Despite so much at stake, global governance is in crisis and is failing to respond to the political, economical, social and environmental breakdown throughout the world with international institutions unable to act with the speed, urgency and gravity needed.
At the same time, we have never had so many civil society organisations, mobilised individuals and campaign movements with the skills, experience and finance needed to champion, deliver and evaluate social change.
But if so many movements and campaigning organisations exist, why are we failing to achieve the changes needed to respond to the growing number of threats humanity faces?
/participation asked five leading figures from the world of global activism, politics, NGOs and the UN for their perspective on:
Which structures really change the world?
Our high level contributors are:
We want you to join the discussion at:
To address this question, we need to define structures as more than physical structures made of brick and mortar or glass and steel. Structures are also more than infrastructure, organizations, or institutions. There are structures help maintain the existing power dynamics, inequalities, and injustices of the status quo, but there are also structures that give us the tools to create progressive change in the world.
Stories themselves have structures. A story structure includes a beginning-middle-end, context, conflict, and resolution, etc. But we can also think of storytelling as a structure that has the power to shape our world. The great movements of the last centuries, from abolition, to women’s suffrage, to civil rights and LGBT rights, have been about telling a story of shared humanity. We are different, but also the same, and all worthy of rights, respect, and full citizenship. We need to not only tell each other the stories of what we want to hear, but also stories that challenge us to make a difference.
To create change, it is not enough for us to merely connect and share stories, we must also organize ourselves and take action. Movements are dynamic social structures that aggregate our voices, leverage and tap into institutional power while resisting the pressures to become institutionalized and static.
Kirsty McNeil (@kirstyjmcneill ) spent three years inside Number 10 Downing Street as an advisor to former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and later the Director of Strategy for the Office of Gordon & Sarah Brown.
Institutions don’t change the world, incentives change the world. The policy failures which underlie Europe’s scandalous youth employment rates are less to do with the governance of the European Union and more to do with the electoral incentives set by the gulf in turn-out between younger and older voters.
Electoral politics is slow and hard and often boring, but Europe’s young people simply can’t reverse the coordinated austerity which is costing them their futures without it. No matter how afraid our leaders are of the press barons and the bond markets, there is nothing they fear more than a registered voter with a grievance. Their failures are costing you your jobs – it’s time to remind them you have the power to cost them theirs.
Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar is Global Vice President and Country Director of The Hunger Project in Bangladesh. The Hunger Project is a global, non-profit, strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger.
Achieving a life of dignity – a life where every human being enjoys basic freedoms and a respectable living – is a universal yearning. Yet such a goal has remained elusive for many societies despite repeated experiments and efforts. The top-down approach, depending on the generosity of the rulers, even when they are elected, has not in many cases succeeded in providing better lives for most citizens. Rather a donor-client relationship – where the ruling elite dispenses ‘favors’ and the ordinary citizens are their passive recipients – has emerged in many such countries.
Just as an old key is unable to open a new lock, the outmoded top-down ideas are incapable of assuring lives of dignity for most people. Achieving such lives would require social movements, engaging citizens from the bottom up, not only to assert their ‘rights’ to entitlements and freedom, but also to assume responsibility to take both individual and collective action to improve their own conditions. Given such active citizen engagement, the state’s responsibility would be to enhance its own capability to create an ‘enabling environment’ so that people can succeed in achieving lives of meaning and dignity.
I co-founded an organisation, the ONE Campaign, whose entire purpose is to help people unite in the fight the injustice of extreme poverty – and be part of history. Just as I got to be tiny part of big change with Live Aid, the anti-apartheid campaign or the Berlin Wall-busting party, so we give our members real opportunities to bust this global injustice.
In 10 years together we’ve helped a series of campaigns go from margins to mainstream and make change happen. The successes don’t always hit the headlines, but they are real. The “publish what you pay” transparency legislation we’re pushing for in the oil and gas sector is now going global. Or take AIDS – when we started 50,000 people in need in Africa had access to life saving drugs – now it’s 6.2million. The credit for these achievements doesn’t lie with celebrity rockstars, though they’ve certainly helped. It belongs to African citizens and the millions who campaign in solidarity with them such as those who marched for Drop the Debt and Make Poverty History. In their name these African successes should be far better known and they amount to something profound.
Ravi is an Expert Advisor on Children & Youth, Partners and Youth Branch, at UN-HABITAT in New York. He has held positions at UNICEF Headquarters, Save the Children Sweden and UK
The UN has long recognized that young people are a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic growth and technological innovation. Participation in decision-making is a key priority area of the UN agenda on youth.
Through active participation, young people are empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as in that of their communities, helping them to learn vital life-skills, develop knowledge on human rights and citizenship and to promote positive civic action. To participate effectively, young people must be given the proper tools, such as information, education about and access to their civil rights.
The UN system is coming together to develop the UN system wide action plan on youth. There is a stronger focus on youth participation and greater recognition to youth led organizations. The proposed changes at the UN mark a shift that needs to be recognised in the time to come and the greatest test will be how youth worldwide are recognised through their voice, action and partnership in the UN systems and beyond.
Original Site: YouthPolicy.org