Democratic deficit

March 6, 2010 at 6:54 pm 4 comments

What was it all about? We’re drawing to the end of the second day. I decided to follow the Creating Spaces of Peace and Coexistence strand but as I look back on these two days there are some themes which kept recurring:

Peace as more than an absence of conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict
This dominated many sessions. I wish that in a future ALF event that we could avoid this. Ie that this conflict is resolved soon but alas it seems intractable.

Arabic language
The need to use the Arabic language was evident on so many levels, the most pragmatic being to allow participants from the Southern Mediterranean area a voice. But this also came through very forcefully after hearing that the region does not have access to many tools which are produced in English, French or other European languages which the residents don’t understand.

Youth
Some participants became a little fed up with this, including me at times, who is on the wrong side of even the most generous definition of youth, and yet I feel I still have something to offer in the areas being discussed. However it is fair enough to pay a great deal of attention to this issue when you hear about the huge percentage of the population accounted for by under-25s in the Southern Mediterranean countries. I also understand that in areas which have experienced massive change, that it is the young who may come with the most innovative ideas when the older generation are still stuck in the old mindset.

Journalism
The media came in for a great deal of criticism; for ignoring good news, for pandering to hawkish views and for not applying the highest standards. However I also learned of the constraints faced by southern journalists even in the simple matter of having access to information databases in order to enable them to set events into context.

Education
I’m a teacher and if all the suggestions I heard here for additions to the curriculum were implemented then neither I nor my students would ever sleep. Obviously it’s a question of balance and realism about what can be achieved. I also heard of entrenched formal education methodologies both in the North and the South which would make the proposed additions to the curriculum difficult.

Democracy
This was a theme heard most often in relation to the southern shores of the Mediterranean but what I heard nothing about and which I think is equally worrying is the massive declines in voter turnout in the North. The North may have the trappings of democracy but for how much longer if no-one takes part? Maybe the good news story here is that people are participating in other ways. But the only massive turnout I’ve heard about is for the Big Brother evictions.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Richard Shotton  |  March 7, 2010 at 11:09 am

    hi

    a few words, please…

    democracy: your point about lack of voter engagement in ‘the north’ is a very good one…this was raised in the ‘cities, diversity, migrants’ workshops both in munich a few weeks ago and again here at the forum, in the sense of there being a very real opportunity to bring migrant and ‘indigenous’ communities together (both of whom seem to be widely excluded or disenfranchised from politics), through local city-based programmes of civic participation and grassroots activism, taking ownership of their own communities, perhaps in partnership with local authorities

    arabic: it would be a simple and obvious courtesy to provide simultaneous interpretation in arabic as well as english and french, the ALF really needs to move faster on this

    israel/palestine: your request that this should not feature in ALF discussions or debates is something with which i cannot agree…it is simply too important an issue in precisely those fields (both geographical and thematic) in which ALF operates…however, as with all contentious issues, it requires very careful and highly competent facilitation (and perhaps some preparation) to manage this subject effectively and constructively in workshops and discussion spaces

    with respect

    richard shotton

    Reply
  • 2. foxdenuk  |  March 7, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I completely understand why the Palestinian-Israeli topic took up so much time. What I said was:
    I wish that in a future ALF event that we could avoid this. Ie that this conflict is resolved soon

    I was making a wish for the sake of all parties involved that it could be soon resolved but also expressing the pessimistic expectation that it won’t be.

    The dangers of blogging on the fly I guess.

    Now here’s an interesting dilemma. I have the option now of going and editing my posting so that it better expresses my real view but if I do that then that means that your comment’s message alters so for the time being at least I will let my badly phrased sentence stand.

    Another danger of blogging an event like this is that I cannot be in every session at the same time so it is inevitable that I have missed important themes. I realised this morning that environment was a theme which I omitted even though it had featured in some of the sessions I attended so I was glad to hear this affirmed this morning in the closing plenary and if low voter turnout in N Europe has been addressed elsewhere then I am very glad to hear it.

    Reply
    • 3. Richard Shotton  |  March 8, 2010 at 1:10 pm

      any misunderstanding is at least as much my fault as yours, probably more

      i wonder how much of the time we really understand each other at events like this wonderful Forum!

      rs

      Reply
  • 4. Anne Fox  |  March 9, 2010 at 11:43 am

    It’s scary isn’t it that although we basically agree, the online environment very easily leads us to misunderstand each other? I believe in the power of Social Media to bring us closer together but this incident shows me that I need to think more carefully how I phrase things. If I had just changed the order of the two clauses in that sentence perhaps I would not have misled you. How much more difficult it must be for people who are not writing or reading in their native language?

    Reply

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