Part 2:  The EU deciphers for us all

Please excuse the Eurocentric focus here. We need to get it off our chests…

Back in 2001 when we started to raise our heads, we saw how the EU was gradually taking Development Education on board. There was the “EU Council of Development Ministers Resolution on development education and raising European public awareness of development cooperation.

We read through it to look for signs of more than what the title suggested. It mentioned “the importance of the ‘fair trade’ factor” and also “international solidarity.” Pretty light, padded with good intentions to begin a strategic approach with nods (=hints) to the Council of Europe and the OECD for their work on development education. Pass around the ethical chocolate…

It was Global Education, or at least its term, that seemed to have more ambition on the European stage. First there was the Global Education Charter in 1997. Then in 2002 came the Maastricht Global Education Declaration. We liked its human rights focus and its pluridisciplinary reach:

Global education is education that opens people’s eyes and minds to the realities of the globalised world and awakens them to bring about a world of greater justice, equity and Human Rights for all.

Global education is understood to encompass Development Education,Human Rights Education,Education for Sustainability, Education for Peace and Conflict Prevention and Intercultural Education; being the global dimension of Education for Citizenship.”

It brought in all the worthy components: the MDGs, Agenda 21, the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development; UNESCO, the UN… It said it all out loud.

It also had its own campaigning mechanism: since 2000, the annual European Global Education Week (GEW), or One World Week, to keep it on message.

In Ireland, the One World Week campaign has been very much the focus of the non-formal education sector, being driven by those creative and innovative people in the National Youth Council of Ireland. We were happy to tap into the process, by contributing an active learning exercise on the Security Fence/Separation Wall to their 2003 One World Week Education Pack (entitled “Peace by Piece”).

The 2002 Maastricht Declaration was more than another statement of intent coming from Europe.

It was more like a rallying call for all the issues-based educations led by the Council of Europe and successfully driven by its vehicle The North-South Centre (officially titled “The European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity”).

At first glance, the North-South Centre seemed a curious mix of less than half of the 40 member Council of Europe states. Ireland was one of them, having joined in 2000. That’s all by-the-by: the 2002 Maastricht Conference attracted more than 50 states.

Out of Maastricht came the Global Education Peer Review which was initiated in 2003. Led by the Global Education Network Europe (GENE). This was piloted through peer reviews of Austria, Cyprus, Finland and the Netherlands. It seemed that DE and GE went now hand in hand. Or was it hand in glove? No matter, job well done.

Since then DE in Europe has come to the fore, building in crescendo like a Beethoven opus. Enter the Development Awareness Raising and Education Forum (DARE). An offshoot of CONCORD, the European NGO confederation for relief and development. From DARE came the Development Education Exchange in Europe (DEEEP) and a series of strategic policies to strengthen Development Education in Europe that began in 2003. These initiatives ensured direct engagement in advocacy and strategic policy development at an European level.

The meeting of minds between Development NGO networks with the North-South Centre and the European Commission and the OECD Development Centre led to the Brussels Conference on DE/AR for North-South Solidarity (2005).

The Brussels Conference signalled for the first time that Development Education needed to be supported in the national educational curricula:
[Section] 4. Awareness-raising and development education should be integrated into the curricula of the formal and informal educational systems throughout the current and future members of the Union. Such programmes, aimed at all levels and ages of society, are necessary to foster the greatest possible North-South solidarity.

There was acute awareness of the need to shift up a gear: The Eurobarometer in February 2005, revealed that in the EU-25 “public awareness of Commission activities in [the] field [of development cooperation] as well as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is limited.

Four years after the adoption of those MDGs aiming at halving extreme poverty by 2015, 88% EU citizens had never heard of them.

DE was on a roll though…It moved from debate to collective commitment: the European Consensus on Development (2005) and the Helsinki Conference on Development Education (July 2006). From the Helsinki Conference came the European Multi-stakeholder group on Development Education (MSH), involving joint cooperation with representatives from EU member states, NGOs , the Council of Europe, European Commission, European Parliament and the OECD.

CONCORD was in there, Irish Aid too, and involved in the drawing up the European Consensus on Development Education & Awareness Raising, published in 2007. This key document builds on the 2005 Consensus on Development, affirms the role of DE and awareness raising and recognises the achievements made. To quote in particular:

“A diverse range of organisations, institutions and educators has been designing and implementing school and out-of-school curriculum programmes and projects. Known by various names and not always called ‘development education’, these initiatives all provide an educational response to the issues and challenges of development, helping learners and educators in obtaining a critical understanding, skills and attitudes through investigations of wide range of global development issues.”

Nomenclature didn’t matter. There is a common goal and the 2007 Consensus sets out common objectives and principles, calling for “the need to integrate development education and awareness raising efforts in the mainstream of existing formal and education and information systems and processes…” [Article 9.3] and “ the need to make use of professional skills, methods and tools in order to address impact and quality, including greater collaboration and shared learning between European state and civil actors, in order to increase the scope and impact of the work done.” (Article 9.4)

DEEEP has also been instrumental in providing a forum to focus minds on the common concerns facing all of us engaged in DE/GE/ESD. In 2006 the DEEEP Working Group on Formal Education carried out the first European-wide survey on DE/GE and the Curriculum. 30 countries took part (EU Member states and Accession states).It revealed a lot of the expected dilemmas. To quote directly from the Synthesis Report:

“Although definitions for DE and GE have been debated and refined over the years, they have not been widely adopted by the formal education sector, or by teacher training institutions, or in curriculum development and reform processes.

Government recognition and support for DE […] in more than 80% of the countries surveyed [has] been drawn from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or departments for International development, and surprisingly not from Ministries of Education – despite the implications for their core constituencies of teachers, pupils, school support services, and national and regional education policies.”

And as we expected, there was also much head-scratching going on in the formal educational sectors. To quote again:

  • ” Real complications in most countries agreeing the ‘right’ terminology to use to describe DE or GE.
  • That in most countries, they are still in the process of defining DE/ GE…
  • But that there is a global consensus on the word “Education”.
  • Development Education and Global Education are the most widely used terms in Europe.
  • The general rule is that use and familiarity depend on the ‘experts’ – whether institutions, practitioners, or the NGO DE sector… It has evolved to address both the quality of education for young people across the school age range, and the application of a complex range of ideas to national curricula and learning methodologies. But its practitioners have had to lobby for recognition and inclusion, and the terminology is still largely identified through a development rather than a pedagogical agenda.”

The survey was repeated three years later. The 2009 Report still showed that Human Rights was still the dominant DE/GE topic in 76% of the returns. With a surge for Climate Change and Global poverty. [Section 6.3.6]

The calls for Education Ministries to engage are made explicit throughout the survey:

“A constructive dialogue with education ministries and other government departments, as well as curriculum bodies, is essential for establishing a legitimate premise for the integration of global learning in young people’s education.” [Section 6.4.2]

The travelogue of examples…drawn from the survey, illustrates the substantial role that MFA or its related Department/Ministry for ODA play in the acceptance, recognition and promotion of DE/GE themes and goals. Conversely, Ministries of Education in the majority of EU countries are still reluctant to establish clear, co-funded and collaborative support mechanisms for improving the quality of ‘global learning’ at all levels of state education which engage the professional input of the NSA/NGDO sector in a systematic way.” [Section 6.4.3]

Lest it be overlooked, it also referred to Ireland: “The Department of Education is still very reluctant to come on board when it comes to DE [Section 6.4.3]

A number of strategic moves have been happening in recent years that have helped to develop policy coherence…and keep us all guessing of where this is going to lead.

To name the other news that we also tuned into:

  • The North-South Centre of the Council of Europe started collaborating with the European Commission. A joint management agreement was signed in November 2008.

Made strategic sense.

  • The North-South Centre published its “Global Education Guidelines” in 2008.

This too – a very welcome document that put the case for Global Education and that we still dip into today! For us though it came at a time when we were sensitive about keeping up the momentum for DE. Still, good for keeping in a Maastricht frame of mind.

  • The 21 member states of the North-South Centre now include Morocco (2009) and Cape Verde (2010).

At least some were thinking of external relations and about bringing in voices from the Global South. Others would say “reining in”. Delicate line to tread, not expecting it will open the door to other African or Euromed Arab neighbours to follow suit.

      • Recommendation of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to member states on the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education. 

This seemed almost like a reminder of what we preach elsewhere, we should apply to our backyard. It looked like a welcome-back moment for these themes. It was important to register this collective call from EU Foreign Ministers for integrated educational policies, particularly now that EU had its first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

It was a thorough document. It did a good cross-sectoral job of spelling out the different educational sectors (formal, non-formal, informal), “the role of non-governmental organisations, youth organisations and other stakeholders”, the need for the necessary initial and ongoing training as well as research and evaluation criteria “for the evaluation of the effectiveness of programmes… Feedback from learners should form an integral part of all such evaluations.”

Educationalists were back at the drawing board.

  • Recommendation of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to Member States on Education for Global Interdependence and Solidarity. 5 May 2011

If you are getting a bit weary at this point, welcome to Europe. What a mouthful. There’s always a justification… and it’s in the opening paragraph:

“Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage – human rights, the rule of law and pluralistic democracy – and in view of the Council of Europe’s willingness to remain open to co-operation with Europe’s neighbouring regions and the rest of the world, in particular through the European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (“North-South Centre”).”

Ahh, we had forgotten. Welcome back European Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity people. Sorry you were overlooked in 2010.

Depending how you look at it, this was the follow-up or catch-up to the previous Charter: “Recognising that education for global interdependence and solidarity is complimentary to the 2010 Charter. It referred back to Maastricht 2002 and brought DE, GE, ESD and every other relevant issue-based education in from the cold.

Let’s not look the gift horse in the mouth. At least, the recommendations made explicit appeals to educational policy makers. To quote the relevant parts:

” -allow education for global interdependence and solidarity to play a more prominent role in the context of educational policy making and reforms and, as a result, support policies and develop relevant strategies, taking into account and respecting the specificity of national conditions and contexts;

-enhance the promotion of education for global interdependence and solidarity both in formal education and non-formal education, as a lifelong and all-encompassing learning experience;

-support knowledge and evidence-based policy making in education for global interdependence and solidarity through international co-operation and co-ordination at both pan-European and global levels by all appropriate means;

-bring this recommendation to the attention of the relevant authorities and institutions, public and private, in particular the public authorities responsible for framing and implementing education policies at national, regional and local level, as well as non-governmental organisations.”

  • Declaration of the European Parliament on development education and active global citizenship. 5 July 2012

A very welcome message, a we-have-arrived moment. We remember where we were at the time. Seriously. There had been a steady campaign for this declaration and it was hard to believe that MEPs would join the call to action. Still is! It seemed like a long shot. But it came to pass – they actually agreed on the term DE, on its own, ungarbled. To quote the parts that made us glow with gratitude…

B. whereas, despite being one of the biggest funders of development education in Europe, the European Union does not have a dedicated strategy in this field;

C. whereas, during periods marked by austerity, crises and the rise of nationalist and populist movements, it is particularly important to support active global citizenship;

1.Calls on the Commission and the Council to develop a long-term, cross-sectoral European strategy for development education, awareness-raising and active global citizenship;

2.Calls on the Member States to develop or strengthen national development education strategies

Not meaning to be a party pooper…

The sense of urgency to support active global citizenship during the present time of acute economic hardship and reactionary anti-European movement seems… reactionary and Euro-centric. But, on another account, it is important to state the challenges on the home front. Affirmative realpolitik.

We still need to keep on message: the sense of urgency that is a permanent feature for the Global South and the need to ensure their partnership in sustaining active global citizenship. Affirmative Global Interdependence and Solidarity.

We would also have liked it to add “and which encourage greater collaboration with national education ministries.”  Keep knocking on their doors!

In reality, we should have been more upbeat with the previous year’s Committee of Ministers recommendations on Education for Global Interdependence and Solidarity. It went further.

But the extra attention was welcome. The EU may not do momentous, but this does mean there’s momentum.

  • Communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations. 12 September 2012.

Civil Society has been kept waiting. Recognising its role at all levels of policy making was part of the deal in promoting good practice in external relations.There had been solid campaigning o the effect.

For example, the informal HRDN had made a direct appeal in April 2010 to Baroness Ashton for a Human Rights & Democracy Directorate to coordinate policy, including training of EU delegations “as well as assisting geographical desks in preparing the human rights dimension of political dialogues with third countries (including but not exclusively human rights dialogues).”

But this Communication caused quite a stir in our due to the absence of any mention of the role of civil society in DE and Awareness Raising. The EU Parliament’s Declaration looked like a wet autumn leaf. We felt the glow of embarrassed faces in Strasbourg. Th EU does do momentous…

  • Conclusions of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on The roots of democracy and sustainable development: Europe’s engagement with Civil Society in external relations. 15 October 2012

Roots, the sequel. This sought to redress the omission. Dignity restored. To quote from the conclusions:

“ 15. The EU will continue to promote a strategic approach to increase the level and quality of Development Education and Awareness Raising (DEAR) as well as the capacity of CSO networks in that regard.

19. The Council calls on European CSOs to partner with organisations from partner countries with long-term and equitable partnerships based on local demand, which should include monitoring and promoting Policy Coherence for Development, awareness raising and education on development-related issues, mentoring, coaching and peer learning, networking, and building linkages from the local to the global level.”

There are two more important events to conclude on:

  • The 2nd European Congress on Global Education. Lisbon. 27-28 September 2012

Ten years after the Maastricht Declaration, funded by the European Commission and co-organised by the North-South Centre, GENE and CONCORD with local Portuguese partners.

It aimed to take stock of progress made in GE since 2002 and to plan ahead to 2015. Mentioned in the Concept Paper for the Congress are the following expected outcomes:

  • Raise awareness on the Recommendation on education for global interdependence and solidarity and help member States to set standards in this field;
  • Discuss synergy potentials and provide opportunity to develop future collaborations
  • between and within institutional and Civil Society Organisations stakeholders, and facilitate networking and interaction inside and beyond Europe in terms of policy development, pedagogical support and training mechanisms;
  • Raise awareness on the importance of inclusion of global education in the educational sector.


GE is back with an ambitious plan for future collaborative actions. It set out five key theme areas for discussion:

  • National strategy development and implementation
  • Curricular reform and education at the national and local levels
  • Capacity-building
  • Quality support and monitoring
  • Campaigning and outreach


An ambitious Working Group approach to engage partners in the making of bigger plans ahead. What particularly stands out for us is the inclusion of Quality Support and Monitoring. We all desperately need to share practices and make our cases for quality GE/DE/ESD. We don’t do one-size-fits-all log frames, our policies are based on joint partnerships, etc…

One non-Eurocentric event to finish the roll-call on 2012, and one that signifies some level of engagement to include civil society organisations in the debate with policy makers.

  • The 14th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum. Brussels . 7 December 2012

Co-organised by the HRDN, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation with the European External Action Service and the European Commission, on the theme: “Promoting universality: the role of Regional Human Rights Mechanisms and their cooperation with civil society”.

According to the EU website, it brought together “200 civil society participants from all parts of the world, representatives from international and regional human rights mechanisms and from EU institutions and Member States.”

What came of it?

The EU-NGO Forum reviewed both progress and challenges to the Universality of Human Rights, through the lens of sensitive human rights issues: the right to freedom of religion or belief, gender equality and the fight against racism and xenophobia. It stressed the role played by independent regional mechanisms in ensuring effective protection of human rights, and by vibrant civil society to empower people to understand and claim their rights.”

We need more of this. Dialogue, debate and engagement with CSOs from around the world…and  in the Global South.

You can draw your own conclusions. DE/DEAR/GE. All interchangeable and including ESD, HRE and company. The recent years have seen a growing strategic concertation by the EU and NGOs to ensure commitment to common goals and principles. Collaborative strategies are an essential part of what we do. But ever aware of the shared visions we have created with our partners in the Global South…

We are first and foremost about education that encourages wider participation, critical and creative pedagogy. We are not here to do the bidding of state aid agencies. We are here to improve practices and ensure the voices of the Global South are brought to the fore. Empowering local CSOs is essential to that aim. As the biggest international donor in the world, the EU has a major role to play in ensuring cohesive and holistic common strategies of support for DE/GE. We shouldn’t shirk that engagement. We need leadership from educational ministries and institutions.

DE/GE for us is also a political act: to engage further with the world outside in reflection and actions that challenge the power structures that create such inequalities and injustice, to promote a more just and equal and peaceful world. DE/GE is about solidarity with each other to facilitate greater access, opportunity and self-empowerment.

What motivated us all along remains: to continue honing a critical pedagogy that ensures we at least sustain our principles and objectives.

As the good man Paolo Freire put it, “ a total denouncement of fatalism is necessary. We are transformative beings and not beings for accommodation.”