Primary anthropological research conducted in youth projects, reveal levels of self-identified, negative sentiments of non-integration of youth and children in the dialogical decision making processes of sustainable development at all levels. This causes apathy and lethargy towards finding actual solutions in peace building processes linked with the UN. There is increasing alienation from decision making processes linked to the UN on both a local and global scale. These are intrinsically linked to the global challenges in sustainable development that we currently face.
Concrete manifestations of this self-identified, non-integration include youth turning to consumer orientated time-filling activities and not wanting to go outside of their peer group or community at an early age. This leads to social difficulties, social unrest and prejudices later on. Children and Youth often feel disenfranchised in their local peer groups and communities. Overwhelmed by a combination of school obligations, austerity or poverty combined with market-driven consumer products being bombarded at them, there lies a breeding ground for irresponsibility and apathy towards the larger global community and sustainable development issues.
Youth often don`t feel they have agency to change circumstances except perhaps in their peer groups. However, peer pressure within these groups and communities can lead to consumption of illegal products bringing youth to an impasse and multiplying a ‘culture of silence’ (Friere, 1990).
It is important to note that this lethargy and the ignorance that comes with it, is the direct product of the whole economic, social and political domination of which youth and children are part of, which is the larger population of oppressed (as adults are in many cases). The danger here is that children and youth become so disenfranchised that often they accept the paternal systems and they seek to find their own domination, in numerous ways, perpetuating the cycle (Friere, 1990).
With initiatives such as the Rio + 20 Global Youth Music Contest founded by the International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches to Global Challenges, children and youth can express their concerns about their particular situation and participate in the larger decision making process, by channeling their energies, out of a thick soup of misguided consumer orientated mass, into a position where they can become global agents and citizens. By exploring the central importance of creativity and specifically in this case, music, to engage, influence and change we can create an innovative, transformational and sustainable education that prepares children and youth for the global challenges we currently face.
Key Words: non-integration, alienation, Rio + 20 Global Youth Music Contest, creativity, innovation, global agents, transformation, disenfranchised
Over the past year the International Association for the Advancement of Innovative Approaches to Global Challenges (IAAI) has spread the initiative of the Rio + 20 Global Youth Music Contest (GYMC) to over 50 countries with more than 100 young people involved in the global, regional and national coordination of the initiative. This initiative has been started in the context of the United Nations Decade of Education and Sustainable Development UNDESD highlighting the importance of diversity and multilingualism. This is a global competition that young people organised on the occasion of (Rio + 20) United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2012). The aims have been to raise awareness about sustainable development issues in particular the 15/15/15 UN Civil Society Resource Mobilisation Partnership. This is for global civil society to commit to Rio + 20 to mobilize 15 billion euros and 15 million volunteers by the year 2015 for UN led sustainable development effort and requests new forms of participation in global sustainable development governance. (IAAI, 2012). Following the initial launch of Rio + 20 GYMC in Austria in September in 2011, the active group of more than one hundred Youth developed music education workshops so that finally 313 videos from 40 countries were received. Between the 19 March till 18 May 2012 online voting with more than 200.000 visitors at the voting page (Global Rockstar, 2012). As the voting phase has been successfully completed the winners were in two categories “Young” (up to 15 years) who is also the overall winner of Rio+20 Global Youth Music Contest with a total of 44.251 votes and youth. The winner in the category “Young” (up to 15 years) , who is also the overall winner of Rio + 20 Global Youth Music Contest with a total of 44.251 votes - is the Choir Santo Amaro de Oeiras from Portugal with the Song “Meu Planeta Azul” (My Blue Planet) and “youth” are Milena Paraschiv and Radu Popescu from Romania with the song “Open Your Eyes” (IAAI, 2012). This has been an open democratic process that has enabled youth on a global scale to explore the diverse expressions of sustainable development issues through music.
Developing Innovative Symbolic Communities
Innovation is necessary for sustainable development as the issues both in government and civil society are so complex that at present there is no bridge to understand the two. IAAI is an example of an institution to bridge the two by creating a symbolic community that is interdisciplinary, with leaders working at a grass roots and at a governmental level. Through this innovative systemic collaboration there can be some hope of accessing the complexity on all levels and bridging the gap. IAAI general secretary Miroslav Polzer is leading the innovation cluster at Rio + 20 and it is here that Polzer emphasis that there is ‘a window of opportunity for systemic measures effectively addressing market failures like externalities (e.g. over consumption of natural resources as there is no price attached to them) and under-provision of public goods (like e.g. education for sustainable development)’ he goes on to say that ‘Innovation4Rio+20 Issues Cluster maintains strong links with the Rio+20 Issues cluster on “Commons” and its facilitator Lisinka Ulatowska as it appears that framing of critical sustainable development resources as “global commons” holds great potentials for an effective global transition to sustainable development. There is an urgent need for identifying and protecting those sustainable development resources that shall be handed over by present generation to future generations and the concept of global commons can probably help in this respect’. (Polzer, IAAI, 2012) By extension the Rio + 20 GYMC is innovative because it works at both a grass roots and a UN level. It mobilises a symbolic construction of a global community that is able to express both youth`s diversity and their unity simultaneously. Rio + 20 GYMC is simple enough to spread around the world on a global level, but also flexible and adaptable enough so that on a local level people can implement it in their own cultural contexts. The Rio + 20 Global Rockstar Website was able to further facilitate this diversity by allowing youth to upload their video and description and leave comment and have dialogue with others. It only needs a simple idea and the motivation of seeing others who are making a difference through music in their own way to spur others on. This is the strength Rio + 20 GYMC to connect with Civil Society. The target groups have been both youth 13-30 and children 5-13. The stake-holders have included NGOs working at a grass roots level in their local communities working in over 50 different countries with continuous sessions, workshops, and educational platforms as well as UN connectors such as ACUNS Academic Council on the UN system. Furthermore, Rio + 20 GYMC is partnered with Earth Charter that has important innovative perspectives related to youth, civic engagement, values and education for sustainable development can be derived from Earth Charter (Earth Charter, 2012). To continue and broaden youth engagement with the UN system Rio + 20 GYMC United Nations Alliance of Civilizations has also partnered with Plural + Video contest. IAAI is an example of ‘how larger development NGOs could support and partner with bottom-up initiatives, working to link change agents who otherwise would remain isolated in their communities and organizations, thus helping to cross-fertilize solutions and build movement connectivity’. (Polzer, 2012)
This initiative is an example of transformative education because it transforms values through a dynamic relationship of intention > creative production > audience reception or the extra-textual> inter-textual> intra-textual contexts. Initially ‘the dynamic transfer-and-transformation of something from one discourse/text-in-context ... to another’ (Linell 1998: 154) re-contextualisation is often used in linguistics, however, as Basil Berstein discovered this can have a pedagogical application. By extension I suggest that initiatives that practice co-intentional education (Friere, 1990), taking Rio + 20 GYMC as an example, have a transformative effect with the values of youth and children and others that are oppressed, so that there is committed involvement in the struggle for liberation.
The extra-textual is the historical context and environment that the project is working within, our current crucial climate, whereas and the inter-textual elements are the variety of partners and stakeholders. The intra-textual is the actual educational workshops themselves interacting with the children and youth at a grass roots level. Through this dynamic triangular interchange it is possible to reveal the ‘performative’ and `ritualistic` arenas of education in which social change may emerge and be absorbed into social practice (Turner, 1995) where there can be a ongoing dialogue with people of what needs to be changed. This is instead of the change coming from a top-down model, it is bottom-up and a dialogical dynamic. With this dynamic interchange of forces that transforms youths values, we are able to create interdisciplinary learning through the emotive power of art.
By doing so, we are able to see how the disciplines and issues are dialectically interlinked and not isolated as separate entities. There is not one ultimate truth, issue or discipline that is more important than the other. All these disciplines evolve, just as people do when placed in a variety of contexts. The meanings are not inherent just within the text, music and education workshops/programs themselves, neither does the meaning reside within the intention of the teacher, youth facilitator or workshop leader, but it is a negotiable property that lies within a conceptual triangle formed by the learner, in the case of Rio + 20 youth and children, the person or people who devised the education programs/workshops, in this case 40 global youth coordinators under the rubric of IAAI, and the local and global contexts in which everyone is working within. This triangular dynamic interchange transforms values of all those involved so there is greater understanding of each others needs for empowerment in dialogical engagement on a multitude of levels. Paolo Friere emphasises that empowerment occurs when the investigators (facilitators) and the people become co-investigators (Friere: 1990). Youth, children and facilitators have gained synthesis of their interests, passion and values and are able to facilitate (or continue to do so) workshops like this themselves, thinking dialectically increases motivation to see themselves as agents in the struggle for liberation. David Harvey phenomenally successful online Marx lectures (Harvey, 2012) with two million hits, makes clear that it is only through thinking dialectically about all the different issues in every area of society such as environment, education, politics, economics, ethnicity, religion, are we able to become transformed as active agents, as we are able to see the totality of these issues as being intrinsically interlinked and dynamically interchangeable. As more people gather momentum thinking in this way, there is then the need to understand how to connect these to the larger UN system and decision making mechanisms.
IAAI is part of the innovation cluster at Rio +20 where issues that were raised by youth through the Rio + 20 GYMC, even though this cluster is not directly for youth issues, can, by diffusion, be part of the changes in innovation systems since 1992. ‘The issues brief underlines the importance of innovation, including as a precondition for an effective institutional framework for sustainable development (IFSD)’ and ‘UN-led global innovation system for sustainable development, to the effect that at Rio + 20, global civil society should commit to mobilize €15 billion and 15 million volunteers by 2015 for UN-led sustainable development efforts’. (International Institute for Sustainable Development, IISD, 2010). As GYMC has already begun to mobilise civil society, through the IAAI the concerns can be voiced in this innovation cluster at Rio + 20 as a point of departure leading to 2015. Youth Coordinators that have been involved in the GYMC have been given accreditation through IAAI and with partners such as the Major Working Group with Children that cluster all the NGO´s working in this field can further bring the issues raised by youth in over 50 countries, into the UN decision making process at Rio + 20. Many of the youth coordinators are also connected to Earth Charter, UNCSD/UNFCCC groups for education, children/youth & women, UNDP and other UN departments on issues for Rio+20. Herein lies the responsibility of the coordinators not to be a spokesperson for the people, but to be with the people. As Paolo Friere clearly states, ‘the road to revolution involves openness to the people, not imperviousness to them; it involves communion with the people, not mistrust’ (Friere, 1990)
In order understand how that dialogue must have preceded these actions at Rio + 20 conference, we can see how necessary it has been for youth coordinators / facilitators to have been truly dialogical not anti-dialogical (Friere, 1990). In order to understand this we need analyse how the dialogical processes can be activated.
One of the greatest obstacles to the achievement people`s liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within it, submerging human beings consciousness, so that people are not aware of their oppression and that the circumstances that they are in are limiting and therefore can be something that can be overcome. (Friere, 1990). One way to combat this is through the facilitation process. At a grass roots level, it is important to find a series of situations in which we can see our own situation from afar, in order to gain objectivity and then to link it back into our own oppression. In these kinds of projects such as the Rio + 20 Global Youth Music Contest, it is possible to do this through a series of visual and sound/music elicitation. For instance, we utilized the medium of music videos, music and images to explore themes in which we were all concerned about. Often this involved going into contemporary pop songs. This may seem superficial to the moralizing educator, (Friere, 1990) however, guided by youth facilitators we can collectively see that there in these songs contain our collective stories of oppression and concern, albeit in different forms. It is important for the facilitator working in local circumstances not make harsh judgements according to their own moral standing of what these expressions of music ‘should’ be, but rather be open to the different expressions of music in local contexts and extract grains of truth within the songs and music presented through the dialogical music elicitation process. Subsequently, we can synthesize these different expressions with youths and children`s own lives, the struggles they are facing and how this links into the larger global issues that we are all facing. By giving access to the proper tools to make our own music and videos, such as the recording studio, camera and editing programs, synthesized with expressions of our specific and collective oppressions related thematic areas at Rio + 20, that can then be diffused through IAAI with the GYMC in this way there can be collective empowerment. Children and youth can begin to see how much their thoughts, expressions and actions matter and can make a difference.
It is only by providing multiple synthesizing situations, examples and tools that we are able to connect all these together with our own lives, in totality. By dialectically exploring themes in our own lives that are also a part of and related to the Rio + 20: governmental debt/austerity, wealth distribution, poverty inclusion/exclusion, health, environmental issues and sustainable development, by seeing a multiple of perspectives we are able to see the totality of all these themes dialectically interacting with each other, causing oppression in our lives. Only through understanding this dialectical interaction are we able to see, together that there can be a transformation in this way. (Harvey, 2011) from this realization of the totality, only then can we go into the specific issues that are related to each one of us, that we would like to express through music. In Austria, the youth that I had been working with were concerned with different issues working together. Ilker was concerned with multiculturalism, Denis was concerned with was economics and society. It is only by looking how these issues are linked and form the totality of our common oppression, can we then start to narrow them down and get to the expressions of the specific issues. Without this collective wide shot and close-up like a camera lens, we would be in danger seeing a fragmented view of the world that gives only a marginalized view our collective oppression. (Friere, 1990) Furthermore, if seen in a isolated way, we would not find solidarity with our peers that are dealing with or are oppressed by different forces. This marginalized view of the world is dangerous because leads to our own prejudices. The way of exploring the combination of these areas is symbolically. It is symbolically that there can be a construction of a community (Cohen, 1985) of Rio + 20 GYMC under the rubric of IAAI that can be mobilized for decision making at the Rio + 20 and other UN conferences.
How is it possible for so many expressions to find their voice through the Rio + 20 GYMC in the decision making process under the umbrella of IAAI? Each actor within this competition expresses themselves symbolically in a community that shifts and morphs, like a carnival. (Turner, 1990). Each one is as relevant as the other and has the right to be heard. Each gaining greater articulation with each other through the social networks can aid this collaboration and giving the opportunities for the variety of stakeholders working at all different levels to operate systemically. Through continuous dialogue in social networks such as Facebook and through the youth facilitators wiki`s such as those connected with Earth Charter (Earth Charter, 2012), through a dialectical dance they are able to form solidarity through a symbolic community. Facilitators are simultaneously part of this carnival and lead it to the central governing body.
The Rio + 20 conference acts as a symbolic marker of unity with the GYMC community linking it not only to local issues, but also to the larger global community of youth. It gives the experience of communality and provide a context and a medium for the affirmation of societies fundamental principles for organization. (Cohen, 1985) From this point as a symbolic community we can influence the decisions being made. Though these ritual forms are more explicit, it does not follow that their meanings are necessarily fixed and uniform, rather the ritual occasions are themselves symbolic. They have an official form and rationale, but their meanings that the individuals and groups bring to this ritual are quite different. Indeed it is probably the very opportunity they afford their participants to assimilate the symbolic forms to their individual and idiosyncratic experience and social and emotional needs that makes them so compelling and attractive (Cohen, 1985:53-56). In turn these rituals communicate in a variety of levels. In V.W Turner’s terms (1967) they are multi-referential and multi-vocal. At the level of the groups as a whole they say something about the relation to her group and to her world mediated by group membership. Through the emotive power of art we are able to influence change both from those that are being oppressed and the oppressors. Through creative processes and engagement we are able to include every aspect that is important for the learner depending on their context. By activating symbolic change at an emotive level we are able to facilitate deep re-structuring that goes further than objective rational reasoning.
As actual geo-social boundaries of communities are undermined, there is a greater opportunity for the symbolic expression of communities and the rituals, that confirms and strengthens social community so that children, youth and adults find expression on the global platform of UN decision-making that affects us all. IAAI throughout eh Rio+ 20 GYMC is able to break down the complexities of the centrally formulated government policy so that is no longer ‘grist to the symbolic mill of cultural distance’ (A.P. Cohen 1986b:17) Through the building of a symbolic community with the GYMC, there is both ‘group identification and social categorization’. The first occurs inside the boundary, the second outside and across it’ (Jenkins 1997:23).
Whilst Cohen has aided us in revealing the dynamics of the symbolical community and how articulation comes from ‘both sides of the group boundary’, Jenkins points out that members of one group may be able to impose their categorizations on the members of another group, playing out relationships of domination and subordination (1997: 23). This is then the role of IAAI in the central UN system, with the thematic clusters such as innovation and also through the youths involvement in the various major UN working groups to keep articulating through the dialogue that they have had in their localities so that the local groups can have a voice. This voice is part of a symbolical community, that is dynamic and fluid and based on dialogical action achieving critical consciousness and cultural synthesis, then in communion with the people, the revolutionary leaders/ youth coordinators and diffusion centers such as IAAI can form a praxis that stimulates innovative solutions and solidarity at all levels, that is far from static. In this way there can be real structural systemic change, where decisions of sustainable development are not just made in isolation away from people. If this responsibility is relinquished and youth facilitators and those acting as revolutionary leaders for the people in localities and those operating in the UN system, are convinced by the rhetoric that there is ‘room at the top’ (Lennon, 1971) then youth and children in their localities will continue to feel isolated and suffer from non-integration in the decisions being made at a policy level, increasing social unrest. The choice is ours. Are we for the people or with the people? The distinction is fine and the future hangs in balance, in our hands
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