– meaningfulness and full meaning of development education
A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to share ideas on Development Education with some NGO activists and experts on global and environmental education. This exchange took place in an international conference organized by KEHYS, an EU-funded body gathering together professionals working on development issues. The conference was a part of a summer school on development education with the theme “Quality and Impact in Development Education”.
The effectiveness of development education is, indeed, a central theme in global, European and national contexts. It is imperative that our efforts to increase fairness in the world yield visible results. In Finland, there are plenty of excellent programmes aimed at increasing awareness of global issues and problems. Nevertheless the outcomes and effectiveness of development education are still not sufficient, as shown by the national evaluation of international education (Räsänen, 2011).
The liveliness of the debate on global issues is related both to the attention devoted to it by the media and to the interests of the decision-makers. In Finland, discussion of global responsibility has remained in the shadow of the debate on domestic poverty. It is not easy to promote global development issues when there are more than 700 000 people living below the poverty line within our own borders. The arguments of those critical to development co-operation have become more outspoken of late. Unfortunately, it seems that domestic inequality is even used as an argument to oppose all initiatives related to global responsibility.
The new government of Finland faces rather a demanding challenge: how to reduce poverty and inequality in Finland and address our global responsibilities at the same time. Some people would like to see Finland withdraw from her international treaties and to forget her commitments to fight global poverty. As we all understand, this prospect would be highly immoral, unacceptable and, moreover, most destructive to Finland’s economy and her trustworthiness in international relations. In fact, as I and many others see the situation, Finland should be ready to assume an even stronger role in development issues in international arenas.
In the four-year programme of the new government, we can read that the government is not planning to increase the development aid budget for the next two years. This is unfortunate, as the 0,56 % of GNB Finland devotes to development aid, the country remains far behind the UN’s aim of 0,7%.
Still, one can also find a number of positive statements in the new government’s programme vis-à-vis increasing global activity, awareness and responsibility. For example, in the introduction it is emphasized that Finland carries her responsibility both for her own citizens and internationally. Caring is pointed out as a core value of the Finnish society. The government is determined to act against all forms of racism and discrimination. Finland acts to reduce global poverty not only by means of traditional development aid but also through combating climate change. It is recognized by the government that there is a strong link between climate change and poverty and that this relationship has to be taken into account in economic policy.
Poverty affects also wealthy countries such as Finland. This must not, however, be used as an excuse for forgetting the world’s poorest – those who lack all prerequisites for a tolerable life. One must not forget that Finland together with the other Scandinavian countries still belongs to richest nations in the world.
If the people of the richest countries won’t do anything, we cannot ask poor countries to participate in addressing global responsibilities. The richest nations must show the way towards a more just world.
In fact, I am not too worried by those who loudly claim that we should first help our own citizens in need and only then take care of others. I am much more worried by those who have got the means – either power or money or both – to change our world for the better and nevertheless keep quiet and do nothing.
We have plenty of plans, programmes and initiatives to make the world a better place to live. Now it is time to put these ideas into action. In this effort, every little helps. We all need each other for the sake of our planet and for the sake of our own humanity. The aim of development or global education is not only to learn about others but to learn about ourselves and about co-operation. It is a matter of learning how together we can take better care of this tiny planet of ours – our only home.