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.”

Part 1: Living in a Development Education Land

It doesn’t imply Either/Or scenarios. Like many others we have used the terms interchangeably over the years. One shouldn’t be pitted against the other. It just looks better to keep the debate fresh in our minds…!  For us, global education has been a more user-friendly term to promote within the schools we work in. Most teachers and students are still unfamiliar with the term “Development Education”. We still have our quiet moments with supportive teachers who refer to our programme as Developmental Education or Development Studies…

In Ireland, Development Education is the dominant term in the NGO sector. It has come quite a distance since the 1990s when Development Education was in the hands of returned development workers who wanted to raise the debate on development issues.

Since 2002, with the drive from the grassroots DE NGOs and practitioners, the assistance of the Irish platform of Development Organisations (Dochas) and the support of the Irish government aid agency (now Irish Aid), the Irish Development Education Association is on a solid footing of its own with a healthy membership base.

The challenge was and still is to ensure that DE is integrated and given greater profile within the different educational sectors in Ireland. For us at Schools Across Borders our main focus is on the formal education curriculum. In Ireland, the Department of Education still does not take the lead on integrating DE within the formal education sector.

Initial Teacher Education in DE is provided by independent organisations that are funded by Irish Aid: in the primary sector by the Development & Intercultural Project (DICE); in the post-primary and 3rd level sectors by the Ubuntu Network. Both highly innovative and able.

Since 2006 Irish Aid has also funded a Programme of Strategic Cooperation with Higher Educations & Research Institutes which has ensured a steady flow of valuable research in some institutes and provided an element of collaboration with academic institutions in the Global South.

Again, the lead comes from the state aid agency. The debate has been raised since. We need to establish a sound theoretical basis for DE and GE. A bit of attrition between the two terms may even help to concentrate minds.

On a sad note : In Ireland, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) seems to have been formally subsumed into submission. We have not heard any government policy statements since promises made by the Dept. of Education & Skills to publish a strategy in 2009.

In January 2012, the national Sustainable Development Council (SDC), was integrated into the work of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

A terse statement on their website reads:  “ NESC will now develop its work in a way that integrates sustainable development issues into its analysis of significant national challenges.

I wouldn’t hold my breath.

All we know is that ECO-UNESCO is still alive and well and has been busy recently recruiting!

Maybe it’s the case that ESD is integrated into the school curricula and doing its job to engage with Millenium Development Goal No.7 and the Decade of Sustainable Development. Maybe teachers are discussing Agenda 21 and Rio +20 etc. What about the wider campaign?

If I don’t refer to ESD as a separate entity henceforth, it is because we see it as being an integral part of DE and GE. Different emphasis, same agenda, same challenges and in need of support.

First, let me tell you our story…

Back in 2001 when Schools Across Borders started taking shape, our main focus was on how to integrate into the curriculum. We didn’t beat ourselves up about it: just as each school was different from the next, so each classroom programme was a work in progress.

When we looked around us to find models to look up to, it was only natural for us to look at the NGO sector: Amnesty, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children, Trocaire. There was, in varying degrees, a campaigning human rights focus that kept the candle alive for social justice. We just didn’t do the campaigning part.

In our own backyard, Cooperation Ireland too seemed to have a model for cross-border schools programmes that worked nicely. Glencree and Corrymeala were the pioneers in expanding the field and also seemed to be peering over at Israel and Palestine. Of course on the ground in the north of /Northern Ireland, it was still the biggest show from out of town: Palestinian and Israeli flags multiplied along traditional lines, with added grist from the murals.

Back then the buzz was Intercultural Education or Human Rights Education.

We all saw the opportunities in the formal education sector. We developed learning models that integrated national education policies on key skills (structured according to knowledge, attitudes and behavioural transformation). We integrated into the subjects according to the different jurisdictions. They ranged from Civic/Citizenship Education to Social Education to Religious Education to dedicated modules for our programme. The values and rights basis for what we were doing was maintained.

Bringing the north of / Northern Ireland into our equation, we were keen to know more about Education for Reconciliation, a joint project run by the Irish Curriculum Development Unit and the Centre for Cross Border Studies. Although in favour of the term, we quickly noticed that the schools we worked with in Belfast were neither familiar nor comfortable with it. Our methods were similar, we debated terms with the students, learned lessons in sensitivities and moved on.

We thought we would have fitted in with the ethos of the new Citizenship subject for Northern Ireland: Education for Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage. Norman Richardson’s textbooks were our references. But the reality on the ground was more about celebrating cultural differences and stating the obvious about terms like citizenship. Social Religious Education was a safe haven to be in the Catholic-Maintained schools.

From 2006 there were welcome new changes in the NI curriculum: Local & Global Citizenship, Personal Development and the Certificate of Personal Effectiveness.

Peace Education R.I.P.  When we started off,  it was a similar story with Peace Education. The fact that there were few schools resources for it was indicative in itself.  We expected difficult moments in our programme and they happened, either because the live events outside the classroom or telling your story to us outsiders influences proceedings. We respected that our target groups should set the tone of the debate … and in return we didn’t get the “peacenik” tag stuck on us.

As we worked with the different types of schools in Belfast – Protestant schools, Catholic schools and Integrated schools (composed of students from both main communities) – each group was encouraged to speak freely and to decide how far they wanted to go in the programme with us the nice outsiders.

It was already enough for us to hear from our Israeli and Palestinian partners that, of course everybody wants peace!  – Shalom/ Salaam…hey, we say it every day! – just that there are different ways of how you get there. Or that whenever we did our initial research to elicit the dominant national discourses, on one side the key term was Security and on the other it was Freedom. Add in Defence and/or Resistance to explain actions. There were enough interdependent values to work with and we took it further to bring in the many ways of how young people deal with conflict in their everyday lives.

In other words, we did Peace Education, just never mentioned its name.

And transformed it into Conflict Transformation. We couldn’t help ourselves: being aware of the goodwill factors behind the peace process in the north of /Northern Ireland, leading a programme that had at least four axes in a good year (north-south in Ireland; cross-community in Belfast; Israel and Palestine -Republic of Ireland; Israel and Palestine- north/ Northern Ireland; Israel-Palestine) and being programmed for programmes, we wanted to bring that added value.

It went a bit like this: Conflict Resolution was worthy but old-school. Conflict Transformation builds on it by focusing on process and building relations with the people on the ground. It was pitched more as long-term facilitation and less about finding those “Win-Win” formulas.

We chose our moments and tried it in Dublin and Belfast, with workshops during the visits of Israeli and Palestinian students, then locally with cross-border encounters between Dublin students and Belfast students from the nationalist and unionist communities, and finally in our 2009 Summer Camp with students from all geographical locations.

It was worth the effort: we applied our methods, learned what worked and what didn’t, worked and shared with other practitioners, encouraged teamwork and ensured there was back-up support for the difficult moments.

But Conflict Transformation, or even mediation, were more about method and pedagogy.

So we contented ourselves with the notion that we were about Human Rights Education…which also included Intercultural Education. That suited our Israeli and Palestinian partners on both sides of the Wall/Fence.

About the same period, there was a growing concertation for DE in Ireland, promoted by the Irish government development aid agency. DE had come quite a distance since the 1990s when Development Education was in the hands of returned development workers who wanted to raise the debate on development issues. The Irish Development Education Association (IDEA) was in the making.

Meanwhile, the UK was going “Global”. The Global Dimension was being piloted in the curriculum. Global school-linking was boomed out across the waves by the British Council flagship. The English DE Association’s website became Think Global. The network of regional DE Centres in the UK did not follow suit. Somewhere along the line, Oxfam started promoting Education for Global Citizenship.

In Scotland, they stuck with their original ideas: International Development Education Association of Scotland (IDEAS). In Wales…respect guys…it’s Cyfanfyd: promoting ESD and global citizenship.

What suited us with DE in Ireland was the fresh impetus it gave to the concepts of global citizenship and interdependence.It was a call to engage in critical thinking on poverty, development, globalisation, inequalities and justice issues. It was values-based, highlighting equality, solidarity, cooperation. It encouraged empowerment for action.

We liked the rights-based approach. We tuned into the drive for a more critical pedagogy: encouraging multiple perspectives, peer-to-peer learning, reciprocal exchanges.

Working together and combatting the mainstream quick-fix charity approaches to the issues, we would create durable relationships through our schools network that fostered dialogue and reflection on an equal footing.

We were anti Live Aid, just liked Bob Geldof’s big mouth attitude. The Making Poverty History campaign in 2005 was a welcome chance to debate awareness and action. We had to go easy on the teenagers about the wristbands.

We were uneasy with the close linkage of DE and GE to national aid programmes.

In Ireland, there was a concerted national strategy to support the MDGs campaign and to progressively contribute the 0.7% of GNP to ODA by 2012. Development Education was now firmly positioned with a dedicated Development Education Unit attached to the development aid agency under the tutelage of the Development Minister subsumed within the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

There were mutterings in the sector about whether the radical agenda would become softened by state-led policy. We listened as the big Development NGOs talked …and talked to them and other small and medium fish about it all.

The world doesn’t wait: there was the school curricula to fit into. There was a pioneering spirit and funding to fight for. Yes, we were in a DE/GE framework. We took our guidance from The National Council for Curriculum & Assessment (NCCA) and other subject authorities, the schools in Israel, Palestine and Ireland, north and south and our partner NGO in Hebron: The International Palestinian Youth League (IPYL).

We chose our moments to try and open the learning space: Paolo Freire was guiding us. Pike & Selby. Norman Richardson. Augusto Boal. John-Paul Lederach for special occasions. We nurtured collaborative projects with Amnesty, Trocaire, Cooperation Ireland, Poetry Ireland and other precious cross-community organisations and active-learning practitioners in Belfast.

Debating aid and development was also central station in our debate. How Ireland, the EU, the Global North, the Diasporas, the Arab League, the UN all contribute to or work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian refugees further afield. Special status, special considerations, special affinities: religious, cultural, historical, political and …yes, economic too.

Inequalities, injustice…the conflict in all its complexity. Is what we’re doing part of the problem or the solution?

We were conscious however that Israel & Palestine, and the Middle East in general, was for most not on the Development Education agenda, or considered a special case. It was good enough to be at the table.

Anyone south of the border who remembers the Troubles might recall how the nationalist communities accused us of abandoning them. Except in 1974 when it hit us directly. Or maybe how often people used to refer to them all, nationalist and unionist, as being tarred with the same brush? Or how they’ll never learn, it’s all tit for tat, eye for an eye.

There were those turning points though when we all shed tears: name your bombing and I’ll tell you your age. But peace did come dropping slow…and we’re still not singing about it.

What encouraged us and still does is the ever-growing general lack of awareness of conflicts and the stereotypes that matched it. Standing up for the misrepresented and misunderstood doesn’t get much of a mention when both sides seem to be shouting or shooting each other down.  From our point of entry in 2002, it has always surprised our Israeli and Palestinian friends that the students in Dublin haven’t a clue about what the conflict in the north of/Northern Ireland was all about. The incessant politicking has turned off most. But there are still precious myths about the peace process that motivate them to engage more with it. Nothing like pure curiosity and the chance of human contact to motivate learning.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict as we all know stirs up many a mind and emotions. Sometimes to the detriment of debate of others. Our job is to bring in the young people’s voices, try to widen the debate and when we can, expand the field. Everyone brings their own focus, sees the issues through the lens of others and gains from the global dimension.

Back to the wider debate: We were kept busy with our exceptionality and took up the challenge/opportunity to dig in for the deeper debate about the root causes of the issues raised.

In Part 2, we look at how the DE/GE message was being massaged in the EU parlours.