Speech/statement | Date: 15/11/2002
State Secretary Olav Kjørven
The millennium development goals. A challenge to global education to 2015
Maastricht, 15th November 2002
Mr. Chairman, Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honor and pleasure to meet with you here today to discuss strategies for the support, improvement and growth of global education in order to move towards the realization of the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty is the greatest challenge of our time. The world community has agreed in principle to address this shameful scourge against humanity, by agreeing on the Millennium Development Goals. However, so far performance is falling short in too many countries, both in the North and South. The question to ask in this forum is therefore: How can global education make a difference?
This Congress is important for many reasons. It comes at a time after the Johannesburg Summit when it is crucial to ask critical questions regarding the traditional practice of global education, its form, content, role and how we can co/operate to make education for a sustainable world into a more effective and efficient tool. One factor is evident: a prerequisite for achieving the Millennium Development Goals is dialogue, i.e dialogue between major change agents in the North and in the South. I am therefore particularly pleased to see so many representatives from developing countries at this Congress. By the way, I sincerely hope we in the North are also in some ways still developing. That we are going somewhere...
Drawing on the conclusions of the Johannesburg Summit, this Congress is based on the premise that the Millennium Development Goals only can be achieved through increased and improved global education. This premise however needs to be nuanced : more and improved global education does not automatically lead to more effective poverty eradication. It depends both on the contents of and the approach to global education.
Paolo Freire once pointed out his difficulty in seeing education as the fundamental factor of social change. In his opinion it is not education that in the last analysis shapes society, it is vice versa. I agree with Freire when he underlines that we should not think about education without thinking about concrete power structures, concrete dominance relationships, concrete patterns of production and distribution of resources of all kinds within a given society. I now sound like a Marxist, but I happen to think that Marx remains interesting, not least his understanding of how and why the market economy works.
Education is also a political reality: there is no politically neutral education. Without changing social arrangements which prevent the great majority of human beings from being fully human beings, we will never get rid of poverty. Think of the largely feudal systems still prevailing in so many countries. Think of the hundreds of millions, no billions in the world today without any real or meaningful rights to property, to legal protections, to basic health and education. Think of the debt crisis and unfair trading regimes. Without making global education on the Millennium goals part of a concrete process of socio/political action towards progressive change, we will never have real and true global education. More important, neither will the ambitious goals be realized. In other words, global education must connect with the realities of poverty.
In the last analysis, as Paolo Freire explains, education is a certain theory of knowledge put into practice. If knowledge is taken as something static which we possess, it is easy to think of education as the transfer of knowledge from those who possess it, to those who do not. Thus the act of knowledge stops being creative. It is changed into a sort of digestive act: knowing becomes to eat knowledge. By giving knowledge to the poor or to anybody, instead of challenging them to know by the act of unveiling reality themselves, we are simply manipulating them, not helping them to realize their capacity for acquiring consciousness by themselves.
Thus it is the poor themselves through their representative organizations that will have to participate actively and directly in shaping future global education as a tool to conscientize the global public and through them the politicians. It is the role of governments and particularly civil society all over the world to facilitate such processes in order to realize the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Global poverty is a result of injustice. During the development assistance era service delivery proved its limitations when it comes to reducing poverty. Development for the poorest through service delivery has failed as a stand alone strategy. Political empowerment must be given more priority. The formulation of poverty reduction strategies in many countries and coordinated donor support to these strategies represents steps in the right direction. But success in meeting the Millennium Development Goals will depend fundamentally on improving democratic governance for real empowerment for the poor. For all citizens it is about expanding opportunities and freedoms. Civil society pursuing human rights as engine and instrument of change has a crucial role to play. Partnership and networking between progressive change agents in the North and the South, the East and the West thus needs to be strengthened. Global education on the Millennium Development Goals towards 2015 should have the rights approach as one of its starting points and civil society and the poor as important contributors to shaping its content.
Now a few words about how we have attempted to take this agenda forward in Norway.
It would be preposterous to claim that Norway has a comprehensive national strategy for global education. We are however from the Governments side in the process of developing at least some elements of such a strategy and we are trying to do something.
The starting point has in many ways been this year’s 50ieth anniversary of Norwegian development assistance. We have launched a nationwide popular education campaign to commemorate this anniversary initiating a number of events and processes at the international, national, regional and local levels. In addition to the quadrilogue players, we also involved market representatives, i.e companies, employer and employee associations. The focus has been on the Millennium Development Goals with the Minister of Development Cooperation as a lead figure. We started a campaign where all Norwegians are encouraged to sign on to the Millennium Development Goals.
The aim has been to encourage individual citizens to dig where they stand in relation to poverty and international development problems. The implication is that each individual should be encouraged to analyze his or her own functions in relation to poverty and international development issues and try to influence the respective and relevant decision makers. Through International weeks in two major cities we have particularly tried to involve the young generations and to avoid preaching to those already converted. But also refugees, asylum seekers, migrant workers have been stimulated to present their cultures as well as voicing their criticisms in relation to aspects of Norwegian society.
Some of the basic, underlying assumptions of the campaign have been:
- The Norwegian public opinion’s support for international development cooperation and the struggle against poverty is more passive and fragile than before. The general knowledge related to cooperation principles, forms, channels and partner countries are limited as well as the understanding of the causes of poverty.
- Emergency aid and the short term efforts of NGOs often overshadow the long term co/operation efforts of governments.
- The Norwegian North South engagement is starting to pursue its own course independently of development cooperation. Globalisation and trade issues, debt, tax on financial transactions are today attracting greater interest and attention than traditional development cooperation. This is a positive trend. The Government has responded by making an Action Plan against Poverty which is comprehensive and covers many areas.
- De ideologised and professional media encounter development issues with professional news related demands.
- Education activities and public relation efforts give greater public effect than advertising and should be the main approach
- The same development congregation should not be saved over and over again, Uninformed strata such as the youth should be both the main target group and the engine in future global education activities. We have also created a Youth Panel that will monitor and critizise our development efforts.
- There is a need for stronger alliances with major non governmental organizations, the media and well qualified media workers and their organizations, not only nationally but also globally.
- The focus should be on future challenges and mobilization of Norwegian society with the Millennium Development Goals and the Governments Action Plan against poverty as the basis.
- Research, evaluation and monitoring of what works and what does not in relation to the public opinion need to be prioritized.
- I would like to add a final point - as there must be 10, right - which I believe we should insert into our future efforts. We need to link up better to what is going on outside our borders. This is why this meeting is so important.
A "global ecumene", a "universal humanism", a "shared planet", a "cosmopolitan democracy" ; these idealistic notions are not realities but possibilities and aspirations. It will take bold political action both in the North and the South to defeat the scourge of poverty. Global education can bring us closer to realizing our grand hopes for the future, by preparing the grounds for such political action. So that the issue does not become: "can we afford to give all this aid, could we not scale down and save money in the process?" Rather the question must be: Can we still afford to be so stingy? A vibrant civil society and active global social movements provide far off glimpses of a more benign future. Global education might bring us closer to that silver lining. Good luck with your deliberations.