Look Beyond Summit
Author: Rebecca Harned
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 05/23/2006
On Saturday, April 1 news of escalated ethnic conflict in Iraq, more White House leaks, and mounting genocide in Darfur filled the airways in Washington DC. Amidst these melancholic sound bites the Georgetown University Cultural Center transformed into a spirited and proactive venue for the Look Beyond Summit. The event was hosted by a coalition of young organizations, which gave it a truly youthful spirit – one that successfully bred hope and inspiration. Organizations sponsoring the event included Americans for Informed Democracy, UNESCO – Georgetown, and One World Youth Project. The event created a forum where professionals, concerned citizens, educators, and students of all ages and ethnicities convened to exchange innovative approaches to make the UN Millennium Development Goals reality, the new benchmarks of progress. The recipe for the day blended casual conversation, a dash of thought-provoking panel discussions, and a pinch of interactive workshops – all designed to facilitate a new wave of global education. But the most important ingredient in the mix was the common vision and mission – to leverage global education as a primary means to make macro-level changes – that unified all the participants across professions and disciplines.
The event opened with a key note speech from Eveline Herfkins, Executive Coordinator for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals Campaign. Herfkins brought the participants face to face with urgent global issues, in little time she managed to brush the surface of many cataclysmic issues in a way that eluded to their depths and complexities. She spun her presentation to reach out to the audience, a diverse group of concerned individuals who are citizens or at least reside in the United States, so to bring forward the critical role of the US in the world and particularly in the face of these global issues. She reminded us of the unparalleled economic disparities between the US, Europe and so-called developing countries. Herfkins also advised us on how our foreign and economic policies need to change in order for the goals to be achieved, and suggested how we can be agents for making those changes – no matter how far the reach may seem. Her speech gave hopeful glimpses of progress already made towards achieving the goals – and most importantly she suggested tangible ways that global education can be utilized to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Next up was a provocative panel discussion with leaders from some of the top progressive think-tanks and organizations based in the US, all are committed to global education in some capacity. Each panelist gave a unique briefing on who they are, their organization, and of course their opinion of the most critical issues of our time – each briefing inspired a myriad of thoughts, memories, new ideas, and of course questions.* While they all brought a unique angle to every question, they also touched on common themes and shared unconventional wisdom. One of the most profound themes they touched upon is the potential for catalyzing an enlightened global awareness and the urgency of rethinking institutions, all this requiring a conscious transformation towards positive democracy. And while it is important to deconstruct their definitions for these ideas, it is more important to discuss the most salient point of the day – breathing life back into Core Values. They all asserted at some level that any change we aspire to make requires bringing core values back into our lives and citizenry. For example, the dynamic of transforming globalization into a positive process for the evolution of humanity requires the development of a high trust world where justice and equality empower the masses. On the other hand, it is imperative that we translate these core values into practical ideas and approaches to decision making. We only have to look within ourselves and our daily interpersonal exchanges to understand what these values are and how we will do this. Panelist Paul Joffe left us with a remarkable Turkish proverb that, though simplistic, defined the positive energy carried throughout the remainder of the activities: “No matter how far you have gone down the wrong path, turn back.” We must look and go beyond.
The energy from the auditorium was carried downstairs for lunch where the new ideas planted by the panel blossomed into many forms; new professional connections, ideas for the classroom, new organizational strategies, and for me a clearer idea of how we can apply our global education at UPEACE to the world. The vibrant chattering died down as groups of students broke off into their workshops and the others prepared for a host of other events focused on how to implement new teaching tools and curriculum (Choices) on making global education into the catalyst it has the potential to be. Moreover, the proceeding sessions provided an opportunity for traditional educators to rethink their role in advancing the Millennium Development Goals and to gain fresh new ideas for how to make it happen. Of course, it wasn’t just traditional educators who benefited from these sessions – on the contrary, others were reminded that we are all educators(though most commonly unconventional), and these sessions equipped us with the tools to assume the responsibility with confidence and in grace.
Hosting such an event in the capital of the United States brought forth the realization that whatever positive change (towards a more equal, just, and peaceful world) we can make in the US assumes a momentum that reciprocates the rest of the world. The event essentially reaffirmed that the U.S. is indeed the political-economic center of gravity for globalization. The founder and executive director of the International Child Art Foundation, Ashfaq Ishaq, best articulates this importance of such a role in light of global education: “With rising anti-American sentiments worldwide, the United States risks losing its world leader status due, in part, to a lack of attention to international education and the development of global leadership competencies. Only through international education can we appreciate and understand global concerns so as to act responsibility on matters that shape our destiny and affect the future of others.”** By embracing global education at such a level (as in this article and throughout the Look Beyond Summit) we must not forget to address its most critical dimension, the living application of global education. How someone applies what they learn through global and international education when they leave the classroom and go into the world defines the true impact of such efforts.
So how can these theoretical curricula and this intellectual discourse be applied to the world? I have reflected on this very question in response to the insights and new ideas that resonated from the Look Beyond Summit. Certainly we must work to either be or advise decision makers, politicians, and institutional leaders. While it is important to influence powerful leaders it is equally important to work at the grassroots level everywhere – the most basic roles of citizenry. Essentially it is at the grassroots level that trust is built. Furthermore, at this level change can, and needs to, occur not only at the center of economic gravity but in every nook and cranny of the global community. However, it is imperative that all grassroots efforts are somehow deliberatively networked to greater efforts, such as the UN Millennium Development Goals. In essence, these interconnections are what will give the web of global education and leadership its strength to persevere. From this strength global educators, leaders, and grassroots contributors (citizens) can materialize the unconventional wisdoms of the panel leaders – facilitate a new direction for globalization, positive globalization – we must turn back for a moment, then look beyond, and finally go beyond.
Related Web Sites:
One World Youth Project
Americans for Informed Democracy
Center for American Progress
New America Foundation
Bio: Rebecca Harned holds a Masters in International Peace Studies from the University for Peace. She currently resides in Washington, DC, where she works in many capacities for a public affairs firm. On the side she also voluntarily works with People for the American Way on several grassroots campaigns.