In 2002, at the first congress Global Education had been defined as “Education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the world, and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and human rights for all.” The Maastricht Declaration further stated that Globale Education is an encompassing term for Development Education, Human Rights Education, Education for Sustainability, Peace Education etc.
The event was organized by the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe, the Global Education Network Europe (GENE) and the European NGO Confederation for Relief and Development (CONCORD). The congress brought together different stakeholders: civil society, educators, academia, local and regional authorities as well as governments and parliamentarians which meant a rather diverse set of knowledge about global education and expectations towards the event.
According to a civil-society group (including myself), the program, which focused on creating recommendations for curricular reforms, capacity-building, quality support, campaigning and the creation of national strategies, omitted an important point: the current crisis. Especially participants from Southern European countries were asking for a bold stand of Global Education towards the crisis remembering the transformative nature which is inherent to GE. Similarly, in a recent dossier published by Concord and DEEEP, Stephen McCloskey from the Centre for Global Education in Ireland writes: “the question for development educators raised by the global recession is what contribution can we make toward creating a more sustainable model of development and economic growth? As a form of education driven by social justice and equality, development education should be at the heart of this debate so, how should we respond to the financial crisis?” Global Education should therefore take up an active role in offering alternatives and tools for a better future empowering youth and other lesser heard voices to transform their realities. Recommendations have been made for the drafting committee of the Lisbon Declaration which will be published in the coming months.
Challenges are big not only for Europe but also for Global Education. As in many countries (Spain, Italy and Greece but also the UK …) the funding opportunities for GE dissapear at a incredible speed, there is the need to reinvent the this transformative and participatory education framework. As poverty, unemployment as well as civil unrest and extreme right politics are on the rise on the continent and public spending on education is one of the biggest victim of the austerity politics, it is time to take Global Education to the local level: promote alternatives to the system, promote solidarity and empower youth to see beyond the neoliberal, capitalist worldview should become complementary aspects of GE besides its focus on global inequalities and human rights. Now more than ever, we should realize that we can learn from the South – especially on the impact of debt.
I strongly believe that education can indeed be a tool to foster change. In accordance with McCloskey it can be said that “we need to de-mystify markets and prioritise developmental needs over the financial sector rather than capital dictating the terms of human development.” On the last, unofficial, day of the conference, some participants joined the anti-troika protests in the centre of Lisbon.