Educating for a Just and Sustainable World 

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Brexit, Trump and Development Education

Stephen McCloskey argues that the social and economic inequalities that have fed the growing popular disconnect with mainstream politics manifested by Brexit and Trump, demand more from education.  He suggests a wider adoption of the radical, participative, empowering and action-oriented educational approach of Paulo Freire.

The political systems on both sides of the Atlantic have been subjected to seismic quakes and perpetual uncertainty following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) by referendum in June 2016 and the election of Donal Trump as president of the United States (US) in November.  Political commentators have been left scratching their heads in determining how these events came to pass and what Brexit plus Trump actually means for us all.  Brexit and Trump have been bracketed together in this debate because similar factors seem to have played a part in their outcomes.  They include the mutually professed political affinity of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage, the dominant voice in the leave campaign during the referendum.  Both are popular nationalists who made political capital from platforms that sought a reclamation of a perceived lost sovereignty and promotion of protectionism to restore lost economic lustre.  They positioned themselves as outsiders shaking up the failed political establishment and appealed to communities in deindustrialised regions like Tyneside and Pennsylvania that felt abandoned by the political elite.  The economist Thomas Piketty found evidence of this decline in the United States (US) with new research showing ‘that over the last 30 years the growth in the incomes of the bottom 50% has been zero, whereas incomes of the top 1% have grown 300%’.  And in the UK, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found in 2014-15 that 13.5 million people or 21 percent of the total population were living in low-income households; a proportion that has barely changed since 2002-03.

Brexit demands more Development Education: The International Development Sector should take heed

The international development sector met the news of the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union (EU) with a collective groan.  There had been dire warnings before the vote on what Brexit would mean for the sector and Britain’s influence on multilateral aid and development policy decisions made by its European partners.  These arguments failed to gather any real traction with the public and NGOs suggested that this was largely due to regulatory guidance published by the Charity Commission in England and Wales concerning their participation in the referendum which amounted to the gagging of an important constituency in a crucial debate.  

But would the free and full participation of the international development sector and wider network of NGOs have made any real difference in the Brexit debate? A Charity Commission research report published earlier this year suggests that overall public confidence and trust in charities has fallen to 5.7 (from 6.7 in 2015) out of ten. 

Global Inequality has reached its worst level in a Century: It’s time for an economy for the 99%

A startling picture of global inequality has been presented by Oxfam in a new report which finds that just 62 billionaires control as much wealth as ‘the bottom half of humanity’; a staggering 3.6 billion people.  In a trend pointing to accelerating economic polarisation, the one percent (62 people) has increased its wealth by a massive 44 percent since 2010 while the collective wealth of the bottom 50 percent dropped by a near identical 41 percent or $1 trillion.  This is largely due to a stagnation of incomes among the bottom half of the world’s people who have received a paltry one percent of the total increase in global wealth since 2000.  According to Oxfam, these trends point to a world ‘with levels of inequality we may not have seen for over a century’ and cast serious doubt on the outcomes of the 15 year international effort to cut global poverty by half; the Millennium Development Goals.  With the United Nations’ agreement last September on another 15 year development process to 2030 comprising 17 Sustainable Development Goal s (SDGs) backed up by 169 targets, development practitioners everywhere should seriously reflect on the SDGs’ capacity to ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’. 

One Year on from ‘Operation Protective Edge’ Gaza is Teetering on the Brink of Economic Collapse

Time has stood still in Gaza over the past year.  Since the end of Israel’s third war on the territory in six years – dubbed Operation ‘Protective Edge’ – the people of Gaza have seen precious little of the $3.5bn pledged in aid to rebuild Gaza’s civilian and commercial infrastructure.  Chris Gunness of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in April that eight months after the conflict ended ‘not a single home has been rebuilt’ (Global Research, 25 August 2015).  A total of 12,400 housing units were destroyed in the conflict and more than 100,000 people internally displaced.  

From MDGs to SDGs: We Need A Critical Awakening To Succeed

This is an important year for international development with big implications for how we approach future efforts toward poverty eradication.  An Oxfam report published in January 2015 showed that a small elite (1 percent) controls nearly as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the world’s population. After 15 years, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - the eight targets agreed in 2000 to harness global efforts toward reducing extreme poverty – appear to have done very little to arrest inequalities in wealth accumulation and distribution.  Around one billion people still live on less than a $1.25 a day and more than 800 million people don’t have enough food to eat.  

SWAT Teams, Stereotypes and Solidarity: Dealing with Ebola

You can probably best judge a country by its response to a crisis.  In the case of Ebola, President Obama has called for the deployment of SWAT Teams within 24 hours to any hospital in the United States reporting a new case of Ebola.  Is this the best way to respond to a medical crisis?  As The Observer has suggested: ‘western governments have appeared more focused on stopping the epidemic at their borders than actually stemming it in west Africa’.  Britain, for example, has set up enhanced screening for Ebola at its main airports but these measures appear unlikely to stop the spread of the disease which can be carried for up to three weeks before symptoms are exhibited. 

Gaza: who is really paying the “heavy price” of Israel’s war?

There is a new mural on the International Wall on the Falls Road in West Belfast dedicated to the children of Gaza who have been subjected to their third Israeli onslaught in six years.  The mural draws upon what is possibly the most iconic and powerful image from the Vietnam War; that of a heavily burnt naked child (Kim Phúc) running down a road after a napalm attack on her village.  It captures in an instant the effects of lethal, indiscriminately applied force on defenceless civilians which is something we have witnessed repeatedly in the Gaza Strip since Israel launched its ‘Operation Protective Edge’ on 8 July.

Food Bank Ireland

Two conflicting narratives have dominated the aftermath of the financial crisis, particularly over the past year.  On the one hand, the Irish and British governments are suggesting that we are over the worst and on the path to a more prosperous future and, on the other, frontline care providers speak of people cut adrift by the state and left in highly vulnerable, dangerous and impoverished conditions.  Barometers of this impoverishment include rising homelessness, the distribution of food parcels and hot meals to those on the poverty threshold, and the use of foodbanks.  Statistics on foodbank use in the UK released by the Trussell Trust for 2013-14 showed over 900,000 people in crisis being provided with emergency food.  This total represented a 163 percent increase on usage compared to the previous year with the number of new foodbanks (45 percent increase) unable to keep pace with demand.  

Food banks in the north of Ireland

Development and Film: Are we getting the bigger picture?

Philip French, who recently retired as film critic for The Observer after 50 years of insightful and informative reviews, described cinema as ‘the great art form of the 20th century’ and suggested that ‘this century is continuing the same way’.  Cinema continues to enjoy a popular status in our cultural lives despite the multitude of digital and online access points for movies and television at home.  We still enjoy the social activity of cinema-going and the opportunity to view films on the big screen.  Given its capacity as a conveyor of knowledge, images, messages and issues to a large, international audience, film has immense importance to development practitioners yet according to Lewis et al remains an ‘under-studied medium for development knowledge’ (2013: 20).  In an interesting research working paper, Lewis et al consider the role that film has played in considering ‘key themes within the landscape of global inequalities and power relationships’ (ibid).  They contrast how a range of movies from popular entertainments to more serious-minded fare represent the global South and convey development issues.  

Death by Remote Control: The Deadly use of Drones

On 12 December 2013, a wedding party in Radda, capital of Yemen’s al-Bayda province was struck by an American drone.  The media reported fatalities ranged from 10 to 17 with an additional 30 people wounded in the attack.  The drone struck a convoy of vehicles returning from a wedding when it seems the intended targets were members of al Qaeda.  This deadly attack came seven months after a speech by President Obama in which he pledged to ‘extend oversight of lethal actions’ and raise the threshold for the use of drones toward ensuring the protection of civilians.  He said ‘my administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists - insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability.’  He added that ‘before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured - the highest standard we can set.’  The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) which closely monitors the use of drones has found that covert drone strikes have killed more people in the six months following President Obama’s speech than the six months be

Drones are remotely piloted unmanned aircraft and were initially deployed in the gathering of intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance.  Since 1999, however, they have been used in a more deadly role in ‘extraterritorial lethal counter-terrorism operations’ which the Guardian’s Seumas Milne describes as double speak for extrajudicial summary executions and ‘a wanton and criminal killing spree’.  The chief advantage of drones to the US military says Milne is that they ‘can continue to demonstrate global authority and impunity without boots on the ground and loss of US life.’