“I think my last word will be, ‘Yes!’ We need to stop saying ‘no’, we need to be positive and change the narrative. So we need to say ‘yes’ to changing things.” The words of Fouzy Mathy, a young woman from SOS Children’s Villages International at Global Perspective 2018.
Fouzy, and her ally Divine Usabase also from SOS, unexpectedly took to the stage in the final session when they swapped places with Jennifer Morgan, the Greenpeace International Executive Director, who was on the panel titled “What to do next, with who and how?”. The pair had an answer; we need to unite and make our voices and actions count. Fouzy illustrated what happens when we fail to do so.
She shared the story of a young person who took their own life because they did not feel supported. The young person in question had fled their home country due to conflict and famine caused by climate change. However, after arriving in Europe – somewhere they thought would be safe and supportive – that young person felt so abandoned and insecure that they took their own life.
Fouzy told this story as a clarion call of why we need to act together to show compassion and humanity in our work and lives. Their concrete proposal was to create a project called “Yes4Humanity”. The project will engage a wide range of people with causes important to them, sharing personal, powerful, positive stories. There would be one small difference they wouldn’t be the #NewGeneration but a global #NOWGeneration.
Fouzy and Divine’s intervention in the conference was timely. It symbolised the hand over from old to the now generation, in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the event. After all, this kind of changing of the guard was discussed extensively at the event.
Let’s rewind then to the beginning of the event to understand how we ended up here…
Opening: Open the door to young people
The conference opened with Paula Peters explaining how and why it is important to open the door to young people. She challenged everyone to rethink how we should let young people engage us, rather than how international civil society organisations can engage them. This was a call for a fundamental shift in power and control over resources, campaigns and messages and bureaucratic accountability. This will help those young people who already do amazing work.
For example, Anshul Tewari founded Youth Ki Awaaz, India’s largest social justice media platform. It’s the place for young people to make a change in their societies. Additionally, Maha Babeker, a women’s rights activist in Sudan, shed light on how Sudanese young people are speaking out against Gender-Based Violence. These were just two examples of some of the amazing work done by young people.
What we wanted participants to get out of the conference
We had a variety of awesome speakers and insightful workshops. When we set out to put this conference together we sat down and thought about what we wanted people to get out of it.
We decided that at Global Perspectives 2018 we wanted to:
To do this we aimed to inspire and showcase cross-cutting content. We chose organisations with three themes in mind:
We wanted you to hear from as many people who represent each theme. We held a mixture of objective focused workshops and open-ended discussions called campfire sessions from the following organisations:
|· Amani Institute||· Talents4Good|
|· Amnesty International||· Telecommunications Software & Systems Group|
|· NetHope||· The Open University|
|· OECD||· The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy|
|· OXFAM||· Toladata|
|· Plan International||· Viva con Agua|
|· Restless Development||· WEF|
|· Save the Children||· Youth to End Sexual Violence|
|· SDI Net|
As if this was not enough, we hosted a Future Scenario track. In these sessions, the participants attempted to identify the characteristics of a CSO 12 years from now that is successful in engaging youth.
The group predicted a very different global environment of megatrends with great impact and influence on young people. Although only 12 years’ away, there was systemic and rapid change in social and political organisation, technology and data-driven inequality, precarious work/economic situations, and intense climate change, antibiotic resistance and genetically modified food systems.In this context, the successful CSO of 2030 would have characteristics fundamentally different from the mindsets, skills, structures and ways of working today.
Radical and cause-driven, it would be focused on campaigns, advocacy/policy and amplifying what others are doing, with devolved peer-to-peer accountability and consensus decision-making communities both internally and with supporters.
What next for “Yes4Humanity”?
There are several ICSOs keen to take part there will be a kick off meeting next month which the International Civil Society Centre is part of. You can read more about their plan here.
There were many excellent ideas at Global Perspectives, we’ve tried to capture them all in our Outcome document. You can find them under recommendations. You’ll see we have ideas on peer-to-peer learning, developing a youth strategy, including young people’s voices more, be accountable to young people and committing to work together without ‘egos or logos’.
At the end of June, people from different continents gathered in Arusha, Tanzania to discuss civil and political rights in the countries they currently reside. The meeting was organized by International Civil Society Centre, and I was lucky enough to be invited as person who was involved in civic activities which contributed to this political change in a hybrid system.
Sitting for 7 hours at the Istanbul airport en route to the meeting got me thinking about nation-state concepts and people living under different political and legal environments. Some are more intrusive to civilian spaces than others, yet nearly all try to limit open public spaces for free communication, interaction and information to people coming from such diverse communities in this world and Universe we all share. Some governments are reluctant to open the world to its citizens while others actively spew hatred towards the “otherness”.
However, looking at the millions of different individuals interacting daily only in this airport, I realized that there is no repressive model invented able to stand the need of people to move, explore, exchange, socialize. Even repressive regimes need to maintain their economic and military strength if they plan to maintain power, and thus they have to participate in the exchange of labor, products, and services on global level. So, closed borders, militarization, wars, heavily urbanized killers (of health and nature) cities… are these constructed spaces just a product of our imagination as humans? And if so, can we imagine something better in future? Can we take a leap on the evolutionary scale by recognizing such constructs and think of all natural space as an empty canvas on which we can draw a better picture? Is that just a prelude to the next step: aware humanity?
Is the social interaction and exchange the key to opening the door to awareness of the co-dependence of all beings with nature? Can mistakes and destruction lead to comprehension that natural resources and our habitat as we know it is expendable, while humanity being dependable may parish?
This thought stayed with me on the 10 h. flight to Arusha, and throughout the 4 days which passed faster than those 17 hours of travel! I met people, heard stories, and developed deep friendships with activists from:Hong Kong, Singapore, Argentina, Uganda, Congo, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cameron, Tanzania, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Germany, United States of America…
We share the same vision on what our civic space should look like as spaces extending to communities where social interaction take places, where people see each other even without communication, where friends meet, or celebrate and cultures mix. Something like the scenery I’ve tried to capture while pondering the airport in Istanbul.
One may ask, did we succeed to finding a way to protect our spaces for communication and democracy? Did we detect and overcome the obstacles to future participatory democracies with citizens well-being put on the top of the political agenda? Have we thought of ways to remove the different restraints on civil and political rights? How to protect your self and others from government oppression, military power, hunger and live in societies which allow people to organize, participate and communicate among each other without fear of prosecution, pollution, famine, overall natural and human deprivation?
Well, reaching the end of the text the obvious answer is no, we didn’t find the way. We didn’t solve the world hunger, wars, dictators or housing problems, but we have few ideas on how to get people together to socialize and communicate their hardship openly and freely. We thought of ways how people can help each other across borders, governments and continents and that is a force to be reckoned. Remember that one thing I’ve mentioned that governments and militaries can’t stop, at the beginning of this text?
Well, they can’t stop us from meeting, talking, thinking and acting in the public or virtual world. They may slow the process by different forms of oppression, but they can’t stop it.
The events seen in the previous week in Chemnitz are deeply disturbing. Reports of aggression and violence towards those believed to be foreigners, remind us all of how fragile tolerance and empathy are.
However, just like the 50,000 people gathered at the anti-racism concert in Chemnitz this week, we stand in solidarity with those who are working for a united world and against those who try to divide us.
As an international civil society organisation based in Berlin, our work is based on respect and tolerance for all. We aim to bring about greater solidarity between communities and across borders.
We stand in solidarity with all those affected by racism and support work that brings people closer together.