- The EU is currently revising its policy and multi-annual financial framework on development education.
- Since the financial crisis, the task of justifying the non-direct impact of development education is more challenging than ever.
- Europe is being forced to question old values including its model of development and consumption. This demands a whole new development narrative that speaks to the world we are living in.
- Mainstreaming development education into schools and citizen education is a primary goal.
- The development education community offers useful tools and expertise that could be carried over to other sectors such as the environment and in defining new development goals.
This debate is occurring at a critical time. Europe is in crisis and the old narratives no longer answer people’s questions. The post-2015 framework will challenge Europe as much as it challenges partners in the global South – if not more so. Today’s development targets and goals must apply not just to one part of the world, but universally, which requires a fundamental shift in what development actors are trying to do.
Development education needs to be mainstreamed within a broader system of education that covers citizen education as well as formal schooling. People need the equipment – ‘the compass’ – to navigate the world they are living in. Development education and awareness raising (DEAR) can help put development cooperation into a global context. It is time to address target groups beyond existing or long-time followers and supporters.
It is also time to argue against the naïve, linear conception that once people are informed they act; rather a strategy of competences is needed. Which competences do EU citizens need?
At the local level, the city of Turin, Italy, has shown that by acting locally it is possible to promote a global vision of what happens daily in urban areas. With their large immigrant populations, cities are a focal point for geopolitics. The challenge is to link local issues to global trends. Development education is a partnership tool to strengthen cohesion and boost the global competitiveness of a city. It can empower communities and local actors to regenerate neighbourhoods and transform the quality of local life. By stimulating the interaction of people at micro-levels, it avoids segregation between people and neighbourhoods, and adopts a people-to-people approach instead of a ‘paper-to-people’ approach.
While development education is working at the local level, the gap is between the European and the national level. There is a lack of continuity, and best practice is not being translated into policies. What is being learned in the daily lives of European communities needs to be applied at national level.
The EU does not have a mandate to make national education policies. However, there are examples, such as in Finland, where development education is being integrated into education systems. The European Commission could and should promote comparative learning, which means exchanging experiences and evaluating results, and through this enhance quality. This experience could also be drawn on to support the post-2015 framework to flesh out the existing Millennium Development Goal education target from a quantitative one – numbers of children in school – to a qualitative one.
In an overcrowded room, a participant made an impassioned plea for the value of development education. ‘All of us in this room have somehow experienced development education or we wouldn’t come here and devote some of our lives to it. For me it started with an international volunteering experience. Then I became a tutor in this volunteering programme, so apparently there is impact on people’s life choices. But this is difficult to measure. This needs time and after some years people make decisions that they wouldn’t have made otherwise.’