GVI BLOG

 

 

The Happiness Walk USA

The Happiness Walk USA

Global Vision Institute 2014 Photo Contest

Six-Month Report, May 2015

Gross National Happiness USA (GNHUSA) received a GVI UN Change Agent and Global Visionary award in the amount of $1,000 for a photo submission representing one of its projects,The Happiness Walk USA. This project is an innovative approach to building awareness on creating expanded measures of progressto increase community wellbeing, in keeping with the United Nations’ initiatives on happiness.

The Walk is a transcontinental journey on foot by GNHUSAco-founders, Paula Francis and Linda Wheatleymeant to inspire people into action aswe engage thousands of people in conversation, listening, analyzing and reporting on responses to “what really matters in life”. We seek to galvanize positive social change in a way that is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals and GVI’s desire to strengthen universal values.

Outcomes and Impacts (since October 2014)

The Happiness Walkers have traveledan additional 836.5 miles from Fredericksburg, VA to Jacksonville, FL, for a total of 1,634 miles. In all, this walk has taken us from Montreal, Canada south through 12 states plus Washington, D.C.

Many more hundreds of meaningful conversations about what matters in lifehave been recorded. Education occurs with each interaction on the implicationsthese answers haveon our universal aspirations for happiness and on the need to create thoughtful public policies that support community happiness and wellbeing.

Conversations about what matters most in life were further encouraged to take place in people’s homes during the week of March 20th,International Day of Happiness. Photos,representing events in twelve states, are posted on www.happinesswalk.com while summaries of these conversations are being analyzed for common themes.

We are in the process of transcribing all the audiorecordings,which will be analyzed by two University of Vermont math professors and co-creators of the Hedonometer, a tool that offers real-time, online measurement of happiness by tracking Twitter feeds.

A movie traileron The Walk will be madein JunebyKingdom County Productions. The trailer will be used to raise funds for a feature-length documentary to spread the vision and mission of GNHUSA. The film will educate people on how expanded measures,when skillfully identified and nurtured, increase the root causes of happiness and provide a meaningful barometer of community success.

A new Happiness Charterhas been drafted. This document acknowledges our ethical responsibility to exercise our pursuit of happiness by behaving in ways that are aligned with our national valuesand our ability to reach our highest human potential whilehonoring the richness and diversity of our planet.

GNHUSA is in the process of expanding its board to include greater diversity and national representation. Our very first executive director has been identified and we are currently negotiating a contract and creating transition plans.

Linda Wheatley was an opening presenter at The Economics of Happiness conference on February 17 and The Happiness Walk was recentlyfeatured in media as follows:

Gathering Peace, WGDR in Vermont (monthly)

Radio Bahai, WLGI in South Carolina (Nov 2015)

Tidewater in Franklin, Virginia (11/29/15)

Channel 13 in Central North Carolina (Jan 2015)

Natural Awakenings, North Carolina (Jan 2015)

Natural Awakenings in Norfolk, Virginia (Jan 2015)

The Colletonian in Walterboro, South Carolina (Feb 2015)

South Strand News in Georgetown, South Carolina (2/6/15)

Live Happy Magazine(March 2015 edition)

The Times Argus, Vermont (4/5/15)

Some photos from the road:

 

 

Interview with H.E Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser , United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations

The basic question is what does peace and security look like in practice? How would you describe how peace is or should be manifested as behaviours and cultures in the international system, at the levels of the system (including stakeholders), organization, team and individual?

You see, there is the UN Security Council l which deals predominately with peace and security, responding to Chapter 7 of the UN mandate for the council. The other way is that there is the General Assembly which corresponds to Chapter VI,which states that any dispute that is likely to endanger peace and security should first be addressed through negotiation and mediation and states that the Council can call on parties to use such means to settle their dispute. When I was president of the 66th session of the General Assembly, I chose mediation as the main theme. The same session of the UN General Assembly passed resolution 66/291 on strengthening the role of mediation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict prevention and resolution. Currently I preside over another organization that deals with issues relevant to peace and security, the Untied Nations Alliance of Civilizations, which was established after 9/11 as an initiative of the UN Secretary General at the time, and was co-sponsored by Spain and Turkey.

There are three main tools for peace and security. The first is the Security Council, which is mandated for hard power, dealing with military and peace keepers, while the General Assembly uses soft power and mediation. Then there is the Alliance of Civilizations, which is a soft power tool to defuse tensions through bridging cultural gaps and fostering interfaith dialogue and understanding among diverse communities and nations.

HR Headshot-2                                       Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser

Since I took the position in leading the Alliance of the Civilizations, I can see that there is a challenge that is growing wherever we go,. The wave of extremism and radicalization is on the rise. Conflict stems from groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda who use religion to promote their own radical ideologies among young people. We are working on this as a mission for the Alliance, which is focused on four areas (youth, education, media, and migration). Lately and over the past few months, I presented an initiative to the Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly as I noticed that these problems are increasing with many young people being brain washed by radical and extremist groups who persuaded them to join these groups. To address this dangerous problem, military power can be one solution but it’s not enough. You need different tools I am convinced, that religious leaders have a vital role to play. In order to address such cases, we need their input. We also need the collective efforts of governments as well as civil society, academia, scholars, and private sector support.

I presented to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, the initiative to convene a High Level Thematic Debate with religious leaders from all over the world, representing major faiths to meet at the UN and talk about the promotion of tolerance and reconciliation and combating extremism.

The meeting was held at the General Assembly and it was very interesting over all. I feel if we keep working with different ideas and new mechanisms with everyone, it will work out well, as to fight with these groups we have to work smart. And above all we must be positive about our capabilities to combat extremism. The world must have peace and stability. How can I live my life without that? We need a global commitment by all parties to get through this. The threat will be towards humanity, and we know that our world is getting smaller. And we’re dealing with smarter people to fight against so we must be smarter. And I feel religious leaders can really help in doing this.

There is also the role of the media that holds the perception that the UN is a giant dinosaur and a bureaucratic mess. I believe in the mission of UN. I’ve worked with it for 21 years. It’s not an alien as it’s driven by member states and the UN can be effective if there is consensus. Sometimes, when there is disagreement with the big five, nothing happens. We see this in Syria at present. If we have consensus, then we can do it. I believe in the mission of the UN.

Interview with Jonathan Granoff,President, Global Security Institute and 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee

What does peace and security look like in practice?

Peace and security are founded on recognition of shared interest. Presently, there are a set of existential challenges that every nation and person in the world is impacted by. These challenges are, to some extent, existential to civilisation, including climate, the varied PH of the oceans, the sustainability of rain forests. They share certain characteristics. In order to protect these common goods, global regimes are required. No nation or group of nations is capable of meeting these challenges. For example, if one nation can dump pollution in the ocean, then other nations will be tempted to dump, using that nations flag. In addition to these, there are global, critically important issues that similarly cannot be ignored or marginalised. These include the stability of financial markets, ending poverty, ensuring potable water, and cyber-security. These again share the characteristic of requiring global cooperation. Very simply, the UN system is the institutional foundation structure, through which the world needs to work to achieve cooperation to meet these challenges.

 

The identification and advancement of our common goods and interests will enhance our ability to reach human security. Thus far, the debate on security has remained largely dominated by the military establishments of major states, based on the premise that secure states are preconditions for development and the improved quality of life of each state citizen. This preoccupation of one’s own nation is not morally wrong – nor entirely incorrect. It is just not sufficient to meet our shared interests. Also, there are better ways than military force, in many instances, to achieve sustainable security. It is simply inadequate to meet the tasks at hand if our national identities obscure our abilities to identify our current existential situation — which must focus on global shared interests. The Secretary-General has identified the elimination of nuclear weapons and the protection of the global climate as both moral and practical necessities. The UN is a necessary and institutional foundation to achieve this.

 

What about every child and every woman initiative of the UNSG? Can that factor into world peace?

Great moral thinkers of humanity have consistently identified as a standard for policy how the least amongst us (the weakest and most vulnerable) are threatened. That doesn’t simply mean people who are poor but also includes infants who can’t fend for themselves and must rely on, not just their parents, but the social fabrics of the society of which they are born in. By focusing on the needs of the weak,we are forced to think of the most vulnerable. Too often, planning focuses on financial aspects of human endeavors and overlooks quality of life issues, which directly impact the most vulnerable. By focusing policy on an issue that any sensitive heart can respond to, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has demonstrated not just intelligence but wisdom. I do not consider women to be, per se, amongst the most vulnerable and in fact I have observed the trajectory of women taking their rightful place in society as the full equals to men in most important aspects. The achievement of gender equity is a common good. But infants will always remain vulnerable and it is thus appropriate for all societies to focus on their well-being.

 

How would you describe how peace is or should be manifest as behaviours and cultures in the international system (including stakeholders), organisation, team and individual?

Moral incoherence breeds instability while moral coherence breeds stability. Nuclear weapons policies of dual standards demonstrate moral incoherence. Some countries say nuclear weapons are good for them but not rest of the world. This double standard breeds instability. Nuclear weapons are no good for anybody and only an insane person would say that nuclear weapons are good for everybody. Under the rule of law, there must be the equality of application of norms and standards. Thus the capacity of the International Court of Justice must be expanded and the International Criminal Court must be strengthened as well as its jurisdictions expanded. Law is an important aspect of peace but must be founded on justice. It isabsurd that under international humanitarian law, dum-dum bullets have been prohibited, but the most egregious weapons of war, nuclear weapons, the use of which cause unnecessary suffering and by their nature impact neutral third parties, remain deployed. Nuclear weapons do not discriminate between civilians and combatants, cause unnecessary and immeasurable suffering, and therefore should be prohibited.

                                          Johnathan Granoff

Jonathan Granoff

In a larger sense, we can learn from history about foundations for peace. An example is that after WWI, crushing reparations were put on the shoulder of Germany, the consequence of which was a totally disruptive society in which Nazism grew. After World War II, the Marshall Plan showed generosity and inclusiveness and the consequence was the spread of democracy, trade and partnerships. To some extent, the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 Development Agenda can serve as basis for a global Marshall Plan based on the same practical successes and insights.

 

There were great voices within the UN such as Dag Hammerskold and Sergio Vieira do Mello who believed in defending the UN Charter no matter the circumstance. Do you feel current leaders within the UN system can rise to defend the UN charter in the midst of current threats to peace and security?

Within the skeleton of any society can be found its economic system upon which social relations deepened. If the skeleton is weak, the body will suffer. The world spends in excess of 1.5 trillion in military expenditures, which arguably is not strengthening the skeleton of society. A better approach would be larger allocations for schools, roads, hospital, environmentally sustainable practices and other security-enhancing endeavours. A culture of violence breeds fear and insecurity, and insecurity brings more weapons. There are not military solutions to Syria, Ukraine, Kashmir, and Palestine. All of these areas can best be solved through identifying shared interests and diplomacy. This is not to say that there is no value at all of the use of force. But I wish to highlights its limitations and emphasize other routes available if we would but commit the resources. The resources of the UN need to be dramatically enhanced to help bring about transformation on how security is pursued. Militaries have a place but, presently, their place is too large. Many institutions within the UN system need to be substantially beefed up.

 

For example, the International Atomic Energy agency has never spent more than $150 million a year on its inspections, compared to the billions countries spend to produce nuclear arsenals. Inspections, verifications, and monitoring structures do far more to build confidence and trust then threatening each other with annihilation.

 

The spiritually wise, through human history, have consistently admonished us to see the human family as one. It is interesting that the business community has long ago transcended national and religious borders and treated the human family as one market. We need to see the human family not just as a market but, indeed, as one family.

 

 

“The thought of succeeding invariably brings to mind the existence of failure”

In a continent where development is most often threatened by the lack of adequate health security, it takes alot of determination to be fully involved. This week, we talk to Ngime Epie,  a Cameroonian  volunteer/health communicator, on the role courage in his passion for peace building. 

On a personal level, how have you experienced your courage?

For me, courage has been a permanent requirement for the completion of my everyday assignments, both professional and family related. In my neighborhood, where I grew up, courage is indispensable. From school fights, which I took part in, to crossing the road safely to trying to convince members of a community to take up a project, I have always needed courage. My first school fight taught me the greatest lesson in life. As a school boy, I was one of the favorite targets for bullies partly because I was always calm. Then one day when a guy about my age seized my pencil and asked me to write with my fingers, the whole class burst out laughing at me. My head swelled with shame but my heart also bit faster with anger. In that state of anger, I gave the guy a serious knock in the face and he fell. Every one stopped and looked at me in shock. The guy got up, rummaged his bag and found my pencil which he handed back to me. He never bothered me again. I realized from then that I could accomplish a lot if only I could summon the courage to do anything.
What does courage in the international system look like?

The international system is composed of many sub-systems and coordinating all the sub-systems to function as a unit is an uphill task. It involves some tasks like asking people to change their mentalities and habits and this will take a lot of courage on the part of the actors and stakeholders. The fear to fail at an international level that is always lurking behind and around any project to be undertaken commands courage from those who implement them or oversee their implementation.
What are the stumbling blocks you have ever encountered that could deter your courage?

I am my first stumbling block. Sometimes, I let fear get the better part of me and it stops me from accomplishing so many projects. Another factor that usually discourages me is the thought of lack of means and resources to complete an assignment or task. The dearth of financial and material resources is a constant challenge to my courage in carrying out some professional tasks.
What is the place of Courage in carrying out a successful project?

The thought of succeeding invariably brings to mind the existence of failure. At the start of every project, there is the fear of failure lodged deep in the hearts of conceivers and actors of the project. Therefore, courage is at the heart of every successful project because taking up a project means overcoming the fear to fail.

Part Two

Who are you?

My name is Ngime Epie. I am a language services provider I multi-task. First, I work with a Cameroon-based NGO, Global Health Dialogue (GHD) where I serve as Assistant Project Officer. I am also a freelance translator (Fre<>Eng) and a contributor to a number of blogs

Can you tell us more about your work?

As the Assistant Project Officer in an NGO, I take part in sensitization campaigns in local communities, training of leaders of other NGOs. I also help to design projects, attend meetings and make recommendations to local authorities through reports. Most importantly, I design health projects to impact the most remote regions in my country. I also try to seek immediate as well as long term solutions to serious health problems plaguing remote areas in Cameroon.

What are some results you’ve seen in your work?

Some of the sensitization campaigns I take part in have resulted in change of attitudes and habits. Also some of the recommendations have helped local authorities in taking decisions that have affected, positively, the lives of the local peoples. Tackling a recent cholera outbreak in 2011 was one of my satisfying results because I acted spontaneously through GHD to tackle an epidemic in a community which I have never been used to.

What are your favorite things about working for GHD?

The best thing about GHD is flexibility. At GHD, most projects are designed with a lot of flexibility to minimize the impact of its failure, just in case. Also, the professional working environment is convivial

What are the challenges of working and living in your duty station?

It is not easy to live in town like Buea where information does not circulate freely. Information is also poorly managed and not archived. This is one of the challenges of carrying out a project in Buea. Lastly, the cost of living in Buea is slightly higher than average.

Inspiring courage: GVI interview with Fabrizio Hochschild.

Defending the truths of the UN Charter has taken guts, ambition, but above all courage. As such was seen in the legendary bravery of former Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello and former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjöld. In efforts to understand these two men and the role courage should play in the UN system, GVI’s Gesù Antonio Báez interviewed UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Colombia, Fabrizio Hochschild to discover more.

 

1)  In your article “In and above conflict: a study on leadership in the United Nations” you begin with the quote “The world needs leaders made strong by vision, sustained by ethics, and revealed by political courage….”: Could you explain what exactly is political courage and is it present in the current UN System?

 

Political courage is akin to moral courage, it is about standing up for those who do not have a voice, it is the courage to speak truth to power in order to uphold the values of the UN Charter.

 

The importance of moral courage – especially among the organization’s senior leaders – is not always adequately promoted and celebrated. There are many examples of it, especially in the field, and I would suggest more among junior colleagues. As we get more senior, many of us grow less willing to speak up and we tend to place a greater value on caution, on maintaining relationships and avoiding controversy.

 

2)  You worked for many years with the late Sergio Vieira de Mello who for many, together with former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, is viewed as an example of the political courageousness and valiance. What was it about these two extraordinary men that was so unique? Can you identify anyone present in the current system who has these qualities?

 

Sergio I knew well, Hammarskjöld only indirectly, mainly from reading. Both were motivated by many of the same convictions about the UN but were quite different in style and character. Hammarskjöld was a Swedish civil servant and former central banker while Sergio was a Brazilian career UN staffer and former student activist with long work experience in conflict areas.

 

Both were inspired by the notion that the UN served and promoted international values and norms. Both believed strongly in the importance of the independence of the UN Secretariat and the need for staff to be scrupulous in avoiding representing individual member state or regional interests.  Both believed that the main purpose of the UN was to serve the less fortunate, those without access to power or influence and that staff needed to be guided by the values set out in the UN Charter. At the heart of Hammarskjöld´s vision – which inspired Sergio – was his concept of integrity: Integrity not understood in the narrow sense it is often used now but in broader terms, integrity not merely as avoiding breaking UN staff rules, but more importantly as an obligation to pro-actively uphold the standards and norms of the UN especially when it is difficult and controversial to do so.

 

Hammarskjöld was reflective, cerebral and, as “Markings” reveals, quite spiritual. He argued flawlessly based on principle and law. Sergio´s approach and style differed. He relied more on charm, charisma, eloquence and an uncanny ability to empathize with his interlocutor than on principle and conceptual reasoning to win over others to the cause of the organization.  He also drew a lot on his field experience.

 

Both to this day move and inspire staff. I have seen examples of their skill, vision and courage at every level in the organization.

 

3) In life, it is sometimes necessary to take risks in order to achieve a greater good. This, of course, takes courage. However, in the present UN System, many within are afraid of taking those risks for fear of losing job security. What action do you think must happen in order to encourage more courage within the system and generate true leadership? And by which actors (e.g. managers, directors, general staff, NGO’s, etc)?

 

There are a number of things that can be done. The first is that field work should be encouraged, as well as first hand exposure to the conflict situations the UN was created to attend to. This experience is far more likely to light the flame of passion and conviction which nurtures the courage to stand up for what is right. Where staff only know UN service from sitting in an office in New York or Geneva, far removed from those we serve, it is much harder to gain the inspiration and courage that comes with field service. Those who have lived through conflict, witnessed crimes against humanity or been exposed to extreme poverty, know that job security is not what matters most.

 

A second thing that can be done is to look again at our recruitment and promotion processes. We need to value much more integrity in the sense Hammarskjöld understood it in these processes. We don’t value sufficiently the ability of skillfully, tactfully and courageously advancing principled causes where it is difficult and controversial to do so. We need to go back to what Hammarskjöld stood for and what most people want from the UN: The courage, conviction and skill to uphold and promote the implementation of universal values; the disposition to serve those in direst need and to be able to do so under pressure without flinching or undue compromise. We need to seek out and recruit those who have a proven record of this in their CVs. We also need more women in leadership positions.

 

Thirdly we need to re-awaken what made most staff want to join the organization but then too often gets diluted or forgotten as their careers progress. Caution and inaction too often become the default tendencies in light of contradictory pressures and a risk and criticism averse culture. We too rarely risk sticking our necks out until we are sure we are not too exposed and we are part of a pack of powerful interests. We must learn again to work more from a norms and values based perspective and accept that friction and criticism is inevitable when we do that. We also have to think less about how we will be judged today or tomorrow and more about what history will have to say about what we managed to do and the positions we took.

 

And finally, those of us who are senior have to do better at trying to set an example, an example in conviction and persistence, and in terms of independence from member state interests and upholding the international norms when it many be perilous and difficult to do so. We need to try and set an example for younger, more junior staff rather than profiting from their idealism and commitment while not doing enough to nurture it. We have to do more to create a culture where staff feel safe and supported taking initiative and taking risks in pursuit of what the organization stands for.

 

 

 

I want to see you be “brave”: courage in and around the UN system

There’s a catchy new song from the popular singer Sara Bareilles that has hit the radios recently. Entitled “Brave”, the song goes into detail on the singer’s desire for the listener to “say what they want to say” and “be brave”.

 

As the lyrics go:

 

You can be amazing

You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug

You can be the outcast

Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love

or you can start speaking up

 

Catchy as the song may be, it does leave room for pondering on how inactive we may have been in certain situations in our lives, and makes us wonder how brave we have really been.

 

It also prompts us to ask if there is any relevance of bravery to the actions of those that work in and around the UN system? Recent criticism is that many are not taking risks for fear of being reprimanded or making an unpopular decision. But with the general scope of work involving the need to be purposeful in our roles, where is the courage to vocalize one’s passion?

 

It’s indeed normal for many to be afraid of failure, but given that the work of the United Nations is designed to have an impact on the 7 billion citizens that inhabit this plant, wouldn’t those who work in it be obliged to try and try again, in order to achieve the true potential of both their role and their work within the UN?

 

Nelson Mandela was famous for saying that it was through his greatest failures that he achieved his greatest strengths. But taking risks and preparing for failure takes courage and bravery – above all, it takes confidence and passion. Could this be lacking within the system?

 

In January and February, we will be exploring this topic and trying to understand how we can indeed be brave and take the initiative to rekindle passion and promote positive and purposeful change in and around the UN system

 

 

 

 

Post-2015 Developments in Asia: Impact on the Ground

GVI connected with Sivasubramanian, a thought leader in Internet governance space based in India and currently serves global organizations like ISOC and ICANN at various capacities. GVI spoke with him to understand how post-2015 development efforts are impacting people in the Asia.

 

Do you think the mechanisms for multi­stakeholder engagement in forging the agenda (e.g. the online World We Want platform, the MY World 2015 Global Survey, as well as regional and national consultations) will usher in new ongoing modes of inclusive global governance? Should it?

 

It is good to see multi­stakeholder model being increasingly adopted in the forging and implementing the Developmental Agenda in Global Governance. While the world has been considerably effective in minimizing global conflicts or providing relief on a global scale, its ultilateral process, in the area of economic and social development, during the past 70 years, has been highly politicized in identifying the core issues and in reaching agreements on the developmental priorities; where the issues are identified, the top­down implementation model produced sub­optimal results.

 

Inter­governmental diplomatic process by seasoned diplomats is required in some specialized areas such as global conflict resolution, but at the same time, the global developmental tasks are so enormous and so complex that it is impossible for Governments alone, (in disconnected isolation of other stakeholders) to generate effective and conclusive solutions to problems. In the multi­stakeholder process, not only does stakes are claimed by stakeholders but the expertise from across different stakeholder groups of Business, Academia and other sectors of the Civil Society combine with that of the Government to generate well informed and optimal solutions to various issues.

 

Inclusive Governance does not necessarily imply proportionate inclusion of participants from every region, from every country, from every creed, proportionately across genders. Such a rationale for inclusiveness would generate endless debates on the basis for proportionate representation, for example, inclusion in proportion of population, inclusion in proportion of geographic space etc. By extension there is no single formula for proportionate representation, that could be deemed completely fair. What ought to be the focus is fair global governance, fair for everyone. If there is a fair process where a woman could decide in a manner that is fair for both genders, then it is not required to double a seat where only one is required.

 

Fair global governance is achievable by the multistakeholder process as this process tends to broadly balance the interests, even without proportionate inclusion or representation. As the development process increasingly adopts the multi­stakeholder process, global governance becomes more and more effective.What are your thoughts or what role does you see for the private sector, for philanthropists, other new actors in development? What would be the nature of some of the collaborations, and on what issues?

 

Private Sector has played a role that is much greater than that of governments in global development. While Governments have played the role of a regulator, private sector has brought in innovations and caused progress to happen. The role of Government could be viewed as that of a facilitator or enabler, instead of a regulator, then the roles played by the rest of the actors become more and more effective. Philanthropists could look for similarity of causes and bring together resources where possible for more effective global philanthropy. For a start, there could be a spatial overview of philanthropic missions and programs to minimize redundant allocations and to cover neglected areas of philanthropy. An effective multi­stakeholder process could help channelize or guide the philanthropic resources in a manner that such resources are optimally allocated for global development. Private Sector could consider adopting the social enterprise model more and more, get more involved in the multi­stakeholder process and also support the participation of Civil Society and ther actors who might have participation constraints.

The online stakeholder engagement platforms are valuable tools to engage stakeholders. The platforms need to incorporate more collaborative tools, perhaps with help from the Internet technical community who would be glad to contribute to the efforts to apply their expertise to aid developmental efforts.

Global Participation and the UN: An interview with Otto Spijkers

Global participation has been on the rise, from the protests in Hong Kong to citizens vocalizing their requests through government initiatives to include their citizens in decisions making (e.g.: the European Union). GVI is keen to understand more how global participation itself has begun to penetrate the UN system, including in the current planning for the post 2015 agenda. GVI interviewed Otto Spijkers, Assistant Professor at Utrecht University and author of the article Global Public Participation at the United Nations, to understand more about this.

 

1) What initiated your interest in public participation within the UN and the need for it?

Personally, I always had an interest in examining the individual and his or her role within the global community. If you take the idea of a global community seriously, you have to see it as more than an abstract idea. But compared with a single individual, the global community is, of course, overwhelming in size, and this has as a consequence that individuals might not think much of their role in it. At the same time, more and more individuals are beginning to be more assertive, and they do want to take responsibility and be more actively involved in this large global community .

 

It is truly fascinating; I happen to also be a philosopher and you can relate studies on cosmopolitanism to this. With cosmopolitanism, there is a strand that if you let go of nationality and replace it with nothing else, you become detached from citizenship and ties to a nation and you can wander about free in the global community, without the barriers of nationality. You are free in an almost absolute sense. But there is a second strand of cosmopolitanism, which focuses more on obligations towards the international community, that need to be regulated and institutionalized, rather than on loosening the ties with a particular (national) community.  

 

Do you feel that cosmopolitanism is entering the UN system?

Well, former Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold once compared the UN with a painting. You can either look at the UN as a weird abstraction painted by Picasso, or you can view it as a painting made by the world’s citizens themselves. This is what’s key to the success of the UN system: that the world’s citizens identify with the UN, that they see it as their organization. It should not be viewed as some toothless State construction, not as a deus ex machina to save us all. Instead, the UN should be viewed as an organization people associate themselves with.  People should ask themselves: “how do I see myself as part of the UN system?” Take the Ebola crisis as an example; many are under the impression that it’s the UN’s responsibility to take care of its eradication. But if we are the UN, and if we interpret our role in this way, then we should view it is as our responsibility as global citizens to combat the disease through the UN.  
2) Do you feel the prime setback of the United Nations is its lack of incorporating the general public in the decision making process of various initiatives, such as the MDG’s?

The MDGs weren’t inclusive to begin with as it involved a very select group of experts who came to the conclusion that these goals were priorities for the world at large. The problem with this is that when it comes to decisions that affect the public, you need to have input from the public. But in case of the MDGs, the international community did subsequently embrace these goals, and began to work with them.

 

3) Do you think that the SDG experience represents a significant trend towards more participatory global governance?

I think the SDG drafting process can be viewed as sort of a global laboratory for experimenting with the possibilities of global participation at the UN. It’s testing what was traditionally seen as vital, and examining it against the public’s views. An interestingexample is climate change. For years, NGOs and the likes have claimed it as vital for development goal agendas. But when the general public was surveyed on this, their opinion on the importance of climate change was low in comparison to other priorities such as health and human rights making it to the forefront. However, this is only an experiment, for, in the end, the main decision-making bodies at the UN are still constituted by State representatives, which is very conservative and traditional.

 

4) You mention different types of participation in your article – “co-author”, “rubber-stamp”, etc.  How would you characterize the SDG UN experience of consultations?

There are indeed many types of participation. With “rubber stamping” in general, participants are only asked to approve a particular policy after it has been made by the institution. Not really policymaking, but it has them approve or not approve a decision, which is not present in the decision making process for the post 2015 SDG goals.

Another kind of participation is problem finding, which instead involves the participants being asked to define the problem themselves. This is present within the SDG formation with online, national and international consultations taking place. Thematic consultations involve experts who are asked to express their views, for example on the topic of water or maternal health. And those with relevant experience are asked to clearly state the problem. The overall idea is, bluntly put, that the poor know best what it is like to be poort. Then there is the advisory type of participation that is the most important for the SDG process. These advisors provide expertise or experience to the decision making process in determining how to go forward with the 2015 agenda. For example, the SDG’s solution network, which is representative of the scientific community, would draft reports based on their research, and these would be used to steer decisions through processes related to the SDG’s, such as working with policy makers on deciphering whether of not the considered goal is feasible.

 

 

5) What kind of participation do you think will be most prevalent in the future at the UN, and why?  Will the post-2015 process be the game changer in this respect?

 I feel that now that we’ve opened the Pandora’s box for participation, there is no way back once initiated. Nobody would ever say that global participation doesn’t work in understanding global needs. That being said, we need to streamline this process and make it more effective. We need to look critically to see who the stakeholders are, i.e.  those that create policy and those affected by it. Some well-known NGO’s have the loudest voices, but the loudness of your voice should not be decisive in who gets to participate and how. So the UN may have to actively look at other stakeholders, and encourage their participation.

 

And there are many types of stakeholders; these can consist of corporations, small NGO’s, organizers of the process (UN subsidiary organs and regional agencies) and the scientific community. The UN should take into consideration who it would like to participate within the development process and invite them, instead of facilitating ways only for the loudest NGO’s to participate.

 

In the end, the most important stakeholder is the general public. They are the uninvolved, yet potentially affected stakeholder. But as they don’t present themselves to the UN, it would be up to the UN to invite and encourage them to participate.

 

To read the full article of Prof. Otto Spijkers, click here.

 

GVI Guest Blogger Gemma Burford: Will post-2015 development be truly holistic?

Gemma Burford is Research Fellow, Values and Sustainability Research Group, University of Brighton

 

Most contemporary development work focuses on what is visible from the outside (e.g. observable behaviour change, tangible outputs, or measurements of complex system dynamics).   An Integral Sustainable Design approach balances these exterior perspectives with discussion of interior dimensions – how people feel, what their subjective experiences are, and what’s valued within a particular organisation or community.  This is essential because human beings don’t usually analyse situations scientifically before taking action: many of our decisions are based on emotions and deeply held values.

An Integral approach is also distinctive in its recognition that different people are motivated by different things, and that we have to meet them where they are – not where we wish they were. If we don’t make space for subjective dimensions such as values, emotions and personal experience in the design of our projects, they may come back to haunt us later, like the thirteenth fairy in the story of Sleeping Beauty.  Social, environmental and economic projects are all equally susceptible to the consequences of neglecting subjective realities:

–          A new water pipe stands unused, because the women’s morning walk is the high point of their day – they value social bonding, and paying their respects to the spirit of the mountain spring, far more highly than `efficiency’ or `convenience’.

–          A microcredit initiative has disastrous consequences because the well-meaning founder is outnumbered by self-centred committee members, motivated by their desire for wealth and social status.

–          A coordinator is hired for a conservation program based on indigenous ecological knowledge, but constantly undermines it with her fundamentalist belief that there is only one ‘right way of knowing’. While Integral Sustainable Design is already becoming established in fields such as architecture, there is an urgent need to apply its insights to international development.

The emergent post-2015 process offers a unique opportunity to shape the global development agenda for the next 15-20 years, but most of the discourse is still centred on deciding whether goal A is more important than goal B: “Would you rather feed your children, educate them, cure them of malaria, protect them from rape, or mitigate climate change so they can survive to adulthood?”   Despite knowing in our hearts that these issues are all complex, messy and profoundly interconnected, we still persist in treating them as separate and attempting to rank them in order of priority.   An Integral Sustainable Design lens can help us to recognise the common roots of many global problems: outdated systems, egocentric values, feelings of apathy and despair, and destructive or unproductive human actions. With this in mind, the response looks very different.

We can stop designing projects to tackle one problem at a time, and focus on finding ways to foster individual and collective ‘mindshifts’ – from self-centred to planet-centred worldviews – to eliminate the root causes of multiple problems.  We can stop obsessing about what’s not working right now, and get on with empowering people whose vision is already planet-centred (and my guess is that there are plenty of those around…) to start co-designing and co-creating the futures that they actually want. There’s still time to campaign for a radical and genuinely holistic post-2015 agenda – but the windows of opportunity are rapidly closing.  To all Integral thinkers out there: this is our time to stand up and be counted.  Every minute that we don’t speak up brings us one minute closer to a global development agenda set out in the same old way, perpetuating the same old patterns.  Who can we talk to, who can we e-mail, what can we tweet, to infuse the post-2015 decision-making process with a new vision before it’s too late?

 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Equitable and meaningful collaborations

“Not everyone thinks like you because we’re not all the same”

 

It’s a quote that’s obvious when hearing it but to put it into use is another thing. How often do we take this quote into practice? Especially within our own line of work, how often do we consider using projects and methods used in one setting and adapt it to another, even though the settings are different but the problems are the same?

 

As the post-2015 agenda continues to be a focal point of discussion as we near the end of the MDG’s, it has been stressed continuously that developed countries will be included in the post-developmental plans along with under-developed regions in efforts to highlight the need for a global collaboration in ending common world issues. For years, the work of UN branches such as UNICEF, UNDP, and UNFPA have been focusing on under privileged world regions, but with these new discussions at hand, will there be a need for collaborations to be made in efforts to bring this work to developed regions as well?

 

Will the focus on global partnerships mean more equitable and meaningful collaboration on development goals among developed and developing countries? And amongadvantaged and disadvantaged groups at the national level?

 

All nations suffer from levels of health issues for example (i.e.: AIDS, maternal mortality, etc), despite the variations from country to country. Such as the case with child mortality – while 4 in 1,000 newborns die from preventable anomalies and diseases in Sweden, it’s 260 in 1,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa. With this, it’s clear to see that a united effort would be needed, as well as a partnership, in effort to change these outcomes in both countries to make a change regardless of the scale in each country.

 

One example of a united effort being done within a first world context is in Australia, where despite the development of the nation and its first world status, it suffers from inequality among its aboriginal population. From education to health services, these people have been driven to the remote states of Australia and have fewer opportunities presented to them to change their circumstances. One concern is the lack of ultrasound scanning being done by mid-wives in the aboriginal communities.A main cause is lack of education. Recently, the International Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG), a part of the Partnership for Maternal, Child, and Newborn Health division of WHO, have begun conducting workshops in basic ultrasound in OB/GYN training in these aboriginal regions. For the project, ISUOG partnered with ASUM (the Australian Society of Ultrasound in Medicine) who have previously worked in Papua New Guinea to provide humanitarian outreach, for the first time in a developed region.

 

The effort is to train these midwives so they can properly conduct scans and detect fetal anomalies so as to take preventive measures to increase the child’s chances for life upon birth. Before then, the aboriginal community had never been exposed to such technology, which led to the deaths of many babies – deaths caused by something that was easily treatable.

 

This one partnership is an example of how collaboration can be done to bring work even to developed regions and collaborate to achieve developmental goals – in this case, MDG goals number 4 and 5.

 

Will this be just an isolatedexample, or will the focus on global partnerships mean growth in more equitable and meaningful collaboration on development goals among developed and developing countries?

 

Page 3 of 41234

E-Newsletter

GVI produces publications on substantive issues from a values perspective, and linked to current events on the UN agenda. GVI also solicits and hosts articles by UN system actors, so you can hear your own voice in the conversation.

The Blog

Twitter Feed

Donate

Support us in supporting you. GVI is a tax exempt 501(c)3 organization so your contributions are tax deductible. We invite you to make a safe online donation.