|Global Awareness Raising Project for Eastern Europe (North South Centre, 1994)|
"What can we learn from each other?"
"How can we learn from each other?"
Mr Jan Pakulski North-South Centre, Lisbon, Portugal
Youth for Development and Co-operation (YDC), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This morning's session will centre, first of all, on the question of "What can we learn from each other?" Yesterday we had a chance to find out more about "us", our different backgrounds and our different perceptions of what we are discussing. The second question is "How can we learn from each other?" And that is, in my mind, exactly the main thrust of the idea. How we can brainstorm, exchange ideas and information, how can we reach people in our constituencies, countries and societies? Being aware of a very large diversity of issues we cover and the very large diversity of organisations we come from, I still think that focusing on methods, rather than on issues, is very useful. Methodology will remain diversified and there is much scope for learning from each other, which is exactly what we have requested our speakers to do.
Mr Helmuth Hartmeyer Austrian Information Service for Development Policy (OIE), Vienna, Austria
The questions "What can we learn from each other" and "How can we learn from each other?" may be simple, but the answers are rather difficult. First of all I want to take this opportunity to thank you for appointing me one of the speakers at this workshop this morning. Talking from my experience, I fully agree with the assumption that public awareness on global issues is a key answer to the main challenges for today's world. I started out as a teacher at a Viennese high school in 1972, before joining the Austrian Information Service (ÖIE) to concentrate on development policy in 1982. I first worked in the information department and I was elected as ÖIE's director in 1986. ÖIE is a development NGO with more than 2000 members, including more than 200 organisations, from various political and social sectors.
ÖIE's main task is development information. A monthly magazine is published, public campaigns are set up, brochures and leaflets are edited and relations with the media are maintained. A second task is education. ÖIE provides teacher training courses, organises seminars and activities for children and produces and distributes pedagogical material. During the One World campaign reading materials for children on environment and development co-operation were published with the North-South Centre. ÖIE writes critical reviews of films, slides, videos and also publishes films and slides which are available all over Austria to be used by teachers and educationalists.
Exhibitions are staged and cultural events and discussion groups are organised as well. And, lastly, ÖIE engages in development action. It lobbies for various urgent actions and also co-operates with a number of official commissions. Development sheets are published and distributed. They are short leaflets with suggestions for action on the back cover. The main issues are environment, debt, trade, women, democracy, human rights and international and Austrian development policies. These issues also determine national and international co-operation. An example is national networking. ÖIE has a working unit on development co-operation, of which I am secretary, which is struggling at the moment for a new legal basis for development co-operation in Austria. A second example is that ÖIE co-ordinates platforms for development and environment NGOs. This corresponds with the pre-, and now post-, UNCED processes.
ÖIE is involved internationally in the EURODAD campaign of Transfair to support fairer trade, in coffee for example, for developing countries. We are also involved in WIDE (Women in Development Europe), Towns and Development and the North-South Centre, which acts as the contact point for NGOs in Austria and where I have had the honour of working as a tutor in Lisbon for the last two months.
The structure of the organisation is a federal one. There is a head office in Vienna with a staff of 15 and we have nine regional offices with a total staff of 29 people. Total annual turnover is 22 million Austrian shillings (approximately FF 11 million, CK 60 million). Fifty percent of the income comes from the Austrian State Secretary for Development Co-operation, while the rest is spilt into support from the Ministry of Education, regional funding and various forms of co-operation for certain events. Sales of our products and services account for about 10% of our income and membership fees and donations constitute another 10%. ÖIE has two bookshops in Vienna, in order to put the work on a sounder economic basis, and has installed an Austrian-wide delivery of books, various goods from the developing world and a direct mailing system to raise further funds.
I want to confront you with a few conclusions from ÖIE's work. I would state that a conception of purely passing on information does not work. Information must be organised as a process. What we should talk about is communication and the exchange of information. An attitude of "I have the answers and the facts and I have to implant these in my target group, in my victim" does not produce any positive results. Moreover, I claim that we do not lack information. What we lack is wisdom. And wisdom has to address one's whole personality. Changes in attitudes and behaviour cannot be prescribed. We can only promote a process which in due course may lead to changes. Secondly, awareness-raising is more than marketing, although we should apply modern forms of relations and marketing. Awareness-raising is about participation and about people and asks for patience and continuity. Moreover, the practice of democratic education means education in all its complexity, diversity and in all its dialectics. But as such it is a must and pre-requisite for any democratic society and policy. Third, if awareness-raising is about people, then it is also about the prejudices of people, their fears, their wishes and their socio-economic environment. This must be taken into account more seriously than is presently the case. We must understand and respect the feelings of the people we want to address before our work must be very realistic and very close to life. The growing individualisation of our society, of Austrian society and other societies, has promoted the loss of values and common identities and gives way to various nationalistic, and sometimes very radical,
leaders and promotes simplistic concepts. It would be wrong if we, as an answer to the global situation, threaten people with the situation and make them feel guilty. Threats and guilt are bad advisers and produce apathy. Public awareness-raising should motivate, inspire and empower the individual and, in the end, strengthen co-operation and forms of resistance.
Finally, public awareness-raising is more about issues than about politics. What we, in general, lack in our work is the searching for the key demands of liveliness, openness and creativity which makes people and children curious. Dogmatism and fanaticism sometimes create barriers which we want to tear down. Searching for new partners is more fruitful and leads to more success than concentrating on enemies and rigid principles. What I am saying is a plea for experiments, for innovations and for the crossing of regional and national borders. I am grateful to be here in one of my neighbouring countries. We are crossing borders as far as issues and disciplines are concerned. What we need is a multi-disciplinary approach in methodology.
I want to conclude my presentation with a few concrete examples of what ÖIE is doing at the moment. So-called "world workshops" are organised to which individuals are invited to come together for a day or two to exchange their experience to issues like trade, debt, women or the environment. After two phases of: a critical reflection of the issues and of fantasy and vision, the participants tackle reality in the last phase. The reality as we come across it in our country is very much a reality of the egos. What can I, as a person, do? How can I change consumption patterns? How can I act locally? The second question which is often asked is "How can I communicate at work, at school and at home?" And the third question is "If I know all that I have read and that you have told me, how can I then interfere?" Let me give you two examples. We had a very successful campaign sending soil to the Ministry of Agriculture so that it could be "on firmer ground" during the GATT negotiations. We also sent money to the Minister of Finance in order to help him with debt relief. Both things caused chaos in the administration, there was a public reaction and the media paid attention to these actions. A dialogue developed and we published a book called "Thirty-Three tips for you and me and what can I do?" At the moment we are producing a yearbook of good ideas and I am sure that this is going to be a bestseller.
The point is, first, to come from information, through experience, to action. Secondly, regarding children, we do not want to manipulate children but it is very important to start at an early age. We have a campaign called "Children ask clever questions". 18,000 children have, so far, taken part in this Austrian-wide action. A children's conference will be held in June as one of the high points. The idea is that children confront their parents, schoolteachers, shopkeepers, with their very way of life and initiate a rethinking and possibly a change. The central issues covered are chocolate, meat and aluminium. Thirdly, ÖIE staged a two-year course on development policy. The fourth course is presently taking place and people are still queuing up to participate. People come together for four seminars and meet in regional seminars and work together in project groups. The point is that if people really want to be confronted with global issues, in a way which is not a mere intellectual and academic exercise but in a way which "hurts", then they have to take the time for it. A two-year course provides time, patience, a certain atmosphere and trust, i.e. it sets the right framework.
Fourthly, ÖIE has brought the idea of climate alliance to Austria which so far has been successful. Five out of the country's nine regions, representing more than half the population, have joined. They promise three things. First of all, ecologically, to restructure their own communities. The main aim is to reduce carbon emissions with 50% by the year 2010 which is very ambitious, but work has began to realise it. Secondly, to enhance public information on global issues. If a mayor signs within the alliance, he/she promises to do something in the community to improve development education and information. Thirdly, these towns promise to give financial support to projects in the rainforest promoting sustainable development.
A fortnight ago ÖIE launched a project in which people from all political and social sectors took part. The environment and development were the main issues this year. This conference showed that there is awareness of these issues, but the question is how to actually achieve change. My personal conclusion is that one must continually fight for democratisation and participation. We have to strive for an integrated concept in all development and awareness-raising activities, especially if they are set to work against the officially declared policy in one's country. Accepting this demands the willingness to dialogue and co-operation and, as a final plea, the continuous process of learning.
Ms Elizabeth Mumbi King'ori, Wildlife Clubs of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
First of all I want to say, like many others said yesterday, that I believe in global interdependence. All the resources of Mother Earth are linked and we are all thus linked interdependently. We cannot afford to ignore global problems. What goes on in one part of the world will, eventually, affect all us in the rest of the world, whether economically, socially or politically. It is important for everybody in the North and in the South to realise this.
I would like to share with you some of my experience as a person from a developing country in Africa, in general, and Kenya in particular. I hope that from sharing we will learn from each other. I will briefly start with the experience of interdependence in Africa, because it relates to the situation in the East now. In the early 1960s, it was an exiting time in Africa. It was a period of hope for the people, for this continent had gone through a period which they wanted to forget, a period of slavery and colonialism. This time, the African leaders were determined to catch up with the leaders of the developed world. They wanted to eliminate poverty and disease and to do so as quickly as possible. African countries started to follow the development model of the industrialised countries. At this stage they received substantial aid from the Western economies and the economy seemed to grow. It was soon realised, however, that development had not reached the stage it should. People's expectations had not been met. We are now very far from where we wanted to be and the gap between the developing and developed countries is becoming larger. People in the South started to become disillusioned with the kind of aid they were getting from the West. It was obvious to many that problems of poverty and environmental degradation would not be solved by this aid, but through solving other issues like fair trade, removing the debt and justice.
Alternative solutions have been proposed ever since the realisation that development would not continue in the desired way as long as the terms of trade are determined in the West. Unfortunately, people in developing countries are so busy meeting the minimum basic requirements of life that they do not have the time to look for other solutions.
There are a number of local initiatives and I would like to share one example of such an initiative.
In the late 1960s and the early 1970s there was a problem in Kenya, and other African countries with the preservation of wildlife. My country is blessed with a wide diversity of wildlife, both flora and fauna, but there was little conservation. In 1968, a group of Kenyan students came together and decided that more should be done on the conservation of natural resources. The focus was on wildlife at that time. The students wanted to run a conservation awareness programme on an informal basis and form clubs within their schools which could be concerned about conservation. They went with such a request to the Minister of Education who reacted favourably. They then looked for ways to set up an organisation and found a volunteer who was willing to start it. Since then the organisation has grown from a secretariat with volunteers to one with 30 full time paid staff members and four volunteer workers. The membership has also grown from the initial representatives of the twelve schools involved to one of over 1000 clubs in schools and colleges all over the country.
Wildlife Clubs of Kenya is able to spread the message of conservation through various publications which are sent out to club members. It also organises seminars and workshops for students and teachers. There is a mobile education unit which goes out to the schools and colleges where we take slide shows and talk on whatever topic the club members request. There are hostels which serve as education centres. Club members come to hear lectures, see slide shows or be taken on a guided tour to various places. Rallies and exhibitions take place in several regions in the country. Individual clubs organise exhibitions where they show what they are doing to educate others and to raise awareness of conservation issues. They also fund-raise by, for instance, selling T-shirts. During these rallies there are cultural songs and dances which relate to environmental conservation. Club members are also involved in lobbying and demonstrations for change.
The secretariat also holds competitions for club members and awards prizes for various essay, art and poetry competitions. Bus tours are organised to areas of conservationist concern. We deal with issues like tree-planting, in schools and communities. There are small projects, like constructing a fish pond in a school. Members study the environment which is around them and we stress the indigenous knowledge which is now slowly being forgotten. We like them to identify the kind of plants and animals surrounding them, as well as their indigenous knowledge on the environment.
These are some of the activities that the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya are involved in. But we attempt to do more than that. For instance, we try to exchange information with other countries. For the past two years, there has been an exchange programme with Dutch students. Through the Dutch Youth Programme we try to focus on raising awareness among the Dutch youth on conservation issues in our country and in the Netherlands. The students go to each other's countries for three months. Further, we have volunteers who help with the sharing of information. Currently, we have one person from Japan, one from the United States and one from the United Kingdom who help in the exchange of ideas and the spreading of information. We hope that they will go back to their country to share more information on the situation in Kenya and in other developing countries.
Another example is the various women groups. These build on the African tradition of helping one another, co-operating with each other and sharing information. There is also a self-help movement to which donations are given to help local schools and hospitals. It started in colonial times and continued afterwards when people felt they were not receiving the kind of education they wanted. They decided to then provide the education themselves. These are only some of the examples of awareness programmes in developing countries.
To conclude, I would just like to say that any awareness programmes that are initiated should be based on needs as identified by the people themselves. They should be built on those needs and on the local situation of the people. The awareness programmes should also be two-way. We often talk about awareness-raising in the North, but we really need to have global awareness in the South. Because there are many stereotypes of the East in the South, there is a need for this kind of global awareness.
Mr Ivan Dejmal, Ekologicka Spolecnust, Prague, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic
I can inform you about what I have been dealing with as a Minister of Environment and what NGOs are trying to do in this respect. The Ministry of Environment is a strict body concerned with the environment and set Up only after the political changes in 1989. Before that we, of course, paid attention to the environment and to education, particularly to official environmental degradation. Two organisations, one of them concerned with the security of environmental conservation and the other, a movement which was part of the Socialist Youth Union, organised summer camps on environmental protection. Both organisations were also involved in systematic action in schools and extremely good results were achieved in this way. Teachers were very enthusiastic about environmental protection in these schools and devoted their free time to informing the children. This work was not supported by the state administration. Their work was very important as at least 50% of those involved in environmental protection were educated by teachers who took part in these camps.
A new approach to environmental education had to be sought after the changes in 1989. We tried to learn about models elsewhere in the world. We were also trying to find out what the role of the federal administration should be in environmental education. The conclusion we arrived at was that environmental protection, if it is not only to be one of the subjects at school, must be part of extra curricular education, even though it is carried out in schools. The core of the educational work must be entrusted to external experts, which is why we have accepted this strategy for environmental education. According to this strategy, the role of the state and society is to provide, through institutions, the scope for initiatives of environmental groups. As for export assistance, the state is supposed to assist the establishment of environmental sectors. The National Centre of Environmental Education plays a central role because it is considered a place at which individual ideas and methods of education can crystallise, as it were. It was clear that such a centre could not be created artificially. We, therefore, announced a public competition for the establishment of this centre. The competition was won by the Centre of Environmental Education, which established the National Centre for Environmental Education.
Environmental education is only one of the activities of NGOs and environmental movements. Public opinion is, of course, much more influenced by environmental activities and campaigns. We have learned several things in this respect. Our first experience was of environmental campaigns organised Under the old regime, when our protests against environmental destruction were supported by the public and we used to win the sympathy of the whole nation. It was sympathy without opposition to the totalitarian regime. That is why, after the first free elections, environmental protection was the second priority issue of the population in ail the public opinion polls. At the moment these issues appear somewhere between the sixth and tenth place in public priorities. This proves that the earlier interest shown was not genuine. Nevertheless, it did create a much better climate for our work.
An example of this from recent times are the horse races which take place in the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. These horse races probably have the most difficult obstacles in the world. A number of horses are injured and die each year. An organisation which uses extreme methods to protect animals, organised for the second time this year, a large demonstration against those horse races. Their activity, of course, interfered with the race. People are very reluctant to see the rational element in the behaviour of animal protectionists who claim that animals should not be used for human entertainment and if they are used as such, the activity should not lead to their death. The public, somehow, does not seem to understand this. While the same discussion incited much more understanding in the past, the demonstrators are now publicly considered as hooligans. Today, public opinion is different from the past when it supported the elimination of the above-mentioned hurdles.
Another example of an issue we had already experienced with the old regime concerns the level of environmental ignorance amongst the general public. Our society was a rather industrial society with successful results, though it otherwise was a classic industrial society with all the negative impacts on the environment. Nowadays people also expect to see the good results. Any attempt at the rationalisation of industrial activities which have destructive effects on the environment are understood by the public as depriving them of the fruits of civilisation. This could be an expression of a belief that people today can finally consume the results of industrial production. Yet, they need to become aware that there are people on this planet who do not live as well as they do and they should voluntarily try to lead a more responsible lifestyle. They refuse to do this at present which is why we are now confronted with an enormous barrier in our way. Environmentalists alone will not be able to roll this stone away and we need to choose the path which leads to assistance.