance shown by all Gibraltarians, stemming, according to the Spanish 18th century historian, Lopez de Ayala[2]from firm military rule. Whilst there may have been some truth in his suggestion, the suffering of the whole closely packed community during sieges, economic depressions and distressingly unpredictable epidemics created mutual understanding and tolerance amongst the people of all walks of life; coupled with religious tolerance, and derived from the same shared experiences, is the Gibraltarians’ great generosity in supporting worthy charities of all kinds and their sense of community[3] [my emphasis].

Furthermore, the editor of The Gibraltar Heritage Journal 2005 prefaced that publication with the following words praising our local inter-communal harmony:

“The population of Gibraltar is outstanding for its inter-communal harmony; members of the world’s leading faiths live side by side and thrive in peace and tranquillity. To say that Gibraltar is a paradigm of religious co-existence is to understate the achievement of Gibraltarian society.

It is my hope and prayer that this light will never be extinguished, and that together we Gibraltarians can celebrate the wonderful traditions we have inherited, and may our work result in our descendants celebrating the enriched heritage we pass on to them.

In these unsettling times, Gibraltar is still a beacon; a lighthouse that sends its intermittent light of peaceful co-existence, of community harmony and friendship to all those who need it. May it be so bold as to finish my introduction with a quote from my great-grandfather’s book, which as important today as it was then: ‘it should be our fervent prayer that the good harmony prevailing here among all denominations shall never, never change”[4].

Launch of the “Understanding Gibraltar” Think-Tank

”Understanding Gibraltar” was officially launched at the Sunborn Hotel, Gibraltar in March 2017 – please visit this link to learn more about the inaugural launch: https://www.yourgibraltartv.com/society/13968-mar-10-official-launch-of-local-think-tank-understanding-gibraltar

Fellow committee members of Understanding Gibraltar, include Carmel Khalilian, Jeremy Gomez and Nicholas Calamaro.

Understanding Gibraltar is registered as a ”cultural organisation” with the Gibraltar Ministry for Culture [Cultural Organisation No. CO/34].

Further Information

If you are interested in learning more about Understanding Gibraltar, please contact Ian Watts, Gibraltar.

© Ian Watts, Gibraltar Lawyer, 2017-2024. All rights reserved.


[1] Joshua Lhote is the Founder of Understanding Gibraltar. In March 2017 he was interviewed on Questions of Faith by Stephen Cummings on live Gibraltar television about religious tolerance in Gibraltar– here’s the link for you to view: Coming Soon!

[2] Ignacio Lopez de Ayala was a respected 18th century poet from Tarifa, Spain, whose literary works included Historia de Gibraltar (1782) [History of Gibraltar -1782]

[3] Sir William Jackson & Francis Cantos, From Fortress to Democracy (Gibraltar Books Limited, 1995), p.9

[4] Isaac Hassan in the Forward to The Gibraltar Heritage Journal (2005).


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