23 SES 07 B, International Organisations
Since the launch of the United Nations Global Education First Initiative in 2012, the promotion and implementation of education policies, strategies and school curricula based on Global Citizenship Education (GCE) has been increasing and made possible thanks to the involvement and interaction of several actors. Everywhere in Europe, these actors have ranged from the National Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Agency of Development Cooperation, academia, local authorities, as well as several civil society and non-governmental organizations (CSOs and NGOs) (Tarozzi and Inguaggiato, 2018). In particular, NGOs have been playing a key role in bringing the vocie of civil society into the educational policy debate and global decision-making processes, also been defined for this reason as the “global civil society” (Kaldor, 2003; Castells, 2008).
This paper focuses on the Italian case, an emblematical example of a broader GCE backlash. Like in many other European countries, a network of Italian NGOs significantly contributed to the drafting and adoption of a Strategy for GCE at the beginning of 2018. This multi-stakeholder and multi-ministerial GCE National Strategy enhances fruitful cooperation among diverse actors, not only governmental ones but also, and especially, local authorities, expert groups, educational institutions and civil society representatives. In particular, CSOs and NGOs played a critical political role in advocating and lobbying for the adoption of GCE policies. These actors promoted a new sensitivity around this topic and substantially contributed to the development of innovative school activities and materials as well as teacher education programs. The contribution of CSOs and NGOs in the promotion of GCE principles and activities, however, is not new and can be traced back to the very characteristics of the Italian political and social landscape. Indeed, important CSOs and NGOs have always been involved in the promotion of values of international development and cooperation through formal and non-formal education programs, and through various forms of national and international voluntary activities. Global awareness has been representing a key feature of Italian education policy and practice, inspiring the scope and reach of these initiatives addressed to children, youth, adults and families.
Against this backdrop, the recent political change as a result of the 2018 Italian general elections, marked an unprecedented turn in the way the work of NGOs is perceived and, on their possibility, to significantly contribute and be involved in GCE policy and practice.While the ongoing situation is still fluid, what seems to be at stake is the ethical foundation of the activities promoted by CSOs and NGOs since the 1970s, that is, the very concern for global issues and international solidarity. This unprecedented turn is reflected in strategic draft laws and decrees which have been approved since the establishment of the current Government in spring 2018. Moreover, remarks and expressions being used by some members of the two majority political groups, sometimes by Ministers themselves, conveyed a skewed perspective of the work of NGOs, mainly in relation to their activities in the field of migration and international solidarity. The critical attitude towards CSOs and NGOs, coupled with other measures to weaken their fiscal and economic capacity, may call into question their ability to actively contribute to the strengthening of GCE policies and practices.
This paper aims to analyze the extent to which the current political landscape is challenging the role of NGOs in contributing to the promotion of policy and practice. It aims to establish whether more recent political choices and directives may call into question the integration of GCE principles in education policies, strategies and school curricula.
This paper first reviews the policies that have been fostered in the national context to promote global awareness since the 1980s and presents the evolution which has led to the adoption of a National Strategy and other political measures to promote GCE. It examines the political, social and cultural conditions that have allowed NGOs and CSOs to play a significant role in the promotion of a values-based approach to GCE. The paper critically analyzes national education policy discourse, including in-house reports and sector strategy papers, in order to establish how, and since when, different actors have made reference to the notion of GCE. This study further examines education policy discourse produced since the establishment of the new Government in June 2018 in order to highlight the underlying ideological and conceptual frameworks informing current education policies. This is essential in order to identify which approaches and positions have been omitted and if there has been a significant change with regard to the inclusion of GCE principles in education policies. Moreover, the analysis of trends in public funds allocated to activities relating to GCE at national and local level will provide key elements that may help to determine how concrete investments have evolved over time and which educational priorities have received more attention. In particular, since 2016, the annual public call for awareness-raising initiatives on GCE granted by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation has been providing NGOs and CSOs with important funds for developing different kinds of educational activities on the national territory based on GCE principles and values. This paper analyzes the repository of selected projects in order to identify the kind of activities that have been approved over time and, hence, to establish how priorities have been evolving to date. Ultimately, structured interviews with key informants, including activists within strategic Italian NGOs and policy-makers, will be essential to acquire a better understanding of the perceptions of these actors with regard to the influence of the changing political landscape on their activities on GCE.
The political change that has occurred in Italy in the last year has being leading to a significant shift in the way GCE policies are perceived and promoted. From a traditional attention to international solidarity and cooperation, recent political changes have put greater emphasis on nationalistic and narrower approaches to social issues. Education policies have inevitably been affected by such changes and NGOs are now being faced with increasing opposition about their commitment on GCE. As a consequence, a response on the side of NGOs seems to be emerging in order to face this changing political scenario. Discussions on how to strengthen new funding channels and to ensure sustainability of GCE activities are currently underway, by also involving civil society more directly. The role of NGOs in promoting GCE remains crucial for many reasons: Their involvement is one of the key enabling factors in the GCE implementation process; Cooperation among diverse political agents is critical for achieving the goals that the international community has set, and that Italy has subscribed; thanks to their flexibility and adaptability NGOs may bridge the gap between diverse actors involved in GCE; An open dialogue with schools could contribute to innovate pedagogies and practices. Therefore, their effort is noticeable and worth of attention, especially when considering the risk a narrow approach to education policies, may have for the future of many young people and for the Italian society more in general. GCE is unlikely to be reflected in current and upcoming national policies as in the past years. It is in this context that the efforts and critical voices of many CSOs and NGOs are, today, more important than ever if not to undermine the Italian tradition of openness and concern for global issues that has always inspired education policies and practices.
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