The Alliance annual conference gave plenty of food for thought for those interested in global citizenship. The Alliance’s Head of Policy, Louise Davies, attempts to digest some of the inspiring thinking that was shared on the day.
Tweeting after midnight
“What did you make of the conference?” our Chair was asked at the end of the day. “I can’t answer that now… I need to absorb it and I’ll probably be ready to tweet about it around midnight”.
True to her word, Iffat Shanaz posted late that night about her learnings around economic alternatives, power with never power over, and formative solidarity. It’s taken me rather longer than a few hours to digest the contents of a jam-packed day. Whilst all sessions were formed around the theme of global citizenship in a challenging world, the speakers covered a wealth of topics from wellbeing economy, education, movement building, anti-oppression, climate and nature crises and much more. What was clear is that we are truly living in a challenging world, but that global citizenship and all that that may encompass may lead us to tackle structural inequalities and start a path towards a more equitable future for all.
I’m not going to attempt to relay all of the ideas and views that were offered in this blog, but I will share a few nuggets that I found inspiring and may go some way to defining what could make us, and Scotland, a good global citizen.
It’s all about learning
One of the big ideas, carried over from our conference last year, that deserves repeating is the need for a transformation of our economy and how we value success as a nation and as individuals. Jimmy Paul from WeAll Scotland talked about the need to move away from economic growth and GDP as measures of success, and instead to consider the things we really value, defined by a national conversation.
Tracy Morse from the University of Strathclyde talked about building the global citizens of tomorrow through all aspects of education, encouraging students to act locally and think globally. Universities have modelled strong and impactful country to country links, yet there is also evidence of power imbalances – occasions where contributions from those in the global south have been neglected.
Lifelong and lifewide
A whole panel was dedicated to global citizenship education. Bobby McCormack spoke about the need for education to be about lifelong and lifewide learning. So often global citizenship education is defined purely within schools, yet it is essential in adult and community learning – there may well be political incentives to restricting these challenging discussions to young people, who can’t yet vote.
According to Tereza Čajková, global citizenship education develops our ability to learn from the social and historical shortcomings of the dominant world view, and can help us to address the driving forces responsible for the violence and degradation of life on our planet.
Shifting the power
The enduring impacts of historic exploitation of the global south were an overriding theme of the conference, and global citizens need to acknowledge, address and recompense for this.
For Godlove Dzebam, shifting the power is essential.
His powerful line “Everything for me, without me, is against me” is one to remember.
Luam Kidane talked about the power of grassroots movements and that they hold the ability to effect real change. The ambition of philanthropy and aid should be to remove itself from the picture and they should be focused on enabling movement building which will be the real drivers of societal transformation.
Justice for loss and damage
Historical wrongs have resulted in countries in the global south paying the price in the loss of natural support systems, livelihoods and lives. The climate justice panel, chaired by the remarkable Professor Tahseen Jafry, warrants a blog of its own. For now I will just say how inspiring it was to hear from those with lived experience of the climate crisis, a young campaigner, an economist and a politician, all calling for bold and ambitious support for loss and damage, and other climate finance initiatives, at COP27.
Challenging the status quo
At the start of the day, Jimmy Paul encouraged us to channel our inner 5 year old and ask ‘why, why, why’ about our societal structures, which seems like an excellent reminder that nothing should be a given. Shami Chakrabarti closed the conference by talking about the need to challenge the status quo, and that the current situation is neither fair nor sustainable.
Bobby McCormack spoke about how the existing system is unlikely to provide the answers we seek. Radical social change is not going to come from a system that has given birth to many of the systems and injustices we see around the world. We need to operate at the edges and bring people with us.
For Tereza, a global citizenship education approach can support us to think, imagine, desire, relate and act in new ways based on a deep sense of social and ecological accountability. We all are part of the problem and part of the solution.
The Alliance conference provides a unique opportunity to bring together those (both speakers and delegates) with ideas and ambition for a fairer future. I’m sure many delegates, like me, came away inspired about our collective ability to challenge existing systems, and support new ways of thinking to tackle past and future injustices. Our challenge now is to get these ideas in front of those who hold power and are determined to uphold the status quo.